Bastl’s Dark Matter module unleashes the joys of feedback

What would a module behave like if it were built entirely around feedback – say, like one of those “zero-input” all-feedback mixer performances? Bastl Instruments teams up again with Peter Edwards to answer that question. The result: Dark Matter.

Dark Matter lets you add feedback to any signal, whether you want to use that as a bit of color, create rhythmic effects, or go completely wild. And since it is designed with the inspiration of zero-input mixer technique in mind, you can also use it as a signal source – a kind of feedback oscillator. Feedback by definition is about signal routing; Dark Matter runs with that idea and create an instrument around patching and shaping feedback in a modular environment.

It’s a new collaboration between Bastl and Peter Edwards, following their softPop instrument (and Peter’s own long-running Casper Electronics).

There are different kinds of overdrive. You can add sub-octave tones and other colors. There’s a built-in 2-band EQ (so highs and lows get separate control) – and that has overdrive, too.

On the rhythmic side, there’s a built-in envelope follower for ducking and gating and the like.

And there’s tons and tons of I/O and CV control, so this really was designed with a modular environment in mind. (That’s important – there are a number of Eurorack modules that seem like desktop tools that sort of got plunked into a modular case without much forethought; this isn’t that.)

But before we talk specs, creator Peter Edwards – himself an experimental musician as well as inventor – has some philosophical and spiritual things to say about feedback. Those are in the manual too, but let me highlight this passage. We’re “going deeper and deeper into the void” – gotta love those Czech winters, right? (Now turn in your hymnals now to “We Sing Praises of the Dark Shadows of Feedback.”)

So here’s what it all comes down to, the resonating soul of the amplifier and the recklessly over amplified external audio signal battling it out in the feedback thunderdome…

This is why I like to think of audio feedback as sort of the negative space around a sound, like a sonic shadow. A dark counterpart.

Feedback is wonderful. It’s the living, breathing, unpredictable, organic side of electrical sound. That’s not even just to say in the analog domain; as long as you steer clear of digital clipping, feedback has powerful potential in digital, too. It’s one of the reasons to use a modular environment in the first place, whether hardware or software. So I hope in addition to looking at Dark Matter, we dig into this topic generally. (I was just playing with feedback loops in VCV Rack, thanks to some tips from Kent Williams aka Chaircrusher.)

Embrace the darkness, and dive into the void of feedback.

Uh… oh yeah, tech specs.

FEATURES:
-Input VCA with gain and soft clipping
-2 band equaliser with voltage controlled bass and treble boost/overdrive
-Voltage controlled feedback
-External feedback section for making and fine tuning loops through other modules
-Voltage controlled crossfade between input and feedback signals
-Input tracking envelope follower for adding ducking and gating effects
-10 I/O jacks for adding CV and making crazy loops

TECHNICAL DETAILS:
– 13 HP
– PTC fuse and diode protected 10-pin power connector
– 24 mm deep
– power consumption +12V: < 75mA; -12V: <75 mA

More details and online ordering available on Bastl’s Website:

https://www.bastl-instruments.com/modular/dark-matter/

265 EUR excl. TAX from Bastl’s own noise.kitchen and select retailers, available now.

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Bastl’s wild Peter Edwards softPop synth now in preorders

Okay, so we know you can keep remaking classic instruments and give people a good time. But what if you want something new and crazy? Can you bottle sonic weirdness and make it work for other people?

The first time I saw Peter Edwards play live was at an event we hosted in New York. He had a small box with a large spherical light on the top – and then proceeded to deafen and blind the audience in a maelstrom of noise and colored flashes.

The impressive thing about the softPop when you first play it is that it takes all that madness and makes it portable and eminently playable. You can crank it and make powerful noise. You can dial it into a sweet spot and get some grooving club-friendly acid basslines. You can dial it somewhere else, and get delicate watery bloops or alien speak.

And, while I may offend people here, I love the fact that you don’t necessarily need to know which fader you’re moving or what does what. So, sure, newcomers will be able to fiddle with the six faders and discover new sounds intuitively. But – let’s get real – that’s just as fun for experts, to have that feeling of unexpected sonic magic, that extrasensory experience of playing the instrument. And in even a short session at SuperBooth, that was unquestionably the impression I had of this instrument.

softPop represents years of Peter’s labor, culminating in a collaboration with Bastl Instruments and even a move to the Czech Republic. And while it was already an impressive evolution in Berlin this spring, it seems these crazy kids have continued the hard work of refining the box.

handle

What you get is a demonstration of how known ingredients can be combined in very new ways. It’s a bit like putting one really terrific analog patch in a lunchbox. So the two triangle-core oscillators are heavily feedbacked – the source of all the gorgeous sonic uncertainty – plus a filter and sample & hold. That’s already probably worth the price of admission, but there’s external signal processing, too, with envelope follower and sync. Plus you get a pattern generator so you can start crafting basslines and dances of noises right away, and a mini patch bay for semi-modular operation or patching to other gear.

And it’s eminently portable – batteries, built in speaker, and an optional wooden backplate that doubles as a carrying handle.

309 EUR (pre-tax). Preorder now to get the first back at end of August.

Oh yeah and — did we mention it’s also a light synth? There’s an RGB LED there for a miniature version of Peter’s light show. And don’t forget the “secret hack chamber.”

For anyone with the feeling the synth world has nothing new to offer – fear not, strange survives.

Specs:
fully analog core and signal path 
6 faders for controlling two VCOs and VCF and their cross modulations 
two wide range triangle-core VCOs 0 & 1 
quantizer for VCO 0 (auto-tuner) 
VCO 1 has variable waveshape via the modulation setting 
∞ resonant state variable VCF (bandpass, lowpass, highpass) 
external input with gain and envelope follower for intuitive sync of VCO 1 
track & hold circuit for stepped modulations 
looping pattern generator with two patterns P1 and P2 
RGB led for psychedelic experience 
25-point patchbay  
secret hack chamber at the back for adventurers 
aluminum body enclosure 
built-in speaker 
wooden handle backplate as accessory (sold separately) 

main

​http://www.bastl-instruments.com/instruments/softpop/

We’re watching for the powerful THYME processor, too; Bastl’s release of this notes that production delays mean that’ll shift sales to September.

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The new Bastl bitRanger is handheld patchable insanity

What do you get when you cross a tiny patch bay with total mayhem?

Well, the bitRanger, apparently – a limited-run collaboration of Bastl Instruments and Casper Electronics (Peter Edwards), and possibly the most interesting surprise to come out of Moogfest this week.

Peter Edwards has not only moved to Brno, Czech Republic to join the Bastl revolution – a mad genius marriage if ever you’ve heard one – he’s also evidently been spending a lot of time in the woods. Maybe… a little too much time. Watch:

But, while it’s not clear whether or not Peter has lost his mind, we do get an absolutely delightful little invention. The bitRanger is a compact, battery-powered, patchbay-equipped wonder, focusing on repatching an “analog logic computer.”

That is, it uses Peter’s ongoing cleverness with circuits to let you wire up different patterns, whether you use them as a sound source directly or as a means of controlling other gizmos.

So, it’s a synth. But it’s also a pattern generator for other synths.

And it’s fitting that the bitRanger debuts in North Carolina at Moogfest rather than back home in Europe, because the creators are explicit about their connection to Moog’s own oddity, the Werkstatt synth. In fact, you can patch them together if you choose.

Patch it, you will, as in addition to four knobs and eight switches you get a full 100 patch points.

Americans can buy directly at Moogfest (where there’s a first limited edition at the special price of US$259), or look to the store Bastl and Casper have opened in Brooklyn, Detective Squad. Back here in Europe, you can order from the Bastl noise.kitchen site for 222€ (plus VAT) when it ships in June (I think literally when Peter and the Czech guys get back to Brno).

Or, of course, if you happen to be touring Brno to see what all the fuss is about, you can get it from them in person. I recommend drinking some Kofola (caffeinated coffee soda) to get your head ready to do some analog patching. But it’s possible I’m just trying to comfort myself in the fact that I’m not at Moogfest.

Hope to get one in for review, though.

bitranger3

bitranger2

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