The varying qualities of modular based music and performances?

Worst kid A review ever…


Richard Devine is a good example of those foundational principles I was talking about - technically and sonically, extremely impressive. But I’ve never once gotten the sense that he’s thought about long-term dynamics and movement across a track, or expressing something in particular and using those (rather fancy) tools in service of that expression rather than for their own sake.

Conversely, Autechre (not strictly hw modular in the sense we think about, but many modular musicians love them) tend to make tracks that are partly or completely generative, but that’s only part of the reason people love them - they approach every track, live or recorded, with those foundational principles in mind. They won’t expose your ears to random pingpong crap that stays in stasis and doesn’t move in any direction, or show off their technical proficiency with their tools as an end goal - instead, they use randomness and algorithmic elements to ultimately make musically expressive statements. There’s a history of foundational electronic music (house, electro, hip-hop, etc.) that they keep emphasizing and which you can hear in every track.


I think we can all agree, Autechre is the only objectively perfect electronic music. :slight_smile:

Right? Right? …crickets…

Well, I’m certainly with you!


Autechre could be considered a modular act as they do the bulk of their work now in Max, if I remember correctly, which is a modular environment. There are many modular environments across both hardware and software, and I think since the rise of eurorack popularity, that concept has been lost.

Also, musically speaking I’m wondering why there hasn’t been more mention of the output of Junkie XL or BT. Both of whom are creating “more musical, less experimental” stuff with modular systems. There’s interesting stuff happening in the local scenes but putting eurorack or other modular systems into the hands of high level musicians definitely changes the output.

This is a mate of mine and I don’t often hear people come close to what he can do with a modular and a Cirklon sequencer…


been following his channel for quite a while. Great stuff

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Hmm. No argument that there is a lot of generic modular stuff out there, but that is true of any instrument.

“you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince”


This thread obviously has the potential to inflame. However, it also provides an opportunity to learn about the motivations of musicians who perform outside of one’s preferred styles. It is skirting the edges of the former. Let’s keep it civil in the hopes for the latter.


No disrespect but I am sure you can find people that think what you do with you’re elektron gear sounds like :poop:
The least you can do is show some respect to whomever is performing in front of you … If you don’t like it, leave! Find something you do!

Isnt any music of any genre played on any instrument live, of varying quality? I mean the average guitar band in your average pub in your average town is not that likely to blow your mind.
Now take the number of average guitar bands, the number of electronic acts in the same town is a tiny fraction compared to the guitar bands. If they even exist at all.
Gems are out there, they are just rare.
I think it is impertinent to pick an instrument (eg modular) and make judgements about the quality of live shows based on the instrument.
Thriving scenes have good promoters. Good promoters book quality acts.

Personally I dont care what intstruments are being played, if the act is solid the genre to my taste and the talent present, chances are I might be into it.


He’s pretty amazing, he did a live show for us at an event in Sydney and blew everyones minds with how technically incredibl;e and intricate his music is. And his sound quality is also top notch.

Do you know ebcidic? He lays down proper improvised dancable techno on his rig, and there are lots of recorded life sets to prove it.

…so it’s possible. It’s just that generally half of the modular folk leave behind 4-on-the-floor world pretty quick, once they grasp that their cobbled together system is capable of way more than that and get lost in avant-garde, and the other half lack any taste or talent to mimick conventional EDM to begin with.
(: or that’s how I think it is.

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Surgeon doesn’t live patch either, just sayin…

This… (but you should try to like house music really… there’s no point in excluding whole genres as there are nuggets in each of them)

Why is it a problem ? 20 years ago dance music is the best dance music.

This flamebait thread was quite fun. Now can we talk about all the uninteresting guitar videos on YT ?
I don’t mean to raise a sh**storm. But, I’m just tired of going to shows full of guitar performances that usually sound very same-y: unmusical distortions, 4 notes “melodies”, and the customary blast of noise or just endless meandering wankfests.


The challenge doing “interressting” modular live sets is getting all the variation you need to keep it exiting. Some people love the typical modular drone stuff that evolves slowly. Those who get a lot of melodic variation all have pretty much the same basic setup with a advanced sequencer running the show. Sequencers with memory that gives you acces to a lot of premade sequences. There are a couple that do live sequencing with more traditional analog sequences, but they have patched up a smart and creative way to get alot of changes with minimal patching and input. Steevio is one of those. Interesting stuff.

One thing i find kind of interressting is that the ones that do the more “danceable” performances often sounds more basic. It is more comparable to what you could get with a couple of groovebox’es. Not critisizing anything here as both styles of modular performances can be awesome! Depends on the performer.

I tried making my modular into a “groovebox”. It did work to some extent, but i would never be able to “change songs” in a performance. I could do one song, and thats it. Still love my modular as it gives me so much flexibility in patching and doing stuff thats hard to do on other gear. For me sequencing in a modular is the thing i love the most. Just syncing my modular, and make several sequencers and gate rythms interact with eachother.


True that… but you don’t really have to “change songs” as much as constantly evolving it. This way you can play for hours.

IMO that’s it. It’s not about any category of instruments, it’s only about the artist.

Here some of my thoughts …

Electronic instruments have changed some important requirements for making music for the good and for the bad:

  • In the mechanical world of music instruments it takes much time and effort for an upcoming artist to develop enough physical and mental skills to play an instrument well. Often this takes years and is accompanied by learning much about music theory too.
  • Since the early days electronic instruments demonstrated that the interaction between instrument and artist can be very different comparted to mechanical instruments (example Theremin, even early synths had sequencers, particularly Buchla and his concepts)
  • This - at a first glance - takes away the indispensable effort to learn all required physical skills to master an instrument … like playing a string instrument, woodwind, brass, keyboard, drums, etc.
  • On electronic instruments we have to learn about the technical baseline and concept, which button, which switch is useful for what. It’s more intellectual rather being physical and it doesn’t take the same labor or physical training and this said, it can be done in much shorter time.
  • The advantage is, we don’t need to invest 5 or 10 years of disciplined exercising until we have developed decent physical skills. There is a possibility that we know our gear well enough after some hours, days, weeks to get an excellent sound.
  • But … we might not even have a shallow understanding of music theory, or might not have played many well written pieces of music in the past, we might also not have developed a feeling for or some experience in composing. Now we are twiddling our knobs, put sequencers to work, let a short pattern repeat over and over again … and no wonder that the results might sound strange for others … :wink:

I would say, there is nothing wrong to be creative just for the sake of being creative and having fun. But creating interesting music for an audience takes much experience and knowledge, which has to be developed and can’t be expected from knowing how to switch on even the most capable gear.

BTW: IMO particularly music with no vocals and no lyrics is best crafted by telling an interesting story.


Great analysis, which I totally agree, @SoundRider.
I would also agree with the @acidhouseforall, I just add that it is not only modular based electronic performances that have varying quality, the whole universe of music is like that…
And unfortunately truly talented and original people are buried on an ocean of mediocre and formulaic music spread accross multiple platforms with little chance to breakthrough without godly luck…


I globally agree with you. One minor disagreement: I don’t think you can use electronic instruments and not have a shallow understanding of music theory. More so, using electronic instruments teaches you music theory, especially when sequencers are involved. Use a drum machine and you learn about rythm. Use a chorder and you learn about chord progressions. Use a quantizer and you learn about scales. Use an arpegiator and you learn about… arpegios. And so on…

That can be true, but not necessarily. I ‘used’ synths and drum machines to make noises without learning anything about rythm or sound synthesis. I also used guitars and guitar pedals without knowing about scales or chords. (I’m not saying I’m proud of that, it’s just true :anguished: I think this is kind of the point the OP might be making.

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I wouldn’t call your description of knowledge about music theory a shallow knowledge. If it comprises what you say, it covers much ground and might be, what the practicing artist needs.

I was more thinking about some discussions, which I followed in forums about the question, how much music theory makes sense for an electronic artist … if at all :wink:

Very interesting opinions … sometimes … :wink: