Modulisme 105

Jessica Kert

Conception - Layout : P. Petit / Cover Art : Proefrock

Hailing from the vibrant electronic music scene of Berlin, Jessica Kert explores the infinite worlds of modular techno. Releasing albums on Detroit Underground, Athmophile Electronics, Associated Parapoloid with a constant output of her creative explorations.
Her live performances in clubs and at festivals are a dynamic experience of sound, beating rhythms, psychedelic textures, and hypnotic melodies – tangible through the raw energy of analog synthesis that captivates the audience and builds a faithful connection.

Driven by a strong fascination with modular synthesis, Jessica has delved into the intricate world of analog circuits and the complexities of modular synthesis. She gained a deep understanding of modular synthesis through her own research and her regular work at Berlin’s legendary synthesizer store SchneidersLaden.
Knowing the journey of learning the artistic expression through machines can be tough, it is important for Jessica to share her knowledge of synthesis and performing. This is how teaching modular synthesis became a passion, that she invites everyone to take part in, at workshops at SchneidersLaden and elsewhere.

Drawing inspiration from the pulsating energy of the city’s underground clubs, she is constantly transforming her own sonic identity.
As she continues to follow her own path through the unexplored territories of modular synthesis, we shall enjoy those 13 new compositions created for Modulisme.

What have you been working on lately, and do you have any upcoming releases or performances?

Next release will be a compilation on the label Associated Paraboloid of my friend Charlene Levasseur coming up soon.
I will play in Berlin at the beginning of May. This year I ́ll have to pleasure to perform at Superbooth Beach-Stage on the 16th of May- looking very much forward to.

You seem to be very well with the Berlinese scene, working in La Mecca for Modular instruments: Schneidersladen, would you tell us about that part of your life? How is a typical working day there?

At 10:30 I get a warm welcome from Nena, the dog of my colleague David who is working in our logistics. Other than meeting up with my colleagues everyday I do have a lot of contact with customers visiting our showroom to try new instruments or picking up their orders ; popping in to buy something on the spot or just visiting to have a coffee and asking for advice.
I`m the Buchla Nerd there, so helping out customers who are interessted of getting into this world and taking care of their orders. We ́ve got orders coming in from all around the world, Hobbyiests or touring musicians, Universities etc… Together with the help of my colleagues I ́ll make sure that everyone is getting sent what they purchased.
Do have a lot of follow-up, communication, answering a lot of questions. Reading manuals to help out customers and taking care or fixing mistakes. Going out in our backyard to have a coffee or chat talking about gear or making a patch if I do have a minute. Instead of having a proper lunch break I spend it sometimes playing with synthesizers. We do offer free workshops at our old showroom location at Kottbuser Tor and from time to time I am the host showing my approach and trying to explain how a modular system does work. Pretty cool job – I ́m very lucky.

When did you buy your first system? What was your first module or system? How long did it take for you to become accustomed to patching your own synthesizer together out of its component parts?

The first gear I bought was a Moogerfooger Delay, 10 years ago, and it was instant love! Followed by a Knas Ekdhal Moisturizer and a Doepfer Masterkeyboard plus a very cheap Piano Modul I bought on Ebay Kleinanzeigen.
Than I sold my Masterkeyboard & Knas to buy an Doepfer P9 case, Doepfer External Input A-119,the Erbe-Verb from Make Noise and a LFO from Doepfer. Around this time Verbos Electronics was in town to do a workshop showing their system. At this point I had very little idea of how a modular synthesizer worked but I was totally fascinated by it. Sonja and I met there the first time and we got along very well. By the end of this evening she came to me and offered to take her system home so that I could « try it on for size ». Could not believe she really did this, was cool as fuck (forgive my language).
From there on, I slowly filled my case with Verbos Modules, starting with the Complex Oscillator, Amp&Tone, Multistage and so on. Learning my instrument, realising what is missing and getting a more precise idea of the instrument I wanted to complete. I tried many modules and it took me 3 years to get it all together.

Quite often Modularists are in need for more, their hunger for new modules is never satisfied? You having access to an impressive amount of gear, how does it feel?
How do you explain that?

It is part of my job to know as much as possible about the gear we sell so as to be able to provide any kind of assistance to our customers. You need to fully know modules you talk about. I constantly learn new things every day which is a very important point to me to feed my brain.

Do you prefer single makers systems, knowing your love for Buchla, or making your own modular synthesizer out of individuel components from whatever manufactuer that match your needs?

I think that every modular syntesizer is unique, it is more about the musician behind. I like both single-makers or individual components matching my needs.

How has your system been envolving?

It’s been years that I play the same system. Sometimes I do change a filter or an effect with something else I own. Pretty happy with my instrument, do not have the feeling there is something I can not do with it.

Instrument builing may actually be quite compositional, defining your sonic palette, each new module enriching your vacabulary. Would you say that their choice and the way you built your systems can be an integral part of your compositional process? Or is it the other way around and you go after a new module because you want to be able to sound design some of your ideas?

Always have a more or less clear idea in mind about the sound I want to achieve. If I am in need for something, I ́ll go search for it.

Do you tend to use pure modular systems, or do you bring in outside effects and devices when playing or recording?

If I ́m playing live I use my modular system plus an outside effect and audiomixer.
Already hard enough to carry this around. When I do record, I use everything around me if I feel for it.
Can be a Drummachine, Polysynth or other effects.

Would you please describe the system you used to create the music for us? Can you outline how you patched and performed your Modulisme Session?

Some of the tracks I recorded with a Buchla 200e system and Haken Audio Continuum, so as « Breathe », « Don`t worrie love » or « Ask yourself ».
My Eurorack modular system was used for « Beauty », « The Runner », « Beast » and « PopShow ».
For all the other ones it was the Buchla200e system only.
As an effect unit the Blackhole from Eventide.

As for the Buchla 200e system:
All my Audio & CV sources are routed trough the Buchla-210e Control and Signal Router, with which I juggle around my audio sigals to the 292e Quad Dynamics Manager and CV signals to the 292e Quad Function Generator. I controlled the system with the 223e Tactile Input Port, programmed a nice scale, arpeggiator. The more low-endish sound ́s are played by the Buchla-261e Complex Waveform Generator and the melodic parts by the 259e.
As for the percussive sounds I used the Buchla 267e- Uncertainty Source processed by the 297 Infinite Phase Shifter. As System Interface the Buchla 227e, connected to a Tascam Model 12. The Haken Audio Continuum I played on top of it.

As for my Eurorack system :
I used the Verbos Electronics Multistage and Sequence Selector, the Tip Top Audio Circadian Rhythm and Doepfer 160-2 Clock Divider are my used Trigger/Gate Sequencer`s.
My percussive sound`s are made with the different noise sources of the Verbos Random Sampeling, running through the Catalyst Audio Model 110 and filtered by the Bubblesound HP40 filter. Snare and kick are made by the MFB Bass 522 and Snare 522. Sampel ́s are coming from TipTop Audio ONE, mostly voices filtered by the Tip Top Audio Z-2040. The Verbos Complex Oscillator is running through the Verbos Amp&Tone plus the Serge Variable VCF- playing my baseline and melody.

As an envelope I do use the Verbos Eectronics Multi-Envelope. For some movement and modulations the A-147-2 from Doepfer. The Buchla Red Panel- Model 106 is my audio mixer and as an Audio Interface/ output module I do use the NW2S which connects my modular to the Tascam Model 12 mixer.
I recordet this session on a weekend.
First evening I made a patch with the Buchla 200e system and played the Haken Audio Continuum on top of it, the second evening only the Buchla 200e system and than I patched and played something with my modular.

Do you find that you record straight with no overdubbing, or do you end up multi-tracking and editing tracks in post-production?

Never do overdubs. Have a Tascam Model 12 Mixer with which I can record Multi-Track on a little SD- card. I only do a little bit of mixing afterwards, no editing. Always trying to record a track from start to end and making sure I ́ve got my frequencies right in the beginning.
My friend Stephane Lefrancois does the Mastering.

Do you pre-patch your system when playing live, or do you tend to improvise on the spot?

I already do have something pre-patched when playing live, sort of a good starting point to improvise on which I love doing. Always have a bunch of cables next to me and patch on the fly if needed.

Which module could you not do without, or which module do you you use the most in every patch?

I couldn`t do without my Verbos Electronics Complex Oscillator, Multistage and Amp*Tone.

What do you think that can only be achieved by modular synthesis that other forms of electronic music cannot or makes harder to do?

Feeling free ! In a modular system you can make your own rules. There is a tremendous amount of items to chose from to built your own instrument and its physicality. Turning knobs, plug in cables is just fun.

Have you used various forms of software modular (eg Reaktor Blocks, Softube Modular, VCVRack) or digital hardware with modular software editors (eg Nord Modular, Axoloti, Organelle), and if so what do you think of them?

Did not used or tried any of it yet. Not that I am not interested but the day has only 24h

What would be the system you are dreaming of?

Ha! I dream about having a lot of different systems and Instruments, this list is long! I put money aside to save up for a Buchla 200e system – next to it, I solder some Buchla 200 kits during the wintertime, this might take a while to call it a system.

Are you feeling close to some other contemporary Modularists?
Which ones?

Oh yes, to quite a lot actually. Basically to all of my colleagues who are great musicians & humans, so as Miquel Dangla, Franceso Devicenti, Tim Stobbe, to name a few. It feels so good seing the electronic music scene getting more in balance, thanks to Katharina Bevand, Trovarsi, Sarah Sommers, Suzanne Ciani, Ida Bux, Charlene Levasseur just to name a few.

Any advice you could share for those willing to start or develop their “Modulisme”?

Make yourself smart and read a little about the beginnings of it. Who where the people behind building these instruments first, what was their idea behind of how an electronic instrument should work.
Maybe something will resonate with you and it will be easier to figure where to look for.
Most important is having an idea of what you actually want to do and to trust and believe in yourself.
Don ́t forget the fun.