At the foot of a trellis-topped carpark in a verdant Santiago barrio, White Sample (aka Ignacio Cuevas) is plugging away at a brushed chrome circuit board spilling with colorful cables and adorned with rows of knobs, buttons, and switches.
Cuevas, who also works as a graphic designer, multimedia artist, and technology educator, has been working with a modular system for around eight years now, amassing over twenty individual units that function as drum machines, oscillators, frequency modulators, sequencers, effects processors, and randomizers.
Despite modular gear’s tendency to be fickle when transported, Cuevas actively performs live with his system, which folds down into a compact clamshell suitcase. He even managed to bring the rig along to Paris last year, where he was a member of the two week Red Bull Music Academy masterclass program. His unique work also landed him a gig at the famed IRCAM Institute, also in Paris.
Aside from portability, the limitations of modular systems are also their best assets. “The flexibility of modulars is in the handling of synthesis and the creation of sounds,” says Cuevas in regards to the matrix style workflow. It’s distinct from the linear, left-to-right scroll of computer-based digital audio workstations (DAWs). “As it doesn’t deal with a fixed architecture, there are lots of possibilities. It’s about a nonlinear dynamic with a basis in logic and chance.”
As White Sample, Cuevas pushes the capacity of his machines as a sound designer and performer, working across a variety of styles. But he still grounds much of his work in the identifiable forms of techno and electro, making his productions viable on dance floors and in concert halls alike.
Cuevas cites a variety of artists as inspiration, including the pioneers of the musique concrete movement, legendary electronica producers Autechre and Aphex Twin, genre-defying composer Oneohtrix Point Never, and industrial techno benders Perc and Ansome.
Cuevas mentions that although the community of modular musicians and enthusiasts in Santiago is quite small, the popularity of the analog approach has been growing steadily over the last few years.
“In the last five years, there’s been a major boom. There are even modular synths in Regular Show! Everyone is using them now, and the good thing is that everyone can design their own system–it could be small and focused on percussion, or huge and more interested in melodies and chords, however you like.”
“I also think it’s somewhat trendy too, but it’s mainly experimentation. Each Eurorack modular developer today is experimenting sonically and thinking of more complex possibilities. It’s a beautiful thing.”
In the last five years, there’s been a major boom. There are even modular synths in Regular Show!
Check out more photos below, and visit White Sample’s SoundCloud page for a range of live performances, audio clips, and sonic experiments.
“Each Eurorack modular developer today is experimenting sonically and thinking of more complex possibilities. It’s a beautiful thing.”