“Dimension” Processing In Any DAW

The Boss Dimension C / Dimension D effects are famous for their seemingly unmoving modulation, providing a widening and deepening* effect on sounds without being warbly like a traditional chorus effect.

Here’s how the same effect can be created and customized in almost any DAW. I use this often for turning mono synth signals into stereo.

It takes four channels of audio. In Reaper I do this all in one track, with an extra set of track channels and plug-in pins. In ProTools you might use a send from the main track to a stereo auxiliary or two mono auxiliaries. The details will vary; the important thing is four channels, Ls panned 100% left and Rs panned 100% right.

The signal path:

Source – Can be mono or stereo

Split/send – Duplicate both the left and right channels of audio so there are 4 total (4 track channels in Reaper, original track plus two mono aux tracks in ProTools, etc.). One L/R pair (the “dry” signal) will go straight through to the mix stage with no further processing

Highpass (“wet” signal) – Adjust this to taste. On an individual sound source like a mono synth sound this could be skipped. On a full mix with drums, bass, and other sounds, I probably wouldn’t set it much lower than 140 Hz but I might set it higher; 200, even 300 Hz. The reason for this is to keep bass frequencies from bouncing back and forth between left and right

Chorus – The different sides of the wet L/R pair need different chorus settings, so you’ll almost certainly need two instances of your chorus plugin (this is where two mono auxes can be helpful in ProTools, rather than a stereo wet aux). Both need to be set to 100% wet output. Adjust depth to taste but use the same depth on both sides. To the best of my knowledge the original Dimension effects use the same medium-slow chorus rate/speed on both sides, with the LFO polarity inverted for one side (so when the L channel is high the R channel is low, and vice versa). I like just using slightly different rates for a less predictable, almost polyrhythmic type of movement

Invert polarity – This is key; invert the polarity of *one* of the wet channels. This has the result of phase-cancelling frequencies that are the same in both channels, leaving only the differences (like mid/side processing)

Mix – Bring it all together. In Reaper I use an 8-to-2 track channel mixer to mix back down to stereo. In ProTools with auxes your “mixer” is just your master track, and you mix via the volume levels on your dry and wet tracks. The more wet-to-dry in the mix, the wider the stereo image will be.

By creating our own processing instead of using a Dimension unit we can have greater clarity (bypassing the hardware’s inevitable amp stages and filtering) and control (setting our own high pass cutoff, chorus rates, and mix levels), making new sounds in the process.

My hat is off to whoever came up with the idea for this circuit, though, it’s truly brilliant and sounds fantastic.

*Creating “dimension,” natch

Meet the Thereatari

The Thereatari is my own adaptation/revision/expansion of the classic 555 timer / Atari Punk Console noise synth with photoresistor control of 4 parameters, tone control, alternate voicing (gives alllllmost a full chromatic octave on the fine pitch control), current starve, and control voltage inputs for the oscillators.

I had been doing research for this project before the lockdown, designed and breadboarded it in late March / early April, ordered parts, made some other music, soldered, made some other music… and finally got it troubleshot and put together last weekend.

The jacks on the sides are separate passive mixers; in addition to the noise synth, this box is designed to pull together my Monotribe / Volca Bass / pedals mini rig.

They were out of blue 1900 knobs when I ordered parts so the “Fine” tuning knob is temporarily black.

More music with the full mini rig is definitely coming. Even in the half-assembled state it’s been in it is super fun to jam on.

Three big album releases are coming in fairly short order, too.

< sunglasses >

This is how Night Mode records start sometimes

  1. Piece of gear (Dreadbox Utopia in this case, the orange thing)
  2. List of things it can do musically (additional things will be discovered in the course of #3 below)
  3. Patch up something from the list and start messing around until a piece emerges

If history is any guide, spontaneously discovered sounds will add between half again as many and double the patches on the initial list.

I haven’t started this record yet, and I’m in no rush to. Plenty going on, and I’m trying to decide if this is a collaboration or a solo jawn. It’ll be waiting for me when I’m ready.

New Night Mode Friday

On Friday we will release Night Mode’s Your Pain Matters in celebration of Bandcamp’s fee waiver. We hope you’ll add it to your list of purchases on Friday!

Your Pain Matters is my follow-up to Dirac Spike. It’s a solo Night Mode effort recorded from March to July 2017, with the setup* used on the first Night Mode trio jams** and shows*** plus some overdubs****.

* Alesis Micron, Korg Volca Bass, Poly app for iPad, effects pedals

** What became Load Exceedance and Load Transcendance

*** April 2017

**** Rhodes, guitar, etc.

Musically and emotionally, Your Pain Matters is really the beginning of my story with making instrumental synth music. I absolutely stand by Dirac Spike but it was only a first experiment, and all of its pieces are based on the Poly app. (The app is fun, but I have not used it since Dirac Spike.)

For Your Pain Matters I began writing and performing parts for synthesizer with no sampling or sequencing; just me, at the keys & knobs, coming up with sounds and playing/recording live. This is largely what I continued to do for several more albums yet to be released, and am still doing. I did a bunch of it last weekend.

For the few who might care to trace Night Mode’s sonic development, here’s an attempt to sort out who was doing what, when. Of course reality was and is messier than can be fit into these boxes. We’ve had this idea of a Drew solo > Howie solo > Some type of collaboration (duo or trio) release cycle; Capsule was a departure from that, and it seems likely we’ll continue to deviate from that idea. It was a cool plan, but it doesn’t line up well with the pace at which we finish things individually or together.

Feb – Dec ’15OTHER
Jan – Aug ’16Dirac Spike
Feb ’17Duo (H/Damon) –
Mar ’17Trio –
Load Exceedance
Load Transcendance
Mar – Jul ’17Your Pain Matters
?? – Jul ’18Gentleman Scientist(there’s a Drew/Damon
noise / Marshall reamp /
drums project in
here somewhere
Jan – Apr ’18Working Bears Or Barely Working
Jan ’18 – Mar ’19Only Mostly Dead
Come In Alone / Stuck On You (Sep ’18)
Jun – Nov ’19Not One Person Left Out
Jan-Feb ’20Duo (Drew/H) –
Mar ’20Duo (Drew/H) –
In progress:
Seen Heard and Known,
Monotribe record(s) (Oct ’19 – ??),
AX60 record (Nov ’19 – ??),
Medusa record (Apr ’20 – ??),
Noise record (Mar ’20)

WHAT in the WORLD could THAT be?

Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, the world’s first Thereatari; a photoresistor-controlled dual 555 timer “Stepped Tone Generator” synth (the famous “Atari Punk Console“) with a bunch of bells and whistles.

It’s nice to be building again, after a break since early fall when I made the run of FNTSTC octave fuzzes.

This Thereatari will mostly live in the minirig, along with the Monotribe. The enclosure will also hold two passive mixers: one for submixing things to the Monotribe’s audio input, and one main mixer to produce a mono output from the whole system.

I might do a run of Thereataris later. In addition to putting them in others’ hands, it would be cool to have one for Night Mode shows to put at the front of the table and invite audience members to play.

Idlewild’s “100 Broken Windows” Turns Twenty Today

There’s a shortage of perfect indie-punk records in this world. Would be a pity to miss the 20th anniversary of Idlewild’s 100 Broken Windows.

(Thankfully I’m not alone in remembering this album, like I seemed to be with Goldfinger’s Hang-Ups (read from the bottom up))

I must have heard the band first through KDNE. 100 Broken Windows came out before I was even at the station, so my guess is the label may have been giving it a push in the run-up to releasing Idlewild’s next record (The Remote Part). I got comp tickets to The Remote Part tour through my connections as Music Director. This show also introduced me to the French Kicks; I remember both bands’ sets clearly.

All to say, I wasn’t quite in on the ground floor, but I made up for it in listening. Every note on 100 Broken Windows is as familiar as a favorite hoodie, and if CDs could be worn out my copy would be.

100 Broken Windows is a perfect indie punk record; it doesn’t waste a breath, it maintains momentum from start to finish, it’s stuffed with hooks, and it has a perspective.

This is expressed most clearly in Roddy Woomble’s use of repetition. Look at the lyrics to “Roseability.”

Roseability, there is no roseability
Roseability, there is no roseability

You’ve got off with too much now
You’re getting off with too much now
Stop looking through scrapbooks and photograph albums
Because I know
They don’t teach you what you don’t already know
You’ve always been, dissatisfied

Gertrude Stein said “that’s enough”
(I know that that’s not enough now)

Roseability, there is no roseability

You’ve got off with too much now…

Gertrude Stein said “that’s enough”
(I know that that’s not enough now)

Roseability, there is no roseability

You’ve got off with too much now…

Idlewild, “Roseability”

Across three verses there are only two lines (“Roseability…” and “Gertrude Stein…”). Both rhyme words with themselves, and follow the self-negating form [Thing] / [not Thing]. This is a recipe for boredom and cloying simplicity, but Roddy and the band make it work beautifully. They pull this trick off over and over across the record, and it still works.

For twenty years I’ve been happy any time I played this album, and I’m sure I will be for twenty more.

What Beastie Boys and High On Fire Have In Common

There’s music for when you’re happy.

There’s music for when you’re hurting.

Not a lot of music works for both feelings, but here’s some that does for me.

High On Fire – Need everyone out of your face? Hell yeah. Blazing down the highway in a souped up Z/28 toward the best time of your life? DOUBLE HELL YEAH.

Run The Jewels – Goes without saying. Mike & El will save you, then MC your cookout.

Jim James – Specifically “Regions of Light and Sound of God” and “Eternally Even,” which are vulnerable and transcendent and mountain-funky.

Yob – The beauty and the absolute fury are the closest thing to capturing what my experience is like on the inside.

Doomtree – The crew records, in particular, speak directly to my body, mind, and heart at once.

Beastie Boys – Every other artist here helps me feel seen, heard, and known when I’m in a rough spot. Beastie Boys are the only ones who can drag me up a notch or two with sheer musical power.

Noise Dive

First – new music in a week, or less! It’s already on Bandcamp if you know where to look 😎, I’m just waiting for the Spotify, Tidal, etc. links to come through before posting and sending the email.

( ^ Not joking. No pranks/foolin’ today, please.)

Then, I took a deep dive into analog noise over the weekend, working on two projects. The first inspired the second, and I went with it. I recorded seventeen (!) 46-minute (!!) takes of different colors of analog noise from synthesizers, and from dirt pedals with no input (just turning everything up, sometimes adjusting the tone controls if they worked). This is a long-term project too complex to summarize here.

That experience, and my surprise at the many different types of noise I was able to record, got me thinking about making a noise record. So on Sunday, I did.

Noise piece 1 rig

The first piece has a beat of sorts, and all the synths are synchronized; the Monotribe syncs the SQ-1, which sends MIDI to Medusa and CV/gate to the MS-20.

Noise piece 2 partial rig

The second piece is more ambient (though pretty intense to listen to) and I set up six different patches of gear. The six sections blend into each other, relay-style.

The picture shows my DIY slew module; just a giant capacitor alligator-clipped into the CV path! Works perfectly. I used this trick on an earlier (still unreleased) Night Mode recording as part of a thunderstorm simulator.

New music shortly! Or now, if you’re savvy… -h