Moving the computer away from the centre.

All the wordage on this blog over the last year or two about workflows etc. really comes down to this:

This is the setup with focus for play with limitations that don’t seem like they actually are.  I noticed afterwards that i’d mistakenly plugged the MIDI output of the SQ-1 into the Filter of the Sys-1m. Seems to sound alright 😉  This is not typically how I make music but it’s a good way to sketch out ideas.

The Push allows me to control and sequence the synths while also allowing sampling and “In the box” effects and synths of which there are plenty still to recommend.  The focus is away from the monitor and I am not using Ableton Live as a DAW – but as an instrument/sequencer – moving it slightly away from the centre.  When people ask me “What is so great about Push?”  I think the utility is easiest to demonstrate.  Tactility is something that needs to be experienced.

I’m also loving being able to Bus out to the Zoom R8 for recording – saves taxing my brain about what is record enabled and allows for – at very least a recording to be edited in Tracktion / Reaper whatever.  I will be experimenting with layering and bouncing with it.  Perhaps there is some novelty value but I also see it as hugely convenient and am more likely to pump out some tracks.


The origin of Makrotulpa was intended to be a marriage of my Macro photography with my micro-sonics yet I found myself lacking the appropriate combination of lens and flash to get good results.  Recently I was scouring the Gumtree and chanced upon some affordable Macro gear so that idea is back.  Given that my birth name is registered with all the digital distributors i’ve decided to produce a number of studies under my own name utilising Makrotulpa as an album title.


Possibly – but the end results will justify – if not extend upon that confusion 😉


Focus, limitations and play

It might seem a little odd that i’m posting so soon but… I have something I MUST speak of… but first… listen to this!

I took the setup from the previous blog post and video, minus the V-Synth, around to Joe and Bec’s for a jam and it was an exceptional time.

Feel i’m getting to grips with using the System-1m in a creative way… a lot of nice minimal tweaks along with some great sound FX.

The very playful nature got me thinking again about performative focus vs mixing focus and so…

Performance table (note little sneaky hand!)

With this setup I can control all but the Nord Modular Rack without looking in the direction of a monitor – really nice to have such a performatively focused table.  One (sorta) problem is that I have to stand up to use the V-Synth but I guess that will be good exercise for my 40+yr old pudge.  🙂

There’s also something else I picked up for very cheap that you can just see in the lower left – a little something that will hopefully prove to be a creatively useful boundary / limitation.

Zoom R8 portable 8-track recorder
Zoom R8 portable 8-track recorder

Pulling from a slightly old-school mentality (perhaps a tinge of hipster retro) this little device uses SD cards to replicate the experience of old school 8-track recording.  My plan is to use the computer (with the exceptional help of Ableton Push) as a musical instrument – recording multiple tracks to the Zoom R8 which can then be transferred to the computer for proper mixing later.  What i’m hoping to inspire is something of a shift away from my improvise, post-produce and that’s it mentality to include a greater focus on arrangements.  By providing a sensible limitation of 8 tracks I will hopefully finish more tracks and it certainly doesn’t remove the possibility of micro-editing later… just takes it out of the jamming phase.

It also will potentially assist in live mixing of prepared material but… cross that bridge… and things…

The “art” of doing things just because they can be done.

This week Luke Jaaniste suggested that part of my “art” is the struggle to plug bits of gear together.  I argued that this was Research and Development… not “art” but he may have something of a point.  Here is an example of the art of plugging things together…

… for what purpose i’m not sure?  I’m still very much into recording synths to separate tracks – one at a time – mainly in Tracktion 6 but more and more i’m using Ableton Live 9 again as the Push makes it a dream machine.

Maybe it’s just to see if (and how) it can be done.  This is the way our ancestors way back in the ’60s and ’70s used to do it… with CV not MIDI.  It’s incredibly fiddly and inconvenient… but the results are frequently mercurial which to me justifies the attempt.


Subliminal Emulations


Seems I’m becoming something of a Roland fanboy…  I had a Korg MS20Mini for a couple weeks before exchanging it for a Roland System-1m (Thanks StoreDJ Brisbane!)  This should in no-way come across as a diss of the MS20 more than an example of my failing.  Similar to the Waldorf Blofeld I found it unintuitive to use and I was not compelled to make more than fart noises with it.  The System-1m is proving more useful, easier to get both nice and gnarly sounds and the 4-voice mode makes for a nice change with analog circuit emulation that sounds unlike any software emulations I’ve heard.  It’s Eurorack standard CV means it fits nicely with Arturia MicroBrute and I can sequence both from the Roland V-Synth.  The MB and S-1m are a nice pair and run well with the V-Synth and the S-1m also works nicely as an external oscillator for the V.  The plug-out functionality seems to be what everyone is talking about.  They all sound pretty good but i’m leaning towards the ProMars which seems the most diverse with a character suitable for Berlin School arpeggiations and sci-fi leads.

Here is a brief track featuring a rubbery SH-101 arpeggiation with the V-Synth providing pad sounds.

This afternoon I was watching this bootleg footage of a recent Skinny Puppy gig and noticed that Cevin Key is playing a Roland V-Synth in the background.

I did some googling and discovered he’s been using it live since the Greater Wrong of the Right Tour.  Interesting to me as i’d never noticed this before and it in no way influenced my purchase of a secondhand one this year.



It’s happened before with the Nord Modular, a synth I picked up partly on recommendation / partly on experience with the G2 Demo.  Seems my other favourite band Coil used it a lot, particularly on their live tours.  You can spy a G2 in this soundcheck video.

thighps and sleazy

I wonder if I subliminally translated the sounds I liked into a preference without consciously knowing what that preference was?  “Well coincimental” as Nathan Barley might say.


In other news i’ve found a way of making up for the inability to record live performances on the Native Instruments Maschine in standalone mode (where it really works best).  Melda MRecorder (which I own as part of the Total Bundle but which is readily available in the Freebundle) popped in the master bus works fine for capturing jams.  My pal Abre Ojos also pointed me to a video showing how to do it with NI Guitar Rig which is maybe more accessible for most of you – though I think it slams the CPU more than the Melda option.


The “Push” and pull of hardware / software

Here is an excerpt from a fun improv session I had with Paul Forbes Mitchell and Joe Musgrove today.  It’s a pretty dense collage that resembles ambient techno occasionally while refraining from providing a drop.

*UPDATE – I’ve added another excerpt from this session – see below

Joe was using his usual collection of tapes full of concréte, Korg Volca Sample + Monotrons, mixer feedback and Casio SK1.  He was also using a repurposed “Calm Machine” meditation device with a mind of its own.

Paul has been working on providing a solid frame and useful patchpoints for his DIY modular and it is aesthetically heading toward Ciat Lonbarde territory.

PFM Modular
Here is a close up – he’s using stackable cables like a Serge!

PFM Stackable

My setup was a digital modular of sorts.  Nord MicroModular, OSCillot (superb Max For Live pack) and Madrona Lab’s brilliant Aalto.  What is perhaps more interesting is how i’m controlling them.

Continue reading “The “Push” and pull of hardware / software”