The Wire

In Writing

The Bug: Portal of Modular Worship

September 2014

Kevin Martin (aka The Bug) shares his favourite online hubs of modular synth bliss. His latest album Angels & Devils was reviewed in The Wire 366.

Muff Wiggler
The finest info-gathering hub for modular junkies. It's a place for both nerds and newbies to monitor a very fast paced forum of opinionated, but generally hater-free updates. If you don’t live in New York, London or Berlin and you plan to make expensive, speculative purchases with nothing but YouTube clips to guide you, this site is essential. Apart from the great forum, there are many other useful sub sections, from the highly active For Sale, to the manufacturers’ info groups. I often find new revelations here, like the Qu-Bit Electrobix-Nebulae audio file player/granular oscillator.

Schneidersladen
The finest module outlet in Germany that has become my wallet-draining nemesis. This regularly updated website offers virtually every single new module on the market. I can get lost for hours in the Kreuzberg based premises, as the pressure-free staff let me browse their offerings. I think my last purchase was the Mutable Instruments Braids macro-oscillator.

What The Future Sounded Like
A fantastic documentary tracing the development of the EMS VCS3 synthesiser. VCS3's sister synth, the EMS Synthi A, was my first modular purchase many years ago, and one which subsequently played a major role in Techno Animal's live and recording armoury. The VCS3 was used extensively on early Pink Floyd and Roxy Music records, and it was this synth model that Sonic Boom (Pete Kember of Spacemen 3), hooked me on the incredible potential of modulars. Playing on his VCS3 was my first hands on, knob twiddling experience of a modular synthesizer. I was immediately addicted, due to their mutational and almost alchemical possibilities.

I Dream Of Wires: Hardcore Edition
A great trailer for the recent I Dream Of Wires documentary, which fittingly reflects the current explosion in modular synthsizer development, on a global scale. The film really captures the genuine energy rush of many sound manipulators brilliantly, as it echoes and tracks the resurgence of interest in the area of progressive synthesis, the new avenues opened up by the boom in the modular world and its now far more affordable modules.

Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe Perfomance
A mesmeric live set by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, one of the finest exponents of modular synthesis who thankfully, totally foregoes the arid, plink-plonk of the worst modular casualties with his works of breathtaking immersion. Having first seen him play with drone group OM, I immediately investigated his work further. I was completely blown away by Rob's engrossing psychedelia and the subtle intricacies presented in his live shows, where his modular manipulation is second to none and his voice ascends to the heavens.

Synth Workshop – Make Noise
Tony Rolando, the brainiac behind the incredible Make Noise imprint explains how his modules work. Make Noise is arguably the most exiting company to emerge from this Eurorack synths renaissance. The massive hunger for innovation and huge leaps forward, presented by modules like the Rene or Phonogene, are testaments to the amazing foresight and enthusiasm that is at the core of Rolando's cutting-edge strategies.

Eliane Radigue: Adnos I-III
Trailer for one of my favourite synthesizer compositions, Adnos I–III, by Eliane Radigue, the queen of drone. Radigue's glacially slow resonances have had me hooked for many years. Her fascination with subtle change and shifting moods, since the late 1960s, are mirrored in her minute attention to detail, dedication to her art and the astonishing beauty of her output. If you thought Autechre were single-minded and thorough, now check Radigue for ultimate, uncompromising sonic otherness. Sometimes as deep as a Rothko painting, her minimalism is a shock to the ear and a joy for my mind. She’s is a true synthesizer goddess.

Gil Mellé: The Andromeda Strain soundtrack
Finally, The Andromeda Strain, an outrageously pioneering, 100% electronic, film score released in 1971. It brilliantly fused modular composition, musique concrète and tape manipulation to a jaw dropping degree of future shock exploration, yet it accompanied a Hollywood blockbuster. I swear the soundtrack makes AFX sound backward in comparison. Its composer Gil Mellé, was allowed to break every film score rule and give a sci-fi movie an absolutely suitable sound field of advanced synthesis. Weighing in at less than 30 minutes it contains more quality in that short time than most EDM composers can summon in the span of a career.

Comments

"who thankfully, totally foregoes the arid, plink-plonk of the worst modular casualties" I find this a strange sentiment to espouse on a "Portal of Modular Worship." Surely interested newcomers will be discouraged to learn that only the elite deserve respect in this hallowed undertaking. As a humble keyboard player who thinks as little as possible about his signal chain I cannot imagine making similar statements about Herbie Hancock or Chick Corea. It is highly redolent of elitist hipster-ism and gives the impression that even its most devoted proponents find something distasteful about their fellow modular enthusiasts.

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