Expert Sleepers have announced that they are releasing their General CV module at SynthFest in Sheffield on the 7th October. It’s a module that combines General MIDI sounds with CV control and CV-to-MIDI conversion in new and interesting ways.
“We want General MIDI sounds in our Eurorack!” said no one ever so Expert Sleepers General CV starts off on quite a strange footing. I’ve scratched my head over this for quite some time and I’m just going to have to assume that people far more creative and interesting than me feel this is a fabulous idea. I guess we get 8-bit modules and “game” noises so why not a bank of 128 horribly familiar sounds for MIDI file playback? Afterall there’s never enough Orch Hit (GM program 56) in my musical life.
But let’s put my cynicism aside for a moment and check out exactly what it is bringing to the table. First of all you have a massively multitimbral and polyphonic synthesizer engine as its tone source. It can be played and triggered as sounds or you can switch into VCO mode when it constantly sounds and then you manipulate it like any other VCO. This, obviously, works better on sustained sounds. There’s a 4-band EQ, reverb and chorus that can be accessed directly from the knobs on the front. These can, I believe, all be CV controlled. This opens up the sounds to a certain amount of very un-GM like mangling.
Expert Sleepers have built-in chord creation and arpeggiation. Much of Eurorack is dealing with monophonic sound sources and control and so having an easy to build chords from a single pitch input is a really good idea. Within the General CV you can create scales, modes and types of chord that are based on the root note of the pitch input. That feature, I think could get very interesting. There’s also a unison mode for thickening up the sounds.
The other side of GM is the drum kits. They say that you can use it with up to nine independent drum trigger inputs. That sounds an awful lot like playing an entire kit. That could be really good, except, of course, these are GM drum kits.
Maybe I’m just a tonal snob. There’s no mention of where the GM sounds come from, how much space they occupy and how many samples were used. My assumption is that it’s something quite regular and run-of-the-mill and the beauty is that you can mess with these sounds in interesting ways. I think the idea of bringing a very easy and versatile digital sound source into Eurorack and messing with it has a lot of merit. I’m just not exactly sure how great and useful it is. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to try it out at SynthFest. The General CV will be £269.