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

Maker Faire 2014 and a WCMA Nomination!

Maker Faire SpreadOn June 8th I performed Sonidos de Cuba at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire. My wife was also showing off her Drift clothing and accessories (you can check out her stuff here). Previously I had used a laptop running Ableton Live with an Akai APC40, a Korg Electribe ES1mkII and my trumpet. This time I debuted my new live setup focused around the Elektron Octatrack. I’m also using an Arturia MicroBrute, MFB Kraftzwerg, Electo-Lobotomy Sonic Forest, Manastone Hank Drum and Trumpet. Changing my setup has caused the songs to evolve quite dramatically. I’m still playing back stems from each song on the album, but sequencing them on the Octatrack has changed the way they’re configured. The Octatrack is also sequencing the two synthesizers which imparts some great new life into the material. Continue reading “Maker Faire 2014 and a WCMA Nomination!”

Free EP on Bandcamp!

I’ve released a free EP of some of my older work on my Bandcamp store. I discovered and developed my unique style of working with field recordings in these four songs. Sonidos de Cuba was born from these early acoustic explorations. I like to think of them as musical larvae or protozoa, which is why I’ve called the EP Proto-Sonos.

The first song is Rain Down. It rains a lot in Vancouver. Therefore it was a natural choice to use a bed of rain recordings as a foundation for a song. Continue reading “Free EP on Bandcamp!”

The Stories behind the Sonidos

Sonidos de Cuba (Sounds of Cuba)

In March of 2010, I travelled with my fiance to Cuba for ten days. Despite the short amount of time I spent there, I was overwhelmed by the complexity, culture, rhythm and pulse of the country. I brought with me a Zoom H4N portable recorder and gathered various snippets of the rich acoustic landscape. After returning home, I began using these recordings as a foundation for my own music. I spent many hours editing, warping, looping, filtering, sampling, and mangling the sounds to distil them into songs. Over the next three years, I created an album of electronic music that attempts to tell the story of this visit. I made this music in an effort to relive and restructure not merely the recordings, but the memories of my time there in order to share this journey with others. Hopefully you’ll feel transported as you listen and enjoy these Sonidos de Cuba. Continue reading “The Stories behind the Sonidos”