Friday, April 25, 2008

I fucking *LOVE* the MachineDrum

I <3 MachineDrum.

Thursday night, after a long frustrating day at work, I came home and I just needed to do something creative...I had to make some music and just relax. Since the modular is still down without a case, I fired up the MachineDrum and dug into making a pattern; something I hadn't done in a while.

I quickly started to remember why I told Surachai that it was my "desert island" piece of gear. If someone came into my studio and said "All this shit has got to can only keep one" it would be the MachineDrum, and I feel this way now more than ever.

Starting off, designing a "kit" is extremely intuitive and the range of "machines" is pretty impressive. My favorites tend to be the E12 (E-Mu SP1200) and the TRX (Roland TR Series) and, of course, the ROM machines (playing stored samples). With all of these machines, you have a serious amount of tonal control; pitch, decay, filter, ring mod, sample start/end, retrigger, delay send, verb send, and more. The more you think about each machine as "tone generators" and less as "drum sounds" the more flexible the MachineDrum becomes in your hands.

Where the MachineDrum really shines though is it's sequencer. From a basic overview, the sequencer is a simple 808/909 style sequencer, with each machine in the kit having it's own track (16 in total). However, where it really takes off is with the sequencer's "Parameter Locks". At any step that is enabled to trigger a sound, you simply hold down the button for that step and tweak any of the parameters for that machine and at that step, those parameters are used. It's like super easy DAW automation; it can even be tweaked in realtime record mode. At any step, if you don't like some parameter locks, just hold down the button for the step again and click in the appropriate param knob and you clear the lock. You can use this to make accents, change filter freq, or even program melodies (have to do by ear, but possible).

It doesn't end there though, each MachineDrum kit has 16 LFOs. By default, each LFO is setup to control it's own track, but simply turing the first parameter knob allows you to assign any LFO to any track and then to any parameter on that track. There are also settings for LFO trigger/reset as well as two separate LFO waveforms with a blend between the two shapes. A couple of the LFO shapes are actually Attack-Decay envelopes, allowing to you use the LFO to program step triggered envelopes.

There's also a great Mute mode (allowing you to mute tracks while play back for performance) a realtime (vs stepped) recording mode, and all sorts of other bells and whistles. All together it makes for a damn fine music box. I feel calling it a drum machine really limits what it's capable of.

Here's the pattern I came up with Thursday night. All MachineDrum...track mutes performed live as I was recording the clip.

I'm now on the hunt for a MonoMachine. After browsing through the MnM manual, I see the same well thought out flexibility as I do with the MachineDrum. Anyone looking to off a MnM SFX-60 MKI, hit me up. Why the MKI...well cause it's gonna be cheaper, but mainly because the MKII is thinner and having it next to my thicker MKI MachineDrum would drive my OCD "fucking crazy". XD

Livewire stuff never shows up on ebay

It doesn't!

I have RSS feeds for all sorts of shit from eBay and accept for a few items at least 8 months ago, no Livewire modules have shown up on eBay. None.

I don't know what that's just a passing observation. (and no the feed is not broken because I always see tons of "livewire cables").

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Plan B lineup - M21c Mini-Milton

Plan B Summer/Fall lineup
Via the Plan B list (and probably Matrixsynth too...I haven't peeked at my feeds this morning.

The new line up is seriously cool, and much more than I expected from the teases on the Plan B list. The Vector Plotter is very cool and finally gives us eurorack folk something on par with the Blacet JAG.

The 4HP ELF ADSR is also an excellent module. Especially since it has a expansion module that adds CV for each stage as well as a re-trigger. All that in 8HP is practically priceless, although, will no doubt be extremely affordable. The ELF LFO is fairly bare bones, but its range is amazing and there's no range switches! It goes from 1 cycle every 30 seconds to 10k. :D It does, however use a switch for waveforms. You can either have simultaneous Saw and Pulse or simultaneous Triangle and Square. The last ELF in the lineup is one that I've had my eye on for a while, the Analog Shift Register (ASR).

The Model 21c Mini-Milton really stole my heart though. Not only is it small (18HP), it's full featured (even has CV Direction and individual Gate outs) it's also designed in that Buchla in-a-circle style. I'm totally sold on that one.

Congrats Peter, on a job well done. Hopefully they will be available soon.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mario Paint Composer

Holy crap! After a shitty day with no results on my overdrive prototype, this made my day:

Mario Paint Composer

I used to have Mario Paint on the Super Nintendo and this was my favorite part of the "game". I used to spend hours sequencing stuff, and back then I had no musical training/experience/anything.

I can't wait to dig into this again!!!

A days worth of nothing

Well I practically spent all of yesterday and part of this morning trying to figure out my prototype overdrive pedal doesn't fucking work. A large part of yesterday was assembly, but then the rest was trying to figure out why everything bled to ground when the input was plugged in...after about 2 hours of checking continuity between everything I realized it was because the tip connector of the jack was touching the LED bezel when a cable was plugged in, bleeding the input signal to the chassis and thus, to ground. After that, true bypass was working, but the actual overdrive circuit was not. At that point I gave up and played Rock Band for the rest of the evening. This morning, taking a look at the circuit I realized I put the transistors in fucking backwards! Since I didn't socket them, this tool about and hour to do and clean up the mess of solder. Just after that, my cheapo multimeter decided to complete stop working. Everything looks right with the circuit, but I can't check it without the multimeter. So now I can only stare at my physically represented failure thus far. My spirit is broken. Time for liquor.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Ebb and Flow

So I know it's been a long time since I posted, so I figured I'd drop in and post something with some real substance and maybe spark a discussion, rather than post my usual "der...I've been busy" excuse post.

This post is titled 'The Ebb and Flow' because that's a syndrome I've always had with music gear. There's always a period where I can't stop thinking of enough new gear that I need. The key word is need. It's like I have some kind of physical need to some new gear otherwise I '"can't achieve some sound/project/song/etc that I want to creatively". This is the core of the oft-reported Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.) that so many of us music types have.

Modular synths seem to be the perfect match for this 'Ebb stage'. There's practically limitless options available, and if you decide to go with multiple formats, god help you and your bank account. It's practically never ending.

Invariably, there's some point in which this stage stops for me, and the "Flow" stage begins. I'll start to think "I now have too much gear now and I'm unable to achieve what I want with all these choices draining my workflow". Quickly, the same time and effort spent trying to acquire all this gear in the Ebb stage, is now spent trying to figure out how to trim down to the core of what I need to "get things done".

I'm at the start of the Flow stage now.

I don't know if it's because I haven't had the modular up and running again, but I'm really missing a simple selection of modules in which I have a decently flexible "instrument". That's a part of it too; I feel like I don't have an "instrument" but rather a bunch of tools that I can string together in some way. Fantastic tools yes, but a collection of tools does not make an instrument. It's difficult to master an instrument that is practically infinitely re-configurable.

Another aspect is that what really drives me creatively is limitations. I like to be presented with limitations and the opportunity to work within them to achieve what I want. I find that a satisfying challenge, both purely intellectually as well as musically.

So I know what you're thinking now, "So you're saying you want to sell all your modular stuff that you spent all that time and money acquiring?!?" No. Not quite. What I want is something I can play, something I can perform and enjoy becoming a master of. I don't want to toss aside all the modules I have, but I do want to put together some kind of small, semi-portable, modular "instrument".

Do I regret selling my Doepfer cases. One of them, maybe. Do I regret planning out this large modular case? Taking this long to wrap it up yes, but deciding to make it no.

I guess I don't know completely what I want. I guess I'm just looking to hear your you go through the same Ebb and Flow? Do you feel your modular is a instrument, along the lines of a guitar, or waterphone, or pan flute?

Let's hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Devi Ever Master Control

While I've been *really* slow on getting it finished, this is pretty much exactly what I had been working towards with my two joysticks.

Nice job as usual Devi!!!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I hate April Fools Day.

It's sad too, because I used to love April Fools day. I used to come up with pranks and friends and I would execute them to much rejoice.

But these days, very few "real" pranks are just get weird announcements or stories on the internet.

This ultimately has lead me to just not believe anything I read on the internet today [April 1st].

Take for example this info about Analogue Haven moving to a new store front:

Via Stretta, they [edit: Plan B] also are apparently going to turn focus away from selling individual modules and instead move to full systems.

On top of that, the place (possibly a store) moving into the now apparently vacant AH place is called NoiseBug...who are now the exclusive distributor of Plan B modules. Yes, that's right, AH no longer carries Plan B.

I'm thoroughly confused. Both are very big changes. Both have been announced on April 1st. All I can do based on these facts is assume it's a prank. I just can't trust anything on April 1st.


PS. There's also new teases up from Moog and Elektron. I have reason to believe both are actually real, and not AFD pranks. Then again, who knows.