In other news – Novation is teasing an announcement with Aphex Twin for 20th of October. And it’s … something. Something synth-y? But wait – there are clues. Let’s analyze.

There are posters allegedly going up in LA, Berlin, Bristol, and London*. (heh, were Novation employees the street team for this?!) I’m happy to go hunt for one here in Berlin – we need some reason to leave the house while avoiding spreading COVID-19, so hunting for posters in the rain sounds good.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more speculation about the contents of this poster, though (click to embiggen):

Okay, so we do see some controls from a synth.

Aphex Twin aka Richard D. James has been known for hardware collaborations before, both with Novation and KORG. Those collaborations delightfully have often featured microtuning – which means they get our endorsement around these parts.

Here’s where things get interesting:

The text on the left appears to show Novation –X Station. Now that’s a name the company owns – it was the moniker for a synth-slash-controller in the first decade of this century. Or we could be getting something like Novation X Aphex Twin Bass Station II. Or more likely, AFX Station – see below. (The name of the firmware…)

But here is one giveaway – the power port so prominently in the upper left-hand corner. 9V 300 mA DC power. That narrows this to the MiniNova or the Bass Station II, as far as existing products – so then if not a version of one of those, something new presumably built on a similar platform.

The Bass Station II did already get custom firmware from one Aphex Twin – the AFX mode. Anyway, that AFX mode was really cool, released last year. Here’s what it did:

  • Zone-by-zone and key-by-key transformations of sounds
  • Drum kits inside presets
  • Fixed duration envelopes
  • Sub-oscillator controls (so the sub could be synced to the frequency of oscillator 1 – sub hard sync, excellent)
  • Oscillator glide diverge
  • Envelope retrigger count

Honestly, just re-reading that list makes me think more ideas or twists might be in store here, particularly with this much hoopla. But expect at least a BSII dressed up in custom AFX graphics and with this firmware ready to go, possibly with some other additions. Since there is this campaign, I am curious what else they might add.

BS II is likely, though, when you have a look at this:

And there’s more – here are Bass Station II controls, but with some evident silkscreen indications of microtuning features:

Remember when we were afraid the synth market would be awash with early 1970s clones and dumbed-down features? Or before that, just a bunch of preset players? Or ROMplers?

These features may be esoteric, but what makes them interesting that I think everyone can relate to is – you can make weird and complicated noises with them.

And as it happens, being weird is not something that only a tiny elite wants. Weirdness can be made to be democratic. If we need anything to keep us company this winter (sorry, southern hemisphere, summer!) – it’s that.