Top modular synth albums of this decade (2010-2019)

I know, ‘modular synth albums’ isn’t really a music genre, but I think you know what I mean: albums wherein the modular synth played a central role in its creation.

Here is my list, in no particular order:

Generator by Keith Fullerton Whitman (2010)

“Proper digital release of this 2009 suite of “Automatic” Electronic Music, the recorded debut of the “Generator” concept, recorded during September 2009 on a Doepfer Modular system with a few key Plan B circuits, now in the permanent collection at MESS in Melbourne.”

This was released on Bandcamp on June 1, 2010. KFW recorded and released other instances of the Generators patch during this decade.

Cascade symmetrie by @rbeny (2017)

“Cascade Symmetry is the culmination of an intense and transformative year-long period. It is an ode to new beginnings and the disintegration of the past.”

Water Memory by @stripes (Emily A. Sprague) (2017)

“Water Memory began as an imagination of the feelings that are floating through the natural world around us. It morphed and cycled and gained memories of my own which are now contained like those in all bodies.”

EARS by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (2016)

“…nothing compares to the sound of a Buchla. In my mind a Buchla synthesizer has the most human sound in it. I wanted to show the Easel’s versatility and range of motion within a live set. I also wanted to spend as little time as possible in front of the computer during the creation.”

A year of time by Matthias Puech (2017)

To quote myself on this album:

“The different timbre’s are beautifully layered. It’s sounds synthesized but at the same time organic. There is some ghost in Matthias’ modular system that wants to be heard. There is lots of movement and tonal changes, and yet there is always that calm, richly colored and slowly moving drone underneath it all. I highly recommend to give it a listen, or two, or more.”

Selected Public Works, Vol. 1-4 by Lightbath (@fourhexagons) (2019)

“Selected Public Works Vol. 1-4 collects four years of modular synthesizer performances by composer/improviser Bryan Noll with his Lightbath project. The majority of these works were originally presented in video form showcasing—in real time—the physical act of coaxing music out of a mercurial box of colorful wires, knobs, and lights.”

No Sound Without a Misunderstanding by Fousek / Hansen / Tellier-Craig (@analogue01) (2016)

"Karl Fousek: modular synth, electronics
Devon Hansen: computer
Roger Tellier-Craig: modular synth, electronics, computer "

Spectra by Tom Hall (2018)

“Dreamy lines resting on rich textures, echoes of musique concrète, quasi-pop harmonic progressions, hypnotic percussive dark patterns, and again, nervous micro-time structures and a strong sense of construction, with a predilection for circularity.”

Collected Works Vol. 2 - New Process Music by m. geddes gengras (2014)

“eight pieces for modular synthesizer and multivox tape echo. originally conceived as a follow-up to ‘THE EMPTY SPACE’, using many of the techniques first explored in that album to create a more condensed & organized work.”

Which Way To Leave by John Chantler (2016)

“The self-reflexive sequencing that tracks the sub-harmonic series in the opening blast of 'Falling Forward’positions the record as Chantler’s most explicitly melodic. These melodies however do not exist in a mono-dimensional vacuum, rather they co-exist in a meshed framework of dynamic timbral layers.”

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Thank you for sharing your recommendations of excellent modular music.

I’ll add Richard Devine’s Sort/Lave.

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Timon Irnok Mantra in with a good shout here

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one of my top albums in terms of repeat listening in the past year and far and away my favorite modular album full stop.

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Great! Here’s a few different faves, as a non-practitioner (assuming ~15 years of AudioMulch and a bit of turn-of-the-century Reaktor-dabbling doesn’t count).

The Collection by Nicola Ratti (Room40)

Curiously described as a dub album by some, I really love Ratti’s spare compositions… I relate to this comment, working ITB:

I easily recognise myself in this material, moreover I recognise my working space itself. It’s like taking a picture, or make a painting, of your personal room where all your stuff is well placed and, among them, their identities as sound sources and acoustic possibilities come into being. The room itself resonates ideally into the music even if, acoustically, nothing has been recorded in it.

Voice Model by Koen Holtkamp (Umor Rex)

[…] focuses on the breadth of possibility activated by a narrow band of sonorities. It’s two interrelated works, Scene One and Scene Two , feature Holtkamp on piano, modular synth, bowls, cymbals and processing, as well as contributions by Nina Mehta on Flute and Josh Millrod on trumpet - http://www.umor-rex.org/ur093/

Stay Perfectly Still by Donnacha Costello (self-released?)

That recognisable 5-step Buchla thing going on. Very pretty and affecting ambience, but I’ve always somehow parsed it as also very disciplined and … “careful” might give the wrong impression. I just mean the opposite of “careless”, without wanting to imply timid or nervous.

Reasons to Live by Paperbark / r beny (Seil Records)

Not sure what made this split stand out so strongly to me, but that’s how music works. It’s the one on Seil that I come back to more than any other. I like a relatively short release with no chaff like this.

I have heard some pretty great albums from the Releases category here! A friend commented that when I’m blogging about new music this forum always gets a mention.

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This is such a wonderful album, I’ve bought it, and have been listening to it none stop since. Thanks for recommending it

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I’ve got to shout out some Luke Abbott - Holkham Drones (2010)

This was probably the first “modern” modular synth record I heard? It just sounded so fresh and alive compared to the laptop music I was listening to at the time.

There’s a good writeup on his system on RA too:

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Nice additions. I think Koen Holtkamp’s albums are really underrated/missed by a lot of people.

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Not to be a naysayer or speak on anyone’s behalf, but iirc this is more of a piano and Juno record than a modular record. Fantastic bit of music regardless of what was used to create it!

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yes it’s not “pure modular” in that sense (lots of tape going on too), but felt modular enough to count for me :stuck_out_tongue: and also in my mind theres an element of “from the community” that i’m taking into account that wasn’t in the prompt *shrug.

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Don’t forget Caterina Barbieri - Ecstatic Computation !

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tbh that was exactly what motivated me to chip in!

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Many of my favorites have already been listed here! But a few more that I think are worth mentioning:

Alessandro Cortini - Forse 3 (and Avanti but I’m not actually sure how much of Avanti was modular)

Cool Maritime - Sharing Waves

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Lots of goodies here. I’ll throw in Aurelia-Smith’s collaboration with Suzanne Ciani - Sunergy.

I’m also fond of Sam Prekop’s
The Republic

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I love Kilchofer’s work: https://kilchhofer.bandcamp.com/album/the-book-room

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A few that come to mind from the decade now ending:

Alessandro Cortini / Forse 1
https://importantrecords.com/products/imprec373
Live vintage Buchla Music Easel plus a Strymon Blue Sky pedal. All three albums in the series are cool, but I think the first is the best.

KRON / KRON EP
https://kronofficial.bandcamp.com/releases
Sean Krell and visual artist Sam Newell put on a hell of a good show. Sean dragged down an entire Doepfer Monster Base + Monster Case full of modules from LA to San Diego to play my Fully Patched series back in 2014 or so, such dedication! Buy the vinyl, it’s good stuff.

prettyhowtown / hydrogen alpha
(My own work–just listen to it on whatever streaming service :man_shrugging: )
I still like this set of 100% live performances on my old 9U Euro rig and would like to get back into that space someday.

Ancient Eyeball Recipe / Soundcloud Channel
https://soundcloud.com/ancient-eyeball-recipe
Not an album, but rather a monumental 4,906 (so far…) track body of work made with a wide variety of modular synths and other gear. Serge dominates the early tracks, and there was a notorious Eurorack period in there too. Nelson Baboon for President! AER has a few album releases through Game of Life Records, pick one and blow your mind.

Cave Space / Shaman
https://tectorumtapes.bandcamp.com/album/shaman-orrorin
Synthesist and Tectorum Tapes publisher Jeff Furnas is a really incredible performer and good friend. He does drones and ambient music on super small Euro rigs.

Edit: forgot one!

Bana Haffar / Alif
https://vent-recordings.bandcamp.com/album/bana-haffar-alif
Bana is another great performer and friend that I wish wasn’t so far away. You can find her work on Moog’s Model 15 page too, good stuff!

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Yes I totally agree! I think I discovered Koen Holtkamp through Spotify recommendations but had never heard of him before anywhere else. Or read about him on a forum or blog. Strange because his work is outstanding imo.

Edit: oh I now remember I heard him on this excellent album with Chris Forsyth for the first time:

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Floating Points - Crush
(great album - uses a buchla modular)

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I’d have Suzanne Ciani’s Live Quadraphonic on the list.

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