YouTube’s growing ambient modular
Image: Augustin Fievet
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Get lost in the sounds of YouTube’s growing ambient modular

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In recent weeks, modular synth jam videos have started popping up more frequently on YouTube. The videos center on the gear, with hands coming in and out of frame to slowly adjust a knob or push a fader. Amid the hypnotic sounds, there’s oodles of multi-colored cables, glowing lights, and more often than not, a bit of decor. One is shot in a suitcase with a steaming cup of tea nearby. Another is surrounded by succulents. And they’re all quite relaxing to watch.

With everyone stuck at home, it’s logical that Eurorack lovers would spend more time noodling around with their gear. For those not acquainted, Eurorack is a modular synthesizer format based upon individual modules that serve specific purposes or make particular sounds. When patched together, they’re the sum of their parts: electronic beasts that sprout wires and make an array of complex, morphing sounds.

Back in 2018, Pitchfork deemed these modular synth YouTube videos a micro-genre “rabbit hole” populated by a unique brand of ambient music and distinct aesthetics. “Featuring balmy sounds, blinking LEDs, and low-key set-dressing,” wrote contributing editor Philip Sherburne, “they are part performance, part tech tutorial, and part audio-visual wallpaper.” The genre has chugged along but stayed pretty niche.

There are a handful of creators who have made jam videos for quite some time, like JAde Wii and HEYMUN. But as the novel coronavirus clamps down on live shows and keeps people inside, the number of these videos uploaded to YouTube has started ticking up. It makes sense as many people have time to sit and experiment with their gear, and ultimately then create and share.

There’s a lot of new accounts, mixed in with some that have been around but are now posting more frequently. One titled “Space Shuttle” by YouTube newcomer Augustin Fievet takes place in a dimly lit room accented by the warm glow of a table lamp. Another called “Close” is by __Forms__, and shows a rack surrounded by bottles of baby’s breath, shells, and houseplants. A recent favorite is “Woodstock 1” by Dream Dealer, which simply shows a generative Eurorack left to its own accord in front of a crackling fire.

All of the videos feel cozy. Sounds ooze into each other in waves, and the way they’re closely framed makes it feel like you’re present and perhaps in the same room. There’s mugs, wooden desks, lush greenery, and hand-woven rugs. Simply put, they’re inviting spaces complimented with warm drones and fuzzy, trickling notes.

If you’re looking for something to get lost in or keep your mind off the current state of things, have a scan on YouTube for ambient modular videos or check in on some of the artists Pitchfork previously profiled.

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