Qu-Bit new modules at NAMM 2017

On all accounts it looks like Qu-Bit Electronix have absolutely smashed it for NAMM. 4 new modules covering envelopes, mixing, random and filtering. I’ll be posting updates about NAMM (I’m not there) with my personal spin on what we’re seeing. So strap in for blog posts a plenty! Click images to zoom in. 

Lets start with Chance the new random module. It has 9 outputs including white and digital noise (no sign of that rate controlled by anything), random gate, random ‘in time’ rhythms, clock out (also takes clock in) and 4 random voltage outputs. Smooth (ramps between values), discrete (stepped), wavetables (random shifts between in time sine, ramp and triangle waves) and the blend out (can shift and random mix the the first 3 cv outs). It’s looking great, and if it’s anything like a big brother to the already awesome nano rand then this will be fantastic! It’s 14hp and also has a freeze knob to control freeze and hold its current state.

Next up we’ve got Tone … now NOT that holy pilgrimage guitarist trek through hundreds of pedals, stringS, cabling and amps combos to find … it’s a new quad filter! This looks very “Mutable” to me in design, not judging just popped out that way, clean, symmetrical, those knobs etc. Anyway, it’s four 24dB per octave low pass and band pass filters with input for audio (duh liiiiiiike obviously!) and frequency CV with attenuator with knobs for CV depth, cut off and resonance and a LP and BP output per channel. It’s a cascade OTA design providing a “warm, buttery character” that looks like it would be great next to samplers / mixers and drums to me. Multiple filters for left and right stereo imagining or mono sub mixes of drums before hitting a final mixer would be a breeze. It’s 18hp for those shaping up space case to squeeze one in.

Third up is Contour which is a quad attack / decay generator with a few tricks up its sleeve. There’s a trigger in and cv inputs for both attack and decay. The output has an attenuverter for inversion and scaling of the output which is a nice addition as plenty of modules don’t have CV input controls. The envelopes can loop and change between linear and exponential as well as link channels. The channel linking is the unique part as you hold the loop control for 3 seconds then click the next channel (these flash and you can pick any, in any order) which will trigger the linked channel at the end of cycle from the first. Pretty cool! It comes in at 20hp and is due to ship at the end of this month. Others ship in coming months.

Finally we’ve got Mixology. We saw this last year with the old design Qu-Bit were using with slightly different features, so it’s good to see its new look and features. It’s a four channel “output/performance” style mixer with panning and a single send as well as solo, mute, output meter and CV over level, pan and send. It certainly fleshes out the new look Qu-Bit range well and is slightly larger than before at 28hp, offering a more ergonomic layout.

The Analogue Zone videos (as with other event coverage) are great so far and here’s one with Andrew from Qu-Bit going through the modules.


Erica Synths NAMM 2017 announcements


If you like Erica Synths and haven’t seen, click HERE to check out an interview with them. Also click images for details.

Erica must work non stop working up their ranges of systems, re working and re designing classics and constantly keepings things flying forward. There’s often multiple releases together (PICO was 13 modules at once I think … crazy!). So it’s no surprise they’re releasing and announcing a slew of modules and updates at NAMM 2017.

First up is the re designed Polivoks DIY line up. With many innovations and improvements on the original soviet Polivoks designs.

There’s also the previously announced Fusion system which uses tubes/valves/glowing glass things (call them what you will!) in the signal path. While I haven’t played on the full system the previous version one Fusion modules and the new Vintage Delay Ensemble is killer.

There’s also a new filter core with a new chip designed and manfactured for Erica Synths by RPAR Alfa. It’s a 12 octave, exponential tracking, resonance modulating, multimode VCF which is similar to a CEM3320 with improved characteristics. Nice to see them pushing technologies, looking at the specs on the image I’m starting to picture one hell of a filter on the cards when they get the module sorted.

There’s also the new Black Octasource (with new video below), version 2 stereo mixer and PFL Expander (my video below), MIDI to clock (or clock to MIDI) and a new XFADE module.


(via Audio News Room and Matrix Synth)

Doepfer Press Release for NAMM 2017

 Hold up … just wanted to start by saying I’ve just seen these images over on Matrix Synth and I wanted to share them here too with my own babble.

Doepfer have released their press release for the 2017 NAMM show and it’s full of goodies into a new programmable octal programmable switch, new small low cost case (single row or 48HP), CV input module and quad envelope follower to go with the performance mixer, more black “vintage” series A-100 modules and a new Trapezoid oscillator. I’m looking forward to seeing some coverage of these from NAMM in the next few days.

What are some of your favourite Doepfer modules? Get in touch and let me know, A-189-1 Bit Modifier is high on my list.

Click the images for details! 














Interview – BASTL Instruments

This interview is from issue 15 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular from December 2016.

Hey Václav, good to be speaking you and asking some questions for the magazine. First can you tell us about about your own background?

We started the company together with Ondřej and we played in a band together but also went to art school together. So basically the background is art and music. The good thing about art school was that I had a lot of time to learn how to do electronics and programing and from doing video-synthesizers and mechanical installations I shifted to making synthesizer, because I really needed to focus my energy towards music.

What made you start designing modules and launch the company BASTL?

At first we started a project called Standuino (est. 2011) which was focused on the local history of DIY movement in contrast with the global trends that came with the maker movement. The name itself connected the Arduino (prototyping platform) and a name of our hero Standa Filip – a local guy that was making synths, drum machines, theremins and electric guitars since late 70s. With the Standuino project we have been doing workshops, art exhibitions and concerts all around Europe, but at the workshops we were building synths anyway. So at first the idea was to make workshops and art but then we came to the point: “Hey! we are actually making synths and people want to buy them?!” we decided to start from scratch and make a real company – Bastl Instruments.

Eurorack was actually the format of choice for my diploma project in which i wanted to translate physical events into simple language (control voltage obviously) with sensors, and than i wanted to influence the physical environment with the same language – motor controllers. I build a rack with bunch of modules to demonstrate that you can use modular environment to reconfigure physical ecosystems. And of course some of the modules were making sound as well.

Your line of modules has grown quickly. Was building full systems a goal at the start?

Well I always wanted to create complete musical instrument/environment for myself. It took a long time between I started to turn circuits into modules and the time when we were ready with the panels, knobs, graphics, manuals and everything else. So it piled up and then we released 10 modules at once and it appeared to work as a complete system already. Also the motivation behind making the modules in the first place was that I had a lot of friends here in Czech republic that wanted to build that stuff also, but couldn’t afford to buy it. And we all needed all the basic modules, like mixers etc.

We can’t have an interview without me asking about the wooden panels, what made you choose wooden panels?

So the story is that we have a CNC machine in the house that we use for several other projects and when we were prototyping the panels we used it just to check that all the holes are in the right place so we could order some metal panels. But the moment we saw how it looked and how it behaved it was decided! But than it also took some time to figure out the right printing method and the type of varnish we need to use so it stabilizes the color and makes it really durable.

You have even made custom knobs for the modules, are the aesthetics of your systems something you make a priority?

Well I guess our art background makes that aesthetic stuff automatically 🙂 so we focus more on the instruments themselves and that seems to be the priority. Luckily we have awesome friends that do all our graphics – the Anymade Studio and they really push the look of our stuff and make our brand something special. They also enjoy working with us because we are not normal clients and they can afford to make more extreme jokes in more progressive designs.

I think BASTL deserve an award for the most creative and fun stands at shows. Where did the idea to do something so different come from?

Haha thanks ! Well if you look at my diploma project it must become obvious https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUeHUuyPa84

Basically it is art installation that I finished my art school with. From this point to our show stands there is very direct link. We tried it the first time and it simply worked. I also really enjoy making these installations. At Superbooth for instance we showed the Hendrikson module that interfaces with the guitar and guitar pedals, but we didn’t want people play guitar at our booth so I made the robotic self playing guitar that you could sequence with a modular. That was fun!

As well as providing modules to interface with external devices (instruments, motors etc) you’ve released the bitRanger and Kastle. Which are both stand alone devices. Will we see more stand alone devices in the future?

I need to mention Peter Edwards a.k.a. Casper Electronics at this point. He is a circuit bending legend and really innovative thinking instruments designer that happened to move to Brno to work with us on synths and instruments. The bitRanger is his design that we released and the Kastle is my design that is obviously inspired by the bitRanger. We have always been doing standalone instruments and to be honest it is much easier from the design perspective to make a module than to make a tabletop thing (that is why it takes so long sometimes). Now especially with the bitRanger and the Kastle we wanted to address the situation of starting modular user (so you don’t need so many modules and expenses when starting to have something fun to play), but also somebody who doesn’t have more space in the rack (so you get an external device to enhance it).

Personally I like the wooden panels, they look and feel great but it’s hard to escape people asking for aluminium panels. Will you offer those in the future?

Yes we will ! It took us really long time because all our production is local or in house (pcbs,assembly, panels) so we were trying to find somebody local, too. That turned out to be impossible so we started to look further and found a company in Germany.

With them we managed to develop a technique how to do the printing and post processing so it becomes very durable and also looks amazing so we are really happy with the result. So hopefully we have the panels very soon.

Finally anything else you would like to tell us or promote? Any new module teasers?

Well we always talk about the community around Bastl Instruments. We are mostly musicians and all the guys working with us have build a modular for very little money. And we all play these instruments, we organize monthly concerts and also we try to make internal weekly workshops on synthesis, music, electronics and related topics. There is a real music scene forming around Bastl now which is really exciting.

With products – there is very anticipated effects processor called Thyme getting finished so we can hopefully soon start the production. It also took much longer than anticipated but is really worth it. Sounds and feels truly great! When it comes to modules… yes there will be some new modules next year. There is still a lot of modules that I desire that don’t exist so i need to make them exist!

Thanks to Václav for chatting to us and checking BASTL here – http://www.bastl-instruments.com/

Interview – Abstract Data

This interview is from the November issue of DivKid’s Month Of Modular. Find that magazine issue HERE.

Hey Justin, thanks for answering questions and chatting to us. To start with can you tell us what your background is? Be that music related, engineering etc.

My background is pretty mixed. I was born in London but I ‘grew up’ (still growing up really…) in Sydney – London has been home again for nearly 20 years now but my accent often sounds like I just arrived. I got into music seriously through late 80’s Punk and Hardcore but by the 90’s I was making and playing Techno, House and Breaks. Over the years I’ve played in bands as a guitarist, DJ’d, produced, remixed and run record labels. My engineering and electronic design background is mainly self-taught – I started repairing bits of my own music hardware and studio gear to keep it running and at some point, I started thinking about building something for myself.

How did Abstract Data come about? You were making desktop units before modules if I remember correctly.

Yes, I started building one-off, self-contained, desktop designs around 2008. Basically, small sequenced, mono synths with some basic CV control over stuff like PWM. It’s interesting for me to see the current crop of smaller sequenced synth designs that companies like Korg and Roland are doing now – I do wonder if I would have started on this path if those designs had existed back then.

My first ‘commercial’ builds were the Hex Series – a set of three, complimentary synth/effects boxes that covered signal generation, filtering/morphing and modulation.

I started doing my own designs for two main reasons. I was doing a lot of music and audio writing and production for television and advertising companies. This work was all ‘in the box’ – everything was done in a DAW and while I really enjoyed and appreciated the power and flexibility that gave me – especially for all the last minute or short-deadline changes that work requires – increasingly, I felt more and more like I was spending my entire day just sitting at a computer and less like I was doing anything really creative. Increasingly, the computer became much less interesting to me as a creative tool. That hasn’t really changed for me since then if I’m honest.

The other was that I really started missing playing a physical instrument – be it a guitar or percussion or a synth and I started thinking about buying a decent, fully-featured analogue synth. This was before the current crop of smaller, cheaper builds and back then – you were either buying a modern, monster-synth or you were trying to track down one of the few really good modern analogue synths that existed or you were buying one of the old-school legendary synths like an SH-101 – but also paying the ridiculous prices that those builds often go for.

From there, since I’d been tinkering with more of my own gear anyway – I started looking into building my own designs.

You had a great core set of modules early on with the ADE-10 Reactive Shaper, ADE-20 Multi-Mode Filter and ADE-30 Wave Boss. What inspired these as the first modules?

I got into Eurorack kind of by accident. I bought a couple of modules to set up a bench test rig for the desktop builds I was designing – I figured it would be a good way to get a decent sine wave and a power supply without buying expensive lab gear. From there – I was hooked very quickly. About the same time I was offered a good deal on a large – but very badly treated – Doepfer rig out of a studio that was down-sizing. I repaired the ones I could, sold some on and suddenly I’d gone from having 3 or 4 modules to approaching 9U of Eurocrack.

The first Abstract Data modules covered a lot of different bases for me. The ADE-10 was more experimental – it definitely didn’t take the safe, clean, linear approach that many Euro designers take now – there were great sweet spots but you had to find them and you could also fall off the edge with it. I like that element in sound creation.

The ADE-20 was my first attempt at doing a serious discrete analogue design. That’s ‘proper’ electronics as far as I’m concerned. I’m no purist, I have no problem with digital – but for sound generation – analogue is where it’s at for me. It wasn’t perfect but I learnt a lot from that design and I’m really looking forward to some of the designs that build on the core circuits that were developed during that stage.

Your modules are densely packed and full of features yet easy to use. Do you always set out to cover a wide range within the type of module that it is? Take the ADE-31 Logic Boss for example. It’s a comprehensive logic module with multiple channels and multiple logic types. Personally do you prefer that over say breaking anything into separate modules?

I think there’s an important balance between giving the customer something fully-featured, something that is absolutely usable in any situation – be it noodling around in the studio or doing some sort of live performance but also something that is genuinely interesting – something they can experiment with, something that doesn’t give up every feature in the first session. Getting that balance right is one of the great challenges of Euro design.

I like modules that pack a lot in, I don’t like modules where the functionality is hidden or obscured and I don’t like modules that bring absolutely nothing new to the game. I guess I try and aim somewhere between those three points.

It’s fair to say you made a big splash with the ADE-32 Octocontroller. Were you aiming to make something that would really ignite a small system? Or was it making a swiss army knife module that filled any sort of “I wish I had more modulation” type thoughts users may have?

Yeah, obviously I’m very proud of the Octocontroller, it’s become Abstract Data’s flagship module and it’s great to see that new people are still discovering it and experienced users are still finding new things to do with it.

The ADE-32 design came out of trying to solve a problem that I was having with my own rig in that, if you’re doing music that relies on clocked and quantised sequences – like most forms of dance music for example and you’re running a rig that is stand-alone i.e. you’re not slaving it to a DAW – then getting multiple, synced modulations going is actually really challenging. That seemed like a glaring hole in my early Eurorack experience – so I set out to fill it.

It ended up being a lot more than just a bunch of synced LFOs but I found that once we’d sorted the navigation method – which gives you access to all the key features right on the front panel – then we could squeeze in some bonus features like looping CV and arpeggios.

The upcoming waveshaping VCO, envelope generator and VCA flesh out the Abstract Data system into a full and comprehensive voice. Was an all Abstract Data rig always a goal?

That idea evolved over the first couple of years of designing modules but it is the long-term plan to have a complete Abstract Data signal path.

We have VCO, VCF, VCA, VC-AHDSR and a number of modulation and utility designs in development and the current Abstract Data demo rig has prototypes of all those modules running.

So where do you see Abstract Data going next? FX, sequencing, drums maybe? Any particular avenues you’d like do explore?

As far as new modules go – there’s currently a half dozen new designs working through prototyping – so that’s the next couple of years work sorted right there. The priority right now is to have a complete Abstract Data system that handles sound creation and modulation.

I am still committed to ADE-32 development, there’s some ideas for future firmware upgrades that I really want to explore and I am seriously looking at expander development.

There’s currently no plans for sequencing or percussion – but there are some digital synthesis and sound generation that I’d like to explore. There’s also loads going outside of product development, I’m looking to move out of the spare room and into dedicated work space and I’m also looking to bring some people into the team. Small steps – but all things that will hopefully keep Abstract Data growing.

Slightly off topic but you play guitar (as do I) so I wanted to ask if you see guitar and Abstract Data crossing paths at any point? Pedals maybe, or even just playing the guitar through or alongside modular.

Yes, I’ve played guitar on and off for years and I’ve been playing seriously again the last few years.

As far as using the guitar with my modular, in all honesty – I see them as two totally different music projects. The music I do with my modular leans heavily towards Techno and the stuff I play on the guitar, these days, leans heavily towards slow, soul and gospel-influenced Blues. There’s a few key styles of music that I’ve been into for most of my life – but they’ve always been part of their own thing.

As far as doing some non-modular, guitar-oriented designs – then yes, that’s definitely something I’d like to pursue.

Thanks to Justin for talking to us. Check out his site www.abstractdata.biz and watch out for updates on his Twitter and Facebook.

Interview – Erica Synths

This interview was from issue #13 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular back in October 2016.

In this interview I talk to Girts from Erica Synths about how the company started, how they managed to create such a strong and large product line and where he sees the company heading in the future.

So Girts, tell us how did you get into synths and electronics prior to modular. Do you have a background in similar things?

I grew up in a small village and for some reason from early childhood I had a drive for inventing things, doing something that others don’t do, and so on. Ignoring the fact that I didn’t have any reasonable tools, advice, references or examples from others in my teenage years I built velomobile, a delta plane (which luckily didn’t fly), electrical grass trimer,
emulated space shuttle Challenger disaster with 80cm high model of it, turned accordion into aqualung, considered applying to military school in Moscow, performed crazy stunts on a bike, that I would never do today, and other totally crazy stuff.

When I was in 7th grade in primary school, I “borrowed” from school library a book about some DIY electronics and I totally fell for it. Back then Latvia was a part of Soviet Union, and we were basically isolated from information around the rest of the world, but I subscribed to both DIY monthly magazines available in USSR. In the secondary school I already have developed some synths and stompboxes. In beginning of 90s I moved to Riga, capital city of Latvia, studied physics and become a physics teacher. Then my skills of building stompboxes advanced to the level that I could sell them. But when Latvia gained independence, market opened, and western-produced electronics become available and I put DIY electronics hobby aside.

Some 7 years ago I decided to make an electronics DIY constructor for
my son. It basically was a modular constructor consisting of small boxes,
each hosting some component (LED, potentiometer, for example), that
were interconnected via patch cables to make electronic circuits. When I
had some 20 different boxes developed, I searched the internet for schematics of “something that makes sound”, and come across Music From Outer Space… In next three-four years I built virtually all DIY projects in all possible formats (my monster rack had both +-12V and +-15V rails) that were available online. But the eurorack boom hadn’t begun, yet.

The company started with models of the Soviet Polivoks synths. What was the connection to that sound?

It was more to do with the availability of original components. I just decided to make rack-mount Polivoks clone with a midi implementation. I found schematics and PCB drawings online, redrew PCBs, etched them at home, and actually made the synth. But before that I built the Polivoks VCF DIY kit, I ordered somewhere, and it was developed around western analogues of programmable opamps that were used in the original Polivoks. And it didn’t sound nearly as good, as my VCF. So, I decided to make my first DIY kit to offer it on Muffwiggler. And honestly, I do not give a f**k about that soviet heritage. That was pure nightmare.

You started with and since have made plenty of DIY kits, PCBs & panels available. Is the DIY something you will focus on in the future too?
Honestly, with launch of first modules from Black series focus has shifted to factory built eurorack modules. But, as I feel nostalgic about DIY, we definitely will continue offering DIY kits and will develop some more in future.

How did you manage to create such a wide range of modules so quickly? And not just cheap modules that people only keep for a while. You’ve a large range of very strong modules, Polivoks, Black Series, Fusion Series how did it all happen?

Like many eurorack companies, Erica Synths started in my bedroom (literary), where I had soldering station, did all packaging for sending first orders, etc. And I wasn’t a community of engineers and musicians – I was running one of largest advertising agencies in Latvia. But then, I still wonder, how it happened, I accidentally met genius people who are engineers and musicians, and now they are in Erica Synths team: Janis is engineer for most of our digital stuff, Kodek makes demos, plays gigs on Erica Synths gear, tests prototypes both from musical and functional perspective, Anastasija is my ex-student (I teach marketing in a university), she takes care about marketing and logistics, Ralfs tests every single module that comes from the factory and does cases assembly. And in similar way few outsourced engineers appeared. Eduards aka D-tech, genius engineer and self-taught composer and blues piano player, used to work in huge company that develops high-tech communication devices, but, as he works almost exclusively during night-time and music is his true passion, he’s more happy to work for Erica Synths and I’m happy, I met him.

On the other hand, we have like 5-6 electronics assembly companies of different size here, few PCB producers (I can get prototype PCBs in 3 days), companies that can make front panels, and a friend of mine owns a silkscreen company. All those are small-medium companies and therefore I can keep production processes effective and short. And within last year their doubts “who a hell buys all this crazy shit?” have been leveraged, and they kind of admire Erica Synths for what we do together.

During soviet times Riga Musical Instruments Factory (RMIF) was the largest musical instruments producer in Soviet Union, so I want to make Riga great again! In terms on synth reputation, of course.

Do you have any connections to tube amps or bits of tube driven vintage gear? I’m wondering what led you to develop the Fusion series.

In my early DIY experience back in 80-ties I made some tube stuff, but that doesn’t count. The inspiration for Fusion series and early designs came from Aivars Kreivics, DIYer, engineer, self-taught musician and sound engineer. He was a mastermind behind monster drum machine RMIF ES25 that was being developed in Riga. Only single prototype was built in 1991 before factory gone bankrupt. Check it out here: www.ruskeys.net/eng/base/rmifes25.php He was 65, when I met him performing live in festival Night of Wonders, organized by Kodek in his small hometown, on his creation – one of kind synth HIDRA built solely on vacuum tubes (https://soundcloud.com/senators-1/sets/hidra). We become good friends, and developed first versions of Fusion modules. Unfortunately, Aivars passed away this January. R.I.P.

With Fusion V2 we have way more experience both in design and production, and D-tech has taken over schematics part of the project. V2 brings Fusion series to brand new level! I hope to release the missing links in the series Fusion VCF and Fusion VCA in next 2-3 months.

Recently you’ve developed a DSP platform with the Black Hole DSP injecting digital FX into your line up of modules. Are you working with DSP developers on new digital projects and FX too?

The Black Hole DSP is developed around well-known SPN1001 chip, which is found in many DSP modules. But we didn’t want to have native effects on the chip, therefore we collaborated with Gary Worsham developer of Spin CAD software dedicated to SPN1001 programming (http://holycityaudio.com/spincad-designer-2/ ). He did several major
adjustments in the software, and Kodek spent 3 months in row to develop effects so, that they sound really great. The success of the module confirms that. We’ll have expansion chip with 8 more effects out by the end of the year.

One of the standout series of modules has been the PICO range of 3HP modules. Not just for their small size but also the sound and functionality. Were you dreaming of filling small gaps in people’s systems or dreaming of a small portable system when work on those began?

Pico Series was, kind of, accidental sidestep! Janis was pissed off working on Graphic VCO firmware early this year, and said out loud something like: “I wish I could do something small!” And same day we came up with concepts for 16 Pico modules. We were so excited about these ideas, that we put aside Graphic VCO and focussed on Pico. It didn’t only take a lot of engineering, but also – a lot of creativity to develop user interfaces so that modules are really playable and do the work of regular sized modules. We did lot of revisions and prototypes before we were happy about the result both musically and functionally. And I would never ever again launch 16 modules simultaneously! 😀 Just imagine all production routines with 16 modules! Production files, front panels, designs, manuals, packaging, logistics!

But I’m really happy about the result! I can proudly say that we have developed the world’s smallest self-containing (no external interfaces needed) eurorack modular system that really works! You can play serious one-hour gig only on 42HP system.

Will we see more PICO modules soon? And do you think there’s anything you can’t fit in 3HP?

Yes, the second run of Pico modules is arriving from the factory these days, and then our Pico series will be complete. We’ll launch pre-assembled Pico System mid-November. We’ll have 6 more Pico modules: Pico DSP (8 effects stereo FX processor), Pico STRINGS (string sounds VCO), Pico Logic (2×8 logic algorithms), Pico SEQS (voltage controlled
4-channel sequential switch), ALOGIC (“analogue logic” signal processor – takes two incoming signals and derives sum, difference of them, as well as max and min curves) and MASK (advanced S&H module, based on Mask Value principles).

The only limitation for 3HP is physical space of the faceplate. J It would be hard to imagine 8 channel performance mixer in 3HP!

Finally, what’s next for Erica Synths? Anything you can tell us about?

As Pico series are temporarily complete, we shift our focus back to Graphic modules, and I hope to have Graphic VCO ready before Christmas! Also we have Fusion VCF and VCA on the way. And couple of very distinct VCFs. To date we have only Polivoks VCF in our line, therefore we want to fill that gap.

To end on I’d like to say a huge thanks to Girts for all his support of my work and for taking the time to answer my questions.

DivKid’s Month Of Modular Issue #13

Here’s issue 13 of DivKid’s Month Of Modular. This marks a year of the magazine so I thought a style change on the front cover and inside was due. The module of the month came from 4ms. News included XAOC Devices and Special Stage Systems. Finally there was an interview with Erica Synths.

MAGAZINE – https://joom.ag/RTfQ PDF – http://bit.ly/DivKidMag13


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 – 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.

DivKid’s Month Of Modular 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