Monday 26 November 2012

Cwejman MMF-2 Demo

Impressions of the Cwejman MMF-2 stereo multi-mode filter.

The MMF-2 came out this summer and quickly sold out. Having spent some time with one, it's easy to understand why. It offers a wealth of possibilities and sounds great. Have a listen:

Buy the album to access the full recordings (10 tracks, 55 mins).

The MMF-2 can be used to process mono or stereo signals. The filters can be run in parallel, or if patched, in series. It features two types of saturation and a dry/ wet mix. For a full description, see the MMF-2 product page linked above.

The MMF-2 shares much in common with the MMF-6. It's confident, bold and, to my taste, more musical than its single-sibling. It FMs beautifully and, when oscillating with some saturation, can be used for plucked/ percussive sounds or aggressive basslines. It can also be self-patched to make crazy, chaotic noise. It really comes alive when using the mix feature.

Here are some thoughts that cropped up in use: the initial frequencies of the left and right channels need to be manually balanced in stereo patches. You can't sweep the entire frequency range with the master as the L&R cutoff pots are offsets. Inter-channel CV normalization and attenu-verters would be useful e.g. in a LP/ HP configuration. The filter slopes might be too steep for some external audio processing tasks. Saturation is either on or off, but the amount is determined by the input level. I would have liked an input VCA but, as Wowa told me, the MMF-2 is already 'a beast', both in terms of size and stereo circuitry.

The MMF-2 can be clean or brutal, used to transform mono or stereo signals or even as a dual voice module. Look out for the next run.

Thanks to Wowa for answering my questions and to Schneidersbuero for the loan.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Patch Tips #25 - Filters do Maths

Wave-shaping with state variable multi-mode filters, or how to integrate a square into a saw.

A while ago Josh from Toppobrillo made an aside in a forum thread that his Multifilter could be used to bend squares into saws. Infuriatingly, he never said how. Well, I love a patch challenge …

Send a square to the input of your filter and monitor the lowpass output. Wind the frequency knob back until you get something resembling a triangle. Patch the bandpass output to the CV input and start to raise the resonance. Play with the input level, amount of feedback and resonance until you get something resembling a saw. It won't have a perfectly vertical flank, but it's pretty close.

This patch works because of phase offsets between the lowpass and bandpass outputs. Positive feedback will give you a saw, negative feedback a ramp. If you increase the amount of feedback, you'll be able to generate sub-harmonics of the input frequency. If you send your pitch CV to both the VCO and 1V/O input of your filter, the saws should maintain their shape as the frequency changes.

Fonitronik mh11 ADC Pattern Sequencer

Hands-on preview of Fonitronik's novel 8-step CV & Gate sequencer.

The mh11 offers a new take on the basic sequencer concept. An analogue to digital converter generates 256 patterns. The notes and direction stay the same, but the sequence of steps that actually get played is under manual or voltage control.

For more on the concept, see Matthias' own description and video. Here's a demo of the effect of CV-ing the pattern on notes played & (0:34) gate length and (0:57) the mh11 as graphic VCO.

(edit: Bandcamp's MP3 conversion has mangled the graphic VCO example. Download the WAV.)

To understand what's happening, feed the mh11 a clock and set all step switches to the up/ on position. All steps play. Then 'mute' certain steps by setting the switch to the off position. The ADC is used to automate this muting - it generates an 8-bit string of on & off values which is AND gated with the incoming clock. To test this, stop the sequencer, set all switches down to the ADC position and turn the manual PCV pot until all lights of the pattern LED-bar are lit. Restart the sequencer and turn the pattern knob. Any incoming CV is summed with the manual offset to generate a new string of on & off values.

Programming the mh11 is easiest with another sequencer or S&H (running at a clock division) or a S&H-synchronized manual CV from Pressure Points. This is because the ADC 're-computes' the pattern with every change. You can use an LFO, but depending on the speed, things can get glitchy. At audio-rates, as per the graphic VCO example, this is not a problem. The 4MS PEG makes a good partner for the mh11 as its swings can be synced.

In use, I found a few minor issues: if fed more than 8V, the ADC can lock up. Remove the external CV and twist the offset pot to reset it. I felt this offset should be inverted so that one can start with all steps on and then progressively mute them with a +ve CV. The output CV droops slightly when passively multed, so you may want to buffer it. Finally, the ADC controls both the CV and gate signals. Muting a trigger or tying a gate also mutes the CV. So, you can't send the CV to two VCOs and have one follow the pattern and the other the master clock. I asked Matthias whether this could be changed, but quickly realized it would require a second, parallel ADC.

The build quality is solid, the layout generous and the LEDs give good visual feedback of the ADC's current pattern. A microprocessor-based sequencer might offer more options, but I do get a kick out of imaginative designs like the mh11. Thanks to Matthias for the loan of the module and for keeping it analogue!

Friday 16 November 2012

Basic Electricity #7 - Concert Tonight!

A reminder of BE#7: tonight's gig with Hainbach, Electronicpresskit & Trouby Modular. Doors open at 21:00, music at 22:00 sharp at the cinema on Kastanienallee 77, 10435 Berlin Prenzlauer Berg.

We've got tunes for the ladies, noise for the boys and modules for the musicians. Hainbach will present songs from his new album:
Brave the cold tonight and snuggle up in a cosy Kino with some great music, chilled IPA and special snacks!

Monday 5 November 2012

Basic Electricity #7 - Friday Nov 16

The next Basic Electricity concert is on Friday week, 16th November. We've got another great line-up with Hainbach, Electronicpresskit and Trouby Modular. See the BE blog and Facebook event for more.

BE#7, 16.11.12 Doors: 21:00, Music 22:00 sharp
Kastanienallee 77 (Kino) 10435 Berlin P-Berg

Here are some pictures from BE#6 with Derek Holzer, Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez and JenaMu6.

Thanks to everyone who came and see you at BE#7!

Friday 19 October 2012

A-162 CV Mod

How to add voltage control to Doepfer's dual trigger delay without vactrols. Another chapter in my A-162 mod saga.

Having changed the timing caps for delay and length, there's just one thing left: voltage control over those parameters. Vactrols are an easy, if expensive option. Ray Wilson has a cheaper solution.

Using a FET as a variable resistor is not without its difficulties, but Ray's circuit works with the A-162. It's not precise, but the object was just to get some automated variation.

The floating perf-board is held by a combination of resistors, shrink-wrap and single-core wire. It weighs next to nothing, so should be ok. There was just enough room for the jacks.

Vactrols slew and need 2V before they get going. Transistors operate as resistors only within a limited range. Next time I'll tell you how I added VC to my A-143-1 quad AD envelope using a combination of the two.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Rob Hordijk Benjolin

Over a year after my first encounter with Rob Hordijk's wonderful instruments, I've finally built my own Benjolin.

It's a joy to play and sounds great:

This was my most involved DIY project. Sourcing the parts took time and there is a fair bit of soldering. I got the Cool Audio SSM2164 clone from Magic Smoke Electronics. I'm indebted to Chrisi from Koma Elektronik for etching and drilling the PCB. Inspired by Leaf Audio's practical solution, the enclosure is a €2 snack box - a perfect fit.

I kept my Benjolin simple: there's just an on-off switch and one, filtered, output. With Tom Whitwell's Turing Machine and my own Bitsy, I have enough shift-register-based sequencers. The Benjolin is unique as it chases its own tail and falls into patterns which can be manually nudged. It's a patch in itself; a fun, hands-on instrument.

Benjolin documents and info can be found here and here. Casper Electronics suggests some mods and will offer a kit.

Thank you Rob for giving us the best little noise box around!

Friday 28 September 2012

Basic Electricity - Concert Today!

A reminder about tonight's gig with Derek Holzer, Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez and JenaMu6. The venue is the Kino on Kastanienallee 77, 10435 Berlin Prenzlauer Berg. Doors at 21:00, music at 22:00 sharp.

I won't be playing, but had some fun with this patch last night:

Inspired by the sound of Japan's Gentlemen Take Polaroids, it features a Plan B M15 VCO FM'd by Doepfer's A-143-9 QLFO. The gated sound was fed to an A-199 spring reverb with the feedback routed through Cwejman's FSH-1 frequency shifter. I added a touch of Logic's Ensemble, but 90% of the effect is the shifting reverb. Lovely.

Look forward to seeing you tonight at BE#6!

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Basic Electricity #6 -Reminder

BE#6 with Derek Holzer, Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez & JenaMu6 is just 10 days away! Look forward to handmade electronics, microscope-visuals and modular soundscapes on Friday, 28th September. The venue is the cinema on Kastanienallee 77, 10435 Berlin Prenzlauer Berg. Doors open at 21:00, music at 22:00 sharp.

To get you in the mood, we've just released be-ep3. It's a document of Franz Schuier, Anthony Bisset & Lu Katavist's excellent live sets at BE#5 and is a 'name your price' download:

Franz, Anthony & Lu played on two stages. Their different musical styles and approaches made BE#5 one of our best nights yet. Here are some pictures from the evening:

Thanks to everyone who came to make it such a special night. Look forward to seeing you Friday week for BE#6!

Tuesday 4 September 2012

The Shape of Things That Were Pt2

An interesting aspect of Lu Katavist's performance at BE#5 last week was his use of an Analogue Systems RS-35 External Processor to control his Euro rig. The musical results were great, so I checked to see whether I could get my hands on one.

I was surprised to see that the usually paltry list of Analogue Systems modules available at Schneidersbuero had grown to include the full range. I asked Andreas who told me that he was very happy to have recently secured a direct line to Bob William's modules.

Seems like the perfect cue to present some more scans from my recently trashed collection of magazines. Below you'll find Bob Williams discussing the price of second-hand synths in 1993 and Gordon Reid's 1998 review of the RS Integrator.

Music Technology, May 1993, Bob Williams Interview
The Mix, August 1998, Gordon Reid on the RS Integrator

I've updated the original post with a scan of Peter Forrest's second Doepfer review from 1997 as well as an interview with the author, auctioneer and collector himself.

For future scan updates, click on the media tag.

Monday 3 September 2012

The Shape of Things That Were

I've just binned over two decades worth of magazines. It broke my heart, but I don't have the space for the paper mountain it had become. Among the disposed were Electronics & Music Maker, Music Technology, The Mix, Future Music and Sound on Sound.

I went through as many issues as I could, looking for interesting articles, keepers. The above question from a bewildered Mathew in Camberley warmed my heart. Peter Forrest's scoop on the Doepfer A-100 in December 1995's The Mix is presented below as a historical document. Dieter's system, which then sought to provide a modern alternative to vintage Moogs and Rolands, is now itself almost 20 years old and still growing.

A few observations from my purge: the death of small ads due to the internet, musicians should leave video and graphic art to the experts, computers today might be faster and software better but the rate of genuine change seems to have slowed in the last ten years, DJs have a lot to answer for, Paul Farrer's 'Notes from the Deadline' is the first thing I jump to when I get my copy of SOS, Future Music is throw-away and the writing is shit.

Peter Forrest's review of the A-100 in The Mix 12/95
The Mix, Feb. 1997, Doepfer A-100 Review 2
Future Music, Feb. 2002, Peter Forrest Interview

For future scan updates, click on the media tag.

On the subject of clear-outs, I notice Schneidersbuero are having an end of summer sale. Might be something there to fill my now empty shelves. And, of course, there is one last question: did Mathew from Camberley ever figure out how to use his modular?

Sunday 2 September 2012

Mystery Module

Spotted at Basic Electricity #5 ...

... kan you guess what it is?

Thanks to Franz, Luka, Anthony and everyone who came to make BE#5 such a fantastic evening! Pictures, music and maybe some video to follow.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

PotD - Mutant Horse 2

A gentle gallop into Basic Electricity #5 on Friday. This is a take on the patch Tom & I played at BE#4, likened by Ian Boddy to "riding a mutant horse".

A Sport Modulator provides both timing information and CVs, driving Maths, a VCO-2RM, Triple Wave Folder, A-112 Sampler/ Delay and VCA-2P panner. The oscillators are FM'd before being gated, folded and sampled. A stepped and manual CV controls the rhythm, delay time and panning. Flipping between track- and sample-and-hold on the SM delivers the final crack of the whip.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Basic Electricity #5 Reminder

Less than two weeks to go 'till BE#5 with Franz Schuier, Lu Katavist and Anthony Bisset. Don't miss it!

Check the Basic Electricity blog for more info here and here.

BE#5, 31.08.12, 21:00
Lichtblick Kino. Kastanienallee 77,
10435 Berlin (Prenzlauer Berg)

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Modcan FMVDO Demo

The Modcan FMVDO is a one-stop FM machine. It offers all you need for stable 2-Operator FM: a carrier, phase-locked modulator, an index VCA and more, all in 12HP. Could this be the gig-able solution I've been looking for?

Buy the album for €1 or more to access the full files (14 tracks, 19 mins), including comparisons with the WMD PDO.

The FMVDO first caught my attention four years ago, so I was very keen to try out the new Euro version. It offers better fidelity than the Hertz Donut and PDO and its features seem more focussed than the Cyclebox. As you can hear from the recordings, it sounds wonderful. I was expecting the glassy and wooden tones, but was surprised at some of the abrasive noises it's also capable of. So, problem solved? Well, not exactly …

Although it's more hi-fi, the FMVDO is also prone to mild aliasing. More importantly, the comparison with the PDO shows that its maximum modulation depth is not as deep. At higher indices, the PDO's digital wave-shaper distorts, but this can be tamed whilst still yielding brighter tones. Because the FMVDO's FM takes place internally, you can't increase the modulation above a certain point.

The all-in-one nature of the FMVDO raised a few other questions. I'm very particular about my envelope and VCA pairings. If you don't like the internal index-VCA's response, you're stuck. The inclusion of amplitude modulation is a nice feature, but I found this could be a little dirty, depending on the frequency. When active, the internal quantizer ensures that tuning ratios are maintained. It's fantastic to see this included, but I did get the impression that it wasn't always stable.

The ability to select waveforms via CV is something I wish the PDO had. On the FMVDO, this can result in radical changes in timbre. The waveforms are well-chosen. Some only reveal their true nature in LFO mode. The secondary output is fixed at 90 degrees. It can be used for stereo effects or quadrature modulation duties. Unlike the PDO, which is based on phase modulation, auto-modulation with this output won't result in wave-shaping. But as you can hear, it does create some wonderfully unpredictable results.

The Modcan FMVDO is well built, feature-packed and an excellent source of FM sounds. Sonically, it's 'superior' to the PDO, but I found myself preferring the more robust nature of the WMD. Part of this might be the difference between FM & Phase Modulation. PM is more forgiving of ratio inaccuracies than FM. That's possibly one reason why the FMVDO keeps everything 'in the box'. Make sure you try it out to see whether that suits the way you patch.

Thanks to Schneidersbuero for the loan of the module.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Derek Holzer live at Basic Electricity

Derek Holzer & Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez will debut their bioart project A.LIVE at Basic Electricity #6 on September 28th.
Here's a preview:

A•LIVE Information Metabolism from Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez on Vimeo.

Completing September's bill is Rotterdam sound sculptor JenaMu6. Visit the Basic Electricity site for more info, flyers, music and video.

BE#6, 28.09.12, 21:00
Lichtblick Kino. Kastanienallee 77,
10435 Berlin (Prenzlauer Berg)

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Anthony Bisset live at Basic Electricity

Anthony Bisset will join Franz Schuier & Lu Katavist at Basic Electricity #5 on Friday, August 31st!

See the Basic Electricity blog for more on the gig and click the 'Machine' link at Anthony's site to see his reformatted modular 'with DNA from Serge, Buchla, Ken Stone & Bisset' and other live instruments.

BE#5, 31.08.12, 21:00
Lichtblick Kino. Kastanienallee 77,
10435 Berlin (Prenzlauer Berg)

Michael Vorfeld & Ute Wassermann Live

AUXXX in Berlin presents Michael Vorfeld and Ute Wassermann at the K77 Kino this Friday, 27th July.

Promises to be a great concert. Full details at the AUXXX blog.

Friday 6 July 2012

Turing with Bitsy

A quick jam featuring two DIY shift-register-based random sequencers, Tom Whitwell's Turing Machine and my own Bitsy.

Playing with sequencers that you can't program, only influence, is great fun. As you can hear, the two make a great team!

Just add a quantizer, and you're away. (Turing left, Bitsy right).

Tom managed to pack a lot into his sandwich design. It's tight in places, but it does all fit. My own DIY projects have been primitive by comparison, using perf-board and flying connections for the pots and jacks. The one benefit of this method is that it's more forgiving of part placement when it's time to screw the module together. I might have to revisit some of the jacks to help them sit better. I made two minor changes to Tom's design, one out of necessity, the other for aesthetic reasons: I ordered the wrong size polyboxes, so substituted ceramic caps for C10 & C11, and I went for a green LED, rather than red. I still need to paint the legends, but don't mind the look of the sticker residue for the moment.

You can find extensive information on the Music Thing Random Sequencer project here, here and here.

Thanks for a great instrument, Tom!

Thursday 28 June 2012

Basic Electricity #4 Reminder

BE#4 with live modular music from Ian Boddy, Navs & Tom takes place tomorrow at Kastanienallee 77, 10435 Berlin. Doors at 21:00, concert at 22:00 sharp. See you there!

Thursday 14 June 2012

Navs Live with modded TR-505

It's that time of year again: I'll be setting up the modular in a mate's allotment garden as part of the 48 Stunden Neukölln arts festival this Saturday, June 16th. I'll be playing live from around 15:00 at garden 20, Hand in Hand Kolonie, Rütlistrasse 8, 12045 Berlin.

I tend to do atmospheric sounds as they suit the environment. Patching drums for rhythmic pieces is module-intensive. Last year, I was lucky to be accompanied by Tom from Schneidersbuero on modular beats. This year, I want to keep the set simple, so wondered if there was another solution.

I found the answer at the burnkit2600 site, modding my old TR-505 to give me two analogue triggers from this decidedly digital drum machine. The 505 is one of the first pieces of kit I bought in the 80's. I'm not particularly fond of it's sound, but it has sentimental value, so I didn't want to wreck the Roland. Fortunately, the mod is very simple.

Here's my first quick jam, post soldering and drilling:

It's still a 505, but lots of fun. When patched, the mod seems to cut/ mute the instrument from the main mix (buffering didn't seem to help), so I chose to use sounds I could live without. Of course, you could make this a feature, adding 'kill' switches if you choose to mod yours.

This year's 48 Stunden Neukölln set could be a little more techno than usual - if you're in town, do pop in to say hello!

Monday 11 June 2012

Basic Electricity #4 - Ian Boddy Live

We're very excited to welcome Ian Boddy to Berlin for the next Basic Electricity. The gig takes place in three weeks time on Friday June 29 at Kastanienallee 77, 10435 Berlin. Doors open at 21:00, concert starts at 22:00. More info here.

BE#3 with the lads from Koma Elektronik and Stan Stencil was a blast. Thanks to everyone who came along and made it such a special evening. Here are a few photos from the event:

See Stan's site for videos of his performance with Regolith & Wouter.

We've just released the recordings from the BE#2 studio session:

They feature Hayden Chisholm on Saxophone, Rastko on CocoQuantus and Sidrazzi, Richard Scott on Modular & Max MSP and myself on Richard's Serge. BE-EP2 is available as a 'name your price' download. Visit the Basic Electricity site for videos from the session and more information about upcoming events.

Hope you enjoy the music and look forward to seeing you at Basic Electricity #4!

Monday 4 June 2012

Koma Nerd-Out

Koma Elektronik evening with Loud Objects, Wouter Jaspers, Stan Stencil. Thursday June 7th, 7 p.m.

If you're in Berlin this Thursday, get yourself down to O Tannenbaum in Neukölln. Loud Objects will be making music with instruments that they build live on stage, Wouter plays a DJ set & Stan will be providing visuals. There will also be a Koma Korner where you can try out their kit and special black & white Koma Koktails.

Full details of the event are here.

Sunday 3 June 2012


I visited Ken Macbeth while on a trip to Scotland. His now infamous MK1 portable system still holds pride of place on the cludgie. Voltage controlled panning, 5U-style …

Ken showed me the Micromac, which sounds heavier than a full Scottish breakfast.

The Micromac excels at detuned lead-lines and basses. I wanted to hear what else it could do and patched some audio-rate PWM. You'll need some external attenuators for this, but the Micromac FMs beautifully.

I was surprised by Ken's favourite synth, the all-digital Korg Prophecy. I didn't give this a second glance when it came out, but having seen and heard what it's capable of, I'll be looking out for one now.

Thanks for the tip and a lovely morning in Edinburgh, Ken!

A-143-1 Vactrol Mod

A simple modification to allow voltage control of the attack and decay times of Doepfer's Complex Envelope Generator/ LFO.

Despite its size, I love the A-143-1 for its natural sounding envelopes. The only thing it lacks is voltage control. I considered buying Doepfer's A-101-9 Universal Vactrol module, but reckoned it could be more fun and cheaper to hack one myself. This involved repurposing my A-180/ Quad Slew once again.

The circuit is simplicity itself. The tip of the cable/ jack carries the CV, which travels through the vactrol's LED and back via a resistor to the jack's ground connection. The hard part is gaining access to the potentiometer pins on the A-143-1 to apply the vactrol's resistance. As a lazy hacker, I opted to modify only the lower section of the A-143-1. This meant I didn't have to dismantle the entire unit.

The vactrol is connected to the attack and decay pots via switches. As I only used one vactrol, switching both in effectively connects both pots too. This means the manual pot settings affect the overall resistance of both time constants. It's a kludge, but it works!

See this thread for more A-143-1 mods.

Wednesday 2 May 2012


Audio examples and review of the WMD Phase Displacement Oscillator. A sequel to this post.

The WMD PDO is a timbral oscillator with a twist. Three of its outputs can be discretely shifted in phase relative to the first. It can be used as a quadrature LFO, but the real fun starts when modulated at audio rates. This yields results similar to linear FM, but as the PDO’s creator William Mathewson says in one of his promo videos, phase modulation “gives you more”. Here it is in action:

The sounds in the multi-tracked demo track were generated by modulating the PDO either by itself, for wave-shaping, or an external VCO for PM effects. Buy the EP to access the full set of unprocessed demos (10 recordings, 30 mins duration).

As you can hear, the PDO is capable of a wide variety tones: deep acid basses, bright bells, wooden klonks, scraping steel strings, rasping super-saw/ PWM sounds, even digital noise. As with the Zeroscillator, panning two phase shifted outputs hard left and right can result in stunning stereo effects.

I found I could push the PM index harder and get brighter sounds than with either the analogue ZO or digital Hertz Donut. Like thru-zero linear FM, when the PDO is modulated with a bi-polar signal, its sign, or direction, changes. However, modulating the phase rather than the frequency results in less pitching artifacts.

That's not to say the PDO is artifact-free. At slower modulation rates I thought I could see/ hear the PDO 're-calculating' the phase offset, resulting in a mild siren effect. I asked William about this and he explained that this was the nature of phase modulation; what I was hearing was similar to the Doppler effect where moving the phase forward increases the frequency. At higher audio rates this was not apparent, but it might have an effect when using the PDO as an LFO. The digital wave-shaper means aliasing is apparent and the sound can break up at extreme frequencies or when FM-ed hard. However, I took this to be part of the PDO's character and, as you can hear in the demo track, it means you have another set of timbres to play with. I thought the saws and pulses were not as beefy as an analogue VCO and that it was a shame that one can't affect pulse width and phase simultaneously for 'shonky beats'. However this can be addressed by routing a shifted output to the reset input via a clock divider.

These are minor points given the wealth of sounds and possibilities packed into the PDO's 10HP. In fact, that would be my biggest criticism: it's pretty cramped! I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd gladly devote more rack space to a larger PDO, possibly with an onboard sine modulator and index VCA. As it is, the list of modules the PDO could replace in my system is shocking - it's perfect for a live set-up or desert island suitcase.

There is one last thing to consider: at almost €400 the PDO is in the same price category as the SynthTech E350 and Cylonix Cyclebox, which both offer increased fidelity. Whether they offer the same depth of phase modulation and character is something I look forward to testing in a future post.

Thanks to William for taking the time to answer my questions and for a great module!

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Video Synthesis Premiere for Basic Electricity

Stan Stencil will be joining Koma Elektronik onstage at Basic Electricity #3 this Friday.

"The backbone of Stencil's Eurorack system are modular analogue video synthesisers combined with audio waveform generators. The result is a mesmerising visualisation of sound synthesised entirely from audio signals and creating an incomplete visual artefact of the original audio."

Check out his videos here. Three days to go!

Friday 20 April 2012

Basic Electricity #3 Reminder

The lads from Koma Elektronik play Basic Electricity #3 next Friday, April 27. Details are here or on the Basic Electricity homepage.

BE-EP1 has been updated, adding two tracks featuring mono-poly on his monster Malekko/ Wiard rig and our mystery Japanese guest on guitar.

If you haven't done so already, please download the EP and join our mailing list. Look forward to seeing you next week!

Tuesday 10 April 2012

New Basic Electricity Website & Gigs

Richard Scott and I have a new website for our Basic Electricity nights in Berlin:

It's a site, so it aggregates our blog and Bandcamp pages:

You can download the EP to join our mailing list for gig & release info.

We're proud to have the lads from Koma Elektronik, Ian Boddy, and Franz Schuier & Lu Katavist lined-up for our next thee gigs.

Look forward to seeing you in Berlin!

Monday 9 April 2012

PotD - Swings & Roundabouts

How to patch a thru-zero frequency shifter with two quadrature VCOs and ring modulators.

I love my Cwejman FSH-1 for its wide range and smooth analogue tone. The one thing it lacks is thru-zero capability. At slow settings, frequency shifters yield beautiful spatial effects. Thru-zero is the icing on the cake as it allows the up & downshift channels to 'swap sides'. Heard in stereo, this can sound great - or disconcerting, depending on the amount of shift!

So, how to go about patching one?

James Clark's Nord Modular tutorial on spectrum shifting explains the workings of a frequency shifter but stumped me on the need for all pass filters/ Hilbert Transformers. A post by Matt Jones at the Synthedit Yahoo Group offered the necessary clue:

"Out = (Input) * (Sine oscillator) + (Input shifted by 90 degrees) * (Cosine oscillator)
Changing the + sign to a - switches the amount of the shift from up to down …"

Here's the proof of concept:

In the recording you can hear me manually sweeping a DC voltage from positive to negative, biasing the modulator and causing the shifts to move from left to right.

My patch (see below) has three caveats: one, you need a Zeroscillator or similar to provide the thru-zero shifts (!). Two, unless you have the means of generating a cosine from your complex input signal, you're limited to simple sines. Three, it's fiddly and not 100% precise. That said, the results sound great:

The patch details: the ZO is used as the modulator. Set its bias to zero and patch the 0 & 90 degree outputs to the CV inputs of two ring modulators (e.g. A-133). I used the Doepfer A-143-9 QLFO as my signal as it provides the necessary outs. The 0 & 90 degree outputs were patched to the respective ring mods. The Toppobrillo TWF can be used to generate a cosine from another source, but I wanted to keep the patch as simple as possible.

To generate the upshift, I mixed the result of the 0 and 90 degree multiplications. To get the downshift, I subtracted the 90 from the 0 degree via an external inverter. The Cwejman VCA-4MX was used as the output to my final mixer. It's perfect for this task as it allows you to independently tap the mix of channels 1&2 and 3&4, which you can then pan left and right.

The fiddly bits: to bias the ZO correctly in both directions, I had to tune two voltages (+ve & -ve, Maths or Fonik's mh-01) and send them to the linear FM input via a sequential switch. It would have been easier to use the pulse output of the clocking LFO, but this didn't give me equal positive and negative bias i.e. the side-swapping effect was compromised. You can hear this in the first recording where I apply the bias manually. The second detail you have to watch is the mix/ subtraction balance to ensure clean up & down shifts, but this isn't too tricky. Just use your ears for both.

The ZO makes this patch possible. With zero bias, the oscillator comes to a stand-still. Any voltage you apply to the linear input will cause it to jump into action. Reverse the bias voltage and the ZO changes direction causing the shifts to swap sides. You could use a second A-143-9 as modulator, but would then lose this ability. Still, two QLFOs, an A-133 and mixer/ inverter offer an inexpensive single-sideband-modulation patch.

Buy Swings & Roundabouts.

Patch Tips #23 - PEG Burst Generator

How to patch the 4ms PEG for use as a synced burst generator.

I love the burst output of the Wogglebug but sometimes want the pulse streams to be in time and on command. The PEG makes this easy:

Patch your master clock to the Ping input on one PEG channel. Send your gate - or 'on' command - to the QNT input. I used the T-Gate output of Pressure Points in the example.

Using the QNT input means the PEG will only fire when told to, thus avoiding the need for extra AND logic. It also means it will repeat/ loop its envelopes at a rate set by the div/ mult.

Keep the curve linear and set the skew clockwise for an instantaneous attack time. The EOR now becomes your timing pulse, which you can use to trigger another envelope.

With the basic patch set, use the EOF to trigger a random generator like the Wogglebug. Patch its stepped output to the PEG's div/mult CV to get random but in sync bursts.

If you have an SCM and Expander, you can try a similar patch using the mute and rotate inputs.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Simple-Mod Tuesday

Two easy Doepfer modifications: a port-hole for the A-199 Spring Reverb and another cap change for the A-162 Dual Trigger Delay.

Like many A-199 users, I keep my tank outside my case. It's less noisy and means I can play the springs. Until today, this meant an ugly, useless 1HP gap next to the module to allow the cinch cable out of the box.

Once drilled and threaded, the hardest part was feeding the cinch back under the second cable tie before soldering. I gave up, snipped the plastic tie and used one of those twisty things everyone has lying around the kitchen.

It's such a simple, useful mod - maybe Doepfer could be persuaded to offer it as an option?

While the soldering iron was out, I took the opportunity to change the timing cap of the delay section of my A-162. I'd already fixed the length parameter to make the module suitable for pinging filters and was unhappy with the delay too. The stock 10uF cap provides delay times of up to 10 seconds - far too long for my uses. I still had a previously-soldered 1uF from my length experiments, so in it went. Here's how it sounds:

(original left, delay right)

The 1uF gives a maximum of around one second delay time. This is more appropriate for echo-type delays. Depending on the frequency of the incoming trigger, higher settings can still be used to generate clock divisions, audible as 'missed/ skipped' notes in the above recording.

It's another simple mod that enhances the use of this module. To be honest, I don't know why the A-162 comes fitted with such large caps as most musical uses lie within the first 10% of the pot's throw.

So, just to re-cap, I swapped out both 10uF capacitors in the top section: a 1uF for the delay and a 0.01uF/ 10nF for the length. I left the lower section un-modded for now, but it's just a matter of time …

Sunday 26 February 2012

Patch of the Day - Basic Variations

Two takes on a theme. One involving FM, the other AM techniques. My Basic Electricity #2 epilogue.

This first patch was inspired by Richard & Rastko's jam on Friday night. It features the FM and Low Pass Gate action of the former and the lo-fi Ciat-Lonbarde sound of the latter. I recorded two passes of a Wogglebug & Maths driving Plan B's models 15 & 13 and Doepfer's A-112 sampler delay.

This second patch has a similar core, but the sound is based on amplitude modulation. The dual peak sine of a Cwejman MMF-1 modulates a VCA-2P. The carrier was the sine of an A-143-9. I altered the C:M relationship throughout the patch. Delay was courtesy of the EHX SMMH.

These patches show the types of complex timbres that can be achieved with modulation. With the current trend for 'West Coast' synthesis, FM is a familiar technique. AM seems to be regarded as ring modulation's poor cousin, but it can be a rich source of sounds.

For me, part of its strength lies in the fact that the carrier, effectively the fundamental, is still present in the resulting signal. To get the most from AM, you'll need two VCAs and possibly some form of offset/ attenuation. As ever, Gordon Reid has the dope.

Thanks to everyone who came to the gig and to Rastko, Hayden & Richard for the wonderful performances.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Basic Electricity Reminder

Heads up! Basic Electricity #2 with live performances from Rastko, Hayden Chisholm and Richard Scott is this Friday! Full details are here.

Rastko is on his way from Geneva with a special set-up:

Here's a short clip of the trumpet being played into the CocoQuantus: "Ich bin mit meiner Trompete zu bringen und ich werde es blasen!"

And here is Richard with Straggle, a live composition for Buchla Thunder, Korg Kaoss Pad III and CataRT (Max MSP):

Straggle from richard scott on Vimeo.

Don't forget: this Friday, February 24th at 21:00. Kastanienallee 77, 10435 Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg. Looking forward to seeing you!

Friday 17 February 2012

PotD - Return of the PLL Arabesque

Using a min/max analogue logic module as a phase comparator. Inspired by dougcl's classic PLL patches (1, 2) and this post by Giftnudel.

PLLs seem to be a hot topic again. The jury is still out on whether they're used in the Buchla 259. Make Noise and WMD have announced PLL-equipped VCOs. They form part of the Wogglebug's chaotic heart and can be heard sputtering in the Hertz Donut's bad tracking modes.

I'd read about the inner workings of Doepfer's A-196 and PLLs in general in Horowitz/ Hill's Art of Electronics, but only just tried Giftnudel's patch. The A-196 employs a linear VCO, but as you can hear, the patch works just as well with standard, exponential VCOs:

minmax-pll (master left, slave right)

Two VCOs are compared in a min/max module like the Doepfer A-172. The minimum signal is subtracted from the maximum and the difference fed back to the 'slave' via a slew limiter, thus generating a CV. Depending on the initial frequency difference between the two VCOs and the lag time, you can imitate the wonderful glitches made famous by dougcl.

One nice thing about using this method over traditional sync is that it doesn't affect the sound of the slave as much. The other is that the slew limiter offers control over how well, or poorly, the oscillator tracks.

Saturday 4 February 2012

Basic Electricity #2

Live electronic/ acoustic gig in Berlin, featuring Rastko on Ciat-Lonbarde instruments, Hayden Chisholm on alto sax and Sruti box & Richard Scott on Buchla Thunder.

(Click here for full-size flyer)

Auxxx is proud to present an all-star line-up for the second Basic Electricity night. It takes place on February 24th at 21:00. The venue is the small cinema on Kastanienallee 77, 10435 Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg.

Rastko is a composer and improviser of electronic music based in Geneva, Switzerland. He has been composing music for contemporary dance, theatre and television since 1996. At BE#2 he'll be showcasing the unique Ciat-Lonbarde instruments. A video of him playing the Serge with the CocoQuantus can be found here.

Hayden Chisholm is a New Zealand saxophonist and composer who has been at the forefront of European music scene for over a decade with his groundbreaking microtonal work and unmistakable sound. At BE#2 he'll be improvising a raga with his 'Well Tempered Sruti Box'. Here is a video of it in action.

Our very own Richard Scott needs little introduction. 'Mr. Wizard-Stix' will be wearing his magic wooly hat, casting sonic spells with his Buchla Thunder/ Wireless Gestural Instrument. You can find some of his recent videos here.

The artists will play a solo and a collaboration.

Basic Electricity #2 promises to be a very exciting night, mixing hands-on circuit manipulation, acoustic improvisation and gestural composition. We look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Patch Tips #21 - Getting Animated

Doepfer's A-137-2 'Wave Multiplier II' does more than just super-saw.

This module uses a set of comparators to generate four 'fake' phase-shifted versions of the input material. The offset of each saw can be modulated, generating a large sound from a single oscillator. As the module is DC-coupled, it can also be used to process CVs.

When I first got the A-137-2, I considered building an expander to gain access to its pulse outputs and avoid having to unscrew the module from the system to remove stages from its output. Two discoveries I've made this week happily mean this isn't necessary.

The first relates to the manual shift knobs: when set at zero, a stage is effectively removed from the output. This is great news if, for example, you only want one additional animated saw. It also has implications when using the A-137-2 as a comparator-based timing delay.

Secondly, the A-137-2 will function without the usual input. Activate a stage by setting its manual shift to something other than zero and feed your signal to its CV input. The result: those hidden pulses! With some careful setting, you can get some mad waveforms:

I'm not sure if this is a bug or a feature - a comparator needs two signals - but, as you can hear from today's Patch of the Day, it offers an additional palette of sounds.

To use the A-137-2 as a shonky beat machine à la A-143-1, feed it a ramp LFO. I've found using a positive-only CV from Maths works best as the comparators switch on both the rising (on) and falling edges (off) of a wave. Patch its output to an A-162 or similar to get clean pulses.

The A-137-2 is another Doepfer gem, offering several uses for not much money. If you want to learn more about the workings of this module, read the ETI article on the Digisound Waveform Multiplier or, if your French is up to it, the Elektor article linked at the bottom of the Doepfer product page.

Audio files not playing

Having moved my content to the cloud, my audio files are once again not playing.

Sugarsync used to allow direct access to files, meaning I could stream my MP3s via the Google reader player. They've now added an intermediary page which means this no longer works. Looks like I'll have to pony-up for a dedicated server after all.

In the meantime, here is a workaround: on Safari, go to a blog post, click play on the player, open up the 'Activity' page (under the 'Window' menu) and look for the Sugarsync URL. Double-click this and it should take you to the download. On Firefox, right-click to 'View Page Source', then search for the Sugarsync link.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Patch of the Day - Highly Strung

Kicking off the new year with the rediscovery of the Doepfer A-137-2 Wave Multiplier and a frenzied take on a duet for two acoustic guitars:

I bought this module when it first came out, then sold it two years ago because I'd run out of space. I've been working on a track that needs a big fuzzy, 'super-saw' bass but wasn't getting the right sound with multiple VCOs and wondered if the A-137-2 might fit the bill. As you can hear from today's PotD, that's not what I ended up using it for: the A-137-2 will do phasing saw sounds, bar the subtle detuning, but I found it's also great for EML-sytle abrasive tones that can then be tamed with a filter.

The patch involves CV-ing the WM II at audio rate, LP filtering the result with the Cwejman MMF-1 and then accentuating various frequencies with a low-bandwidth setting RES-4. Gordon Reid goes into much detail about how to achieve this in his synth secrets, but I just used my ears. A Wiard/ Make Noise Wogglebug generated the timing and note information. It was kicked about by one channel of Maths, which received a mult of the stepped output, thus varying the pace and intensity of the ratchets and completing a timing feedback loop. I recorded two passes of the result, varying the patch by hand.