The romantic engineering from Soma Labs occupies a completely different space to the rest of music technology. ORNAMENT-8 is the sequencing extension of their art into our reality – awesome!
This is not going to work like any kind of sequencer you’ve ever encountered before. This is not 8 steps of sequential control voltage, this is 8 cells of special delay lines set in a horizontal modular structure whose temporal properties can be manipulated and adjusted. They call it an analog computer with a temporal dimension – groovy!
So, what does it do? All right let’s have a stab at pulling out some explanation (or skip to the video below). It’s about an infinite now. Rather than stored notes in a sequence we a dynamic equilibrium that generates the next moment of behaviour. So it’s behaviour that’s in motion not notes. There’s no tempo or memory or global events you just have these 8 cells.
Each of the 8 cells is equal and identical and operates as a controlled delay line. It receives a pulse and hangs onto it for a certain time and then releases it and passes it on. Each cell has two pulse transmission modes and a bunch of control inputs and outputs. The pulses then wander about the ORNAMENT-8 depending on how you’ve patched it together and generate behaviour by adding, subtracting and interacting. These behaviours can emerge as musical events and controlling voltages. Everything feeds back into itself so that any event has been generated by internal responses which cause further events which will then trigger further responses and so on.
The Infinite Now
I would recommend delving into the manual, which is vast and deep, to fully appreciate the whole philosophy and artistry behind it. To inadequately summarise I would say that you trigger stuff, mess with stuff and pass stuff on and you can set the conditions with which that all occurs.
The interface uses those posts and crocodile clips that we’ve seen in other SOMA Labs devices like the Pulsar-23 and lends it different vibe to other modular gear. ORNAMENT-8 does have a few crocodile-to-3.5mm Eurorack patch socket converters so that you can plug it into something more familiar.
ORNAMENT-8 is available now from their Russian production division for €450. There’s also an adapter for easy connection to the LYRA-8 for €40. I sometimes wonder whether a desk full of SOMA Labs gear is all you need for a long and happy life.