It’s the other West Coast – but one that until recently got far less play in the broader modular world. Now, the folks at Random*Source are shipping years of work (including the involvement of creator Serge Tcherepnin himself) in a Eurorack module. It’s called the GTO, and behind a simple panel lurks a wild amount of possibilities. Real Serge in Euro. GTFO.

Okay, back up – even I am a little late to the Serge party, but yes, “West Coast” synthesis generally denotes inventor Serge Tcherepnin in the same breath as Don Buchla. I’ll leave to other folks to debate whether we should be using West Coast as a descriptor at all, but this is at least the deep end of the pool as far as weird and interesting patching.

There’s just not a whole lot of hardware out there, and not nearly as much documentation. That in turn means in turn fewer software models and less knowledge in general. But over the past few years, that has started to change, with a passionate gathering of Serge lovers scattered internationally. (I expect we’ll catch up with a few at Superbooth in Berlin next month.) And if you ever get bored of the same cookie-cutter patches and sounds, hanging around with the Serge crew might be a cure.

The folks at Random*Source are doing a number of projects as Serge Modular, reviving the vintage hardware and adding new ideas. They brought on Serge Tcherepnin for guidance in 2018. There’s a full-sized 4U project and some integrated instruments.

Those instruments are major investments, which is why the GTO is exciting. It’s the first to ship in the company’s range of Serge for Eurorack. At 420 EUR, it’s not the cheapest module, but you get a rich range of possibilities.

And let’s say again – now shipping, this is a new Serge Tcherepnin design.

It’s actually hard to describe what it is, because it’s fundamentally multipurpose. It’s –

  • A slew and sample module, for both audio and CV
  • A dual oscillator
  • A filter
  • A bitcrusher

You can add lag effects, nice portamentos, low-frequency filtering, stepped and pulsing effects. It’s really a voltage-lover’s module – it’s all about patch programming. (This being modular, though, you can put this next to modules that are completely opposite in philosophy, which has its own appeal.)

I would resist the temptation to directly compare this to a complex oscillator or source of uncertainty on the Buchla side, but on the other hand, looking at this you can see how Don and Serge get grouped together. It’s not wrong. The fact that they’re two very different designers makes this refreshing.

And yes, some folks may have seen this before. With the component shortage easing, you can expect 2023 to be The Year We Make The Things We Teased A Few Years Ago. But that’s a good thing.

Thanks to Ralf for reaching out on this one and hello to Frankfurt! I’ll make sure we find out more, so feel free to ask any questions.

Serge GTO