In the tumult of 2020, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about entropy, about growth and decay, about being aware of living during a major turning point in history, and about the ways we experience time.
Enormous events unfold all the time, mostly hidden from our consciousness or attention. But this particular year has been one of momentous events that loom large in our minds. We are all caught up in what Amos from The Expanse series would call “the churn.”
There is merit in fighting against the authoritarian malice and deadly negligence that has characterized this regime (and to no small extent, the previous status quo). But we also need a kind of… I don’t want to say acceptance, but serenity. The storm is washing over us now, and our approval or disapproval are of no consequence.
That is my attitude toward more positive and creative things as well. I let the music happen and I follow where it goes. I had thought this album was going to be specifically about entropy, the “Arrow of Time”, but what happened was that it’s about nature and our fragile bubbles, and the unfolding of our own small events, feelings, thoughts, and actions against the backdrop of larger ones.
Throughout the Album
Unfolding was created with a Eurorack modular synthesizer, Make Noise 0-Ctrl, Soma Labs Lyra-8, Yamaha Reface CS, and Bitwig Studio with several software plugins.
The modular undergoes continual metamorphosis, but I like to think of it in a historical sense as arriving at particular temporary destinations. The most recent changes added a 4ms Pod 60 case (replacing my 16n Faderbank with a Tesseract Sweet Sixteen controller) and an Intellijel Planar to round out the performance controls; the arrival of the long-awaited SynthTech E520 Hyperion Stereo Effects Processor; and replacement of my longtime favorite oscillators Hertz Donut and E352 with the Intellijel Shapeshifter and 4ms Ensemble Oscillator.
My process remains as described previously. I’ve added Soundtheory Gullfoss to my suite of plugins, which is helpful in automatically taming harsh resonances (such as the Lyra-8 and various feedback processes tend to create) as well as general “sound polishing.”
Patch notes for each track below don’t include all the utility and modulation modules or basic dynamics and EQ plugins:
The first voice is the 4ms Ensemble Oscillator (ENOSC), through Xaoc Tallin and Happy Nerding FX Aid (Reverb Metallic program), with Wavesfactory Spectre and Valhalla Delay. Played entirely from the Make Noise 0-Ctrl.
Joining it is Intellijel Shapeshifter through Rabid Elephant Natural Gate, SynthTech E520 (Deflector Shield program) and Valhalla Supermassive; pitch comes from the 0-Ctrl while level and modulation are played from the Intellijel Planar joystick.
02: Love for the Crows
The main drone and wail is Hainbach’s SonicLab Fundamental, through my own distortion plugin Fryer, AudioThing Speakers, Goodhertz Lossy and Valhalla Delay.
Noise is the E352 (Filtered Clocked Noise mode) through Make Noise FXDf, mixed in Planar, with Valhalla Delay (Ghost mode).
The secondary line is the Hertz Donut mk2 through Natural Gate and Mutable Instruments Beads, with Audio Damage Ratshack reverb and ValhallaDelay.
03: Oregon Droner
The first/main voice is two Bitwig Organ devices, one acting as a modulator for the other’s drawbar levels, exponential FM and panning, controlled by faders and Planar, processed in Native Instruments Raum reverb.
The second voice is ALM Busy Circuits Akemie’s Castle, its A and B outputs cross-routed through two Wavetable Shapers in the Expert Sleepers Disting EX, processed by u-he Twangström and Valhalla Delay.
The next voice is one Mutable Instruments Rings in FM mode, feeding the audio input of a second Rings in modal mode, processed by the E520 (Spectral Time Machine program) and WMD MSCL compressor, with Plogue Chipcrusher, AudioThing Fog Convolver, and Valhalla Supermassive.
The “sea lion calls” / “sonar pings” are the first Rings’ output through Beads, with Sonic Charge Echobode and ValhallaPlate.
The “bubbling” is The Harvestman Kermit through Random*Source Serge VCFQ, FMd by The Harvestman Zorlon Cannon — mixed with Zorlon through Mutable Instruments Ripples, FMd by Kermit. Processed by Valhalla Delay and by Bitwig Delay 1 with Mishby in its feedback loop.
The opening drone is Zorlon Cannon through the VCFQ, with Valhalla Vintage Verb.
The chords joining it is the ENOSC, through Wavesfactory Spectre, Ratshack Reverb and d16 Syntorus. ENOSC’s Spread is modulated by Starling Via META.
Various Zorlon Cannon outputs are mixed in Planar, with highpass filtering from Schlappi Engineering Angle Grinder, lowpass from Natural Gate, and delay/reverb from Make Noise Mimeophon and Arturia Plate 140.
An additional voice comes from Plogue Chipspeech through Syntorus, E520 (Shimmer Reverb program), digdugDIY Purple Rain lo-fi compressor, Make Noise Phonogene, Valhalla Delay and Supermassive.
A more distant but resonant version of that voice is Phonogene’s output through Rings, Wavesfactory Cassette and Valhalla Delay.
05: Turning Over Stones
The drone voice is Hertz Donut, modulating the playback position of a Bitwig Grid sampler for a gnarly waveshaping effect, through Valhalla Supermassive.
The second is Hertz Donut through Happy Nerding FM Aid and Beads, with a triggered envelope controlling the FM depth.
The melody voice is Zorlon Cannon, the top section triggering Make Noise Maths at audio rate, sequenced by the bottom section. Processed by Dyvision Video Tape Emulator, Valhalla Delay, Valhalla Room and Native Instruments Supercharger GT.
The higher, airy drone is both Kermit oscillators through Natural Gate, with my chorus plugin “Horse” and NI Raum reverb.
Akemie’s Castle backs up the melody voice, through Angle Grinder highpass filter, with Fog Convolver, Chipcrusher and Echobode.
The main voice is the Soma Lyra-8, processed by E520 (Spectral Crusher program in Threshold mode), Supercharger GT, ValhallaDelay, and Twangström.
It is joined by an additional drone from Shapeshifter through u-he Runciter.
The 3-note repeating “flute line” is Akemie’s Castle output B through Beads, Bitwig Delay-1 with Ratshack Reverb inside its feedback loop, and XLNAudio RC-20 Retro Color.
The little sequence I think of as “bump” is from Angle Grinder, with (A) its Grind output and (B) its lowpass output through Shapeshifter’s wavefolder, through Natural Gate and Valhalla Room.
The “solo line” is Akemie’s Castle output A through FXDf and Planar, processed by Arturia Plate-140. Its pitch is addressed via a fader and a Bitwig Grid “data” module.
07: Ice Heart
The opening drone is Madrona Labs Aalto.
The second drone is E520 (Spectral Time Machine program) with a frozen recording of ENOSC, through NI Supermassive.
The “cellos of doom” line is ENOSC itself, with its Scale and Balance modulated by LFOs, through Valhalla Delay, Supercharger GT and AudioThing Speakers.
The “icy” drone is Mimeophon and Rings (in Karplusverb mode) in a feedback configuration, with an LFO modulating Rings’ Structure and Position. Processed by Lossy and ValhallaPlate.
The melody line is Shapeshifter, through VCFQ lowpass and a notch filter (mixed high/lowpass) from Ripples, with e-Phonic XPressor and Supermassive.
The full mix goes through Denise Bad Tape, Wavesfactory Cassette, and Supermassive at the end.
08: Bloom Without Rot
The sub drone is Starling Via OSC3, with Supercharger GT.
The psuedo-tremolo-strings voice is the Lyra-8, with Ratshack Reverb and Gullfoss.
The “clashes” are Akemie’s Castle modulated by two LFOs from Kermit, through Mimeophon, Valhalla Delay and PSP Pianoverb 2.
The “climbing” voice is ENOSC through E520 (Frequency Shifter program) and Raum.
The entire mix is heavily processed, with multiple forms of tremolo in the Lyra-8’s midrange and Supermassive. The end is processed through E520 (Spectral Drone program).
The main voice is Shapeshifter, modulated by two LFOs from Kermit, through MSCL (which is being sidechained from the second voice). Its two outputs are highpass filtered by Angle Grinder and Ripples, with Valhalla Delay.
The second voice is ENOSC through Tallin, with Echobode, Sonic Charge Permut8, and Valhalla Room.
Starling Via OSC3 drones — despite having crashed while I was working with it, leaving the front panel controls unresponsive — and its Beat output triggers the envelope for voice 2. The Osc1 output runs through VCFQ, which has its frequency modulated by the Osc2+3 output, through FM Aid, FXDf and Planar, with Valhalla Plate.
An additional, modulated background drone from Aalto.
10: Shadows in Juniper
The first voice is ENOSC through E520 (Spectral Drone program), with Permut8 and Syntorus.
The “screaming gong” is Reface CS through Elektron Analog Drive, Wavesfactory Cassette, Valhalla Delay and Plate-140.
The bass part is Phonogene (with a recording of Shapeshifter through Natural Gate), through XPressor, Lossy, and Valhalla Delay.
The melody line and occasional “FM exclamations” is Akemie’s Castle through Tallin, with Mimeophon.
11: Rain Collector
The main line is a feedback loop with the AISynthesis AI008 matrix mixer, MSCL, Angle Grinder, VCFQ and Mimeophon, with Valhalla Delay.
The fizzy noise is Shapeshifter through Ripples, with Supermassive, Lossy and Raum.
Support for the main line comes from Angle Grinder’s notch output into Rings, with Supermassive and Spectre.
The bass and glitch loop is Phonogene (with a Shapeshifter recording), through u-he Uhbik-G pitch shift (in a split to preserve transients), Plogue Chipcrusher and Twangström.
Another bit of support for the main line comes from Angle Grinder’s highpass output through Beads and E520 (Granular Pitch program).
Sequencing is from the 0-Ctrl, which is triggered by a level detector in Bitwig Grid that monitors the level out of Phonogene. RC-20 Retro Color adds some distortion to the full mix.