Two of Shanghai’s most adventurous experimental electronic artists have opened up their toolset, with The Envelope Sequencer is the latest to join these Max for Live treats – SEQUENCER ELECTRONICS.

Releasing the musical artifact as sound is one thing – and I absolutely recommend sitting back and listening to the wonderful music that comes out of both these artists. But a tool, toy, or generative musical machine can be just as revealing of a personality. ayrtbh (Changcun Wang) and GOOOOOSE (Han han) are improvisatory, inventive souls. If they dig into Max for Live patching, it’s to solve a practical problem in some clever way, or to break out into more imaginative musical structures.

And, well, if you think of this whole COVID-19 crisis as having started in March, in Shanghai things had already started to get pretty strange way back in January. So some of the wonderful Max for Live goodness I got to see in Shanghai in 2019 has gotten fit and finish and a whole label of Max for Live nerd candy, aka SEQUENCER ELECTRONICS. Modular fans have their favorite module makers; Sequencer Electronics is a boutique for Max for Live stuff.

On Friday, they released one of their best creations yet – the Envelope Sequencer.

What does it do? It sequences envelopes. (Hey, you asked.) But while you might have something like this buried in your mega-feature-packed synth plug-in, as a standalone device you can map any parameter anywhere in Live – which is far more useful.

It’s beautifully elegant and terrifically musical. (Han han and Changcun each love to jam live, so I notice that the stuff they build is always clear and accessible in a way that lends itself to improvisation.)

Envelope Sequencer ($15)

Modulation Sequencer is based on a similar concept, but sequences modulation values.

But there’s so much more.

Maybe you have trouble naming tracks. They have a track generator based on Markov Chains. There’s a giant random button you can map to stuff. For free, you can grab a cute – and very useful – heads-up display that shows bar position. There’s a handy calculator, too (HZ / ms / samples). $8 buys you a truly beautiful frequency shifter. Han han also made a free “gridless” de-quantizer that doubles its nerd cred by having been in The Wire.

Perhaps most sophisticated of all these tools is Gooooose’s 16 NOTES V2. Someone looking over your shoulder at the interface might presume you’re running some sort of math simulation. But the fundamental concept here is both simple and powerful. Multiple step sequencers interact with one another to form more complex patterns (polyrhythms, variable note lengths, sequencers sequencing other sequencers for various looping structures). In turn, you can map sequences to various attributes of your music for different effects.

16 NOTES V2.

I hope to write an article on just this another time, but that should at least whet your appetite and perhaps make you toy around with some patterns.

Related, check LSEQ, which is a conventional 16-step sequencer but with the ability to vary note length (and generate durations).

Everything is on the store now:

And since they’re hyper-productive homebodies, both these artists have been busy with their music, too. GOOOOOSE made this video for FACT which also shows how he works – and heavily features 16 NOTES V2, though you could absolutely go a very different direction with the same tool:

And through the Shanghai label SVBKVLT, he’s been busy collaborating. The next release JAC on August 28 will see him collaborate with DJ Scotch Egg (and has remixes from the likes of the wonderful Slikback).

For Crack, he worked on this magical mix with 33EMYBW (got to see her play live in Shanghai as well; she’s also terrific):

You can also check out what Changcun has been up to via PDF (Chinese + English text)

In March, he released this wild EP of complex, raw rhythmic hyperactivity. These are good sounds to patch/code to – like a sharp jolt of sugar.

And we interviewed him separately on the topic of generative music:

It’s all as delicious as dumplings. Damn it. Seriously, I was not that long ago eating dumplings with these two. I know we’re supposed to be reflecting during this time about not traveling, but if I have to take a train back to Shanghai, would love to have your company again in person, you two! (I don’t want to keep this joy to myself, either; maybe we can write a food guide to Shanghai or something. Or I have markets here; I better work on my cooking chops. Until Wonkavision is invented, we can use CDM to share recipes and all get on the same page!)