the tyme sefari will eat your children

I think I may have mentioned that I recently went through a small identity crisis with my modular synth. See, one kind of bad thing about a modular is that it is never “complete.” That is, when you get a Juno or an Access Virus or a MS-20, that is your synth. Strengths, weaknesses, limitations and all. With a modular, what’s great about it is that one can add and subtract and make it bigger and look a new module was just released so what the hell I’ll buy a new case… and it never ends. Do the filters sound too “Moogy?” Okay, get one based on a different circuit. You get the idea.
So I had some neat stuff in my little kit, but it wasn’t inspiring me and the music I was hearing didn’t sound like music I wanted to make. I’d missed the Hertz Donut since I sold earlier this year, and the (wonderful) e350 Morphing Terrarium didn’t really get funky with the vocal sounds that I hoped it would. Basically, everything was so nice and wonderful and there wasn’t much with which I could make myself laugh. Stuff with, let’s call it, personality.

In a fit of malaise, I decided to sell of a bunch of stuff and replace it with other bunch of stuff. On the chopping block were the STG Wavefolder, the e350, a little Malekko VCA, and the Tip Top Audio Z2040 filter. I replaced the filter with a Doepfer A120 which, I feel, has a very similar 4-pole fat low pass sound, but includes a 1v/oct CV input so that it can track better, and it is a lot cheaper (helping to fund the purchases I wanted to make). New to the system are another Hertz Donut, the Flame Talking Synth I wrote about in my last post here, and lastly but not leastly, the Harvestman Tyme Sefari.
The Tyme Sefari is a digital looper/delay/buffer thing that basically records audio fed into it with an 8-bit chip, and then plays that recording back in various ways. Some knobs give the user the illusion of control over these various ways, and learning to go along with the quirks of this device is the secret to getting something out of it that you would like. It’s always on the verge of sounding like an Atari trying to kill a radio, and it’s the understanding of how it works that keeps these tendencies just on the other side of that threshold. The first hour or so I had it, I was kind of all “whaa?” and “crap” and stuff. I could kind of make out bits of what I was feeding into it, but it was just crushed noise for the most part. I went away for the evening and read the internets about it, and when I came back I had a better grasp of what the hell is it. I started with some slow simple blippy sequences, fed into the input. It’s got a mix output with a knob for choosing how much of the signal is wet/dry, as well as a delay out which is 100%. Therefore, of course, I had to feed the wet to one channel (right) and the mix out dialed to 100% dry to the left channel. What it does is, when the ‘record’ switch is on, it records whatever is jacked into it, fills the memory, and then plays back that what is recorded. While it’s playing it back, it’s also recording new data, so when both record and play are engaged, it’s a fairly seamless low-fidelity echo of what you’re feeding it. It’s got a loop switch which just begins looping whatever is in its memory at that moment, loop start and end knobs that change the beginning and end points of the playback (imagine you record five seconds of stuff. Normally it plays starting at 0 and ends at 5. With the knobs you can have it play only what is between 1 and 3, for instance.) It also has a direction switch which just reverses the play back. All of these controls can be started and stopped with gates as well.
Most of the effect you hear on these first two tracks are modulation of the sample rate and changing the direction of the recorded loop. The first track is using a nice sine wave from a straight analog oscillator (the Malekko “Unkle” Oscillator), which makes it really easy to hear what’s being screwed with by the Sefari. The second track is exactly the same, just replacing the Osc with the Flame Talking Synth, for giggles. (This track is a prime example of what I imagine when I sit down to make “music.” I love these digital sounds.) The reverb on these tracks is from the Strymom Blue Sky pedal, which I bought a month or two back and need to write about soon. It’s a terrific reverb.

The third and fourth tracks are a bit different. They are songs from a children’s album I bought a while back at a Salvation Army called “Happy Birthday.”

Albums like this provide great source material for electronic mangling and chopping. When the songs include creepy talking teddy bears, it’s even better. The turntable is jacked directly into the audio in of the Sefari, and then recording took place and knobs were turned.

Hopefully the set-up as it is will stay for a bit, as I’m really excited about and happy with everything I’ve got in there right now.