Well, we've just about reached the end of March and I'm killing time waiting for Ableton to get done munching on a huge multitrack set. Soooo...you know what it's time for: KICK ASS! March 2018 edition, in which I round up the best of the promising new modules on ModularGrid. So let's jump right into the fray, shall we?
1) Schlappi Engineering Interstellar Radio. The name's a little misleading; for those of you expecting something like the Radio Music or Evaton's shortwave receiver...nope, this ain't that. What it is, though, is this hideous, sound-ruining monstrosity that should be a must-have for anyone doing harsh noise, power electronics, old-school industrial, glitch or no-fi, and anything else musically harmful along those lines! I saw all of the demos of this, and it is apparently totally incapable of behaving nicely. It's 14 hp of sonic HATE...and if you're the sort that loves to attack listeners' hearing and sensibilities, you have GOT TO have one of these. “Merzbow, the home game version” in a module? Spot-frickin-ON! Strap one of these onto a chain of Gristleizer modules, and expect Homeland Security to come knockin' PDQ.
2) Mutable Instruments Plaits. Braids is back...and BETTER! More functions, smaller size, and cheaper to boot. Olivier Gillet has given us what he feels is the 'perfected' version of Mutable's much-loved digital VCO. I'm not disagreeing! A total redesign of the original, adding new operation modes and 100% LFO capability. Not much explaining necessary here; you all know what this is. Give 'em your money NOW!
3) Alchemical Audio Touch Plate Controller. Presumably designed for Moog's Eurorack offerings, this control surface clearly has more possible uses than that. And it has its own 12V input, too, meaning you can use it separately in a specially-designed case. Not a lot of info, either on MG or their Facebook page, but the functionality appears pretty obvious, and for only $150. Yeah, touch controllers on this scale are usually spendy things, but this blows that trend. Knowing the general inventiveness of the Eurorack crowd, I just know that some of you are going to latch onto one of these and take it off in a whole new direction. And it even OUTPUTS MIDI...which, to me, feels like an excuse to bust out Max for Live and build something interesting for it.
4) Aemit EVC Filter. EVC stands for 'Everything Voltage Controlled'. They ain't lyin'! Plus, this is kind of unusual in that it's a 4-pole state-variable; you usually see 2-pole versions of this, so that one detail ups the sonic game. Plus, two of these can be tandem-controlled by Aemit's EVC+ expander, making the possible uses and results even wilder. This demands a second look from anyone looking to get a really new filter sound from their build. A little spendy, perhaps, but I get the impression that you'd be getting what you're paying for here.
5) Klavis Mixwitch. This is a strange one. Is it a mixer? Yes. Is it a signal switch? Yes again. Is it a CV processor? Yup. Is it a randomizer? Yeah, it's that as well. Basically, if you do a lot of tinkering with elaborate modulation schemes, you're going to want one of these puppies. It's another one of those 'Swiss Army Knives', this time for tampering with loads of control applications. Also, those into the generative sequencing thing will find oodles of uses for this, due to its random control signal switching ability. So odd, but so brilliant!
6) Gibbon Digital ALAK. One of the stranger and smaller pattern sequencers I've seen. The ALAK uses geometrical shapes across four tracks, rotating the shapes in a circular pattern on its circular sequencing matrix to get the triggers to fire. Plus, you can alter the shapes on the fly via a phase-change adjustment to skew the geometrically-based behavior. It looks simple enough...but it's got functionality hidden in it in spades! Again, the generative-school folks should have a look into this one!
7) SOMA Synths LYRA-8 FX. OK, stop right here. Go and find a demo video for the LYRA-8. Watch what the effect section does to/for the sound. Amazing, right? The LYRA-8 is one of the very best drone synths around right now, and this module is the 'voodoo' behind it, now for use anywhere in a Eurorack system. If you watched the LYRA-8's videos, I really shouldn't have to explain much more what this module's capable of. Downright amazing...a 'gotta-get' for the drone or ambient crowds, or anyone else who likes the lo-fi delay-warp sound of the LYRA-8.
8) Tinrs Wobbler. Good lord...the tricks this thing has up its sleeve! Calling this just an LFO really doesn't scratch the surface of the modulation mojo this thing's about. There's some modulation models in this that people are going to drool over, such as the 'twang' curves, the double-pendulum mode, and all of the other trickery that it's capable of using to create modulation behavior, some of which would take several modules to pull off otherwise. And it also does random functions, too...and way more. The real shock, though, is that this all fits in only 12 hp! What...the...HELL!? So, basically, if you're designing something small and portable, this might well be THE complex modulation source, but it's got abuse potential in a large rig, too. Another 'you gotta see it to believe it' module, this.
9) 2hp Pluck. OK, we all know that the point of 2hp's stuff is that it fits into...well, 2 hp. But many of their devices work nicely in large-scale builds, too, to add a dash of extra capabilities in a teensy space. This, however, is way beyond anything I'd expect in 2 hp: a Karplus-Strong modeled voice in, yep, 2 hp. Totally amazing, really. Most physical modelers are much larger affairs, but this tiny little thing pulls it off in the absolute minimum (OK, yeah, it's not 1 hp, but what do you seriously expect?) of space and makes exploring this synthesis mode a 'why not?' sort of situation. So...why not?
10) G-Storm Electro DC571. Brilliant! A two-channel, 80s-style compressor in just 8 hp. The modular drum crowd's going to eat these up, I should think, because it's a small-space solution for making drum sounds really pound, adding both some distortion (if you overdrive it) and 'glue' for whatever it's used on to punch the dynamics way up. No pricing yet (they promise 'soon' on that), but even though this is a limited run device (sadly!), I'm gonna bet that it'll be worth the ca$h for those doing live work who need sounds that cut thru the mix, or, again, the drum module userbase.
OK...that's pretty much it for March. Kind of a short list, but that's expected with Superbooth coming up soon. We should see a veritable deluge of mind-boggling stuff in the weeks following that event. Definitely going to be worth the wait to see what pops up if this is what we see in an 'off' month!