Digital Processing Techniques

Here we present some ideas around combining digital processing techniques with analogue synthesis.

There were some major innovations in techniques that originated within emerging digital scenes, most notably from the artist Telepath who formed half of seminal act 2814 alongside Lucid HKE. Here at Aether Machine we attempted to follow this path.

Drone as longform music began a new resurgence around 2010 with the booming eurorack modular world, but this was conceptually and sonically quite different to work by Vaporwave acts. Synthesizer drones tend to be direct, putting the listener at the centre of an emerging sonic event, whereas digital drones create very immersive soundscapes that convey the experience of being within a specific artificial environment. Along with art that helps enliven this artificial place, the results are very effective.

An approach towards this is presented below using Native Instruments Reaktor. The core of this technique is the combination of Granular delay inside the feedback loop of a reverb. This creates a wash of harmonically complex sound. It is suspected this technique is older than the Vaporwave community, likely being used by Brian Eno with an Eventide Multi Effects unit, and also in the Valhalla DSP Shimmer module.

Breaking it down into a Reaktor ensemble gives more possibilities for integration into a complex multi-mode studio, for example if using an outboard filter in the feedback loop, or the EQs inside a desk or mixer, where a highpass or lowpass cut can allow for more extreme feedback, or a boost can give haunting formants.

The ensemble as shown is designed to respond to midi triggers from a Sherman Filterbank, and the feedback loop is through the soundcard into the analogue domain. This should be looped back to the start via a mixer or summing module if using this patch standalone, the grain delays work without the gates but they could be replaced with other triggers, hardware or software.

Aside from changing the feedback loop, the main forms of modulation are grain length/distance and the pitch.

Audio example:

Reaktor ensemble.