Sampling into Assimil8or

Dec 28, 2023 | Posts, Music

It’s been a while since I spent time in the studio. For some reason I couldn’t find the motivation or the time, even though there were ideas swirling around in my head I wanted to try. Today I decided to just flip switches and power up the spaceship.

Diving into DATA

A while ago I needed to recalibrate my Intellijel Atlantis, which was a bit of a daunting task. I know about where to plug cables, effect chains, gainstaging etc., but when it comes to voltages and frequencies, I only know enough to safely operate a Eurorack system. With a lot of trial and error and eventually realizing I had interpreted what I read completely wrong, I was able, with the aid of Mordax DATA to significantly improve the V/o tracking of Atlantis. However, I was sure that I hadn’t used DATA to its full potential and I promised myself I would dive into the module and dig into the manual sometime soon.

Soon turned out to be around two months later, but whatever, I finally managed to find the calm and time to do it today. It was worth the wait. First thing to do was update the firmware, which was easy enough. Then with the manual in hand I finally learned how to display lissajous curves and a number of other very useful (especially if I ever need to recalibrate a VCO again) functions of DATA. I left one feature for next time to explore, which is the updated clock output (now 4 instead of 2), with more div/mult values. I have been using Pamela’s New Workout for clock division and multiplication, but it seems a no-brainer to just use DATA for this, and free up 3 outputs of Pam’s for modulation.

Feeling satisfied about learning something new, I wanted to keep going. I had been playing around in my head with the idea of sampling some things around the house and use these sounds as the basis for a track. I have a Rossum Electro Music Assimil8or, which is the cadillac of Eurorack samplers, but it is quite a complex, menu-divey module. Because of this, I don’t use it as much or as extensively as I would like. I have loaded Assimil8or up with a buttload of samples, either samples I prepared myself or obscure, weird stuff scavenged off the net (think research datasets, shortwave radio, etc.). The way I usually deploy the module is to just randomly select samples from the library and mangle them with the onboard tools and shoot the result through a complex effectschain. Satisfaction guaranteed. Today I wanted to do something more deliberate.

Of course, firmware update first. Easy enough, painless. Then using Youtube as a teacher (Johno Wells has a great series on the Assimil8or), I quickly brushed up on how to sample into the module. I decided to use my Zoom H5 and the stock X/Y capsule as a mic / preamp and plugged the line out into the left input of the sampler. A few tests and the perceived complexity of the sample menu dissipated, it’s all quite intuitive, really. I walked into my living room to see what I wanted to sample of my non-digital instruments. On top of my bookcloset there is a small collection of handdrums, bongo’s, djembe’s, flutes, toypiano, etc. I decided on a big tabla drum, a cabasa and a small wooden flute. In the studio I noticed my vitamin pill bottles, so I grabbed those too.

First thing I sampled was some finger snapping, but that was just to get the levels set correctly. I did also sample a handclap. That one I liked and I think I eventually used. Next up was the cabasa. I experimented with how I played it, with one “hit” yielding the best outcome.

Up next was the flute. I haven’t dusted on top of the bookcase for a little while so the instruments were a bit dusty. A damp towel to the rescue and blowing (without breathing in) through the flute to avoid getting a lung full of dust. Damn, this thing is loud for its size! There are no holes to alter the tone, so it is just a one tone affair. Playing around a bit, I decided to try and give it some attack, blowing softer at first, then louder at the end. Nice, especially pitched down and through some reverb (ok, that’s the secret sauce in most cases)…

Up next, the pillbottles. Vitamin D3 and Vitamin B Complex Forte. Which reminds me, I should start taking these again, winter in the Northwestern Europe… Shaking the pills, there was a clear difference between the bottles. The material, the size of the pills, the size of the bottle. One shake, two shakes, a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on. I sampled and truncated, pitched down and reversed. All good.

Lastly I wanted to sample the tabla. I admit, I never learned to play the tabla. It is pretty hard instrument to play, in my estimation, but I have a hand and I can slap it (and even pretend to know what I’m doing… eh that’s called “experimenting”, right?). So I did. I decided I wanted to record a little riff, a short little beat. It took me a couple of takes and editing the sample, before I got something that had a groove to it. Adding just a touch of gated reverb from H3500BDFX, ok, this is fun. Hmm, now how am I going to incorporate this?

Working on the Cirklon, I started making a beat with all the sounds I had sampled, triggering them through the Mutant Brain module. It took a bit of messing around to find the right BPM to incorporate the riff I had sampled, but at 97 BPM and a swing value of 8 (of 16), there it was. This was a nice, organic sounding beat. And there’s nothing wrong with organic, but I like my electronics too much not too add some of those as well. Opting for the RD-9’s kick and snare to give it some additional punch, with the kick pushing and pulling a bit to match the groove of the riff, my beat was done. Well not completely, because I had to create some fills as well, but that came later.

The flute sample was interesting and gave it some atmosphere, but because it was just one note, I decided to give it a sequence, for this I used Metropolis. First I tuned the flute to a C, looping the most sustained part of the sample, so I would get some stability in pitch, then while I had been playing with the Piston Honda MkIII, feeding it some interesting modulation, alongside a tiny bit of FM and playing some melodies on the keyboard, I hit upon a somewhat Eastern sounding melody, which I duplicated (not one to one, but the same notes) in Metropolis to feed the flute sample. Now these two were playing off eachother, somewhat disjointedly and eerily.

I filtered PH through an LPF from Erica’s VCF1, which was modulated by Voltage Block. Then the PH was sent through Dual Looping Delay and both signals were given some reverb from BAM. The flute sample was sent through Roland’s 505 LPF, modulated by a tempo envelope from Kermit MkIII, paralel to that the signal was sent through 505’s BPF, modulated by a tempo LFO from Kermit, the dry signal and both filtered signals were mixed on the Manual Voltage Processor and sent through FX Aid Pro’s Lo-Fi Reverb algo.

I decided I wanted a bit of acid in the mix as well, nothing too techno, just some loose, psychedelic, jazzy acid sounds. Sequencing the TT-303V2 from Cirklon, I created a sequence with a lot of randomization, randomizing the gate, the length and the slide of each step within a certain value range. Feeding the 303 through TimeLine for some delay, and through the DP/4 for a patch that included a big plate reverb, a flanger, panning and a phaser.

I wouldn’t say it is the best track I’ve ever made, but I really like the beat and the organic feel. To me this track is more a proof of concept, I wanted to test out a certain way of working. I succeeded in doing that. I already have more ideas swirling around in my head. But I’m done for today. I am going to power down the spaceship, have some dinner and relax. Here’s the track:

 

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