Wyatt Marshall has spent a long time building his reputation behind the scenes as Dirtybird’s studio manager and among the Southern California underground. Over time, he’s become a champion of forward-thinking sounds for the region, homing in on a distinctive, elevated minimal aesthetic that is as driving as it is nuanced. These sonics are exemplified in his latest EP, Mind Control, a four piece record loaded with heads-down grooves, quirky sound effects that you can find here.
Part of what sets Wyatt apart is his keen attention to detail and emphasis on creating his own unique sounds for each of his productions—which he is able to achieve via modular synthesis. Having been drawn into the world of modular fairly recently, thanks Percomaniacs co-founder Lubelski, the producer has already spent countless hours finding the right pieces for his rack, and mastering the craft of production in the format. The result is an idiosyncratic sound that feels distinctly “Wyatt Marshall.”
Keen to hear more on his process and to help our own readers interested in the craft, we had the burgeoning talent offer us some key wisdom on how to get started in the world of modular.
The first step into the world of modular synthesis is learning about the ins and out of how it is created. Before I bought my first module, I spent hours researching and learning about signal flow, gates, CV, different types of modules and what they do. There is so much information on the topic and forums like Muffwiggler.com, Gearslutz.com and more offer a community that will benefit everyone from beginner to advanced modular enthusiasts.
Take the time to figure out what you want to achieve with modular synthesis before buying a bunch of modules. Is your rack going to be used for ambient evolving sounds? Is it a drum machine for wild percussion? Do you want it to do a little bit of everything? I think it is much better to have a smaller focused rack than to have a massive rack that is overwhelming to even look at. Be precise in your objectives with modular and your will be rewarded.
All synthesizers are made up of essentially the same parts, an oscillator, envelope, filter and mixer. These are the foundation of a modular as well. When building your first system make sure to find entry level modules that will help facilitate easy patching and creative ideas. Some recommendations I have:
Oscillator: Mutable instruments – Plaits, Intellijel – Dixie 2+
VCF: Intellijel – Polaris
VCA: Make Noise – uVCA
Envelope: Intellijel – Quadra
Sequencer: Industrial Music Electronics – Stilson Hammer
The most intriguing part about modular synthesis is being able to affect or modulate any parameter. The next step in unlocking your modular rack is adding modules like LFO’s, function generators, random, sample and hold modules will help your unlock creativity and add unexpected wildness to otherwise static sounding patches. One module every system should include is Make Noise – Maths essentially the swiss army knife of utility modules.
Once you have covered your bases make sure to take the time to learn all your rack in and out before moving on to purchase more. GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) a term used quite often among modular enthusiasts is a real thing and can easily have beginners constantly on the hunt for new modules without fully understanding what they currently have. This can cause a halt in production and leave users patching endlessly with no real results.
Cover photo by Jar.Photo