Clock Trippin, Poly Rhythm RENÉ from Richard Devine on Vimeo.

Analog both in the electrical sense and in the way it combines continuous, non-discrete steps, the René is a step sequencer with a difference. The hardware uses a two-dimensional array of knobs to produce non-linear, complex rhythmic patterns from some four clock and two CV inputs. I think the proof is in watching it above, in a video this week by Richard Devine, employing a fully modular, analog working method – no computers in sight. Because, really, people who use computers and drum machines are total posers. You’ll never find any of them ’round here. Why, their music is full of numbers and destroys your brain and you probably can’t stop using Facebook long enough to even finish a track.

Kidding. In all seriousness, I think musically, compositionally, this sequencer arrangement is fascinating. I’m still struggling for a way to describe it — the creators mysteriously say “cartesian sequencer,” “geometric sequencer,” “planular sequencer,” “axis sequencer,” “non-linear sequential tuned voltage map” — but producing non-linear, asymmetrical sequences of rhythms is something as fundamentally musical as it is fundamentally analog. It’s also fairly deeply influenced by the pioneering work of Don Buchla, years ago. There’s plenty here to inspire your weekend musically, whether you’re sitting down with a computer, an analog modular (you lucky bastard), or a pencil and manuscript paper (affordable in any economy).

And yes, the computer folks will be getting at least a little drool on their QWERTY keyboards and mice with this rig from Richard:

Analogue percussion performance patch experimenting with tripping the clock input to get different polyrhythms on the MakeNoise René. The MakeNoise Brains, K4815 Pattern Generator, Z8000, 4ms RCD, SCM and Pressure points are also being clocked with René from a single LFO.

Sound sources for the drums. One noise source from the Cwejman S1 mkII to make the long clap percussion sounds. Kickdrum made on the Cwejman BLD, and snare drum made from the Synthesis Technology E350. High hats courtesy of the Malekko NoiseRing.

The Cwejman is a truly beautiful piece of gear and design. too. And I love the design of all the MakeNoise modules; it’s some brilliant stuff (see below). Sweet dreams this weekend, folks – see you on the flipside.

  • digid

    So, where one would begin if interested in analogue synthesis in the shape of a euro rack?

    I notice Analogue Heaven has some nice suggestions for Doepfer racks. Prices start at $1600, which is pretty hefty, but I know prices on analogue stuff is supposed to hurt, so I guess I could take it.

    Anyone dare to recommend anything?

  • This is an awesome display of what can be accomplished when you have a large enough system (with the right modules) in play. Getting into modular synths (of any format) usually isn't inexpensive, as most of these companies are hand-making (and hand designing all the circuits) all the modules. It is by far the most rewarding way of sound design (for me personally) and love the ability to make music without a computer – no offense to a digital music site!

    The Doepfer starter systems are absolutely great starting points, as you basically get a 2 VCO monosynth with modulation and MIDI control. You can then learn the inner workings of what each module's role is and can always expand where needed.

    Thanks for sharing Richard.

  • goiks

    @digid- spend some time reading at it's fairly easy and inexpensive to build and power your own small enclosure and start buying used modules.

  • vgaforest

    +1 for lots of friendly people willing to give advice and lots of good deals on used modules, especially in euro!

  • Kim

    For those of you who cant afford this you can get the same style of sounds from this free software here called Analog box. If you grab this make sure to get Gallery and Library projects to get you started.

  • peter

    I just downloaded the Rene manual to figure out what was going on here and realized I've been doing the same thing in Plogue Bidule. It has an xy pad module, so I was multiplying each axis by a constant and then using the value changes to trigger steps of a linear sequence while I dragged the mouse around. This giving me some more ideas though… Yay for cheap stuff inspired by expensive stuff!

  • kid versus chemical

    Who can afford these analog setup's?  If I had the scratch a modular would be the first thing I would buy, but if you have a family to support it's pretty tough.  I would probably have to double my pay to have the disposable cash,  and I don't do to bad btw.  I suppose if I was still single I could pull it off, I could live off ramen noodles personally if I had cwejman modular to play with….

  • Peter Kirn

    Ah, yes, but that's the beauty of these things… If you understand the underlying idea of the thing, you don't need a particularly large budget. Of course, I did already explicitly say that in the article. 😉

    Seriously, it doesn't have to be analog. It really doesn't. It doesn't have to be digital, either, despite the name of this site. (long story.)

  • poopoo

    If you like the physical sequencer side of modular synths but don't have a big budget, then DIY Lunetta's are worth checking out. They are really simple circuits with a few cheap components and are ideal for crazy clock/sequencing ideas.

    Have you seen what a decent piano costs?

  • I know it's not quite as professional but my friend and I made a synth module that plugged into a TV and used a sega controller as input that was similarly bizarre with making sequences (drawing for a bouncy dot).

    We showed it off at a maker faire in detroit as a complement to our voltage controlled synth we made but nobody seemed interested and has since been scrapped for new projects.

    Here's a link to a clip:

  • It's the knobs, it's all about the knobs and the fun of experimenting and ultimately getting something musically astonishing out of your modular. All gather under the light of the modular splendor, past and present reunited and believe!
    Now is the time to get into it, it is the Golden Age of Modular!!!

  • mat

    great piece of electronic art.
    …“non-linear sequential tuned voltage map”…I liked that
    Also I think it is not only about having a big modular rig – you can make some kind of cut between sequencer and soundsource.
    (a analog rack might be worth it for sound and sound experience!)
    I definitley like blinking lights and and nonlinear
    -randomlike(?)- behavior
    nice sequencing game/idea too!
    can it send midi out or anything?

  • vinayk

    I'm putting together one of these at the moment – but on a smaller scale. A nice 6unit case cam be bought for $350 or so. I'm getting a friend to build me a wooden case instead (a bit larger), and have bought the rails and powerboards for it for about $300 total. Then whatever the wood will cost. 

    But after that initial outlay, you can just start adding single modules at a time over a long period of time (which is what I plan to do.) you only need a few modules to make simple sounds and then each additional module gives you more possibilities.

    So it can really be affordable – you can also DIY some of the modules an spend even less!  But more to the point it is a great little sequencer! 

  • Alessandro

    I would like to speak in defense of modular hardware and its cost.
    If you take your time building your case, shopping around, optimising space and needs, you can build a good 2vcos, 2 filters, 2 lfos, 2 adsr and VCA in one line of 19" and for fairly cheap.
    You don't have to start spending all money into a super-monster (You'll get there once you get the first taste of Eurorack). You can start with something simple thenexpand from there once you hvae saved some more

  • Really cool, I really like the sound of it.
    You can still start in modular synth using afordable pieces, if your willing to do some DIY.
    Check this DIY synth chrismas gift list: it's in french but the links are all in english.

  • Thomas

    You could start by getting a Doepfer Dark Energy and get a small Doepfer Microcase adding one more LFO-, Oscillator- and maybe another filtermodule and there you have already a fairly complex system to rock. Sequence it from your computer via USB, or MIDI, or have it run by itself.

  • Greg

    define "fairly cheap."
    I'm also not sure what is particularly awesome about this video.

  • BPT

    @Greg: What's awesome is that it's a public display of someone's really awesome expensive toys — used to make something that is basically rote for a savvy computer user.

  • Yeah!! Great to see Tony's amazing creations featured. I've been saving my pennies for Rene for a while. Almost there…