machine


Today on the Elektron-Users.com forum I found a really interesting compilation of music put together by E-U forum members. The compilation is built around Elektron instruments (Monomachine, Octatrack, and my beloved Machinedrum) and is available for a $5 download. There is also a free version with just a few songs. The download is pretty spectacular. It includes 15 tracks, a PDF file of photography and artwork and credits, and a larger PDF file with a veritable “making-of” and information about the project, as well as information for anyone interested in putting a compilation similar to this together.

The project is described like so:

Machine is a unique compilation album and collaborative effort, produced in its entirety by the elektron-users.com community, made primarily with instruments created by the Swedish boutique synthesiser company Elektron. The elektron-users.com forum is a playground for experienced and inexperienced electronic musicians activated by a base of friendly, helpful and creative people from all over the world.

So go here now and cough up your five bucks. It’s good stuff.

i got delayed (again)

memory man and modular

Delay delay delay. I know, right? In the span of two months, I’ve done delay crazy. I’ve always liked the sound of a delay effect in music, and I used Ableton’s or Reason’s delays in pretty much everything I made before I fell down the hardware hole. At that point it got a bit more difficult since much of what I record and post doesn’t make its way into Live or any other DAW. Rather it’s just recorded into Wave Editor, exported, and posted. So until my friend Greg gave me his old Boss DD-3 in July, I was without delay.

That’s all different now. If you go back and listen to the stuff I’m posting, pretty much everything since July has some kind of delay effect in it. Sometimes it’s disguised as reverb, but it’s delay. After playing around with that Boss delay pedal for a bit, I wished for more control over the effect and got the Flight of Harmony Sound of Shadows module, which I wrote about previously. It’s a fun and lovely device, but it’s like the Boss DD-3 the way that a Panther is like my cat. I mean, they’re both “delays” but that doesn’t mean that they’re anything alike. Then the other day I came across an Electro-Harmonix Stereo Memory Man pedal on Craigslist. I picked it up yesterday and spent several hours with my modular synth plugged into it last night. In addition to most of the stuff that the Boss does, the SMM also loops, and is as the name implies, in stereo. Stereo is good because it has a default ping-pong left-right delay when a mono signal is plugged in. Furthermore since I like to use my Doepfer A134 panning VCA, it allows those two inputs. It would be great to be able to set each side with a different time delay, but since I’m not getting rid of the Boss, I can still do that (Boss on one side, Memory Man on the other). Another reason to keep the DD-3 is that it’s got a really nice sound as the delay rate is adjusted. While the Memory Man just cuts the delay until the new speed is reached, the Boss does it more naturally, adjusting the pitch. More like a tape delay. I’ll record these and post them at some point.

I recorded more than an hour of sequences run through the Memory Man, with much playing with the Sound of Shadows as well. It will take some editing to pick out the gems. But in the mean time this fifteen minutes was interesting to me and shows off the looping of the Memory Man, a couple of the delay modes, and has a lot of SoS as well (for the second half or so of the piece one can really hear the difference in the way they delay. Controlling the rate of the SoS’ delay adds something completely different, like a mocking tone or some kind of screwed up circus).

a soundtrack for crossing a bridge

Made a little time-lapse movie and a tune to go with it.

The tune is a snip of one of these ten-to-fifteen-minute long recordings I make while messing about with knobs and switches on the modular. I’ll record these things, then go through and steal bits and pieces that work as loops and phrases and samples that I play around with in Ableton Live. The percussion here is just some simple clicky stuff with a filter delay on it.

diy

When I went down this modular synth hole about a year ago, I distinctly remember thinking to myself that while I’m okay with the modular nature of modular synths, I’m not okay wit the Do It Yourself aspect of electronics and I had no interest at all in any of that. i didn’t care what was a resistor, I didn’t plan to learn to solder, and it didn’t bother me that I didn’t understand the difference between hertz and amps and volts and ohms.
Now, if you know me, you know that these kinds of thoughts can be accurately put in the “famous last words” category. For the last several months I’ve been planning all kinds of soldering and circuit mayhem, starting with a build-it-yourself control-voltage joystick kit that I bought, that needs a minimal amount of soldering, but lots of planning to go into a metal box correctly (picture of the kit here). I also have a few books now that describe various interesting handmade musical instrument projects. And (oh yeah) several years ago, I had the kids collect all their funny electronic musical toys and we’ve had them sitting in a box here at my studio, waiting to be bent (including a complete set of Speak & Spell, Speak & Math, and a Speak & Reads).
So this last Sunday, I dragged the childrens up to New York City to Culturefix, a small bar/studio/gallery on Clinton Street, just below Houston. Create Digital Music was throwing a little Handmade Music fest there, and they were having a workshop where one can learn to build a very simple, seven-component theremin-type device. Since I’ve had these books and the soldering gear for several months, I’d yet turned it on and still wasn’t sure what to do when I did. So I signed up and took the kids.

Handmade Music: Phototheremin workshop
Handmade Music: Phototheremin workshop
Handmade Music: Phototheremin chorus performs

Here’s a not-great little movie of the theremin chorus, after we built the things.

It was a real nice time. Peter and Cole made space for us, everyone was friendly, and Wilson and Elliot were interested. We built two kits, one of which had its transistors reversed and needed some desoldering (so I learned to do that too!). But in the end, we got two working teensy theremins (sounds and video to come soon).

tiny little handmade theremins

And, of course, I think this is just the coolest thing. Now I’m thinking of all kinds of crap I want to make, and when a friend of mine asked me how he might put some push-button sound sources in some space-ship sculptures he’s putting together, I immediately decided that this will be something worth figuring out. It won’t be too hard to build small circuits with buttons and potentiometers that make spacey sounds, will it?