Elektrofon’s Klang is the gorgeous chord module that looks like the future

Sometimes, tech looks stylish in the way you’d expect it to look on the deck of a starcraft. So if Eurorack makes you think “old-fashioned,” meet the Klang, a chord creation module from Norway.

After years – okay, decades – of noodling about mostly in monophonic space, the modular scene is discovering polyphony. But that generates an interesting compositional question: how do you make chords accessible with the twist of a wrist, with patch cord signal and encoders?

Klang is a kind of dial-a-chord solution: there’s an encoder for each of the four voices in a chord, so to get a four-note chord, you twist four knobs. That’s straightforward enough, but it’s the visualization that gets interesting: there’s a retro-chic clock face on a color display, showing both octave and pitch. And naturally those encoders and the clock face are color coded so you can keep each pitch separate.

What time is it? Chord time. You can store up to 99 of these four-note chords, and step through progressions by button, or trigger or gate signal. Then you output each voice (note) via separate voltage outs.

That’s clever enough, but it’s really the presentation and packaging that make it. It’s probably the prettiest module I’ve ever seen.

Cost: unknown. But a few people did grab (less pretty) videos of it in action at Superbooth in Berlin earlier this month.

Rune Warhuus is the creator of this module. Please do follow him to encourage him to make more gear like this and post more gear pr0n. Thank you.

https://www.instagram.com/elektrofon/

Details of this module – currently the only one coming out under the Elektrofon moniker – at the manufacturer site:

http://elektrofon.no/

Thanks, Lisa / Noncompliant, for the tip.

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The Touché, adding expression to synths – just in time for Moogfest

After years of somewhat similar wheels and pads and keys that wiggle, we’re finally seeing the ability to get physically expressive with sound in new ways. The Expression E Touché is one of the most compelling cases of that – but to understand, you have to watch, and listen.

So the French company and its fearless young leader Arthur Bouflet have cleverly taken Moogfest as a chance to do just that.

You’ll spot the wooden paddle-looking device beneath Arthur’s hand. It’s something that looks simultaneously vintage and historical and futuristic – a design object whose origin and time can’t quite be placed. And your first reaction, probably, is some skepticism – until you watch just how sensitive and intuitively gestural it is. You may or may not be taken with Arthur’s musical sensibilities – hey, I find it rather cheery and groovy, myself – but pay close attention to the gestures that are possible with it, and I think you’ll be impressed.

There’s more than one connection here to Moogfest, the festival-cum-technology meetup coming to North Carolina this week. There’s the custom, limited edition overlay for festival goers, yes, and the fact that Expressive E are going to the festival themselves. But the company have also made great effort to make custom presets for loads of gear, Moog’s equipment included. So that includes apps (Moog Model D for iOS), and hardware (DFAM, Subsequent 37, just to name two in the video).

It’d be hard to demo an expression or sustain pedal, but there’s no need. And it’s easy enough to map those two inputs to any synth. Open-ended, gestural expression is something else – there’s some prep work involved. Hats off, then, to Expressive E for both making an exhaustive library of presets and producing lovely-looking video demos to show why this all matters. (They’ve even mapped our MeeBlip synth.)

With USB, CV, and, MIDI connections, there are all sorts of possibilities for connecting to instruments – hardware and software, digital and analog. And all of these connect to the high-resolution sensing data from the Touché.

I’ll do a full review of this hardware soon, with some advice for DIYers and musicians. But in the meanwhile, these videos really get the point across.

In the age of MIDI Polyphonic Expression, you’ll see a lot of new controllers adding dimension to the inputs they read. And that makes it clearer than ever that part of what was holding back more expressive electronic musicianship was simply the common standard to describe a wider range of human performance.

But this particular hardware is special, in that it suddenly opens up sound where it had once been static. Uh… well, the name fits. Touché.

Let’s watch some more, featuring Dave Smith and Ableton and Mutable and Novation and more:

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Erica Synths made a modular techno system called Techno System

What if you had all the modules you need to make techno and industrial in one rack? Meet Erica’s line of drum and synth modules. They seem to know their market.

Now, it’s meaningful this is coming from Erica. The Latvian-based company with some ex-Soviet Polivoks lineage has a knack for making simply mental boxes that bring that grimy, dirty industrial sound straight out of the actual post-Communist industrial landscape of Riga. If I had to sum up that user experience, it’d run something like this: turn knob, machine screams.

But that’s saying something. Making wild sounds intuitive is a feat. And Erica have earned their reputation by putting those sounds into boxes that are reliable, easy to understand, and deliver a punch without hitting the high end of the cost spectrum.

Running down these modules, you just have to keep nodding – yes, that’s what I want out of this module, and yes, that’s the sensible way to lay out these controls. I can’t really judge sound quality at a trade show, but the sound was good enough that it actually blew me away over the din of Superbooth, out of some small monitors – and that’s saying a lot. We’ll get to check out Erica’s crew at a club tonight here in Berlin, and this is one I think we’ll need to give a full review.

(Bonus: they’re also coming with the effects collaboration they built with Ninja Tune. I’m keen to see that, as well.)

I also think it’s totally reasonable to build systems around musical applications like techno. Plenty of modular instruments have morphed into particular configurations to make them musically accessible. And then since this is still patchable, you don’t have to make this sound like techno you’ve heard before – you can push that flexible sequencer and patch things together to bend something into your own genre and voice. Or, this being modular, you also have now a big line of components that could fill gaps in whatever setup you choose.

Here’s a look at those modules.

Drum

Sample slicing and triggering, WAV file (even imports CUE points), with assignable CV inputs. Actually, there’s nothing to say this has to be a drum module – it’s also a general-purpose sample slicer/module.

microSD for loading sounds.

Dual drive

Well, here’s your distortion. Three dedicated modes for each side, cascaded in series for extreme distortion. This is really the heart and soul of the Erica Techno System sound, and even if you didn’t get the rest of the line here, this one could be a must.

Dual FX

Built on the Spin FV-1 chip – a custom reverb platform – the dual FX has a set of custom mono and stereo effects from Erica’s in-house musician-madman KODEK.

Bassline

It’s all about the bass – and here, those basslines will be more than a little acidic. Erica’s Acidbox proved how crazy their filters can be. It apparently inspired the filter here – so expect really aggressive, terror-inducing acid.

Specs:

Full analogue circuit
Accent
Suboscillator
BBD-based VCO detune emulation
Built in VCF and VCA decay envelope
LP/BP VCF
External VCO FM and VCF cutoff CV inputs

Of course, what keeps this compact is, the sequencing all falls to the dedicated sequencer unit (or a sequencer module of your choice – Superbooth has had a lot of them).

Toms

Toms can easily be a throwaway, but here there was a lot of attention to detail. Toms has dedicated controls for low, mid, and high, and promises 909-inspired tom sounds. Erica says they built this in collaboration with e-licktronic – that’s the boutique/DIY maker who’s perhaps best known for their Roland clones and custom kits.

Hats

Erica are actually introducing three different hat/cymbal models. There’s an analog module (“A”) with accent and individual CV controls of everything, also made with e-licktronic. There’s a digital sample-based “D.” And there are sample-based cymbals (“Cymbals”).

Mixers

It’s easy to overlook this one. But when you’re actually in the heat of the moment playing live, you need that ability to just reach over, twist a knob, and add in a particular part.

And the Drum Mixer looks just about perfect. It boasts vactrol-based compression to keep everything properly loud and intense without losing clarity, plus a stupidly easy setup for controlling compression and the various parts, with seven inputs and both main and aux outs.

Erica also plan a more compact 6-input “Lite” version of the same, and a 4-channel Stereo Mixer.

Oh yeah, and if you’re not into the black craze, they plan to release everything again in white.

Lastly, the sequencing here comes from the Erica Drum Sequencer. Announced in January, it debuted in March – but now it has some modules to sequence:

Features of that are numerous:
12x Accent outputs

1x CV/GATE track
2xLFO with independent or synced to the BPM frequency
Time signature per track
Pattern length per track
Shuffle per track
Probability per step
Retrigger per step
Instant pattern switching
Solo/Mute tracks
Step/Tap record modes
16 Banks of 16 Patterns
Instant pattern switching
Pattern linking
Midi sync in with start/stop
Track mode
Firmware upgrade via MIDI SySex

More:
http://www.ericasynths.lv/en/home/

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Bastl do waveshaping, MIDI, and magically tune your modules

With a lumberjack-themed timbre-shaping module and a powerful auto-tuning MIDI interface, Czech builder Bastl are back to modular. And they might just solve polyphonic tuning in Eurorack, finally.

Bastl Instruments have staked out the quirky end of synth manufacture in past years. But this is probably the biggest modular news since their rollout of a whole line in 2016. There are just two modules coming out this week, but those two are each pretty powerful – and more is in store.

TIMBER

TIMBER (get it?) is a timbral-themed “Dual Waveform Lumberjack” module. There are two wave shaping circuits, each inspired by the sought-after, unique sound of the Serge Modular – a design beloved by composers since its early 70s introduction at CalArts, and one that has seen a resurgence (uff, sorry) of interest.

Best idea here: you can crossfade easily between signals, including using an external input.

It’s one of the friendliest, most sonically interesting modules we’ve seen from Bastl, and it looks like it just might be a must-have.

Cost: €170.00, shipping in July.

http://noise.kitchen/shop/bastl/timber/

1983

Okay, on the surface, this is a MIDI-to-CV module with a clever name (the year MIDI was first demonstrated).

But it’s more than that. It’s actually a solution to creating polyphonic racks without having everything fall out of tune. And while microtonal and experimental music is good fun, you generally don’t want those microtones being accidental because you can’t get your modules working together.

I’ve been talking to the Bastl engineers for some months about this problem, especially as virtuoso Brno musician HRTL, who has worked with Bastl on this problem, has been keenly working on a solution. (HRTL’s Windowlickerz duo with Oliver Torr makes heavy use of thick polyphony – and keeps it in tune.)

Here’s how it works: you get four channels of CV and gate. Each channel listens to the waveforms and with a press of the TUNE button, adjusts to whatever tune you want. It’s basically the same idea as having an orchestra tune – think of the 1983 unit as the oboe. It even maps across seven octaves.

There are a bunch of other features here, including transposition and other creative features. It could prove to be one of the most important modules of the Eurorack age, because it finally opens the format to practical, modular polyphony. Sure, you could add a polyphonic module, but that rather defeats the purpose of customizing a rack in the first place.

No pricing yet, but they promise “around 250EUR.” Due in September. We’ll watch this one.

http://www.bastl-instruments.com/modular/1983-2/

More news

Last time we caught up with Bastl at Superbooth, they had unveiled their own line of roasted coffee. (Seriously.) They’re up to more now, too. THYME, shown last year, is finally shipping at 439EUR. And they’re heading to host events in Prague and Brno, Czech, helping open the new _ZVUK_ and Synth Library spaces in Prague, co-organizing a festival, and releasing music on their new Nona records label.

More on that later.

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This hidden gem adds a sub bass to anything, because you want that

Serendipitous collaboration can be magical. Combine an eccentric high-tech guitar company from Switzerland with some high-powered nerds from the USA, and you get some spectacular ways of adding sub octaves and picking apart and modulating sounds.

From Memphis to Messe: on a hot tip from one of the engineers, I found myself roaming Hall 8.0 at Musikmesse in Frankfurt Friday. Just this one hall is already cavernous; I passed a portrait of Hillary Hahn in a violin booth, stumbled across two nice women giving away CDs of unsigned Estonian concert music, and strolled past the signature-blue of the G. Henle Urtext (which my piano teacher called the “Voice of God edition.”).

But this is how music instrument design should work. It should be collaborative; it should have unexpected combinations of new and old. I love Berlin’s SuperBooth, but by no means would I ever imagine modular synths to exist at the center of the music world.

And so I found myself in the narrow booth of Paradis Products. They’re a legendary, boutique guitar maker out of a Swiss small town, producing exotic creations that look like what you’d splurge on if you’d just won a Eurovision contest. But they know their stuff, from electrical engineering to woodworking.

The woodworking side of the equation is who I got on Friday afternoon, so apologies to Heinz for I think terrorizing him. (I kept repeating the word “Eurorack” to his utter befuddlement. I unfortunately have less to say about mechanical engineering and wood. Matthias Grob is the engineer who’s more to the electrical side. )

Paradis make wonderful guitars, but they also make leading guitar technology. The Polybass is an instrument that seems enchanted – as bass notes follow every articulation. It’s analog technology which means there’s nothing stopping it from appearing outside guitars.

Side by side comparisons of the original and the new Polybass board – the latter coming soon to a Eurorack near you.

So here’s the plan: take the Polybass, and make, hopefully, a Eurorack modular by the end of the year. That’s where America’s Delta Sound Labs comes in. They explain to CDM: “Polybass by Paradis is a radical rework of the legendary Polysubbass that provides an audibly clear, sub-octave effect below performed notes.”

On the guitar, I could already hear how it sounds – that is to say, incredible. I can’t wait to hear this applied to other things.

And there’s more. The CHOPhilter is a classic attack detection and modulation VST. It’s got a UI that’s ugly as sin, but Paradis, Mathons, and Delta Sound Labs will work together to port it to 64-bit (done) and add a more aesthetically pleasing Delta skin (coming soon).

This is also a very Good Thing: apply amplitude modulation on note attacks, with amplitude and filter modulation effects and envelope controls. It also responds to MIDI input for more live performance options. (A quick play-around revealed some crazy possibilities – look past the UI at those parameters for a sense of what this can do.)

Memphis-based Delta Sound Labs, for their part, have done sound research and technology from gaming to film to music industries. And they do modules. And they’re musicians. Here’s Ricky playing around with their other project – a pitch follower that interfaces both with Ableton Live and via control voltage with other gear:

CTRL Module + Helmholtz Pitch Follower – Initial Tests

Stay tuned. We’ll be watching for these finished products.

http://www.paradis-guitars.com/

https://www.deltasoundlabs.com/

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Watch a VU meter turn into percussion, control voltage

Here’s a fun hack: a vintage-style meter needle turns into a source of percussion and signal for a modular.

“Don’t plug this into that” or “that’s not what this is supposed to be for” are not really concepts obeyed by the electronic musician. So thanks to Simon Kitson for sending this in. In this case, a modular synth is involved but — really, you could do something like this with any random bit of gear and some piezos. (Piezo mics, in turn, are something you can build yourself for a few bucks with decent – to – terrible soldering skills.)

From a capitalist perspective, I should have course regularly be encouraging you to go spend your money on gear all the time but … this hack is totally compatible with “I just found some junk someone left by a dumpster.”

Simon writes:

I thought that you might be interested in this video of a vu meter being used as percussion with CV and a balanced piezoelectric pickup. It is a great return on a limited investment in time.

Excellent. Plus those needles are fun to watch wiggle, of course. Enjoy!

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How To Use An MPC X With A Modular Synthesizer

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Crazy8Beats puts MIDI, analog sequencing, and insanity in one unit

This boutique hardware melds live performance and programming, MIDI and analog triggers, into one desktop pattern maker. And it’s now shipping.

One of the nice things about Roland’s TR-8S this week is that it doesn’t try too hard to be a sequencer. That is, it’s a drum machine with the ability to do some triggering, but it doesn’t get wrapped up in so much functionality that it starts to get complicated.

All of this leaves room for desktop boxes that really focus on creating patterns. And ideally, they’d be suited not just to people who want to do a lot of involved programming, but might limber up their fingers and play live, too.

That’s essentially what the Crazy8Beats from Twisted Electrons is. True to their roots in making weird boxes for acid and chip music, they’ve packed it with features for lots of pattern permutations. But unlike some past attempts by other boutique makers, they’ve kept those features handy with one-touch buttons. (You know, I’m beginning to think that one easy test is – look for sequencers with either simplified screens or no screen at all, if you crave hands-on tactile control.)

The price is at EUR303, but integrates both MIDI I/O and plenty of dedicated trigger outs. So it’ll talk to your MIDI gear. It’ll talk to your analog gear. And if you must, you can even bolt it in a Eurorack case (though it seems way easier to access if it’s flat on a surface).

What I suspect may make this one tantalizing to people, though – in addition to that clever MIDI and analog integration, and a big punch-board style display showing off the different tracks – you get per-track swing and a “crazy” feature with live remixing and randomization.

Plus, you can modulate CC as well as patterns

So… it’s crazy. Oh, yeah, it’s crazy.

Check this nice walkthrough:

Or trip along as Liquid Sky Berlin puts this in action on some acid-flavored madness with other gear:

Via gearporn.berlin

Specs:

8 Hybrid Analog/MIDI Tracks

8 MIDI tracks, 3 MIDI ports (1 In & 2 Out)
8 Analog Trigger outputs

Variable Accent/CV output per step

MIDI velocity amount, CC modulation, or both per step.
8BIT 0-5V Analog CV output per step

Trigger input/output to sync Crazy8Beats to other devices
MIDI input to receive MIDI clock and set up parameters
MIDI Clock sent on both ports
16 patterns per track
Up to 16 steps per pattern
Individual patterns change per voice (or all at once)
Up to 16 patterns can be chained to create a song
4 play modes per track (forward, reverse,ping pong, random)
Copy, Paste, Clearing of patterns
8 Levels of Swing per track
Crazy feature enables probability and live remixing of patterns
Rhythmic Drill effect with variable rate

16 Pads can be used to punch record patterns live or program visually.

The pads are backlit to provide visual feedback of the pattern you are programming and the tracks that are active.

64 Step LEDs enable you to see 4 tracks advance at any time.

Shipping now.

EUR303 including VAT.

https://twisted-electrons.com/product/crazy8beats/

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Crazy8 Beats Rhythm Sequencer Now Available

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KOMA’s Field Kit FX is like a crazy studio in a tiny box: videos, manual

How do you demo or document something like KOMA Elektronik’s Field Kit FX? Well, you treat it like the mad experimental sound laboratory it is.

KOMA’s Field Kit FX was a massive hit even as a crowd funding project. It’s still listed as preorder, but will start to ship this month, beginning with backers.

In the meantime, our friends and music mavens Isabella and Zuzana (the latter a sometimes CDM contributor) have been working on helping document what you can do with this beast, from deep inside the Neukölln lair of the indie manufacturer.

And… yeah, it’s darned cool.

The “manual” isn’t a dry technical doc, either. It’s a recipe book full of creative ideas:

Field Kit FX

And the videos show how you can build ideas with this, as well. The whole package is the very opposite of a uni-tasker. So there’s a spring reverb, digital delay, a four-channel mixer with tone control, frequency shifter, looper, bit crusher, envelope generator, and a little sequencer. And both digital and analog effects have copious mappings to control voltage, so you can manipulate and automate effects from other gear (including modular devices). That means there’s a whole lot to look at.

There’s a video featuring the looper & digital delay:

And the delay and the spring reverb (the rectangular tank you see attached):

Sequencing is included, too, for some rhythmic effects, so you can add that in:

Check out the hardware:
https://koma-elektronik.com/?product=field-kit-fx-modular-multi-effects-processor

Previously:

Koma just unveiled a whole patchable analog effects toolkit

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