An experimental modular session from the XL Recordings producer.
Alex Epton is a multifaceted producer and composer (also known as XXXChange), whose in-house role at XL Recordings has seen him work with FKA twigs, Arca and Jamie xx.. In 2019 he collaborated with cellist Lucinda Chua on the soundtrack for the documentary film 3OHA.
Epton’s own personal studio practice focuses heavily on hardware, including modular synthesis and tape loops. In this episode of Patch Notes, recorded ahead of the release of his new EP The Episodic Buffer Vol 2, he creates an experimental piece with a selection of Verbos Electronics modules and touchplate controller together with manipulated vocals.
“Iʼm not using any fancy loop length randomization here on this patch although thereʼs some clips of that implementation on my Instagram,” Epton says. “Also the Verbos Electronics YouYube page has a well explained example of how to set that up.”
“The basic set up here is: Row A – CV out hits voltage scaling then into a quantiser locking it to an arbitrary major scale then into the v/oct input on oscillator A. Row B – CV out hits voltage scaling then into a quantiser, chromatic this time, then into the v/oct input on oscillator B.”
“Each channel of control voyage processor has an input for additional voltage to be added to the sequencer control voltage. This is our first transpose input. Here both sequences are transposed by the master variable CV out on the touch plate keyboard.”
“Thereʼs a second transpose input for oscillator B on the secondary CV in on that oscillator. You can see in the video itʼs got tape on it because the attenuvertor knob that scales this input is super sensitive and prone to accidental nudging. This second layer of CV transposition Iʼm using to drop oscillator Bʼs pitch to make some tension harmonies agains the main sequence. These tension notes are linked to three individual gate outputs on the touch plate keyboard. Those are summed together before they hit the attenuvertor.”
“So with this set up Iʼm happy to have only eight steps because thereʼs a lot of variety that can still be achieved. Also some interesting chromaticism can happen in the harmony when the one CV stream is quantised chromatic VS locked to a scale. A few individual gate outs on the top of the sequencer are summed together to trigger the drum that comes in midway through.”
“Thatʼs pretty much it. I used a tape loop of some manipulated vocals to get some extra atmosphere / randomness going – something to react to. That loop is manipulated through the rooms. Everything comes together at ye olde Sony 8 channel mixer. And recorded into a UA Apollo twin. Also the synth outputs are feeding an oscilloscope in X/Y config.”
The Episodic Buffer Vol 2 is released on May 7. Epton has also created an exploratory video game as a companion piece to the EP, in which you guide a six-limbed being through a psychedelic world.
Listen to ‘Games’, the first single from the EP here, and find more of Epton’s music at Bandcamp.
Watch next: Patch Notes: Body Meat