New EP (Cumulus) Released!

The first Cumulus EP is complete and uploaded to Bandcamp!

The tracks on this album represent different fantastic visions of abandoned environments that could or perhaps do exist somewhere only the clouds travel. The tracks are meant to be heard in order as a continuous journey.

All tracks were recorded using my modular synth (The Cumulus Machine) with Ableton Live as a recording deck. With the exception of a few overdubs the tracks were recorded ‘live’ as continuous takes.

Download it now!
It’s free, or you can pay any amount you want
if you feel generous and like what you hear :).

Special thanks to Adam Watson for mastering and feedback!

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Elektron Side Cheeks / Panels Part 3

Check the following posts for part 1 and part 2!

I had my second meeting at the studio where the side panels will be made. At my first meeting with the carpenter (furniture maker?) we discussed the choice of wood and went over some simple design directions. This was mostly to get a sense for material and time so that I could get  a rough estimate on the cost.

DSC00932In today’s meeting we went deeper into the precise angles of the tiers and details around air vents, decorative additions and spacings for cables.

I have to say it’s very impressive to talk to a true expert at these things.

Even while listening to my ramblings about standing up vs. sitting down, studio and live use and so forth he was casually drawing up designs that were miles ahead of the sketches that I had brought. I also completed the actual formal order so that work can start for real.

These panels will not be cheap, but on the other hand they are hand made by an expert wood smith from one of the most famous craft regions in Japan. I also get it made precisely to the specifications I want.

More to follow :).

Elektron Side Cheeks / Panels Part 2

As you may know I’m working on some designs for Elektron Side Cheeks / Panels. Read Part 1 here for the background.

Here are some photos of my extremely crude prototype boards that I made to check the angles for the tiers:

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I didn’t have any tools (currently traveling…) so I went to a local home center and borrowed an electric jigsaw. The holes are drilled using a small hand drill that I picked up for $10. The wood is a simple pine board ($3). All in all this little crappy prototype / test (which actually works!) cost about $15 to make.

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I started with a high angle and gradually shaved off degrees so that I could check both the standing and sitting viewing angles. The angle in the photos is final result for the lower tier.

I also realized that I wanted at least 10mm of space between the lower tier machine and the table top to pass cables under the stand.

This is to accommodate a possible third machine placed directly on the table top in front of the stand. Other important lessons include the space needed for the cables attached to the back of the lower tier machine, and making sure that the upper tier does not cover the controls of the lower tier.

Elektron Side Cheeks / Panels Part 1

I bought a Analog Four synth from Elektron back in January and I have to say that the more time I spend with it the more impressed I get. It’s true that the workflow can be a bit difficult to get used to, there is definitely a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it it’s actually very fast and intuitive.

I’ve also been lusting for a drum synthesizer / beat box for a long time, and I was almost entirely set on a DSI Tempest, but I have to say that the workflow of the Elektron machines is so good that lately I’ve also started considering a Machinedrum instead.

Regardless, I know I will want an Octatrack as well some day, so I started thinking about how to best place and support the Analog Four and which ever other (Octatrack or Machinedrum) I by next.

Looking around the web a lot of people are designing and building their own mini-racks or side panels to stack two or more Elektron machines. While some of them look good and ergonomic, I figured it would be really fun to try and come up with a design / material that would both look great and have excellent ergonomics fit for my own personal workflow. Ideally it should support both a standing and sitting position with great viewing angles, be sturdy enough to not topple over while playing live, and be transportable.

Since I’m currently in Japan I started looking around for someone with the right tools and materials for the job and I’ve met with a great furniture designer with whom I’ve started working on a design for a 2-tier wooden solution.

I will keep you posted on the progress. :)

Portable Sound System / Live Setup

I’m about to head out on the road for a couple of months or so which means I wont have access to my regular music making machines. All the keyboards, synths and the modular and other gear will be out of reach.

My wonderful modular ;-)

My wonderful modular ;-)

Naturally I can’t go for 2 months without making music, and so I was researching various ways of staying productive while on the road. I came up with 4 different alternative setups that I think would have worked for me. I’m sure there are others but those are the ones that felt viable in terms of what I was looking for.

Figuring there might be others looking for the same I decided to write up a short explanation of how and what I ended up with.

Scroll down to the end for pictures of the end result :).

First the Criteria:

  1. Portable
    I wanted a system that I could carry or lug around without too much effort. Pocket size was not a requirement.
  2. No Computer / DAW dependency.
    I wanted to be able to set it up and jam / mess around without having a computer nearby.
  3. New
    I wanted the setup to be a new learning experience with gear and/or a workflow that I had not used before. Also, I wanted those learnings to be relevant not just to the system at hand but for other scenarios / tech / workflows as well.
  4. Full circle
    The system had to be capable of producing a full track with all parts and sounds necessary (under realistic constraints of course).

Option 1. The Groovebox

At first I was looking at various self-contained groove boxes like the Korg Electribes and the Roland MCs. They are certainly capable boxes, but the Rolands I ruled out right away as being to big for their feature sets, and having to out-dated i/o options. The MC808/909 looks like a lot of fun, and as a future addition to the studio I think they would be great, but not for on-the-road work. On the other hand the Electribes have the perfect size but felt like they were to restricted sonically (at least for the type of music I want to create). Finally, any workflow or techniques that I would learn from these boxes felt like they would be tied very closely with the particular box and not translate well to other tools.

Option 2. The Pocket Synth

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last year or two you know about the Teenage Engineering OP-1 synth. A fantastic little instrument that is kind of like a groove box on steroids, shrunk to fit in your palm. However, the hardware has gotten a lot of negative reviews/feedback as a novelty toy, and with little to no expansion options, for the price it felt like a very limited way to go. Also, the OP-1 seemed like a dead end in terms of live, cooperative jamming. I’m all for setting up constraints to explore creativity but the OP-1 was simply to far from where I’m heading with my music.

Option 3. All Software

While certainly the most portable solution, this violates the 2nd criteria. And seriously, how fun is that?? ;-)

Option 4. The Portable Studio

So finally I started asking my self what the minimum required instruments are to be able to create the music I strive for without a DAW or any of my larger modular systems or synths. What would it take to essentially shrink down the sonic palette that I want to work with into a system that would meet the 4 criteria and also be fun and inspiring to work with.

I knew I would want some kind of percussion / drum sequencer, a dedicated bass voice, at least 1 dedicated lead voice, something to experiment with for atmospheric sounds and effects, and some way of mixing all the voices together.

Looking at what I had at hand I decided that my Elektron Analog Four should have a spot in the setup, as well as the Meeblip. For effects I could bring my Eventide Space and Timefactor pedals, and to spice things up even more I ordered a Nebulophone from Bleep Labs. Next I needed some form of note / melody source so I decided to include a Doepfer Dark Time sequencer, and for percussion a Korg Volca Beats. Also, to add another voice to the mix, and because it pairs so well with the Dark Time, I’m considering throwing in a Dark Energy synth as well. Finally to mix them all together I’ve included an Allen & Heath ZED10-FX mixer which will also allow me to record the stereo mixdown over USB to a computer.

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SketchUp model

I figured I could build a custom, heavy duty but portable, case that would hold all of this gear so I started looking into custom ATA cases, but a friend pointed me in the direction of the Pelican brand cases instead. Those cases come in a huge variety of sizes and colors so after some measuring and careful modeling in SketchUp I decided to go for one of those.

In the end I would agree that this setup is far from the most simple or portable solution, but it feels extremely inspiring and I can’t wait to set this rig up and start exploring it.

If you have any questions about the case or any of the gear inside it please leave a comment and I will answer as best I can.

Here’s a complete list of the gear:

  • 1x Allen & Heath ZED10-FX Mixer
  • 1x MeeBlip SE
  • 1x Korg Volca Beats (to be added in Japan)
  • 1x Elektron Analog Four
  • 1x Eventide Space
  • 1x Eventide TimeFactor
  • 1x Doepfer Dark Time
  • 1x Bleep Labs Nebulophone
  • 1x Doepfer Dark Energy mkII (TBD)
  • 1x Pelican Cases 1610
The Pelican 1610 Case

The Pelican 1610 Case

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Inside the case. The mixer is one level down.

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Jamming with the setup.