Modular By Nature

For a few years now, I’ve been gradually building a eurorack system for the specific purpose of processing field recordings that I have recorded from various locations. In the summer of 2018, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to try using my system to process the sounds of an environment in real-time. I set up my modular on my balcony, aimed a shotgun mic at the nearby maple tree, and put together a patch that would use the live microphone input within my modular and recorded the output into my portable recorder. I also set up a camera to film the whole thing and posted the result to Youtube as my first Modular By Nature video.

Over the winter I got my hands on an Aimtom portable power pack, which allowed me to take my system into remote locations. Now I was able to try these experiments of processing environmental sounds in real-time wherever I wanted. For my first session I went to the nearby park, and then next to Locarno beach, but I had to end that session abruptly when I noticed snowflakes were falling on my case. It was cold enough that my patch cables and fingers were quite stiff. Once the weather warmed up, I did a few more sessions, and another one in November using the warmth and crackle of a wood stove in an off-grid cabin. If you’re interested in learning more about why I chose the Aimtom power pack you can read my article for Ask.Audio here.

I’ve grouped this first round of experiments together as “Season 1” of Modular by Nature, and you can watch the whole series below.

Modular By Nature – Season 1

This year I’ve made some additions to my case that have opened up new possibilities and helped with creating more musical results. First was the Intellijel Shapeshifter, a powerful digital oscillator. While this might not seem like an obvious choice for processing field recordings, it’s the vocoder mode that mostly applies here. Although, it’s such a deep module that I’ll probably find other methods that work, and in the rest of my regular synth patching it will certainly be a welcome addition.

Next I added a Happy Nerding FX Aid, a 4HP effects powerhouse that can house 32 different effects. The effects can be selected and arranged using a web utility, but I was mostly interested in the reverbs; especially the ones modelled after the Strymon Big Sky. You can learn more about the FX Aid here.

The AI Synthesis AI008 Matrix Mixer came next. This added a powerful and flexible means of routing signal around my system in creative ways. With Modular By Nature, I’m usually taking a mono input and sending it to a few effects processors. With the Matrix Mixer I can easily send an input to three outputs, and I can use this approach with four inputs. This is great for experimenting with feedback loops. You can hear some of my initial experiments with the AI008 here.

Lastly I picked up the Befaco Instrument Interface. This might not seem like the most exciting module, but it really levelled up my system for Modular By Nature. Because it has a phantom powered combo jack input, I can now plug my shotgun mic directly into my system so I no longer need to bring an external preamp along with me. When doing anything portable, the less gear you need to lug around, the better. Furthermore, this module also has an envelope follower and gate outputs, which make it easier to make patches that react to an incoming signal. Check out more on the Instrument Interface here.

In May I took my system over to Galiano island and recorded a few Modular By Nature sessions. I did another one on the rocks along the beach, one in the forest, and one on the deck in the early morning. These are now the start of “Season 2” of Modular By Nature, and I’ll be adding more throughout the summer.

Moduar By Nature – Season 2

Of course there’s also one main Modular By Nature playlist with all of the videos, but I may pare it down to just my favourites.

Modular By Nature Full Playlist

On The Road: Portable Power Options For Synthesizers & Electronic Instruments

In March of 2019 I decided to write an article on portable power options for synthesizers. I was interested in finding something for my own system, but I also found it to be a confusing thing to research. Naturally this made it a perfect topic for an article. You can view the article here: https://ask.audio/articles/on-the-road-portable-power-options-for-synthesizers-electronic-instruments

While writing this article, I also started my Modular By Nature Youtube series. In these videos, I use my eurorack synthesizer to process the sounds of the environment in real-time to produce a piece of music. In most of these videos I’m using some kind of portable power pack to power my synth as well as a preamp for the shotgun mic.

Portable power is an area where the technology is evolving very quickly, so there’s bound to be new options available since I wrote the article. I’d love to hear of any new alternatives that you have come across to power your gear, or just hear about how you use synths in a portable setting!

Koma Field Kit & Field Kit FX vs Custom Field Recording Modular Rig

When I first heard about the Koma Field Kit, I was pretty excited because it’s right up my alley. I made my own eurorack system for processing field recordings, and this little box was made for capturing and mangling found sound type sources. Naturally I was curious how this little guy would compare to my system. You can read how it turned out here: https://ask.audio/articles/koma-field-kit-field-kit-fx-vs-custom-field-recording-modular-rig

Belizean Heat Out Now!

I’m excited to share my latest album, Belizean Heat! It features nine songs that are each built around field recordings gathered during a short visit to Belize I took in 2015. If you listen closely, you’ll hear birds, crickets, underwater reef crackling, and a persnickety naval radio. One of my favourite recordings was of a massive colony of grackles. Continue reading “Belizean Heat Out Now!”

Warming the Winter With Belizean Heat

At long last I’m excited to say that I can start sharing Belizean Heat, the follow up to Sonidos de Cuba! I’m really pleased with how this album turned out. It’s quite eclectic, stylistically spanning from ambient and downtempo to progressive house and synthwave, but manages to be cohesive as a whole. It features a wide array of acoustic and electronic instruments, including trumpet, trombone, melodica, xaphoon, shakers, hand percussion, electric guitar and bass, Sonic Forest, Arturia MicroBrute, Elektron Octatrack Analog Four and RYTM, MFB Kraftzwerg, Dave Smith Poly Evolver, Novation Nova, and modular synthesizer. Continue reading “Warming the Winter With Belizean Heat”