New track on Carebots compilation

To support people in need in these times of Covid 19, radio show and music label BassAgenda created a compilation of 100+ tracks from artists like Anthony Rother, Deze Williams and Carl Finlow. All proceedings will be donated to NHS Charities and Doctors without borders. My track ‘Vlucht’ is also part of this compilation and to support and boost the cause I also made these promo visuals for all artists to promote their track and the release as a whole.

Get your copy and support these charities and underground music here:

https://bassagendarecordings.bandcamp.com/album/carebot-raising-money-for-the-nhs-and-m-decins-sans-fronti-res

Synth DIY: Vactrol ‘VCA’

Lately I’ve been thinking about how nice it would be to have an extra VCA so I can have different amp/volume stages for the two oscillators of my Behringer Neutron for instance. You know, the usual ‘eurocrack I need more stuff to put wires in’ kind of thoughts. Ofcourse I could go and just order a eurorack VCA module, but making one myself would be way more fun. And reading about vactrols and how easy you can make a ‘VCA’ with those, I ordered some parts and a short while later, heated up my soldering iron.’VCA’, because technically, it’s not, but anyway, it does what a VCA does, but maybe it’s more like a voltage controlled attenuator, but who cares, here it is!

I started off making the panel of some wood I had in my basement. The wood split a bit sadly, that is why in the end I made it black, to cover that up (didn’t go well). Maybe I’ll make a new panel later on, but probably not. I started with the panel, so I could screw the jack sockets into place which makes it easier to solder everything after that.

Making the vactrols yourself is easy. You just have to take the LDR and the led and put some tape around them, sealing the LDR and led from any other light other than the led. After that it’s just a case of soldering the vactrol in place and connecting the sockets.

I still can’t read schematics properly, so for other people like me, I made a crude drawing on how to solder all parts to make this vca (check gallery).

BOM for this thing: LDRx2 – Ledsx4 – mono jack socketsx6 – piece of wood/plastic/metal for the panel – solder and wires. Costs less than 5 euro’s/dollars to make!

The two leds on the panel aren’t really necessary, but give a nice visual reference of the modulation added to the input. So that’s about it. Cheap, fun and quick to make and works like a charm.

Geartalk: Yamaha Reface CS

Being in need of a polysynthesizer which offered hands on controls, taking up little room in my studio and have my bankaccount take minor damage, I aquired a Yamaha Reface CS. I’m writing this after owning the CS now for almost a week and it ticks all those boxes and a lot more which is why I’m loving it so far. So here’s why in a bundle of words.

There are people who would think this thing is a toy, mostly because of its size, looks and the fact that it has minikeys. I’m rather a fan of mini keys, probably because I got small hands…and minkeys means small gear most of the time which is great if you also have a small studio. For me the toylike size and the intuitive design actually compliment each other, to me it screams ‘play with me’. The fact that is has no menus, but only a selection of sliders means you memorise the interface very quick and are reaching for the slider you want to control without looking in no time. No menu delving here, so you keep on playing, instead of looking at a screen, a habit that already has been taken care of by my computer. Now about those sliders…

I’m going to focus on the way the CS stands out to me in sound and design and skip yapping about the layout of the panel or basic synthesizer theory and features. There aren’t many bells and whistles on the CS, the panel and its layout are pretty self explanatory. So I rather talk about the things which aren’t perhaps obvious on first look and that is for instance that this small synth has a lot of features, but packaged in a quite unusual way.  The oscilator section most noticeably. It features 2 oscilators with multisaw, pulse, oscilator sync, ringmod and FM which you can control with 3 (!) sliders. I probably should say 5 sliders, taking into account the LFO section with 2 sliders can also modulate the oscilator section. Yamaha have clevery combined functionality in this section. For instance, you not only select a type of oscilator with ‘type’, but most of the time also a combination of oscilator/synthesis/effect. Let me explain this further and short by presenting you with a list of oscilator types and its features:

multisaw – texture: amount of detuned saw waves & mod: adds a suboscilator. LFO can modulate the pitch of the detuned saws (not the suboscilator).
Pulse – texture: pitch of second pulse wave & mod: pulse width. LFO can modulate the pulse width.
Sync – texture: pitch and tone of oscilator 2 & mod: pitch envelope modulation amount. LFO can modulate oscilator 2 pitch.
Ringmod – texture: pitch of oscilator 1 & mod: pitch of oscilator 2. LFO can modulate oscilator 2 pitch.
FM – texture: modulation amount & mod: oscilator 2 pitch. LFO can modulate modulation amount.

Yamaha has taken away lots of controls which you normally may expect to be present. You can’t edit both the pulsewidth of oscilator 1 &2. You can’t select a type of oscilator in sync, ringmod and FM mode let alone edit  both oscilators independently. Normally this would bother me, but the way features are combined and how easy you can control and modulate these features with just 3-5 sliders results in a synthesizer which is a joy to play, offers great sounds and fast. In this case less is truly more. On a sidenote: it already happened to me quite a few times that I couldn’t get the sound I was looking for within an oscilator type, but received a great and unexpected gem of a sound in return while I kept all the settings the same, but just selected a different oscilator type.

The ‘feature combo’ approach is also noticable while looking at the envelope section. There’s only one for both the vca and vcf, but with the nifty EG slider you can control how much the envelope modulates the vca and/or vcf . Seems like a cut in features once again on paper, in the real world, works more than good enough for me.

Minor gripe coming up…the filter sounds tasty, beefy and squelchy, but in use, its cutoff slider doesn’t do anything to the sound below 1/3 of its setting. Here’s hoping the scaling of the cutoff slider will be fixed in a future update. Let’s continue with the effects, because yes, the CS has some, even 4 of them: delay, phaser, chorus/flanger/distortion. They do as their names imply and can add some extra flavour to the sound. I find for instance, that using the chorus/flanger or phaser at just a different rate then the LFO rate (and in my case at low depth settings of the effect) adds slight rhythmic fluctuations to sounds which tend to make them more interesting over time. Altering the  depth of the effect while playing adds even more much welcomed drama. I like the fact that the distortion does what its supposed to do, but without adding gain to the sound, so the amount of db doesn’t go up and it doesn’t result in unwanted clipping on the output signal of the synth which is sometimes the case with some distortion effects.

Another added bonus is the phrase looper, which gives you the possibility of recording melodies and playing on top of those melodies. And of course, although I wanted this for its poly capabilities, you can also play the cs in monophonic mode together with some portamento if you want to.

Alright, coming to a close. So far you haven’t heard me yapping about saving sounds. That’s because there isn’t any way of saving sounds on the CS itself. In order to do that, you’ll have to use the Soundmondo website or app on an ios device. So saving and using sounds is possible with a workaround. For now, I haven’t missed any way to store or recalling sounds and find my own memory, as faulty as that is, often suffice.  I see not having a dedicated way of saving sounds in this occassion as an invitation to play a lot with the settings so I save the appropriate settings in my own memory, rather than getting lazy and needing an extra device to memorise them for me.

I read a review about the CS beforehand in which the reviewer said that the CS was more than the sum of its parts.  I tend to aggree. It sounds great, it can sound very silky, but also very dirty, metalic and harsh. It is very intuitive and gives you great sounds fast, but more important, it causes ‘happy little accidents’ all the time which leave you wanting to explore and play it some more.

To illustrate how addictive and inspiring the CS to me is, here’s a selection of 11 sketches I made during the first 2 afternoons of owning it. All sounds except drums come from the CS , without any additional  and external effects on the synth sounds.

 

 

The story behind Cosmophilia

Reading this will take about 10 minutes of your life. Some rambling and detours ahead before eventually getting to the point of the story. Just saying.

A short while ago I presented a ‘making of Cosmophilia’ to a group of colleagues at work. Yes, I know. You thought I lived in my studio making music while sipping on expensive Scotch all day and eat lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner and perform solely at Boiler room parties in between. Sorry to blow your bubble, that isn’t quite true (yet). Not that I’m complaining. I very much like my work as a teacher/leader in creativity and design at a great school where young creative adolescent people become creative and skillfull adults in their chosen field of design (for the Dutch people, that school is Cibap Vakschool voor Verbeelding). And between all the stuff that needs to be done, time for making music seems to find itself naturally.

Talking about why I made this album or how isn’t something I was planning to do. I very much like some things to be a mystery so your imagination can run wild and make up your own story. On the other hand I very much like to read about other musicians and why they make the type of music they are making. So it seems pretty lame not to share my own story given that I like to read upon other people story’s behind their music. So about a year ago…

I got a message from Luca, from YAY, a label from Italy, saying he was interested in my music and would like to release an EP by me. They were just starting out releasing music on vinyl with already great names like Titonton Duvanté, Alex Picone and Tommy Vicari jnr.  I was thrilled. Hadn’t done a vinyl release yet, so that was awesome.  I started making tracks for the release. Luca knew very well what he liked about previous releases of mine and what he was looking for. Messages were send back and forth and in the end Luca decided that en EP wasn’t enough, he wanted more, an album. Which again, was great news to me.

It was also a sort of new starting point. Most of the time I make music with a sort of a back story in my mind. Tracks I make after each other form different chapters of a story. Often the latest track is a reaction to the one made previous to that. The tracks that were planned for the EP, formed a story. Now that I had to make more, I had to figure out what to do with that story. The story so far was about space travel. The problems I now had with expanding on this story made me think about the subject itself. Why is there so much reference to space into my music?

Obviously you are influenced by what you see and hear. I very much like repetitive music, Drexciya, Kraftwerk, Claro Intelecto, Gosub to name a few artists, because it creates a space for the mind to go on an wander on its own within the theme the music is giving. A lot of that music, and any Electro and Techno music has a futuristic theme,  probably historically also because of the way it is made, with machines. References to space travel aren’t hard to find either. But that is generally speaking. Why was it so much of interest to me?

I’m an 80’s child. So space, space travel, time travel (back to the future anyone), cyberpunk and synth pop – had various editions of Synthesizer Greatest on repeat – were present in abundance. After a long deep search in my 80’s mind – and luckily I had quite a good memory as a kid – I found the first moment that I could remember that sparked my interest in space. Which was the sighting of the comet Halley way back in 1986. More than 30 years ago – I was six at the time – I was standing in the back garden with my father staring at a blurred blob in the sky. The arrival of the comet near earth had been over the news for weeks. Of course I couldn’t remember the date. I now know it was Saturday, March 8. It probably was one of the first times I came across something so tangibly greater than me, the town I was living in or anything I new for that matter.

Now knowing this all a new story formed and new tracks were made. The story wasn’t per se chronological in order, but had more a theme of ‘wanting to know’, about ‘being curious about something’, about wonder. The roundtrip Halley takes and/or the trip it takes to find Halley. A story that basically doesn’t need to have an end or beginning per se. Just like the trip Halley takes, which in the big scheme of things is essentially a loop with some fluctuations if you look at it in detail.

A selection of tracks was made together with Luca, who also had some suggestions I didn’t think might work in the first place, but worked out more than excellent in the end. I suggested to also make the artwork myself and when I got the okay, I incorporated the story as much as I could in the artwork. Later on I found a beautiful reference about Halley:

“a star which appears once every seventy years that makes the captains of ships err”. – Talmud (1st century AD).

If you have Cosmophilia, you can find the whole sentence split up in parts onto all the sides of the record, scratched on to each side near the center.

So that’s the story behind Cosmophila. In the end I hope the album -with the help of some squelchy basslines, lush pads and robotic beats – gives you enough time and space to have your mind wander on its own and make up a story yourself.

You can get Cosmophilia at stores like Junorecords and Deejay.de

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosmophilia out on YAY

frontMy first vinyl release is a full 9 track album, double LP release on the Italian label YAY (Varese IT/Berlin GE). YAY has been releasing quality music by artists with a very distinct sound like Titonton Duvante, Alex Picone and Audri.

This release is rather special to me, because I also made all the artwork – sleeve and stickers – for it.

Available in record stores across Europe and online via Juno, Decks and other stores.

More on YAY here: www.yayevent.com

Aknowledgements:

XLR8R’s Best of 2016: New Artists: Full article

Reviews:

XLR8R: Full review

As well as being a landmark release for YAY, Cosmophilia will serve as a portfolio for Canvax; a fresh talent, deservedly dug out of electro obscurity. The complete LP should be praised for its diversity, a confidently executed balancing act between all shades of the genre.

Technobass: Full review

If you love hard-edged, but emotive, creative, and acidic Electronic Music, you will love this 2xLP from beginning to end. It encompasses many great styles in a very forward-thinking way that is adventurous to listen to.

Listen to some snippets here:

Upcoming LP Cosmophilia

cosmophilia_soundcloud_coverFinally I can share this! After a year or so of working on it I can tell you that my LP Cosmophilia will be released on October 31. My first vinyl release (!) will be released by the amazing YAY label. The double LP features 9 tracks and I’ve also designed the cover and the labels.

Read the release announcement on xlr8r here
More about YAY here

Lift Off EP

CoverLift Off EP – Label: Tropical Underground – Released 20 April 2016

Lift Off is the 23th release on the Tropical Underground label, featuring four aggressive Techno tracks with lots of Acid and Electro flavour.

Available via Junodownload:

and Clone digital
and Beatport
and iTunes

Geartalk: MFB Nanozwerg

nanozwergFirst in what I hope to be a long series about the gear I use, you might also call it ‘ye old synth porn babbling’, but in my defense, my porn collection is very small 🙂 Cut to the chase, the MFB Nanozwerg, what’s it about?

The Nanozwerg is an analog mono synthesizer by MFB, a small company from Berlin. It has a vco featuring Triangle, Saw, Square, Pulse, PWM waveforms, noise a sub osc, a filter with four modes, LP, HP, BP and notch and an audio input, a LFO with waveforms such as Tri, Saw, Square, S/H, LFO and One-shot mode. Pretty standard stuff so far, but it has some cool features which make this little box stand out.

The VCO can modulate the VCF for those nice analog FM sounds and the LFO goes well into the audio range. But that’s not all. On the back of the Nanozwerg, besides the expected MIDI in socket, you get CV in and outs: gate in, VCF in, VCA in, LFO in, LFO out. Some more cool things about the LFO: because it goes well into audio range, you can feed it into the filter’s input and use it as a sort of second oscillator. Sort of, because it’s maintaining its pitch, so it will not be in pitch with the melodies you play all the time. And it gets even better. Because there’s CV in for the LFO, it can modulate itself, but it can of course also be modulated by another CV source.  The Nanozwerg has another trick up its sleave: When the LFO is modulated, the CV output of the LFO is increased and its frequency extended some more.

So how does it sound? It can do all the bread and butter monosynth sounds like basses and leads. I especially like the Saw, Pulse and the Sub osc on its own sounds very tight and deep. The Triangle wave is the weakest waveform in my opinion, it lacks punch and it seems to drop a bit in volume compared to the other waveforms. But because the VCO can modulate the VCF, CV ins and outs and the LFO featuring some nice tricks it can do a lot more. It shines in filthy metalic sounds, but used in moderation, it also can do the typical bass sounds and leads, but with some added dirt to it.

I’ve recorded some examples, mostly filthy stuff,  which you can listen to here:

I just love this  yellow beast because it has lot of character in such a tiny box (dimensions about 140 x 130 x 35 millimeters and less than half a kilo in weight) and used it quite extensively on my Manufacturing EP.  And because of its CV ins and outs it plays very nice with my Arturia Microbrute, but that will be another post…

Limited edition cassette

0004709788_10I had the urge to make some limited edition audio cassettes which ended up being this small batch of 25 cassettes featuring five different designs. It’s a re-release of my debut album plus added bonus tracks. Still got some lying around, check the ‘buy’ link below for more info.

Raised by gypsies:

I don’t remember much of 2012 except for the fact that it was the year my son was born so most of the music kind of flew past me (The week he was born, the number one song was Rihanna “We Found Love”) so I can’t say whether or not this was ahead of its time really, but the fact that it could be up there as one of the best release among its peers three years later seems to say it all.

Full review here:
Review by Raised by gypsies

Manufacturing EP

lasergumReleased on the Finnish label Lasergum, Manufacturing features four of my darkest Electro tracks yet.