Studio Blog – 2019-10-24

DrumBrute…I wish I could love you.

Sampling using dedicated hardware is fun.

Tonight, I built a drum kit on my MPC Live using the DrumBrute as a sound source. I did this the old school way where the audio output was plugged directly into the audio input of the MPC. No processing, just press record on the MPC and play the sound.

It was like going back to 1997 for me, working without a computer. It was very quick and physical, with the added efficiencies you get form working with a 7 inch touch screen.

And just because I’m nice, I’ve decided to share one of the kits I created. This is a very simple 16 sound kit. If you have an MPC Live, X or Akai Force, you can load the program into your system and go nuts with it. If you don’t have one of those, the samples are all .wav format (yay for standard file types).

Download it here: DrumBrute

Aside from that, I organized the studio a bit, dusted and cleaned and just generally made the workspace nicer. I think, someday, I need a bigger studio room.

This weekend, I’m going to actually do something with that kit I made.

Intellijel Dr. Octature II Review

The Flerken approves

Having begun working on my new satellite case, I thought it would be good writing practice to do some mini reviews of the modules I get for the case as I add them. Most of these modules will not be the newest, shiniest thing in eurorack land, but they will be either new to me, or something I obviously think is a good buy for someone else. Hopefully someone finds this all useful.

Physically, the Dr Octature II is quite a beautiful module. 14 hp in width and very shallow, so it should fit any case. The panel is adorned with 5 knobs (unfortunately, two of them are just pegs), two mode switches, 5 audio or CV inputs and 8 phase shifted outputs.

Starting at the upper left, the first knob you will encounter is the Q or resonance knob. The placement of this control feels a little weird at first, since usually the first parameter you’re lookin for on a filter would be the cut off. It makes sense in this case, though, because of the Octature’s equal focus on it’s ability to self oscillate. Under the Q knob, there are two small switches for mono or quad operation and one for VCO/LFO mode. The cutoff knob, which also would act as your course frequency knob, is in the center of the faceplate. There is a skinny little knob next to it for fine frequency control

On the right side there are two knobs for controlling the level of the FM inputs. FM1 input can be attenuated to zero while FM1 can scale or invert the signal.

The final knob control lets you clip the input for more harmonics (it’s too bad this can’t be switched to clip the outputs in oscillator mode). There is then also a peg to control attenuate the Q modulation input.

All in all, the panel is very clear and easy to understand. Unless you’re a complete synthesis novice, the functions should be immediately clear. All of the controls feel good (except the aforementioned pegs). A very nice touch is the level indicators above each phase output. In LFO mode, they are almost hypnotic as they phase in and out. This is just what you’d expect from Intellijel, who always makes great looking hardware.

My only grip is the plastic peg knobs. They just feel…awful.

In use, the Dr Octature II is both fun and useful. Having no other oscillators in my satellite case so far, that’s primarily how I’ve been using it and it’s been nothing but pure fun! The sine wave tone generated is so extremely clean, that putting it into a wave folder or sharper of some kind is absolutely mandatory. Another really fun option is to take one of its own outputs into its FM2 input and having it phase shift itself. Doing so gives you a lot of very cool textures (though be ware that pitch tracking will be affected). Running the sine into an STG .COM and/or WaveFolder gives you more harmonics to work with, and can give some very interesting modulation shapes when used as an LFO.

All in all, this module is a win. They are readily available on the second hand market, too, which makes them an even better deal! This is definitely a keeper module, and not one to be flipped later.

Arturia RackBrute 6u

The RackBrute 6u satellite rig as it currently exists. Lots of empty space to work with.

As part of the MiniBrute 2S bundle, I received a RackBrute 6u. I’ve already moved some modules to it and had some sessions using it, the main Modular and the MiniBrute 2S. I’d say if you’re considering a Brute, the deal with the RackBrute is hard to pass up. In my case, doubly so, since I was able to unload the Monorocket case I was only half using.

So far, I’ve only got the overflow from my old rig contained inside. This consists of an STG Envelope and .Mix, a few multiples, a Mutable Veils VCA/mixer and a small sequencing setup consisting of an old Pittsburgh Modular 8 step Sequencer, Intellijel uStep and uScale II. I also put the Tip Top Audio Fold Professor and Evaton Technologies RF Nomad for a little fun.

My focus for this satellite rig, I think, will be to make a self contained system with a few oscillators (ideally 3) a few filters (ideally 2) and then enough modulation to make it interesting. I would like this to be the rig I take live or focus on in live sets.

Modular Grid rendering of the Satellite rig as-is.

For the oscillators, I’m on the fence about getting some big, complex oscillator like the Rossum Electronics Trident Triple oscillator or Industrial Music Electronics Hertz Donut mkIII, or going with multiple smaller, simpler oscillators, like 3 Intelijel Dixie II+ or Pittsburgh Modular Lifeforms Primary oscillator. I could also mix and match since I have the space.

Filters are a harder choice. In any system, really, it is the filters that determine the voice of the instrument. Having the Steiner Parker filter in the MiniBrute 2S, I’d like to get something smoother. Something that I don’t have represented. I’d love to find some dual filter topology to put in there. Possibly an Intelijel Morgasmatron or even an old Korgasmatron would do fine. I do miss my Doctor Octature mkII, and it would be nice to have one again. That one can also double as an awesome sine wave oscillator / modulation source.

Fortunately, there is no rush, and the second hand market for Eurorack has definitely turned to a buyers market. I don’t know that I’ll need to buy any of this stuff new.

Studio blog, 2019-10-06

I’ve missed a few weeks of studio blogging, but they haven’t been in productive. The last few weeks, I took care of a few long standing items while also making significant musical progress.

First off, I have made significant strides in getting to know (and love) the Akai Force. It seems do definitely be taking over the spot I’d had the MPC Live in as the MIDI/Audio centerpiece. It is by no means, as I’ve said, perfect, but it is very close! It lacks only a way, really, to cue up one song after another with minimal button pushing to be that perfect piece of live gear for the musician that doesn’t want to carry a laptop.

The second development, is that I took advantage of a pretty significant deal that Arturia was running and added a MiniBrute 2S to my rig along with a RackBrute 6u (it also came with a gig bag and cables for all of the above). With this purchase, I sold off the other Monorocket travel case that I was only half using anyway and transferred the modules to this one.

I have the idea now for a 3 or 4 track set. The first would be a modular improvisation on the MiniBrute + RackBrute, the second would be on MPC LIve, the third would then be on the Akai Force, with the final track going back to the MPC Live + Brutes. The idea is that I would be able to load it all up at the start of the initial set and then just play through to the end giving me round about an hours worth of material. The rig would be light enough to carry, so I could consider gigging.

And, yes, I am really starting to feel the itch to perform in some way again. What form that takes, internet streaming or actually finding venues is another discussion to be had.

As I am working on the pieces, I need to consider how to fill out that 6u. I want to make it its own rig, independent of the MiniBrute 2S if I can, but that’s not completely necessary. I already have spare utilities for it. I’ll post separately about that discussion.

Space..the final limitation.

For the last few days, I’ve been nursing a more than minor gear-boner for an Arturia MiniBrute 2S + RackBrute. I like the idea of setting that up next to the main modular and getting rid of my current overflow case, which would go a pretty good way to paying for it. I also like that there is a nice bundle available on that bundles the 2S, RackBrute and a case for the two. I have the idea in my head that I could take this simple rig with, perhaps, just the Akai Force to some undisclosed secret location and make music it on undisturbed by others for a weekend jam / retreat.

And that’s great. But honestly, I have no idea where I’d actually put it in the studio, particularly the case. I don’t have any large flat surfaces left, with the devices I have. There is the large space in front of the big modular where I could lay the case on its back, I suppose…but I’ve never really liked horizontal cases like that.

So I probably won’t get it because it just damned well won’t fit.