Molten Modular 08 – Update on the Eurorack journey so far

I wanted to give you an update on my modular journey in case you’re wondering where I’ve wandered off to. I’d like to be able to say that I went on a 2 month long patch creating bender and I’ve emerged a modular master. But the truth is that after building my rack I’ve had very little time to spend playing with it. I get an half hour here and there to fiddle – so at times, the journey is slow. But I’m sure that’s not an uncommon experience.

However, I have learned loads through that fiddling and discovered all sorts of things – like I’m really enjoying the maths – as everyone said I would, but in the simplest way.

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So what are my thoughts on all this stuff now that I’ve had a chance to play?

Well first off, it’s both harder and easier than i thought. I have not opened a manual for anything yet – I’m trying to intuit my way around until I have a decent chunk of time to concentrate and that’s brought me little victories of awesomeness and also a little bit of frustration.

I splashed out and got a BeatStep Pro for sequencing and the first time I plugged it in the sound was all over the place. I couldn’t get a sensible noise out of anything – this is not MIDI. With MIDI you sequence, it works, with CV it can be all a bit weird. The sound seemed a bit harsh and more distorted than I imagined – but I’ve calmed that down a bit now. The Erica Polivoks filter is not quite how I thought it would be. And I worry about mixing and having enough of the basic stuff like VCA’s and envelopes to push towards the live performance rig that I’m ultimately after. So I do sometimes wonder if I’m doing things right.

Did I make the right choices? Almost certainly yes. The STO and the Wavetable are great companions and I could listen to them all day. The combination of Maths and the Batumi is just the best thing in the world.

What I haven’t got along with is the TipTop Z4000 ADSR – it just doesn’t seem to act like I expect it to. Whereas when I discovered the envelopes on the Maths they are completely awesome. So yeah, the Z4000 is over complicated really and so I’ve ignored it so far.

I’ve picked up a couple of extra little modules. I got a trim and a buffered mult. The trim I’ve used for reducing the size of an LFO. Mult’s are just generally handy and it also improved the pitch output from the Mother-32 sequencer. I got a Pico drums, because, well I have all this trigger stuff on the Beatstep with nothing to plug into so…. Yeah need some drums. And in fact that’s something I want to look at more – how to build an interesting drum machine and I guess you buy a single module for each drum sound?

The other thing I got was a Disting 4 – now this is the most impenetrable module I’ve ever seen. There’s nothing intuitive about it and so I’ve ignored it until I have the time to open the manual and work things out. I also got a little scope for testing purposes or something – it might be handy when doing videos 🙂

And I’ve got a Turin machine – but it’s a kit – so that’s going to be a bit of an experience all by itself. You might also notice that i don’t have room for it. So I’m going to have to make this a proper second row…. Oh well.

So, am I still as pumped as I was when I first put it all together – yes, totally, it’s an amazing thing. Like I would pick up a guitar and have a little play I now switch this on and have a fiddle and it’s amazing all the time. I’m scheduling in some time to go through all the modules in detail in order to learn them and also to show you what they do from my perspective.

Coming up

First a big shout out to Modularism. Modularism is a crowd funded project to release a 6 album box set of the best in current modular music. It’s from Law and Auder records and gathers together a very diverse crowd of modular fiddlers, sound makers and artists. The limited edition vinyl collection is £85 which is not expensive for 6 whole albums. I think it will be a milestone, a snapshot of the community as it’s climbing towards the mainstream. It’s still a fair way from being funded so go now and treat yourself to some awesome music.

My next video will be on DC Coupling – how to get your modular to communicate with your computer via CV. It’s combining with my review of Bitwig 2 and it’s cool CV hardware integration devices. And hopefully i’ll be able to unpack what that’s all about. Then there’s the Turin build and individual modules to talk about. Lots more goodies to come.

My second shout out is for Modular Meets in Leeds over the weekend of the 19th and 20th August. It’s organised by Ben DivKid Wilson and pulls together modular makers and modular users into an orgy of modular loveliness. There will be manufactures like Erica Synths, AJH, Studio Electronics, performances from all sorts of people, workshops and presentations. But more importantly you can bring your own rack along and show it off to people – chat with other enthusiasts and generally immerse yourself in modular for a weekend. It’s free, it’s in Leeds – I’m hoping to be there, I might even bring my rack so that I can look small, insignificant and out of my depth.

Which brings me onto my “and finally” – would anyone out there be interested in an East Anglican modular meet? Sod all this northern and London based modularing – how about something a bit more local? How about having a modular meet in a pub in Norwich? Just bring your gear, make some noise and drink beer? So if that interests you then please get in touch and let’s see if we can’t make something happen later in the year.

That’s it for now and in the meantime – go and make some tunes.