Released: March 2020

Equipment: Modal Argon 8 synthesizer, Arturia BeatStep Pro sequencer

My music setup had changed radically in the five months since the release of Witness. Although the Blofeld was a wonderful instrument its interface was quite fiddly and could take a lot of 'menu diving' to make changes, as a consequence I'd gotten into the habit of finding a preset that was close to the sound I was after and tweaking it until I was happy with the result. This sometimes led me in directions I wouldn't otherwise have explored but could also lure me into sticking with known favourites.

My solution was to invest in a new synthesizer, the Modal Argon 8. This was, in some ways, more limited than the Blofeld but it had a much more straightforward control layout, some new tricks, and wonderfully rich and varied oscillator tones. Sadly it didn't have the Blofeld's 'holding' arpeggiator so I added a Beatstep Pro sequencer to provide repeating patterns & structures.

With this new setup I set myself another creative restriction - every sound would be built up from a simple 'init' patch. I wanted to develop my sound design skills but on a deeper level to tease out where my creativity would lead when presented with more of a blank slate as a starting point. Of course every tool tends to guide the craftsman's hands but it would be an interesting journey.

The end result was a thinner, cleaner sound with more 'freshness' than the Blofeld's complexity (at least to my ears). The song structures are simpler and there's more space for the individual tones to be heard. When I chose the name I was planning to cut down on my use of sequencing but that idea was cast aside almost immediately. At the time I was a bit dismissive of the tracks but on reflection I think they stand up pretty well.

Nascent has a simple, repeating theme with swirling chords around it. Despite its repetition there's no sequencer involved, just me playing to a metronome. I particularly like the transition to the middle eight.

Stumblefoot is more of a straightforward pop song. The Argon 8's 'ping pong' panning spices up the sequencer line although the rudimentary keyboard percussion is a bit thin at times.

Foglost is another of my pieces with a simple repeating sequence making its way through meandering chord changes and ethereal accompaniment.

Sojourner has more 'ping pong' in a jaunty little tune that features some of my best 'electronic accordion' sounds. Another nice transition into the middle eight and overall one of my favourites.

Sanguine takes things down a gear with a drifting, almost hesitant feel. I really like the chord sequence on this one.

Monotrance doubles down on the mechanical feel with more 'ping pong' and randomised tone variations. The accompaniment is deliberately sparse to emphasise the robotic core but sadly this left the bass a bit thin.

Modalities was the first pass at playing a phrase through multiple modes. I'm still not convinced by it and dropped this track from the Spotify release.