Customising Aira

This track is a demo of the ability to customise the Aira digital modules – in this case a Scooper.  Have a listen.

Here is the full patch detail:

Short delay patch.
Short delay patch.

A simple single drum hit is running into that.  The short delay modules with modulate feedback are filling out the sound quite nicely which then flows out to a Demora with a higher delay time (around 6 seconds).  Later in the track I add external LFO input the Pitch, Filter and Delay lengths.

Due to the inaccessible position of the USB within a rack I’ve been forced to use the iPad app which communicates via audio data through a front patch point.  Rather like the idea of Commodore 64 data cassettes – and seemingly just as reliable.  It’s taken me some time to get this working as every time I tried to change the patch it would stop working requiring a factory reset. I thought there might be something wrong with the module and was scratching my head at the absence of similar reports online.

It took an extended look at the sparse instructions to work it out.

Remote-in patching
Remote-in patching

Doesn’t that look like a stereo jack pictured?

I’d been using a regular mono patch cable and nowhere had I seen it mentioned yet changing to stereo cable and suddenly it works.

I’m very surprised to have not read about this before now.



February Preparations

This is the second track i’ve contributed to the Weekly Beats site and I’m not feeling inspired to continue.  One of the major problems is that I’m finding it difficult to listen to the other contributions.  It doesn’t work at all in Chrome and seems to be sporadic on Firefox.  I’m also much more an album than singles person and I’ve neither the motivation to care about completing one track per week nor quite the time to fuss over them.

Working towards something i’m actually interested in working towards and having some motivation is important so i’ve decided to focus instead on the RPM challenge coming this February.  I finished one challenge but have never found the time to complete any more.  February is often a shitty month with preparations for return to academia taxing my time.  This year i’m determined to manage this transition by preparing ahead and setting some rules, goals and boundaries.

Working title:

  • Black Mercury aka Blood of the Slaves continues to be the leading holistic influence.




  • Ableton Live 9.6 and Push 2 with an emphasis on the sampling and sequencing functionality.  No Loopstation.
  • Focus on hardware over software for synth sources.  Software effects are fine.
  • Arrangements will include manipulated Digital Concréte sourced from publicly available online videos – streamed via Loopback – a fantastic new app the instantiates other apps as audio sources – meaning I can sample from “Chrome” 🙂
  • Construct and record arrangement in Ableton Live.  Attempt to edit tracks in Arrangement view but can also output to mix in Tracktion if required.
  • Pre-Master in Audition – though this pieces will likely be further refined for an official release.
  • Grounded theory approach to composition defined by workflow and refined by mixing.
  • Oblique Strategies cards for decision making where necessary.



  • Collect and evaluate current sketches for influence, sample sources
  • Start sketchbook / notebook / diary for ideas
  • Learn how to incorporate new modules in Aira Module Customizer.
  • Start patching hardware and saving interesting sketches for development
  • Play computer games as will not have time in February.
  • Collate and backup academic material.


  • 35-40mins of material that bridges the gap between Digital Concréte and Avant Goth electronica

Inspirations that I could never live up to:

  • Coil
  • Amon Tobin
  • Rashad Becker
  • Pimmon

The Pull of Push

Push Me Pull You?

Push Me Pull You?

This last week i’ve been learning how to incorporate the Push 2 into my workflow.  You may recall I’d previously settled for the Push 1 after having a disappointing experience with Maschine.  The original fascination was the ability to capture, manipulate and sequence my live hardware without having to rely on mouse and monitor.  While Maschine technically allowed this, it was not efficient to use in a live improvisational situation so I settled for the greater MIDI capabilities of the Push 1 and left it at that.

With the sudden announcement of the Push 2, its live sampling and conversion capabilities and the trade in for previous owners, it obviously wasn’t going to be long before I gave in to the Pull.

Push 2 and synth tower
Push 2 and synth tower

Given that it has been getting near universal praise I figured there would be catches but so far the only thing that has bothered me is the right angled USB cable.  I’ve managed to successfully use it in two jams… here is a ratty track from one of the jams – apologies for the bad quality – impromptu FX usage is my fault.

I’m sampling PFM and his hardware and playing them back both live and sequenced through various effects.  All done in real-time without consulting the monitor thanks to Push 2.

Real-time sampling is facilitated by setting up a muted track for recording input to clips.  The real benefit of the Push 2 over the first iteration is the “Convert” button which turns a recorded clip into a Simpler (sampler) track and from there a Drum-Rack.  The organisation into columns representing tracks is not going to suit everyone and I’d suggest it is something that separates this workflow from Maschine.  One might argue M is more powerful in that you can place your recorded sample anywhere but I guess the organisation with P2 seems to work better for me, given my experience with Ableton Live.

Having the ability to edit samples without grabbing a mouse is most certainly a bigger deal than it sounds.  P2 also seems to be dealing with plugin parameters more effectively.  The pads are closer to the KMI QuNexus style (with velocity and aftertouch but not 4-way detection).  Coming from the P1 it takes a while to get used to the changed functionality of Arm, Mute, Solo and Delete as well as the Layout navigation but the Screen based selection and navigation is much clearer.

I do find the sampling based workflow paradigm it encourages isn’t that far away from the Maschine approach.  Working in blocks, converting and resampling etc.  At this stage it may require some time spent exploring the boundaries and adapting to the affordances and constraints.

Level Up!

OK i’ve been playing lots of Fallout 4, Witcher 3 (and lately Grim Dawn) so I feel like giving myself some achievement points.

10 points to charisma for Synth-table setup with Push allowing (mostly*) screen-less Ableton Live usage.


10 points to cunning for getting Nord Modular Editor running on Macbook Air via Wine affording localised tweakage.

Nord Modular Editor on OSX Yosemite via Wine
Nord Modular Editor on OSX Yosemite via Wine

5 points to intelligence for reasoning (correctly) that Plogue Bidule could host the editors for System-1m and System-100 plug-out AND

5 points to luck for getting it working without either editors suffering from MIDI timeouts.

Plogue Bidule hosting Roland System-1 plug-outs
Plogue Bidule hosting Roland System-1 plug-outs

10 bonus points to spirit for unpredictable but awesome capabilities of Bidule’s Randomize and Mutate functions.  (Beware volume spike at 18sec mark!)

*I say mostly – it’s about 50/50 really.  The Push 2 looks to be a bit more self-contained.

2016 – getting past the melancholy cycles

2016 – getting past the melancholy cycles

The best thing I did in 2015 was complete (to me) the ultimate ambient track.  Here it is, released as part of the fifth iteration of Ambient Online.

2015 brought on a number of personal stresses, not least the death of my father, that hampered my ability to focus, network and evolve.

I grief-shopped my way towards a number of excellent musical setups but have so far found it a challenge to settle on a strategy.  Perhaps this waywardness is actually a feature but then I realise i’m spending more time setting and resetting my setup than making.

the Bell Bower studio
the Bell Bower studio

Taking December off Facebook seemed merely to highlight my isolation and my newfound spare time was mostly spent playing Fallout 4 and Witcher 3.

It seems as soon as I announce I’m doing something (even with a relatively clear direction) the motivation and ability to do that thing falls by the wayside.  I’m still determined to finish whatever Black Mercury is but it may need to shift form slightly.

Resolutions just remind me of government/political machinations and rather than attempt to trick my mind into believing something to be of relative importance I’m suggesting my primary intentions for 2016 are:

focus on the art not the tools – much of my recent approach is extending a technique – this has become frustrating as the results are often unpredictable so… focus on the end product more than the unreliable process;

really use what i’ve got – stop grief shopping – synthetic enhancements, both cyber and IRL, are not helping me be more creative or productive.  A Push 2 is arriving soon and i’m particularly looking forward to using the new sampling / conversion tools with the synths directly from the device.  Keeping the setup up simple and focused will hopefully allow the uniqueness of my work to unfold naturally while I level up my synthesis skills;

research and production are parallel not serial – much of my time is spent researching, contemplating and executing new approaches and technologies.  I love this but I think it needs to be made clear (to myself) that the research can run parallel and influence the work but it does not have to directly precede and/or lead to results for public consumption. Spending too much time conceptualising and not enough actually doing;

create socially – this may be the hardest ask but for so long music making has been a solitary pursuit (excepting the occasional jams with Paul and Joe).  I’d like to find another outlet for compositional and performative collaboration – be it virtual or IRL.  So if you read this and have an idea I might be able to contribute to let me know because I’m keen to get out a little more.

help others create –  as a teacher i’m already kinda doing this so maybe that should read “others that give a shit” ;-P  Recently Stacey started playing her flute again and with the aid of my old iPad 2 running LoopyHD has been putting together exceptionally well formed audio poems (see below).  Given that we have collaborated in the past (and my incredible valuable skillset #incrediblyobvioussarcasm) it might make sense to produce her stuff but given this world is full of women produced by men only because they aren’t allowed to touch the man toys I feel that it would be more productive to help her learn how to use Logic.

Favourite things of 2015

The Laundry Series by Charles Stross.  Imagine a hybrid of “The Thick Of It” style political satire with a more Lovecraft-leaning “The X-Files”.  My disinterest in literary serialisation was shattered by this series which manages to be both hilarious and gripping.

The Golden Communion by Thighpaulsandra.  For someone as immersed in creative synthesis as I currently am, this is a no-brainer.  There are loads of great Bandcamp albums made with synths this year but most, for better and sometimes worse, focus narrowly on particular aesthetics with less consideration for the arrangement over time. I’d include my own releases this year within in this criticism and need to credit Stacey for helping me identify this issue.  I’ve always found it difficult to recommend TPS albums as his eclecticism tends to alienate, but it is precisely this that makes this more than just another great synth album.

Dangerous Orbits by Bérangère Maximin.  Very glad to know that concréte approaches have a place in a time when everything is digitally possible.  Also happy that it isn’t just a boys club.

This year for visual treats has not been good at all.  While there have been a few things i’ve enjoyed, there is nothing new and essential that I can recommend.  This is partly down to time and focus.