Module Of The Month – September 2016

Back in issue 12 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular I picked out the TipTop Audio Z-DSP as my module of the month. It’s a fantastic FX unit that hosts cartridges to control it’s on board DSP. There’s a whole wealth of analogue “back end” to support the FX with stereo input, feedback paths and CV over 3 digital parameters, mix and the feedback levels. I covered the Z-DSP for issue 310 of Future Music magazine which should have 6 … that’s right 6 videos on the Z-DSP with the Chorus, Spring Waves, Shimmer, Halls Of Valhalla, Clocked Delay and Grain De Folie cards. Watch out for those videos going public / free on the FM YouTube channel soon.

 

 

Interview – Ginko Synthese

This month I’m interviewing Jan from Ginko Synthese. He makes the awesome Sample Slicer, TTLFO, Grains and more. With a line of a DIY cases and new DIY modules there’s loads going. So I thought we should have a chat!

Hi Jan, I don’t think we’ve ever spoken about anything other than your own modules. Let’s start with some background, what got you into music?

Oh that is a long time ago… I learned flute when I was a young kid. But I really have difficulties in focusing on things I am said to do so teaching me something is quite difficult ;). I had a private teacher and as I hardly practiced at home she thought it might help if I write my own homework, so I got an empty notebook to write down my own ideas about music in musical notation. This helped me a lot and I really liked it! When I went to the middle school we got an early old grey big computer and there was a program on it where you could cut phrases in pieces and rearrange and pitch them, and all monophonic. And as there was only one sound sample “You’ve got mail” on that computer (I really did not know how to make a new one) So my parents went crazy and asked my brother to put some software on the PC for making music. This led me to tracker programs like ST3 and Fast Tracker. But the first experiences of cutting and rearranging one single phrase led me in the end to one of my current products.

How did these experiences lead you into technology and more specifically
eurorack?

My addiction of making music on tracker programs led me into hardware in the beginning. Tracker programs make lots of use of samples and they had weird names like 303, juno, ms20 etc. I really had no idea where those weird names came from so I started to investigate and reallized soon that these names came from real instruments. So I wanted a hardware synth from that point!.. but I was young and did not had any money and could only affort an Electribe EA1, a Roland U220 and an Atari 1040STF to sequence them. I felt like I was the king of hardware :D. But my taste of music was developed by listening more and more to experimental music and especially the U220 made me disappointed in my idea of hardware. I wanted more glitchy weird sounds instead of those bread and butter sounds and I started to experiment with circuit bending and dreamed of a big modular system. And from circuit bending the step to my big dream was a logic step forward, first I simply put those circuit bend stuff behind panels but I became more and more skilled in electronics.

How long were you into eurorack before making your first module the TTLFO?

I have been into eurorack for a few years before making the TTLFO. I
had a little Doepfer rack, a PAIA and some DIY modules and wanted
to make something like the TTLFO just to put in my rack. I thought it
would be a good Idea to make a few to cover the costs. I asked on
the web if there where people who where interested in one and to my
surprise there where more people interested than the amount of
modules I ever could make!

The TTLFO was DIY and assembled, then just available as assembled.
But now you have a new range of DIY modules to compliment your
assembled ones. Is DIY a specific goal for you to support with the
modular community?

Behind all my products there is an idealistic idea of making them affordable for everyone. I started ginkosynthese to make modules I wanted to have myself but did not had any mony so selling them was just a way to cover the costs but since I did not had any money of my own I had (and still have) the feeling that you should make products for a fair price and DIY is a way to keep them more affordable. But after a while I realized that the first PCB’s I designed for the TTLFO where to difficult for many people as there where a lot of standing resistors and they where not layed out very well. I learned a lot and my new designs are easier to solder and that makes me comfortable to make DIY kits again.

Was it the DIY ethics that led you to making your own line of cases?

Yes! Those ethics are really important for me as I have had struggled about money for many years and want to keep things affordable for others. And as I had the opportunity to use a laser cutter daily in my workshop it was a logic step to make those DIY cases. Last winter I moved my workshop to an amazing new space but without the laser cutters so I have to find a way to get those cases back in stock and as money is still a little issue I have to find a right moment to invest in all the parts I need to get them back in stock.

Again you offer pre-assembled and DIY cases, is seeing the end user with a complete Ginko Synthese system something you’d like to see?

I don’t know if that is what I want as the fun part of modulars is that you can combine modules from other builders as well to create your own personal ideal synth. But I am working towards a little complete line I call the GRAINS line for now as the GRAINS is the first module I designed in that range. It will be a super affordable compact series of only 4HP modules and all only available as DIY.

Your Sample Slicer is a unique module in how it presents live sample recording and mangling. What led to that module? Were you chopping lot of samples on other devices prior to you creating the Sample Slicer?

The sampleslicer is for me the module that resembles my first experiences in making electronic music. It has everything to do with the phrase “You’ve got mail” I talked about above.

What’s next for Ginko Synthese? Anything specific you’d like to tell us?

Since I moved my workshop to a new extremely creative space I have worked hard to build up my studio and have our own bar and a stage. I am going to use this to get other people involved in making music and give them a change to play on a proper PA system for small audience. After the summer there will be several studio sessions where artist can use my studio for free. Results will be released on tapes. All these things give me a lot of energy to develop new products. But there are already some products almost finished to release; some new products in the GRAINS line (a filter, a small sequencer and a feedback distortion) and a sequencer as add-on on the TTLFO.

Finally, anything you’d like to add before we finish?

I love your video’s!!!! They inspire me lot of times.

DivKid’s Month Of Modular Issue #12

issue12

Here’s issue #12 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular from September 2016. The interview is with Ginko Synthese, news featured Mutable Instruments, Music Thing Modular, Thonk, Qu-Bit and Malekko. The module of the month was the TipTop Audio Z-DSP.

MAGAZINE – https://joom.ag/QDsQ PDF – http://bit.ly/DivKidMag12

Interview – Mylar Melodies

This interview was from issue 11 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular back in August 2016. 

Mylar Melodies is someone I’ll happily say was partly responsible for me getting into modular synths. Alongside the likes of James Cigler and Raul’s World Of Synths there wasn’t much content online for the eager newbie to check out. Like most I went through a ‘filter junkie’ stage and I’m sure most of us are still firmly in that stage of synth equipment use … we all love a low pitched saw through a resonant low pass! Two videos stuck out to me as a real “you have to get into eurorack” moments. First the Livewire Frequensteiner click HERE for that video or hit play below. The second was his video for the Wiard/Malekko Borg 2 filter which you can see HERE or again hit play on the embedded video below.

Not too long after these videos Mylar Melodies was working with Future Music magazine and we “met” online and started talking not long after that. Mylar handed over the video and some of the in magazine article duties to me as he cut back on work for Future Music (thanks again for that one!) as I think it’s fair to say his videos slowed down … he’s a busy boy and you know, life and that! Anyway he’s back with a plan, a killer new video so I wanted to ask him some questions for you fine people to get to know him a bit too.

So Mr. Mylar Melodies let’s go back to the start, when did you get into electronic music, and what got you into modular?

Man, it’s quite a long road. I’ve been making electronic music in one form or another using hardware since around 2000, after a somewhat distant yet deeply kindly relative left me some money in their will, which I put towards getting my first stereo. What better thing to do with money, other than travel – right? My brothers had been drip feeding me music to see if they could push my musical tastes in their directions, and to be honest I was a late bloomer and didn’t really find any music I particularly loved until I was around 16/17. They played me old Orbital, and I remember thinking…hang on, what’s this?! How on earth is this done. Like, how you think the people who make this stuff must have some kind of illicit skills – it’s impossible. And so electronic music had such an allure, it kicked my musical tastes off – that was it. I saw Orbital at the Sheffield Octagon in 1999, and I remember the sense of dread at the strange places that electronic music can take you at high volumes – unnameable emotions, and of course a sense of wonder at the two guys surrounded by all this impossible technology. I still remember the first time I heard Selected Ambient Works I, and the first time I sat in my Dad’s car and listened to Drukqs. I mean, those take that concept to the n’th degree since they’re just utterly timeless and impossible pieces of music. They’re bigger than a person. You genuinely can’t conceive that a person could sit down and dream them up – I couldn’t even conceive how the sounds were made let alone how they were so singularly orchestrated. Anyway – one of my brothers is a DJ and had bought an MC-303 to dabble in production, and he’d bought Future Music for a few months too, so beyond this machine there was a load of back issues lying around. And I started playing with the MC, muting the preset tracks on and off, fiddling with the sounds, and reading the mag. And so with this money I suddenly thought…I’m going to buy some (new) gear. So I did, and I taught myself, bit by bit, to use it. What amazed me was to discover I had a latent passion for it…it wasn’t a fad. It really really stuck – even though I don’t think of myself as a ‘musician’. So I’d always owned standalone groovebox type units and a rackmount sampler (Yamaha A4000 – ace) as at the time we were coming out of the age of samplers and hardware, and moving into a computer age. And later, my grandparents gave me some money which they had saved for me to buy my first car. Now I don’t have strong feelings about cars, but I have very strong feelings about synthesizers. So I thought…right. I’m going to buy a fuck-off analogue synthesizer with this. And I think I wanted the Macbeth M5 but couldn’t afford it, so decided to get a Cwejman S1 MKII instead. (Here’s a recording I made on it: Link) Now that thing is obviously pretty ace, but I have to admit I never quite gelled with the sound. Much as folks love Cwejman, it was just too clean and precise for my tastes – it always did only what you asked it to, and no more. I wanted something rawer, raunchier, more untamed – something that would argue with you. And ultimately I sold it while traveling. Years later, I saw this video: Link – I mean, ouch. Owwwwwch. This was what I wanted. So I had to get back to it, to have a modular again, only this time a Eurorack. And one cardboard case and a shopping trip later, it began, and so far hasn’t un-began. It’s kind of ace and weird to have contributed to Future Music, years later, and be hearing about people getting into modulars from videos we’ve done. CIRRRRRCLE OF LIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!!!!

I always like to see how modular integrates with other gear and ideas / platforms that were in use before modular came onto the scene for people. So on that note what were you up to musically and what other gear were you using? Did modular stand alone and a self contained thing or did it integrate into the rest of your set up? 

Your music is always the product of the ear you make it with. On computer I end up making tunes that sound like I’ve listened a lot to LFO, Kraftwerk, Boards of Canada, Legowelt, Aphex and Steve Reich, that’s using Ableton Live and all my various outboard and keyboards/rack bits. I primarily treat the modular as a separate entity though that’s about to change. Though, for multi-track recording modular audio, I’m exclusively using the Expert Sleepers ES6 (and which is amazing) lightpiped into Apollo, which sounds absolutely spot on and is just ridiculously convenient, and I have the ES3, the reverse, too so you can pipe audio and CV direct from computer to modular.

Generally I end up treating the modular like a source of inspiration and sounds, which I sample and build tracks on the computer out of. So it’s a case of having a ‘modular session’, record it all in Live via the ES6, then move entirely to computer to build a full track, and pipe bits and pieces back for processing. Or, I use it entirely self contained – like you see in loads of my videos. I remember the eureka moment I paired the Intellijel uStep with the Make Noise Rene, and a drum beat. It was like…holy shit – a track – I’m back to the MC-303 again, but this time it just sounds ludicrously, ludicrously better. And like the way every bit of the gear influences the music itself, my modular music has ended up faster, more aggressive, more acid than what I make on Live.

I’m finishing a ‘computer sequenced’ album at the moment and when that’s done, the ES3 is going to be more in play as I’m going to have a go at something more proto-electro using Push 2 as primary sequencer, sequencing the whole studio, the Yocto, and modular percussion and voice elements live, all from one physical interface. That should be ace – the Push is just nuts.

What led you to making videos? Was there a thing that made you decide to film some modular stuff?

Needing to sell modules! Literally, shifting modules I had for sale. That Frequensteiner video was done by me thinking…Shit. I need to move this on and there are no good videos of it on YouTube, and nobody’s biting my B/S/T post so I’m going to take this into my own hands and try and make people want it. Because it’s amazing, you only just need to hear it doing its thing, you know? And a bit inspired by the approach of James Cigler and ZVex’s video demos, I did. And shortly after I posted the video…I swiftly sold the module. But I first did the Metropolis video (and I’d paid for the module!), not to sell it but just because I so loved the damn thing, and was so happy it existed, and was like, I know I can do this justice, and I really want to be able to show it as fully as it can be done because this module deserves to succeed, to be shown off properly, and nobody else is really going to do it properly if I don’t. Seriously. And of course came another moment where I realised, well, hell, I could earn key modules I wanted by offering a demo for a manufacturer – send me this thing I’m desperate for, and in exchange you show it off properly. You know why you want it, so in turn you want to inspire people, make people get what makes this stuff so wonderful. And it’s amazing the response the videos can get. In many cases the manufacturers either don’t have the time, or mainly don’t specialise in doing videos well. It’s a very different skill-set to making a product…and the risk is spending (in some cases) years developing products that don’t succeed or don’t sell very well due to obscurity or misunderstanding, especially given the competition there is now and how important YouTube is for selling gear now. And these are small companies who can’t necessarily afford to have a flop. I mean, YouTube videos got us both into the format. And still, the absolute best comments are people saying they literally got into Eurorack because of a video I’ve done. That’s wild, that’s so great. I apologise to their bank accounts – but just know that I too have hemorrhaged a frightening amount of money on this hobby, and yet…I still regret selling both that Frequensteiner and Borg.

As I said at the start after making some of your own videos you were then
working with Future Music magazine, then stopped for a while (known as the “the great depression” for some) but now you’re back in full force with monthly videos (and more to come). What’s your plan for videos going forward?

To finally make regular videos again on my own channel – at least one a month, and with bonuses for the folks supporting on Patreon. I’m sort of spiritually going to continue the ‘Modular Monthly’ concept, which can take the form of demos of specific modules, as well as conceptual videos which talk through a patch, or a system configuration idea, or just modular philosophy etc.

Tell us about the Patreon platform and why you’re using that as a vehicle for you pushing forward.

Well as you know – making videos just plain takes a long-ass time. I think probably the shortest turnaround for a video I’ve done is 6 hours from start to finish, and that’s not factoring in the (days, potentially) required to learn and consolidate your thoughts about the thing you’re showing off. Something like the Stepper Acid video is two evenings and an afternoon of shooting, two evenings of editing, and a few hours of last minute polish. And you have sound to mix too, and some colour correction. It’s one thing to do it. I’m trying to keep a quality/engagement and pacing that’s to a very high standard.

I saw Patreon as a way to justify all the effort involved in doing that and producing regular videos, and to give a bit more to people who keep up the support. It’s been amazing to get it to the point it is already, and although it’s not a lot of money, it’s the significance of that money – who it’s from, and the manner in which it is given – which has given me the focus to do it. It’s just really, really nice people who have come out of the woodwork to say: “We’ve been watching and we really like what you do, so here, have a few dollars each month and keep it up”. How nice is that? The last thing I want to do is disappoint people like that – so I’m making videos for them, and making them available for everyone else too.

Your newest video is for the Transistor Sound Labs Stepper Acid, what made you choose that module to kick things off?

I’ve owed Nina & Zoe a video forever, and it’s such a fun thing to start with – it’s a frigging awesome module – very immediate, and very acid so pairs well with the Atlantis. But also it gave me the opportunity to have a proper 4/4-off with Rings in combination with Atlantis, which I think is a particularly delicious pairing. Literally the output of Rings is going into the External input of Atlantis. And I love me a good 4/4, and I think Rings has huge techno potential – how odd yet cool is it to think of a 303-sequencer-controlled guitar?

You’ve just posted on Twitter (if I remember right) that you’re next video will be on the Doepfer PLL. I’m intrigued by Phase Locked Loops and haven’t played around with them myself, how are you getting on with it?

I’ve just plugged it in for the first time tonight. That was one of my $10 Patrons Ryan asking for a video on the PLL, and I was really happy he mentioned it – because exactly as you’ve suggested…I was vaguely aware of it but have never tried one. Perfect candidate. It’s not something on many people’s shopping lists, which I think is the beauty of it, as like all Doepfer it’s very affordable, well made, and interesting. Literally the only other PLL I can find in the format is WMD’s, which is kind of nuts, don’t you think?

It’s kind of a strange hybrid ‘VCO/Hard Sync’ module, which is capable of some freakish tones as it locks on to an input signal. I’m really looking forward to trying it on things like speech, singing (using Radio Music most likely), on drums and so forth, and just getting to the bottom of it. I think it’s going to be ace to demo something that’s more affordable too – and there’s a hell of a lot more to come.

We saw a glimpse of some live improvised modular acid on your YouTube channel around a year ago (click HERE for the video) will you be taking the modular out live again?

Yes, massively. Being the late bloomer I am, I’m only just now starting to truly appreciate how completely fucking brilliant dancing to interesting techno in good clubs is. The techno 4/4-leanings in the Stepper Acid video is not coincidental. I’ve been enormously inspired by two people – Surgeon, with his 2014 Dekmantel boiler room video (Link), and Steevio, who just blows my frigging mind (Seriously, just watch this), and despite talking to him about this very subject (Link to his description of the rig), I still struggle to comprehend the exact flow/system of Doepfer utilities by which he works his magic – the key in his approach is how truly modular it is, it’s absolutely the best expression of modular – next to Richie Devine he’s easily the most innovative and developed modular artist I know. What’s so good about this approach to live electronic music is that it is truly that – nothing is pre-prepared beyond a tuning standard, so as an audience you can ONLY witness something completely unique, a totally unrepeatable performance. Isn’t that the absolute best expression of what live music should be? Let a record be a record. I have no interest in seeing someone who pretends to play live by DJing their tracks, or muting some elements in and out while adding the odd hand-played element or effect send. It’s just not interesting. Instead let’s take risks and give an audience an experience they can only witness because they were there. So I’m trying to build a rig that operates somewhere inbetween Surgeon and Steevio’s techniques, and play some shows built for dancing. I’ll do a video explanation and demo if I can manage to pull it off …

To round off is there anything you’d like to mention or shout out?

Ironically, I want to make a hypocritical reminder – that the gear doesn’t matter. Really.

Zoe of Transistor Sounds Labs pointed something significant out to me recently – You might think Selected Ambient Works 1 was made with incredible gear, with an actual 808 and so forth, but it’s quite clear if you do a little detective work that it almost certainly wasn’t posh gear at all, quite the opposite. “Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and Surfing on Sine Waves are mostly if not entirely digital sounds. Even the 808s are samples on an R8.” (Link to more on that) Probably an R8, FZ1, probably an Atari, Quadraverb and a DX100 – certainly you could do it with that. From these shitty, cheap, DIGITAL bits of kit, comes organic music some of us can’t possibly conceive of how it could be made by human hand. You likely already have everything you need to do amazing work RIGHT NOW, you just need to sit down and do it. Just make music every day. Don’t be precious about it – quantity is far more important than quality because nobody ever sits down and says “Today I will write my masterpiece”. It’s a statistical battle, so tip the odds in your favour by writing more music at all costs. One day you’ll write shit, but the next day you’ll probably write something wicked. Just write. If it gives you goosebumps, it’s good. Don’t stop.
Cheers to Mylar Melodies for the interview he’s a darling and a Yorkshireman hiding out in London (I’ve got a soft spot for him). Be sure to check out his YouTube channel and his Patreon page. Go support him, he’s doing good stuff.

Module Of The Month – August 2016

navstoppo

The picture above is from Navs blog, which is a fantastic resource. Check it out here – http://navsmodularlab.blogspot.co.uk/

Having just got hold of a Sports Modulator in August I made it my module of the month. It’s a fantastic bit of kit that I don’t feel I’ve fully remembered every mode or function in order to repeat it properly. But it gets me interesting results based on slew, cycling rise & fall and sample and hold. Much like Maths from Make Noise when I was starting out this was seen as a ‘must have’. James Cigler made an excellent video for the module so check that out below.

DivKid’s Month Of Modular Issue #11

issue-11

Of August where did you go, what a month you were so long and lovely. I think I have a thing for August! Stupidity aside August was ace. Modular Meets Leeds was huge and possibly the biggest focused modular event in the UK. Both me and Phil “BlueWolfSe7en” we’re incredibly proud of the event so thanks to everyone that came and supported us. News in the August issue of the magazine included AJH Synth, Qu-Bit, Macro Machines and Frequency Central. The interview was with Mylar Melodies and the module of the month was the Sports Modulator from Toppobrillo.

MAGAZINE HERE – https://joom.ag/2qkQ DOWNLOAD PDF HERE – http://bit.ly/DivKidMag11

Interview – Ben Davis

 

This interview is with Ben Davis from Malekko and is from issue 8 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular. Click HERE for that magazine issue. 

malekko-logo

This month I chat to Ben Davis from Malekko – Hey Ben (good name by the way), tell us who you are and what you’re doing. People that recognise you will most likely know you from recent work designing modules with Malekko.

I’m originally from North Carolina. My first musical instrument was the guitar which I started playing in elementary school. I didn’t get into synthesizers until much later. The thing that got me interested in synthesizers was most likely discovering artists like Aphex Twin, Autechre and Squarepusher. I picked up any keyboard or drum machine I could get my hands on to get started making electronic music. I made a few tracks but never released any of them. I started building a Synthesizers.com system probably around 2008. At this time my mind wasn’t open to the possibilities of a modular system and I basically used it as a keyboard monosynth. I eventually started learning some of the unconventional uses of this 5U synthesizer. This system sounded great but wasn’t quite what I was looking for as far as making really experimental music. I saw people like Richard Devine and Surachai posting pictures of eurorack modules and I had no idea what they were at the time. I started doing some research and realized the eurorack format was a better fit for me. I sold all my 5U and over the next few months had filled up a 12U rack. This was around 2010 just as more manufacturers were getting into eurorack. I played shows around North Carolina performing solo and as part of an industrial band called Mecanikill. I’ve always enjoyed performing live and my focus with Malekko is to make modules that work well in a live rig.

Have you worked with anybody else before Malekko regarding modular?

storagestripYes, I moved to Michigan 3 years ago to start the company Macro Machines with my friend Nico Raftis. Macro Machines started with a module called the Storage Strip which took advantage of the MIDI capabilities of the Mungo 0 series modules. These modules could all pick up on program change messages allowing them to save and recall multiple presets. The storage strip made it possible to manage these settings into 16 locations and sequence through them or recall them manually. We also put out a dual 4:1 switch called the Dynamic Destiny. Nico has been working on a new module called the Omnimod which is a complex modulation source and should be available soon.

So what experiences music or technology based led you to eurorack?

My first experiences with modular were with software like Bidule, Reaktor and Max/MSP. While these options were very capable they just weren’t fun to use and took so much work to get results. I had a 5U system for a while but there were really no options to expand it other than to essentially create a Moog modular clone. The main attraction of eurorack was the amount of options available. When I got into it years ago there may have been 20 manufacturers or less. Today that number has gone way up and looking through sites like Modulargrid can be overwhelming with the number of modules available now. I really enjoy the immediacy of using eurorack. It’s fun to just plugged things in and start making sound. I got an Arduino Uno shortly after getting into eurorack. I was doing extremely basic stuff like turning LEDs on and off to just learn programming because I’d had very little experience writing code up to this point. My first things I worked on were gate/clock modulators and simple sequencers. These never turned into anything beyond a breadboard because of my lack of knowledge around analog and simple stuff like how capacitors and opamps work. Eventually through trial and error I learned the basics of getting a module to work standalone as opposed to using an Arduino hooked up to a breadboard. Out of necessity I learned how to create schematics and lay out PCBs. I use a program called Diptrace which I would highly recommend to anyone beginning to make modules as it’s very intuitive unlike other software like Eagle. Thanks to services like OSH Park I was able to affordably prototype some early designs and still use them to this day for initial prototypes. With Malekko my focus has been making modules that are made for live performance. This usually means making things as small as possible which has led me to learn how to solder stuff I wouldn’t never imagined possible to do by hand. Many of the new modules I’m working on are based on the Teensy LC which uses a QFN package type. Soldering this for the first time was a nightmare but after learning the technique and having proper magnification I’ve soldered them a few times since with no issues at all.

You designed the Varigate4 (click HERE for a video from me) and are working on the ADLFO as well. What’s next and do you see DSP / coding as your strong point?

I’m no expert at any one thing I do but I believe my main strength is that I can take a module from concept to finished product (schematic/pcb design, soldering, programming). I would say programming is what I’m best at. Up to this point the hardware side of things has been learned as I go to support what I want to do with the code. I actually don’t have much experience with DSP programming. I’m looking at a few platforms to start doing experiments with this summer. Many of my module ideas are based around sequencing, clocking and interesting ways of creating rhythms. I’m always trying to think of unique ideas that haven’t been done or making modules that perform functions that would’ve previously taken many modules to accomplish.

For example, the Varigate 4 allows for something I’d not seen in modular by being able to set probability within a sequence of a step triggering. I’d seen this applied to clocks but that wasn’t as predictable as what I created. Also the repeat function of the Varigate 4 is hard to replicate without using a few modules.

Finally anything you’d like to add?

I’ve just got home from Moogfest where we showed the Varigate 8+ for the first time. At the time it had only been together for about 2 weeks, but the code was more than 90% with only some minor things left ot finish. We got a lot of good feedback the few days we were there and I’ve come up with a few cool things to add to it. I also played a live set over the weekend using it which helped me figure out some things that would make it more friendly for live performance. The Varigate 8+ is my main focus right now and we plan to have it out this summer for $599. I’m also working on a few other projects as I have time which may be ready some time this summer or could have to wait til NAMM. Keep an eye on Malekko’s website or Muffwiggler for new nnouncements. We’ve got some really cool stuff in the works that I can’t wait to share with everyone. Thanks so much for having me this month. I really enjoy your work. I’m always recommending people check out your Varigate 4 video if they have any questions. Keep up the good work, looking forward to upcoming videos from you.

A big thanks from me to Ben Davis for the interview, it’s always great to get to know people a bit more and I’m excited to see more of his work in future Malekko products too.

And … why not take the opportunity to share a couple of others Malekko videos.

Module Of The Month – July 2016

octocontroller

Back in July and in issue 10 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular I picked out the awesome Octocontroller from Abstract Data as my module of the month. It’s still something I use loads as it’s super handy and quick to use for a range of things. Even a second one would be good! By the time you’ve got two quadrature LFOs going you want more outputs 🙂 . It’s great for making beats, triggering sequences, clock duties, LFOs and random modulation. Abstract Data definitely knocked this one out of the park. Check out my video from Future Music magazine below as well as some from my own channel.

DivKid’s Month Of Modular Issue #10

issue-10

Here’s issue 11 of the magazine with all the usual features, goodies and fun times you’re used to! (super cringe). Module of the month was the Abstract Data Octocontroller, news from 01synth cases, Audio Damage and Industrial Music Electronics (Harvestman) and there was unfortunately no interview that month.

MAGAZINE HERE – https://joom.ag/fBgQ DOWNLOAD PDF HERE – http://bit.ly/DivKidMag10

Interview – Datach’i

This interview is from DivKid’s Month Of Modular Issue 9 back in June which was before the album System was released. 

system

Getting to know people is always good and getting to know people who have new products or music coming out is always good too. Only briefly had I spoken to Joseph Fraioli before but more recently we’ve been talking about his new album as “Datach’i” called “System”. You can pre-order for various formats on Bandcamp HERE or through the Planet Mu website HERE. You may also know Joseph as Jafbox Sound which is an award winning sound design company. Check out the website it’s full of all sorts to check out. Excitingly for modular users (or wannabe modular users looking to get into it) pre-orders are entered into a competition partnered with TipTop Audio to win an oscillator and starter case/power set. Check out the quotes below from the press information and read ahead for an interview discussing general approaches to music with modular and some track specific things (huge thanks to the team for giving me a sneak peak) to ‘whet your appetite’ prior to the release on August 19th.

“Featuring 16 tracks of beautiful yet unsettling electronic music recorded exclusively on a Eurorack Modular synth, ‘System’ will be released on August 19th via Venetian Snares’ Timesig imprint.

Speaking about the album Fraioli said, “I’ve spent much of the past decade building up my own sound design company, Jafbox Sound, and in recent years have become fascinated by modular synths. I’d been making a series of performance videos, showing how they work and that inspired me to start making music as Datach’i again. I suddenly realized I had a growing collection of tracks that worked together and had something new to say. Aaron heard some of them and encouraged me to start thinking of them in terms of an album and here we are.””

On with the interview – Hey Joseph cheers for taking the time to answer some questions. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to ‘System’ your new album prior to this interview so I’d like to bring up a few questions relating to specific tracks as well as the process in the general. A quick note for the readers we’ll also be creating a video interview for Modular Podcast after the album release where we’ll go into detail and have a group discussion about gear, techniques and approaches where we can all share experiences alongside Datach’i. So watch out for that one.

My first question about the album has to be, what gear did you use? The promotional material around the states an all modular set up, deliberately making things hard to force working with limitations. Was literally nothing else used?

The only non-modular sound on the album is the Luminist Garden by Folktek which was used on the track “Luminist Modular”. I played this instrument during the performance of the patch and processed through the modular. It’s more used as an effect rather then a musical part. What’s funny is that out of the 108 tracks I made for this release, that’s the only one that has anything used out side the modular system. So I like that its on there and is the last track and sends you off in a slightly different space.

The opening track has flurries of single notes that swell and echo across the choral backdrop, was that composed / sequenced to be specific and repeatable or is there an element of random generation possibly feeding a quantizer to create that line?

I wouldn’t say random, Just longer phrasing probability. More specifically because of the amount of notes in the sequence (5 triggers across a 16 step note sequencer – Tiptop Circadian Rhythms and Z8000) and durations of those notes in the lead line, that lead melody would start and end at different points of the chord sequence which is a sequence of 8 at a different division. I do this a lot actually. Can create an interesting feel.

Sticking with the opening track ‘In The Field With Brain’ how are the chords generated? Are they layers of single notes or a chord mode on a digital oscillator?
The chords on that one are the Modcan Triple VCO with Modcan Multimode LPF sequenced by the Tiptop Audio Circadian Rhythms and Make Noise Pressure Points. (Unquantized) though it’s really fun to create chords with layers as well. Love doing that with pressure points as you can sequence three note chords that have varying note composition quality across the steps.

Across the album we hear various reverb and modulated textures, what are you using for FX?
Oh, so many FX! I collect them all like Garbage Pail Kids. Lets see off the top of my head, Tiptop ZDSP, MI clouds and rings, mungo D0, mungo G0, qu-bit RT 60, synth tech e560, e580, modcan dual delay, audio damage dub junior and spectre, ladik R-330, intellijel rainmaker, flame FX-6, Make Noise Erbe Verb and Echophon and problaby others I’m forgetting 🙂

A question that comes up with lots of modular related content is – how are you handling pitch information across multiple layers? Is it several quantizers or pre quantized sequencers with oscillators tuned in prior to recording?

It’s all over the map. To this day I have not tuned an osc with a tuner! haha. I like how when sequences appear slightly detuned from one another they can feel more human and honest almost. It’s also a cool way to discover microtonal scales. Most often ill start with a chord structure or melodic sequence and layer on top of that other sequences and find the notes I like by ear. It’s also really fun to use unquantized and quantized sequences together. Can lead to interesting results. I also often create multiple layers of simpler sequences instead of fewer more complex ones as the separate parts lends the patch to have more variation options while performing.

The album has elements of more standard “drum machine” like percussion sounds but on the third track ‘Synthetic Metals’ (and others) we also get more synth heavy clicks, pops and low-end thumpy kicks. So on that note, what are you using to create the drum sounds across the album?

Well on “Synthetic Metals” specifically the kicks are the blue lantern asteroid BD v4 and Tiptop BD808, the main snare I made from the epoch Benjolin and then the metal clank snare that comes in later on is the Noise Engineering Basimilus Iterus. Hats are the SSF Quantum Rainbow with a maths expo envelope. The more microtonal melodic metallic percussion stuff is the MI elements that’s sequenced / performed on the circadian rhythms and z8000.. For the album as a whole, percussion sounds are coming from a variety of places, I tend to lean on kick modules such as the blue lantern Bv4, audio damage neuron, jomox mod.brane 11 for kicks and often wind up making the snares from various sources though I do use the hex intvertor mutant clap, ALM dinkys, MI peaks and jomox mod.brane 11 for “snares” too. Sequenced percussion I often used fro the cylonix shapeshifter and MI Braids in Meta mode both which I use additional envelopes for more control and variance.

Out of curiosity as this is something I’m considering at the moment – are you using compressor modules as part of either the creative process creating sounds or as part of the mixing within the modular system?

Yea ill use the L-1 stereo micro compressor but for a very different more utilitarian purpose.. The stereo out of my modular goes through a recording chain before hitting the convertors. In that recording chain is an API compressor that I use to get ultra tight and sharp transients. The downside to this is that it can suck out all your low end as its making the linear bass envelopes hyper exponential. To counter this id use the L1 to really push the bass envelopes into heavy logrhythmic territory so when they hit the external compressor they level out to more linear. That said the L-1 is great creative tool as well. You can get really cool pumping and sidechaing effects going. You can hear this done really well on Surachais new one “Instinct and Memory”. His use of the L-1 here is amazing and inspired me to pick one up.

As part of Modular Podcast I recently interviewed Richard Devine talking about his use and processes with regards to modular synthesis. I asked him “Looking at a blank set up with no cables patched, what would be the first cable you plug in?” Richard’s answer was that it’s always different, experimenting and trying new things. I’m sure you experiment in the same way but some of us do tend to have habits when working towards certain goals so I’ll put the same question to you. Looking at a blank set up with nothing patched what would be the first thing you patch?

More often then not, a patch (or track) starts with a question “ I wonder what happens if I do this……” so its always changing. Though making so many patches/tracks now I know if I want to achieve a certain style of sound design or music I can patch it up pretty quickly but try not to do that and continue exploration with each new piece.

The harmony choices and chord voicings used are often dark and ominous providing a definite “vibe” or “feel” through the album. Are they conscious pre-defined efforts to work with that harmony or does the equipment influence that sound and style in anyway?

I do everything by feel alone. Basically just know when the sounds and
sequences are feeling right and then I build off of that. I’d say the design of sounds that feel right can influence the sequences greatly though. Like I love how 24db slope LPF on detuned saws sound. So warm and intimate which can inspire the feel of the melodic sequence.

You’ve a sizeable eurorack system that I imagine many of the readers have seen in your videos, is that a set system in anyway? To expand on that do you feel either all of or certain parts of your system do everything you want to when making music on that system?

I rarely use the entire setup for a track, in fact I don’t think I ever have. The variety and largess of my system is greatly there for my work as a post production sound designer so ill have multiple paths to choose from given a clients needs. The system itself is not set up with any logic. I prefer it to be all over the place, sometimes ill move modules around so the workflow feels a little different, while this is a really simple change, it can really inspire you because you wind up interacting with the system a bit differently and certain modules you’ve had for a while can feel new again just based on their location.

On track 7 ‘Omni 2’ as the track plays out it’s final peak and wind down there’s a hint of a speak and spell or some primitive vocal synthesis sounds. Firstly, am I right in that’s what I’m hearing? And second if it is, what module or piece of equipment was that? I’m a sucker for those retro vocal synth sounds!

haha! Me too. That’s MI braids in Meta mode with internal tong env and external maths env for extra control. Both of those modules are being modulated by the Macro Machines OMNI.

How much interaction do you have with your patches for the album once set up? From your videos we often see you set something going and then little interaction beyond that.

My patches for tracks usually start out pretty complex with a lot more patch points then what I do in the videos. I typically go through a process of evaluation of what’s necessary and then re-patch more efficiently and/or simplify based on what aspects of the track I want to perform and which I prefer to be automated. Mostly I do a lot of control with the Circadian Rhythms in terms of performance but also will switch parts with the WMD SSM, or even play melodic lines on the Pressure Points in real time and of course various filter and modulation tweaks 🙂

There are some intense and sporadic rhythmic moments across the album with fills, flurries, gestures and stutter style effects changing amongst what I imagine are set sequenced rhythms. However beats 2 and 4 seemed to pinned down on some sort of snare, clap or glitchy synth percussion sound throughout. Is that an effort to keep a steady sense of time? Do you feel that having a simple and more static element allows you to be more free with the other rhythmic layers?

YES and YES 🙂 I love keeping the funk in the beats by having somewhat
consistent 2s and 4s and then manually performing the various features of the Tiptop Circadian Rhythms in a way that allows me to be expressive with the beats and sequences.

I can go on asking lots of specific questions about gear and approaches with tracks on the album but I’d like to save some of these for the discussion we’ll be having on Modular Podcast post album release. So finally, is there anything you’d like to add?

Thanks Ben, I suppose the only thing id like to add as while were talking loads of fun tech stuff, what really got me on the path of making the music that’s on the album was looking beyond the idea that its made in such a technical way and making a more intimate and emotive experience that’s as genuine as it could be. For example, sort of inspired by sci-fi, I started to think of the system as a bit of artificial intelligence that I collaborate with.. So in my mind the more emotion I could get out of a patch/track just felt like the system was a higher level of artificial intelligence. that said of course I love the more abstract patching flows as well. There’s just something really special and exciting when you have a patch going that’s automated and emotive in a way that really feels right.

I’d like to say thanks to Joseph for the interview and I’m looking forward to exploring his ideas and album further in the up-coming video interview with Modular Podcast.