Combining modular, 90s rack-mounts and modern synths

in #musicforlife2 months ago

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Hey fellow musicians, producers, fellow synth nerds and all Hivians!

My track 135 Senses just reached 1000 streams on Spotify so I thought it a good time to talk about the making of the track!

My goal was to take some of the bits from my live improvised shows and turn them into a track that I could release. In particular, I really love layering melodies and beats created by the modular with warm pad chords that I play live on a synth.

Combining a healthy dose of randomness to the patterns and sounds in the modular, I can create or imply chords on the synth on top of that to create interesting textures and musical progressions that I would never come up with using either instrument by itself.

The keyboard synth and modular have such different strengths - I'm trying to combine those strengths and create something unique. And in my shows there are always some bits I really like - so I really wanted to capture the essence of some of those with this track.

Here's a video of me in the studio talking through the equipment used...

Gear Nerd Bit

There are plenty of shots of my modular and Rev 2 synth in my existing videos but I thought the gear nerds out there might like a close up of the two rackmount units used - and if you were doing anything in music production in the 90s you probably had (or like me, read about in Sound on Sound but couldn't afford at the time) these:


ultra proteus.jpeg

Released in 1994, this features what E-MU called Z-PLANE filters - basically highly complex filters with the ability to morph between 2 completely different filter models during the duration of a sound. It's pretty hard to program and I'm only just getting my head round it. However, 135 Senses uses (of all things) the preset Harp sound!



Programmable Multi-effects unit originally released in 1989. Industry standard at the time in terms of power, subsequently various upgraded and mini versions were released throughout the 1990s. I used this to process the Harp sound from the Ultra Proteus on 135 Senses.

Project 135

135 Senses features on the Project 135 Compilation from Electronic Music Alliance, released on Electronic Alliance Records on 27th August 2021.

Here's a little video promo mix with a bit of all 15 tracks on the album - from 15 different electronic artists! (thanks to DaveyHub at EMA for the audio for the promo mix!)

Hive Musicians!

The album includes tracks from two other great artists that are very active on Hive - namely @stickupboys and @gribbles. Both of whose music I enjoy and respect very much. You can check it out in full over on Bandcamp:

From track to Radio Jingle?

So, this week my radio show got an intro/jingle and it's based on 135 senses, with some parts removed to make space for a radio style voice-over.

All for the people who are quick off the mark and join the stream in the first 32 seconds whilst I'm still sound checking...

I'll be developing both the graphics and music for future shows - what do you think of the first cut?


Wow - 3 videos in one post! Not sure if I've broken some kind of Hive etiquette with that one - I'm sure someone will point it out if so?

Have a great day all!


Lol nice work and all looking and sounding good !PIZZA

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Oh can you stop making music looks so is spoiling my sense of calm!

Haha - ok just for you I'll start taking some photos when my studio is in chaos for an 'out-take' post!


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Nice that will make me feel better

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wow, i have a 100 friends with modulars and ive never seen one mounted on a wall!

100 friends with modulars! Where are these people?! Would love to get to know some more.

And yeah the case system is actually pretty handy - they are made by London Modular and have a bunch of accessories - desk mount, wall mount, folding suitcase style. There's even a gig bag for which I use with my portable case (probably a post coming about that soon!)


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you have a nice looking rig!...yeah unfortunately none on hive...everyone still loves web 2.0 because its the 90s, i guess.

heres an older studio pic-i got in to modular from a pal that sold me a bunch of frac stuff really cheap but started getting into eurorack because the modules are cheaper and more plentiful

and heres a more recent shot of just euro, but a lil blurry (and covered by cables)


good luck wiggling!

Wow, what a crazy setup!
Nice record collection!

Hey - thanks for the pictures of your setup - I love other people's studio and modular pictures!

There's something about the space we work in as musicians - especially I think electronic musicians. We each have a unique setup that works for us in a space - and if you're like me it's constantly evolving,

Looks like you have quite a bit of older gear in there yourself - I can't make out the details of most of the individual pieces - but I can identify an old Akai sampler front right and what I think are a couple of 90s sound modules. Would be very interested in details and how/when you use all this stuff and what your workflow is!

And yes - I did fear that I wouldn't find any other modular people on Hive - but now I have. At least there are 2 of us! Happy patching!

DRUMOPERATOR is probably the best/ fanciest modular user i came across on hive, i know they do streams on twitch or whatever, i would recommend checking them out, although i don't think they post here regularly.

as for 90s modules, i think you had posted about the ultra proteus with the zplane filters, that one looks great, as for 90s type stuff, i have the procussion, mo phatt, and proteus 1000...and a couple of 90s boss drum machines. i record on a tascam 32 track (can do up to 8 tracks at a time) and then mix down on a computer. i have a busted seauential circuits max thats voices are all messed up (got it for free) and some elektron gear. good eye on the akai-an old 3.5 inch disk sampler... this past year i have been trying to get into the mpc live (not pictured) ..which i enjoy very much for its ease and capabilities

Ah cool - thanks for pointing me at drumoperator - now there are 3 :)

So basically your process sounds out of the box/Dawless until the final mixing stage. My setup is currently out of the computer (mostly modular based) for live stuff - but for tracks I use whatever inspires me at the time to start the track and then I get that into Ableton and add soft synths and effects there.

yeah idon't really know anything about ableton or sequencing from a computer...i still edit on audition 3...for better or for worse.

oh - btw how are you integrating the modular into the rest of your hardware setup/tracks?

so, i can sequence the modular through my elektron analog 4, which works great, or i can midi to voltage or gate from the paia fatman. sometimes i patch the modular into the minibrute to add voices ... i havent really gotten into doing midi from the mpc yet

Ah cool nice one - I'm sequencing within the modular for live and though I do have a midi to CV converter I normally just record the audio out of the modular if I want to take it into the computer. I can also sequence my Bass Station Rack from the modular as it has CV.

Nice one mate very interesting. We have a rackmount EMU Extreme Lead, from the same era. It has a few of the ROM soundsets, but best of all it is bright yellow. Yummy! There is a lot of menu diving, but once you get in there everything is fairly well structured. We too find it benefits from going through rackmount FX, in this case a Lexicon MPX550.
Great minds eh?


Nice one on the extreme Lead - love the yellow! I always wanted a Mo'Phatt - I mean who wouldn't want something this colour?!!


re: menu diving - I'm pretty sure using any of this old gear isn't sensible - but who wants to make music sensibly?!

Ooo that is sexy! And yes, exactly, sensible music making?
We have the Mo'Phatt ROM in our EMU actually, it has a not unpleasant but not cool old school hip hop vibe.

We are too too alike! Maybe we should do a contest to make a track using E-MU modules?! I thing @quinnertronics in the comments above could be in - he actually has a MoPhatt!

yeah, i really like the proteus line and the variety of sounds you can get, even though they are fairly digital sounding and the filters...don't necessarily sound the best- the random patch generation is amazing!

at one point i had an mp7 command station and i had high hopes for it-but there was something wrong with it and it would make these random glitch noises so i had to get rid of it.

I'm trying to think of what roms i have in them (because i have a bunch of the jv1080 roms too) but i think i have the classical one? the jv is great, its just easier to edit on the proteus' in my opinion.

and yes, I'm down for an e-mu challenge of some sort!

Yeah that sounds like fun, some sort of "digital rackmount sound generators" showdown. Might be a bit unfair though as I also have a Kawai K1r and a Yamaha TG55...

i have a kawai k1 that is circuut bent with a patchbay and a yamaha sy 77, although it needs a new battery

Ah noice; I love the TG55. I expect the SY77 is a step up from that.

its actually quite great! full size keys and multiple faders and whatnot, it was a lot easier to edit then the other yamaha fm i had, im thinking tx802 or something? the one that was a fancier rack dx7- that thing was a pain...but i need to open it up and solder a battery in and its just been sitting there for over a year now, probably

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