Patch Notes: Float

With this album I’m returning to the sea. However, it’s not the deep, crushing abyss of Nereus — it’s the opposite of that. It’s also the opposite of Grounded. Floating, relaxed, just not taking things too seriously. This one is probably more ambient than dark ambient.

There’s been all too much turmoil, stress and anxiety in the last few years. My music often reflects that. While I believe that dark art can have a beneficial and positive outcome for people, I feel like hedging my bets and expressing the equanimity I crave (and occasionally achieve). As the recordings began to come together, the imagery of floating came to mind. I chose to stick with most of my preliminary song titles, silly and random as they may be, because again: not taking things too seriously!

When I was a kid, my dad told me if I repeat the word “float” to myself like a mantra, a contented smile would comes almost automatically to my face, making it difficult to remain upset. It generally works… when I remember to try it.

I enjoy the occasional session in a float tank, finding it so incredibly relaxing that I need a little time afterward to come back slowly to “the world” or I find it overwhelming.

Watching fish in a tank is nice, but jellies are especially fascinating and relaxing. A new aquarium just opened recently in my hometown, and despite the crowds, their jelly tanks — in an area with the obligatory reduced lighting and ambient music — are a magical and dreamlike escape. Comb jellies (ctenophores) are my absolute favorite for their colorful iridescent lights, but moon jellies are very cool too.

Throughout the Album

Float was performed with a Soma Laboratory Lyra-8 Organismic Synthesizer, a 114HP x 4 row Eurorack modular synth, a Yamaha Reface CS, and software plugins. Recorded in Bitwig Studio 3, edited and mastered in Bitwig and Sound Forge Pro 12.

Songs were improvised and performed in real-time in a single take, with minimal sequencing, recorded directly to a stereo file (no multitracking or separate “mixing” step).

Mastering plugins mainly included the following:

EQ: Toneboosters EQ4, u-he Uhbik-Q, Voxengo Overtone GEQ, HoRNet Thirty-One

Dynamics: DDMF MagicDeathEye, Toneboosters Barricade, u-he Presswerk, Native Instruments Supercharger GT

Saturation: Wavesfactory Spectre, Wavesfactory Cassette, e-phonic XPressor

Metering: Voxengo Span, Voxengo Correlometer, Youlean Loudness Meter

01: Wintry Mix

Inspired by the relatively pleasant, snack-like name for some distinctly unpleasant weather which struck a couple of times during the project. A chordal drone from Akemie’s Castle, modulated by LFOs from Mutable Instruments Stages.

First we hear the Castle’s B output through Sugar Bytes WOW2, Arturia Delay Tape-201, u-he Presswerk used as a limiter, and u-he Uhbik-Q EQ.

Then the A output is introduced, with Bitwig’s pitch shifter, Toneboosters EQ, Voxengo Overtone GEQ, and XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color.

Then we hear a variant FX chain for B, with Toneboosters EQ, u-he Twangström spring reverb, Presswerk, NI Replika XT delay, DDMF MagicDeathEye compressor and Wavesfactory Spectre saturation.

Mixed quietly at the very end is a pitch-shifted, heavily EQd sample from the Detunized Wind Turbines library.

02: Thesaurus Anomalous

The star here is the IME Hertz Donut mk3 and Doepfer A-196 PLL, whose outputs run in stereo through Make Noise Mimeophon.

Mutable Instruments Marbles samples the PLL CV output and uses it to drive the Donut’s pitch, with Monome Teletype acting as the master clock and sequencing Marbles’ Steps parameter to let occasional “outsider” pitches through.

The “main” effect chain consists of Valhalla Plate, HoRNet Elliptiq EQ, Audiority TS-1 CM, and DDMF MagicDeathEye.

The “wet and dark” chain is Grayscale Supercell (in pitch/stretch mode), Instruo tanh[3], and u-he’s Runciter, Uhbik-Q and Presswerk.

It’s backed up by a bass drone from Bitwig’s Phase 4 through pitch shifter, Toneboosters EQ & Valhalla Delay.

Full mix processed with WOW2 and Valhalla Vintage Verb.

03: Thyme Pilot

This is the Soma Lyra-8 and a chain of software FX:

  • G8 Gate, Audio Damage FuzzPlus 3, and d16 Frontier in a sub-chain
  • Arturia Plate-140
  • Toneboosters EQ4
  • u-he Uhbik-F
  • u-he Presswerk (acting as a limiter)
  • Valhalla Delay
  • Sugar Bytes WOW2
  • e-phonic XPressor
  • DDMF MagicDeathEye

04: 1414

1000 x √2, rounded to the nearest integer. This is the Lyra-8 through:

  • Klevgrand Brusfri
  • Horse (my own experimental chorus VST plugin)
  • Valhalla Plate
  • Sonic Charge Echobode
  • HoRNet Eliptiq
  • McDSP 6050
  • Audiffex STA Enhancer

05: Press Here

This is the Yamaha Reface CS, played manually with this effects chain:

  • Elektron Analog Drive (Thick Gain mode)
  • Klevgrand Brusfri
  • NI Transient Master
  • u-he Twangstrom
  • Valhalla Delay
  • Wavesfactory Cassette
  • DDMF MagicDeathEye
  • Valhalla Vintage Verb

06: Quercus

Marbles sequences a pair of Mutable Instruments Rings. The first Rings uses its internal exciter, and runs through Presswerk, ReplikaXT, Spectre, Valhalla Delay and TS-1 CM.

The second Rings has the first as its input, and runs through the delay mode in Supercell, then EQ4, Dyvision Reverb Remover and McDSP 6050.

07: Magrathea

This piece begins with the Lyra-8 and Brusfri, Unfiltered Audio G8, WOW2, Thirty-One, Native Instruments Raum and d16 Syntorus.

It’s joined by Akemie’s Castle with Make Noise Maths envelopes into its FM amounts. The A and B outputs are crosspanned in Mannequins Cold Mac, with one of the resulting outputs AMing the other in the Xaoc Tallin VCA. It’s filtered by Mutable Instruments Ripples, rhythmically held by Supercell in Clouds mode, and then processed with EQ4, STA Enhancer, Plate 140, Klanghelm MJUC, and Valhalla Delay. Monome Teletype sequences Akemie’s multiplier and Clouds parameters.

08: Dust Settles

This is Akemie’s Castle, with its chord selection sequenced by Mutable Instruments Stages. A & B outputs go into Make Noise Mimeophon set to zone 0 with its pitch sequenced by Marbles. Teletype acts as the master clock. The effects chain consists of Brusfri, Valhalla Plate, Audio Damage Ratshack Reverb, Wavesfactory Cassette, NI Supercharger GT and Replika XT, Valhalla Delay, HoRNet Thirty-One and Toneboosters EQ4.

09: Space Gecko

A weak pun on the Roland RE-201 Space Echo. This is Bitwig’s FM-4 instrument and arpeggiator, with Valhalla Delay, Sonic Charge Permut8, NI Supercharger GT, Denise Bad Tape, Wavesfactory Spectre, and FXpansion Maul. No hardware.

10: Fusion

This is IME Hertz Donut mk3, with its Operator A driving IME Kermit in PLL mode. Donut’s main output and Kermit act as a mid-side stereo pair into u-he Runciter, Overtone GEQ and Soundspot Hiku.

Donut and Kermit also feed into Supercell in Clouds mode, modulated by the clock output from Mimeophon and an LFO from the other Kermit channel.

The Kermit LFO also acts as audio input into Mimeophon, with Runciter shifting between lowpass and highpass filtering and Plogue Chipcrusher.

The full mix runs through NI Replika XT.

11: Moon Jelly

This is the Lyra-8 through Brusfri, McDSP 6050, SKNote Soundbrigade, Denise Bad Tape, Uhbik-F, Valhalla Delay and Valhalla Plate.

It’s accompanied by Madrona Labs Aalto with Wavesfactory Cassette, 6050, Arturia Tape-201, and Toneboosters EQ4.