If you like dirt in your distortion, now you can have … literal dirt. Like, a big pile of Earth inside a Eurorack, conditioning an amplifier circuit and producing distortion. That kind of dirt.

I don’t want to say that Eurorack buyers will now buy anything, but you be the judge: 40 buyers sold out the first run of the ERD/ERD “Earth Return Distortion” and filled up the wait list. (What I don’t know is whether anyone took the manufacturer up on the sale offer – send dirt from a cool place, get a discount.)

Call it Goth Electronics. Builder Martin Howse, based between London and Berlin, has in the past built weirdo noise synths with names like the Black Death and Dark Interpreter. Mater Tenebrarum—Our Lady of Darkness looks a little like a Doctor Who prop builder decided to get into DIY circuit making. Now, Martin wants to “infect and contaminate” the world of Eurorack. It’s not clear whether this is a product teaser or a threat.


Under the rubric of psychogeophysics, Martin’s research in general explores the way sound signal can be transformed by its surroundings. On ERD/ERD, that means the module responds to variations in electrical and atmospheric interference. And more ideas are coming. One has “viral” code that runs on its CPU to generate different waveforms. Another will have a radioactive source inside to generate true random waveforms. Another is – a speech synth/vocoder, though I don’t know if the “WORM” part is meant to be taken literally.

Sounds, uh… erm… pristine?

And the upcoming “infection” module sounds… uh… like a velvet fog. A gentle lullaby. (You Eurorack folks really do have a sizable budget for modules, don’t you? Okay. Just asking. — ducks.)

The same interests have lead Martin to build electromagnetic detectors, an art installation that attempts to make a computer out of earth, a circuit in mud (pictured), and more. There seems to be a new genre emerging here. (On the subject of electromagnetic signals, see also the LOM microphones we covered earlier, though there the emphasis was on capturing “delicate” sounds rather than contaminating signal with the outside world.)


More modules are coming in 2015/2016. Now, I have to say, I love it. After all, if you’re going to go weird, don’t go a little weird – that might just lead to something that isn’t terribly useful. Go a lot weird, and you wind up with something that’s part art, part product.

Plus, outside of Eurorack, I find Martin’s research and art experiments fascinating. Have a look:

ERD modular eurorack series

micro research – Martin Howse [London/Berlin]