cyrusrex + Baseck – #DBC611G-1D from Muff Wiggler on Vimeo.

Pulsing, rattling, buzzing, quivering, the music of LA-based artist Cyrus Rex is a sumptuous feast of sound. Here’s a musician who connects massive arrays of gear, like some post-apocalyptic robot dream, and then makes it sound like it – rapid-fire machine reveries set in motion amidst nests of cables.

Little wonder this video at top, with Cyrusrex and Baseck, comes from MuffWiggler. It is full of gear:

Cyrusrex + Baseck – Modular Synth, DSI Tempest, DevilFish TB303, Strymon BigSky, casio #DBC611G-1D

But don’t stop there. Cyrus Rex’s music is an IDM orgy of synthesizers, each sound precise and exquisite amidst the raging terror of noise.



Sharing this same attention to sonic detail and big-screen cinematic expanse – yes, we love LA – is the collaboration with Douglas J McCarthy, DJMREX.


  • Ed

    Have to say, I find this sort of post pretty depressing: a dizzying wealth of desirable, expensive, beautifully-filmed equipment, and a total paucity of creative ideas. There must be upwards of £30,000 worth of gear on display, yet it all sounds unerringly like something Warp Records would have released 20 years ago.

    Not that you necessarily need to do something *new* to be exciting, it’s just that I can’t find any kind of unique or interesting voice here, despite the vast and luxurious tools available. I feel like these huge modular rigs all too often become an end in themselves, papering over a lack of creative ambition or imagination: all the focus ends up on constructing the system itself, rather than the music it’s then used to create.

    • Alien Blip Machines

      Reminds me of what Moodymann once said & which is referenced in this Blawan track

    • Peter Kirn

      I don’t even own a modular rig; believe it or not, CDM isn’t netting me loads of money for gear. 😉 So, for me, ultimately, it’s down to the musical inspiration. I’m happy to learn from that and make sounds on what I’ve got.

    • Alien Blip Machines

      As a regular reader of this blog, I know how passionate you are. But it’s too sad CDM didn’t make you rich enough to buy all that cool modular gear & gizmos that inspire you :)
      ps: do you have any gig planned in Norway or Sweden soon?

    • crab hands

      blawan… a producer who now does all his shit with analogue gear and is all about the modular 😛

    • Henry

      Agree. And you know what? I strongly believe that this is the sole purpose of modular synth systems. I still haven’t seen any single musically inspiring performance with modular synths at all. But with this in mind, I can totally relate to people focusing on building the mose amazing modular setups, just for the sake of building them.

    • Ed

      And that’s certainly a fun and worthy endeavour… who am I to say people shouldn’t spend tens of thousands on modular gear if they want to?

      But I do feel like there’s something really limiting about that approach. It approaches the realm of the hobbyist: it stops being a question of using these tools to create musical forms you wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and more about collecting and fetishising the object for its own sake. I use a small modular rack in my own music: the idea that those units are inherently incapable of the same purposes or expression as my other instruments seems a bit… I don’t know, odd maybe?

      I don’t know what artists using modular equipment you’ve listened to, but I’ve found plenty of people using it to express complex and compelling musical ideas: James Holden, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Lichens. You could argue that Charles Cohen, Silver Apples or the Radiophonic Workshop all used modular systems of one sort or another, albeit not Eurorack. Even someone like Benge, where the allure of the gear he’s using is part of the appeal, still brings something interesting and unique to what he’s doing.

    • Henry

      Well, again, it is obviously a very personal opinion, i.e. matter of taste. But despite the fascination it has for me to watch people make sounds and noises with the most amazing signal paths on these machines (having seen James Holden live was more interesting on a geeky equipment level than on a musical), it just doesn’t “kick” me.

      And not even the amazing, wonderful, 4-hour edition of I Dream Of Wires has turned me into a believer…

    • Edward On-Robinson

      This is why I love my Nord Modular – no, there are no new modules for it, yes it sounds cold and digital by default, yes clicking on a screen or twirling encoders is rather less tactile than plugging and unplugging actual cables…but I’ve learned the sound of the thing, and with 130 modules I am never going to get to the end of what it can do.

      For the price of a few small compromises, the Demo version lets anyone play with no time limits or interruptions, and it’s free: It only does a single voice, does not accept external audio input or transmit MIDI, and a few of the more advanced audio modules are disabled, but it’s still very capable and you can find thousands of patches and get reams of advice over at

    • deastman

      I do have to agree to a certain extent about artists creating complex and compelling musical ideas. I am attracted to musical compositions, regardless of the form and style. What I am far less interested in is YouTube videos of “Maths pinging QMMG, sequenced by Rene” for fifteen minutes. Nothing wrong with documenting your sonic experiments, but it doesn’t have quite the same artistic rigor as a more refined composition. When I make modular music, it may have an element of noise and randomness, but that has all been carefully recorded, layered, sequenced, and refined into a finished piece.

    • MisterPickle

      Just another random opinion: I think of this as a kind of performance art. You’re building a composition out of objective, concrete stuff. It’s not words on a page.

      I think that there are some pragmatic aspects to working in this medium. For one, it costs some serious time and $$$ to put a system together – and only then do you find out if you’re any good at making this kind of music. And whether you have native talent or not, you’re probably going to keep plugging away at it. *Hopefully* you’ll get better over time …

    • deastman

      I’ve been using modulars for a while now, having bought my first Doepfer modules in 1996. What attracted me to them at that time was the unique timbres, rhythms, and soundscapes which they could achive- something that you could never hope to replicate with a typical analog polysynth. As the Eurorack format has grown in popularity, I’ve noticed that the typical outsider comments focus on a certain lack of musicality in the output. Pointing out that the sounds which most often spring from these machines aren’t particularly melodic is like finding fault with a Jupiter 6 because it doesn’t make a realistic piano sound. Glitchy, abstract, industrial noise is the primary domain of the modular synth, and has been since the days of the early pioneers. Okay, granted, you will occasionally get someone like Wendy Carlos or Tomita who stubbornly coaxes more traditional music from a modular, but I’m sure I could also find an example of someone recording classical music using only a Casiotone. Random chaotic noises, unattainable with a traditional fixed-architecture synth, represent the true nature and character of a modular. If I just wanted to play some pretty chords, I would (and often do) choose an instrument more suited to those kinds of sounds.

      Personally, I liked the music in this post. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I’m a big fan of Nitzer Ebb. 😉 I also like melodic music, thoughtfully composed and masterfully performed. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference.

    • Henry

      Thank you. That looks like a well written, thought-through, balanced, non-idiotic post. Very refreshing. (And no, no irony or sarcasm involved, just a plain, genuine, honest opinion.)

    • yr3fr3

      You probably have heard some beautiful music made with a modular, you just might not know it.

      This is the specific rabbit hole of seeking out demo videos on a medium such as YouTube. Some of the more competent users are too busy making music to make demos. Some are quite private about their process, and others are more humble than you’d ever imagine. And yes, some are quite talented. Personally this music isn’t my cup of tea, but I don’t hate it either.

      I think Richard Lainhart hit the nail on the head when he noted that many modular users are attracted to the instrument for the “etish that it grants them, rather than its musical utility. My somewhat cynical expectation is that when I listen to a track made by someone who *really* wants me to know it was composed on a modular, I’m probably not going to like it (although I’m occasionally wrong, and delighted).

    • Henry

      You are most likely right. Would be great if you had some examples for me of what you’d like, so I could check them out and maybe change my opinion/prejudice.

    • yr3fr3

      I really love this one:

      Eurorack gear features heavily here, but it’s used for a more deep ambient effect. In this case it’s less about what you can get out of a single performance and more about the layering of timbres.

    • Alex V

      You haven’t seen it because you haven’t looked hard enough… start with Richard Devine’s Vimeo channel.

    • Henry

      Thanks for the tip! I’ll check it out.

    • Peter Kirn

      Certainly, the last thing I’d do is suggest you need this rig to make sounds.

      But… I liked the music. I’ll leave it at that.

    • Ed

      Fair enough, each to their own! I’m certainly not fussed when music I love is made through similarly ostentatious or expensive means (an orchestra, say!), so clearly it’s a deeply subjective and slightly illogical question.

      For what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s any implication in the post that a huge modular rig is necessary to achieve these sounds. For me, there’s just a really stark contrast between the lavish tools and fairly uninspiring results.

    • Henry

      And “fairly uninspiring” is obviously a very subjective, personal opinion, which I share, but some others here don’t.

    • Ed

      Oh totally, I realise my perspective here is a totally subjective one. But we’re past the point where everyone needs to preface their responses with “in my opinion…” aren’t we?

    • Henry

      What I read in this thread, I am not so sure, I’m afraid.

    • Joe

      “He could have done it in Reasons…”

  • Jim Aikin

    I’m going to disagree with Ed and Henry. I did think the live video piece was boring, but the produced tracks are excellent. I’m a modular owner and also a composer of more traditional music, and it seems to me that the esthetic considerations are just different when you’re dealing with modular music.

    • Peter Kirn

      To be honest, I listened to the bunch together as one. Means something that they meant something to you, too.

      I’m no modular addict, and this isn’t my normal musical idiom, and I loved the tracks.

    • Henry

      See, it is just a matter of musical taste, apparently.

  • (QRG)

    Haters gonna hate. And use bad logic to justify arguments that are kind of irrelevant in the meantime.

    Great post.

    • Henry

      What haters do you mean? I do not read any hatred in this comments thread.

    • Newgreyarea

      Agreed. I knew as soon as I saw this post the type of responses it would have. It could be done in “Reason”? Really? Do it! Show me something even remotely as organic sounding? It’s like giving someone shit for playing a beat on an actual drum kit versus just sampling it. I’m not 100% positive but I don’t think they do much if any multi-tracking which means they are just jamming this stuff out in realtime. That’s great! What fun! You need a lot of modules to do that. No computers outside of Protools being used as a tape deck. It doesn’t have a strong “pop” melody and is a bit more on the percussive side of things which might make it less “interesting” to some people but to say it is not “unique” is silly. Do you need a huge modular to make music, absolutely not. Does having one bring hate from those that don’t, always. I remember when pictures were posted of Deamau5’s studio, all he got was hate. People that had no idea who he was or what he was doing were just hating all over him. Jealousy breeds that crap.

    • (QRG)

      Thanks. I’m too lazy and went into this discussion way too much to type all of this again in 2014.

    • Newgreyarea

      Hah! It’s just annoying when people are so dismissive of other people’s art. If I look at a painting of a person my initial reaction isn’t “they could’ve just used an iphone.”. Just irks me. Especially when the criticism comes from people are not doing much other than criticizing and don’t have the ability/talent to do “the art”. Someone worked really hard to make this. Art is the closest thing we have to a physical manifestation of a “soul”. If someone is showing you that, try not to shit on it.

    • Ed

      For what it’s worth, and just to add a little context: I’m not just criticising, I’m a musician myself, putting records out. I’ve had criticisms about my work, at least as harsh as this; I didn’t immediately assume it was due to embittered haters. I think it’s interesting that you’ve constructed this kind of backstory to explain my motivations, but unfortunately it’s pretty wide of the mark.

      I’m not trying to shit on the guy’s work, but I did honestly find it mediocre, and felt that the really lavish modular rig he was using raised interesting questions about tools and creativity. Obviously, fair enough if you feel differently.

    • Peter Kirn

      Actually, in the news queue is a new module for Reason that was inspired by modulars.

      Don’t sweat it so much. Some people didn’t respond to the music, or the tools. Don’t feed the trolls. 😉

    • (QRG)

      Nothing against reason, for sure. I like how well they responded to the whole Modular Market.

    • Peter Kirn

      I think you’re joking, right? 😉

      Given that Eurorack wasn’t so popular when Reason was launched…

    • (QRG)

      Didn’t one of these last versions came boasting features about integration with analog systems and most of their visuals featured modular stuff?

      I don’t use Reason in years, but I really remember that…

    • Newgreyarea

      Trolls get me when I’m highly caffeinated. Most of the time I just walk away. . . speaking of Reason, I’ve not upgraded since 2.0. Hadn’t thought about it in a while until yesterday. Wasn’t even sure if they were still around.

    • Ed

      I think the comment about it being possible to do this in Reason was a joke.

      Beyond that, I’m being completely earnest in my comments here, no attempt at trolling whatsoever. I genuinely do find the music really underwhelming and derivative, a feeling which is exacerbated by the beautiful tools at his disposal, and the possibilities afforded by such a stunning array of gear. That’s obviously just a single subjective opinion on it, though.

      The Deadmau5 comment is really interesting: I remember the annoyance about him apparently jumping on the modular bandwagon, but I also remember him from the early days of the monome forum, before he made it big. Clearly, he’s no tourist with this stuff.

      And yet, surely you can see the disconnect? Buying a huge modular system, then just carrying on banging out standard-order EDM floorfillers feels superfluous. Maybe there’s some unusual benefit brought to his workflow by using a modular, but I don’t think that’s really reflected in any of his music. No particular hate involved, it’s just a bit baffling: like if someone bought a beautiful sports car, then just drove it to the supermarket and back. Fair enough if that’s what they want to do, but… well, it’s a bit of a waste if nothing else.

  • Jim Aikin

    Somebody suggested this music could have been done in Reason. I beg to differ. It’s true that _similar_ music could be done in Reason, but every instrument will lead you in its own creative directions. There’s an enormous amount of stuff you can do in a hardware modular that Reason can’t touch, not least because you can twiddle the knobs while the sound is playing. In Reason you can assign MIDI controllers to parameters for live interaction, but at that point (a) you have to go through an extra programming process, which is less than entirely spontaneous, and (b) MIDI CC data only has 7-bit resolution, which is considerably more coarse than what you get with an analog hardware knob.

    I love Reason. I use it a lot. And yes, in some sense Reason is a giant modular synth! But it’s a very, very different beast from a hardware modular, for a variety of reasons. The separation of audio signals from control signals, for instance. Each instrument is wonderful at things the other can’t do at all. Apples and oranges.

    • Henry

      I think, the Reason mentioning was either a bad joke, or a troll post out of complete ignorance or not-having-the-slightest-clue. Reason’s modularity has absolutely nothing to do with modular synths as they are portrayed in this article. So, bottom line, I think, we can just leave it were it is…

    • anon

      Certain subjects seem to bring out the vitrol in some folks – monome, Linux and modular synths definatly trigger something.Ableton, macbook/iPod/iPad/iPhone and Klassic Techno never have this effect. Sigh.

    • Peter Kirn

      They don’t? Ha!

      Anyway, discussion is good, so long as we keep on topic.

    • yerpa58 .

      I loved the tones in this piece, and the composition, critics be damned.

    • DJ ShyZa

      Actually you should read Propellerheads article about Cyrus and his ab/use of Reason.

  • Baseck

    Thanks for sharing the vid, we had a blast making it! Desolate Alien Landscapes

  • name user

    rockist wank

  • Danny

    Model Railroading