Alea Taction is a new version of the mysterious Alea 2-voice semi-modular synth but with a new aesthetic and touch plates for added crypticness.
The original Alea appeared more like the similarly baffling Ciat Lonbarde synthesizers in a single piece of wood. With the updated Alea Taction the look is a bit more traditionally synthy with the black front plate set into a wooden enclosure. I say it’s mysterious simply because of the lack of labelling. I don’t think it’s trying to be annoying; it’s more of an invitation to adventure and exploration.
The big difference in functionality is the addition of the three touch plates. Ouroboros designed it to offer gestural control and influence over the instrument. Placing your fingers generates voltage through the area of skin contact and pressure, and you can then patch that into different aspects of the synthesizer. It could be dynamics, pitch, modulation, adding rhythm, or setting drones.
As a synthesizer Alea Taction has two voices with sine wave oscillators, wave shapers, low pass gates, LFOs and a Stochastic shift register-based sequencer. Ouroboros Electronics says it’s capable of everything from generative melodies and morphing drones to psychoacoustic percussion, silky sub basslines, esoteric techno, tactile improvisations and much more.
Each oscillator has CV and FM inputs as well as a pair of voltage-controlled waveshapers. One waveshaper acts on the harmonics while the other plays with the phase of the waveform. The VCA is vactrol based and hardwired as a bi-directional modulation index for cross-modulation between oscillators. Complex oscillators will ensue once you start patching them into each other. The LPGs can be gated, triggered or held open for droning. And finally there are a couple of LFOs for added movement wherever it’s needed.
The shift-register sequencer has four stages, clocked by a voltage-controlled LFO. It uses data from one of the oscillators for probabilistic pattern generation, which sounds very odd indeed.
Alea Taction is an odd synthesizer with lots of quirky potentials. The manual suggests a number of things to patch as a starting point, making it feel more modular than semi-modular. But the fun is in the experimentation. There’s a lot of detail in the manual, removing most of the mystery, so you don’t have to play completely blind. Overall it looks like a fascinating experience, and the touch plates definitely bring it to a whole other playable level.
Alea Taction is available now for €758.