Improvised Techno with Elektron Machines

Hey! Working on my chops on improvising techno with the Octatrack and Digitone, thought I’d share my process with you.

The Digitone is plugged into an EHX platform to have a bit of control on the level, though I might just use the master Overdrive instead, it is then plugged in track 8 of the Octatrack. The 7 other tracks are used as Drum Samples although I only use 4 to keep things manageable. There is one for kicks, another for toms I use as bass, and the last two for hats and percs. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel on the percussion side and I’m trying to have interesting, rich and moving sounds on the synth side. I never have all tracks playing at the same time and I use LFO heavily so I can program the next synth while the other one is moving by itself. On the Digitone I have one track focused on bass sounds, another for melodies with a simple square wave, and the other two are weirder atonal sounds I can either play as drones or as additional percussions. In the future I hope to use the Octatrack to help me generate melodies for the Digitone, using LFOs and arps in the MIDI tracks, I’m sure that with conditional trigs you can get pretty close to a turing machine.

Here are two recordings I made with this setup as a first example to launch a discussion.
Do you work on such sets? What setup do you use? How do you use it? Share your process with us!

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I would love to discuss with some you who practice the same type of exercice about what your process is? Do you have some form of guidelines?

I Believe it is necessary to have a very specific method in how you create your sounds, your patterns, and how you manage the flow of the whole performance, in terms of transitions and narration.

For example at the moment, I only use 8 sounds, 4 samples and 4 synths, with each their specific roles, one sample will always be a kick, one sample will always be a sub, one synth will Always be a lead and one other will always be a bass. all my LFOs are already routed to specific parameters and my synths sounds will not change a lot. I want to treat those as modules on a modular synth, you have specific set of parameters you can change, but the overall role of the module will stay the same. I think it’s the only way for me to not just lose track of what’s going on.

Regarding pattern creation, the scale will stay the same throughout the set, which is one of my main concern, I really think it can lead to a boring set, but I don’t see a way to change it quickly on all my sounds. The patterns themself have to be simple, and I try to use polymeters a lot to avoid repetition. Since it’s all improvised, there is no need to switch patterns on the machines, so their length can be set to infinite without too much problem, although it might be wiser to have a set length on the drum pattern to have a solid anchor driving the set. I plan on using the Octatrack midi tracks to help me generate semi-aleatoiric patterns to record on the Digitone by using LFOs and arps, but that’s still something to work on. Also, as a simplification of the setup, every track on the Digitone is set to mono, I don’t want to deal with the mess that polyphonic tracks can create when they take all the space available, I believe it is much simpler to manage mono tracks in the mix. Moreover, I set a high pass filter on the DT input of my OT, the sub will be handled by a sample on the OT, this is just a way to simplify mixing on fly.

Flow wise, at the moment I just try to remember which sound have been playing the longest and to take them out next, the goal is to always have movement on the playing tracks using LFOs and p-locks so you have enough variation while you work on the following patterns. I don’t want to use headphones and try go by Surgeon’s principle of embracing whatever comes out of your machines and if it really doesn’t work, you take it out quickly. Also, never have every track playing at once as a strict rule, if you see you’re running out of tracks, you know it is time to take something out, you want to create waves of intensity.

I also believe that recording and analysing will be a big part of this process, one of the challenges will be to not bore myself and stop after two weeks because I can’t come up with new interesting sounds :slight_smile:

Well sorry for the novel, I just thought I’d share my way of designing this, but I’s a work in progress I’m just starting out and I hope we can all share our ideas on here so we can all improve! I really hope to read your input soon too!