Starthief: The Castle (Akemie's Castle study)

The plan behind this album was to explore the ALM Busy Circuits Akemie’s Castle in depth – because even obsessed with FM as I am, I felt like I might have a little too much of it in my setup. (Hertz Donut mk2, FM Aid, multiple FM modes in the E352, FM mode on two Rings, FM mode in the Reface CS, Aalto, Arturia BEV, LuSH-101 which I so often use for FM, Bitwig Phase-4, pretty much any synth I build in Bitwig Grid…) And I wondered if Akemie’s Castle, as the largest and most power-hungry of them, might be more than I need.

And then before I actually recorded the first track I’d already had a couple of great experiences with the module that made me decide to keep it and freeze my Eurorack system exactly where it is for a while. But I carried the plan through to explore what it could do for me, and because it’s such a fun module to work with.

To me, Akemie’s Castle is an amazing drone and chord monster. With some settings you can stack 18 oscillators, and it very much invites modulation of levels and crossfading of its two outputs. It’s noisy and glitchy and imperfect, but so am I. And yet as powerful as it is, it can’t replace any of my other FM darlings, and I celebrate those a bit too on this album.

Partway through the process, of course, COVID-19 became a pandemic and changed everything. I started to think about castles in terms of staying inside to defend oneself, not from an invading army but an invasive virus. To be honest, I think I have seen too many musical projects with a “quarantine” theme lately so I didn’t want it to become that. But the anxiety, frustration and mourning needed to be expressed, and so the album’s name does have a second meaning.

27 Likes

Nicely done deep exploration of the module.

1 Like

I listened to a few tracks, put it into my wishlist. Great stuff!

1 Like

Bought after about a minute and a half of listening.
FM was for years the only synthesis method that interested me (it’s still a huge aspect of all synthesis I do), but it was usually very “maximalist” in approach (multitrack SY77s controlled via midi, later adding FM7/8, Zebra, etc). I’ve been tempted to add Akemie’s and/or Quad Operator to my modular setup but experiments with fewer voices/ops have always frustrated me. Which makes me admire this even more: so far this is REALLY interesting, beautiful and evocative.

1 Like

Thanks! :grin:

I really enjoy FM with just two operators, at least in modular. While this doesn’t apply to Akemie’s Castle, just having the ratios a little bit off of perfect harmonics adds some extra movement. And of course exponential FM becomes almost unmanageable when you go beyond two operators…

With more operators (on the DX100 back in the day, and FM8) I usually went for the types of algorithms that were flatter and wider – more carriers, fewer modulators. I mostly find I like that best on Akemie’s Castle as well; I think it gives more opportunity not just to stack chords, but to modulate the operator levels without them being as interdependent, and lets the crusty sound of that chip and its different waveforms through a bit more :slight_smile: