notes: Vague

I feel increasingly like the gear isn’t really what matters, but the personal aesthetic and the techniques. But listing gear can perhaps reveal some of those things to the initiated and give beginners some directions to check out. And in a few months I’m no doubt going to be listening to one of these tracks and go “what did I use to make that sound with?” and this page will answer. So here we go!

The photograph is one I took several years ago on a phone camera, in the really ominous and weird parking garage of an abandoned-looking building downtown that hosted my employer’s servers. It actually says “NOT IN USE” in stenciled spray-paint letters on that… hatch/door thing? …but that was kind of distracting in the album art so that got cleaned out. There’s also a wall painted with “WALL ALARM SYSTEM STAY 3FT AWAY” and a lot of industrial-ass pipes to add to the vibe. That building I swear had about 0.2% humidity and probably ghosts and we all hated being in there.

Hardware is in bold and software is in italics. Basic utilities (like EQ, compression etc.) and sometimes modulation are omitted.

BW = Bitwig
IME = Industrial Music Electronics (aka The Harvestman)
ISS = Inertia Sound Systems
MA = Minimal Audio
MI = Mutable Instruments
MN = Make Noise
NE = Noise Engineering
NFA = Newfangled Audio
NI = Native Instruments
UA = Unfilitered Audio
WF = Wavesfactory
WR = Whimsical Raps


(A lot of the “broken” sound of this one comes from multiple oscillators fighting each other, very complex phase cancellations happening continuously. The whole vibe of lead part was kind of a happy accident as I was going to use two expression pedals to bend the pitch of the “chorus” voices of the Synclavier up/down specific amounts, planning to slam them into place for a fast slide… but found gradual movement and intermediate intervals a lot more interesting. And I’m really pleased with Sumu’s role in this at the end.)

  1. VCV Rack [4x E340 Cloud Generator, 4x CF100 filter, 2D Rotation, Supercell, Plateau] {drones}
  2. VCV Rack [1x E340, 1x CF100] through MN Spectraphon, NE Lacrima Versio, NI Raum, Moog MF-101S filter, NFA Invigorate {drone}
  3. Arturia Synclavier V, Sinevibes Integer, Valhalla Room. {played on Roli Seaboard Block & 3 expression pedals}
  4. Madrona Labs Sumu, Audiority Xenoverb {self-playing patch}

Wild Garden

(Here I’m using Beads to cause that breakup/dropout sound, which the dark ambient reverb Lair complements nicely. I love the way Wave Packets can add its own flourishes to an external sequence, and the sound of its internal contour generator modulating its waveshape.)

  1. RYK Algo, MI Beads, Aberrant DSP Lair {played on MN 0-Ctrl}
  2. Dawesome Myth {sequenced by Mario Nieto Harmony Bloom with additional modulation/MIDI processing from BW}
  3. IME Zorlon Cannon mk2, Rossum Morpheus, MN Mimeophon {played on 0-Ctrl}
  4. Auza Wave Packets, AtoVproject cDVCA, BW Grid [2x Fizz filter], Sinevibes Droplet {the MIDI sequence from voice 2, via NE Univer Inter}
  5. NE Ataraxic Iteritas, MN Spectraphon, NE Melotus Versio {drone}
  • Full mix: clicks were isolated with Izotope RX7 De-Click, processed through Sound Forge Pro 13 Graphic Dynamics, NE Desomdus and Phonolyth Velvet Machine and mixed back in.
  • Full mix at end: additional rounds of transient isolation (BW Transient Split) and dynamics processing, into Valhalla Delay and Velvet Machine.


(Very broken indeed… the first voice sounded pretty cool even before I got Morbus involved, almost like a delay with heavy feedback due to the interplay of harmonics, but adding digital noise at below audio rate really broke it up.)

  1. Xaoc Odessa (with its bank modulated by MI Stages), MN Spectraphon, NE Morbus Legio. 2x Izotope RX7 De-Click and Phonolyth Velvet Machine periodically applied to low frequency range to partially tame the discontinuities from Morbus. {drone}
  2. Cherry Audio Harmonia, Aberrant DSP Lair, Audiothing Speakers, Moog MF-104S delay. {played on Roli Seaboard Block}
  3. Audio Damage Phosphor, Inphonik PCM2612, Aberrant DSP Lair {drone, with harmonic faders controlled via mouse}
  4. MN Strega, Arturia Minibrute 2S, BW Ripple filter, BW Harmonic Split [with CraveDSP CraveEQ on harmonics] {drone}


(The first voice is playing with one of my tried-and-true additive-into-distortion formulas. In this one Wave Packets is adding some bleeps and dives to a complex synchronized signal from Shtick.)

  1. Cherry Audio Harmonia, Audiority Doomagorgon, Moog MF-101S phaser, Aberrant DSP Lair {played on Roli Seaboard Block}
  2. MN Strega + Arturia Minibrute 2S, Sinevibes Droplet, Goodhertz Lossy {drone}
  3. a small sample from NE Incus Iteritas Alia timestretched into noise, Phonolyth Velvet Machine {subtle background noise}
  4. RYK Algo, Rossum Morpheus, MI Beads, NE Lacrima Versio, BW Grid [2x phaser+ in parallel], NI Raum {drone with Intellijel Planar on Algo level and Morpheus Y}
  5. M0ffenzeef Shtick, Auza Wave Packets, Dreadbox Hypnosis {Shtick can only drone; WP is synced to it but self-sequencing}
  6. MN Mimeophon, Xaoc Koszalin, Arturia Refract, Phonolyth Cascade {drone, but Repeats/Color/Halo knobs on Mimeophon bring out different resonances}


(I got to thinking, I always use Wave Packets for audio, why not try it as an oscillator? Here again, a lot of the distortion comes from JF’s multiple oscillators fighting each other and then being driven hard in the filter. Also one of the things I wanted to do on this album is begin to explore Strega as an effect for other material, not just itself and the Minibrute; as it turns out, bitcrushing in Harmonia itself really fit well with Strega’s lo-fi delay, which then got heavily filtered before going into another lo-fi delay (but stereo this time).)

  1. WR Just Friends modulated by Auza Wave Packets, BW Grid [Sallen-Key filter], NI Raum {drone, but transposed by faders}
  2. Cherry Audio Harmonia, MN Strega, UA Sandman Pro, Fabfilter Saturn 2 {played on Roli Seaboard Block}
  3. VCV Rack [2x Alias VCO, CF100, 2D Rotation] {drone}

Thoughts & Prayers

(Inspired by a disturbing short story that’s borderline cyberpunk but could be all too true today. I wanted it to be dirge-like but also a bit wrong. The wildly wandering pitch of the Loquelic line, the way the second bassline rudely interrupts the first, the voice-like formant filter almost saying “hey” as if demanding attention… Of course I also wanted to explore more messy lo-fi techniques.)

  1. Waldorf Streichfett, UA SpecOps, XLN Audio RC-20, Valhalla Delay (just for tape drive/warble), Sinevibes Integer, Valhalla Vintage Verb {sequenced by 510k Seqund}
  2. Plogue Chipsounds [Yamaha VL-1 emulation with “fantasy” wave], Audiothing Lines, Audiority Plexitape, Psychocircuitry BigBadTube, NI Raum {sequenced by Seqund}
  3. NE Loquelic Vereor, NI Imitor, UA SpecOps, Arturia Tape Mello-fi, WF Cassette. Sequenced by Harmony Bloom, then sampled and looped in BW Grid (with Curves LFO controlling pitch), Aberrant DSP Lair.
  4. Xaoc Odessa through AtoVproject cDVCA & Xaoc Tallin, combined in Mystic Circuits Ana 2 (Cut output) through MN Mimeophon, NE Lacrima Versio. {sequence & modulation from MN 0-Ctrl, MI Stages, MN Function, NE Clep Diaz}
  5. NE Ataraxic Iteritas through two branches: Cosmotronic Peradam, Xaoc Katowice, Rossum Morpheus; BW Grid [Fizz and Vowel filters in parallel]. Both through Valhalla Room. {drone with modulation from NE Clep Diaz and BW LFOs}
  6. VCV Rack [Noise Plethora], 3x BW Pitch Shifter in series, Audiothing Fog Convolver, Valhalla Delay {noise/drone}

Proof of Concept

(I was very close to just keeping this to the Myth part, because it’s very full in itself. Right there within the synth we’ve got complex timbres (very dependent on keyboard pressure) + some distortion + a deep well of reverb. But it felt like it needed at least the one drone, and then one thing led to another, and… yeah, I’m glad I followed that path. Also, someone please tell me again how Rings always sounds the same?)

  1. Dawesome Myth, Fabfilter Saturn 2 {played on Roli Seaboard Block}
  2. MN Spectraphon, Xaoc Koszalin, MI Beads, Dreadbox Hypnosis {drone & pulse}
  3. MN Strega FMd by Arturia Minibrute 2S {played on MB pressure pads}
  4. MI Rings through AtoVproject cDVCA & MI Blades, into Strega {sequenced by MI Marbles}
  5. Rings also through BW Grid [lowpass MG filter, Chebyshev shaper]
    3/4/5 all through Valhalla Delay (no delay time, just tape sim)
  6. IME Kermit, NE Librae {drone}


(Named for a character in the Black Company books who is both not what they seem and yet in a sense, exactly what they seem. Here’s where I indulged the whim to stick to just one voice… almost. It’s kind of amazing how much work that one LFO is doing for Odessa here. OVC-128 is a plugin I use frequently and transparently in mastering, but in this case I pushed it hard to grind the smooth sound of Odessa a bit. I love the somewhat different take on flanging I got from Refract on the noise.)

  1. Xaoc Odessa, Voxengo OVC-128, Sinevibes Integer, NI Raum, UA Sandman Pro, BW Convolution. {very slow Warp modulation from Stages LFO, pitch and Spread changes even more slowly on 0-Ctrl}
  2. BW Grid [stereo pink & mono white noise with mix controlled by LFO], Arturia Refract, BW Harmonic Split [Phonolyth Velvet Machine on the supposed fundamental and LFO panning on other supposed harmonics], Valhalla Supermassive. {noise}


(Sometimes when making music I run into nice coincidences, like how well the start of this track fit the end of Shiki, so I just had to do the crossfade. When I recorded this I originally went on a bit too long with the Algo/Strega bit and there was a shift in the sequence that I didn’t think served it well; I also think the longer “Shiki” needed to be followed with something short and sweet.)

  1. Inear Display Lancinantes, Aegean Pitchproof, Sound Radix SurferEQ, Ujam UFX Reverb, Valhalla Plate. Phonolyth Velvet Machine at the start.
  2. MN Strega, UA SpecOps, Noveltech Character, Voxengo OldskoolVerb Plus
  3. RYK Algo, Rabid Elephant Natural Gate, MN Strega & Arturia Minibrute 2S (as delay/distortion/filter), Sinevibes Integer, ISS Hinder {sequenced from MI Marbles, then sampled and looped in BW Grid}
  4. BW Grid [Bite osc, comb & XP filters] {drone with LFO level/filter control}
  5. BW Grid [triangle osc, Heat shaper] {drone with LFO level/filter control}
    3/4/5 were in a single Grid patch, through XLN Audio RC-20
    Tail looped in Sound Forge Pro 13, processed with several iterations of EQ and WF Cassette.