Best of 2017: Eurorack Synth Modules

The eurorack world continued to expand in 2017 with a large number of new modules, as well as improvements on old modules unleashed into awaiting racks and eager hands. Distilling these new additions to the landscape into a top ten list seemed like an exercise that was doomed to fail. Instead I decided to list a few module highlights in a few categories. So here are some of the modules that caught my eye, or created enough buzz for me to take notice.

Check out my list here.

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Making Generative Music With Eurorack Synths

Eurorack users often find that their patches can take on a life of their own, and this is actually one of the goals in the creation of generative patches. Generative patches, or generative music, is the concept of connecting your modules in such a way that they basically play themselves with little or no interaction from the user, yet the music evolves and changes without repeating itself. This is sometimes also referred to as Procedurally Generated Music, and it is something that modular synthesizers and computer programs are uniquely qualified to do. In fact, the term was originally coined (not surprisingly) by Brian Eno while working with software. He used this term to describe “any music that is ever-different and changing, created by a system”. The approaches to generative music can be almost as varied as the results, but there are a few ingredients and techniques that are essential. Continue reading “Making Generative Music With Eurorack Synths”

The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 9 – Xibalba

tikal53.jpgWhile staying at Caves Branch Lodge, we took a tour into Guatemala to visit Tikal, the former Mayan capital. While there, our informative guide told us stories of Mayan history and legends, as well as the efforts being conducted to uncover and restore this ancient site. It is his voice that you hear at the start of this song, telling the story of the twins that managed to trick their way out of Xibalba, and the lethal authority of the Mayan priests. The Mayan priests installed themselves as a necessary conduit for the people to be able to communicate with the gods. They were considered divine, and the people weren’t even permitted to look up at them. They would have to approach them and depart with bowed heads, or risk having their heads chopped off. To make matters worse, decapitation was an even less attractive option then because the obsidian axes they used were fairly dull, and the executioners had poor aim because they were often tripping out on hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Xibalba (pronounced She-ball-ba) is the name for the Mayan underworld. Stylistically this song was largely influenced by my discovery of Chicha and Cumbia music. A sort of South American surf rock from the 60s. If you’re not familiar with it I’d highly recommend giving this album a listen. It’s quite fun.

tikal-201.jpgXibalba is by far the most ambitious one on the album as it features me playing more acoustic instruments than any of the others. I played a few tracks of trumpet and trombone, as well as something called Xaphoon, which is sort of like a recorder with a saxophone reed. I also played a number of percussion instruments like shakers and hand drums. I even made a cabasa out of an old tin and some bottle caps. I’m not much of a guitar player, but I played a few chords and some slower sustained notes with an electric. The rest came from my poly evolver and sample libraries. I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out. I feel like it provides a nice contrast to the other songs without being too much of a departure stylistically.

This brings us to the end of the making of Belizean Heat. I hope you found this interesting and that it helped to deepen your enjoyment of the music. If you have any questions or feedback regarding the album I would be happy to hear it.

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Review: Expert Sleepers Disting Mk4, Swiss Army Knife Of Eurorack Synth Modules?

The Expert Sleepers Disting Mk4 is the ultimate swiss army knife of eurorack modules. A staggering 76 algorithms that completely change the behaviour of the unit, in a mere 4HP. It has become almost comical how reliably Disting has become the answer to the question: I want a module that does X but I only have 4HP left, what should I get? Naturally I’ve been curious for some time to find out how well this little wonder module stacks up to all this praise. Luckily Andrew Ostler from Expert Sleepers was kind enough to lend me one to check out. Continue reading “Review: Expert Sleepers Disting Mk4, Swiss Army Knife Of Eurorack Synth Modules?”

The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 8 – Caves Branch

I was able to borrow a GoPro camera for my trip to Belize, so I actually have a lot of video footage. Eventually I hope to use that footage to make videos for at least a few of the songs. This song is actually more based on video footage than field recordings, and it spent a lot of time in limbo before I figured out a direction for it. Once I did settle on a direction it was actually completed quite quickly (by my standards). It was one of the last songs finished on the album along with Stowaway, which I talked about in the last making of post. Continue reading “The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 8 – Caves Branch”