Cosmic Grains & Loops — two experimental, ambient delays with configurable routing

Cosmic Grains and Cosmic Loops build off a Cosmos-style offset dual delay by adding granular and looper-based effects, respectively, and placing them in a configurable routing schematic: you can place the effects before the delay, after the delay, or in its feedback path. This style of dual delay is great for creating wide sonic palettes — using two delay lines of different lengths, with the feedback cross-fed between them, simple sounds quickly fill out vast spaces, smearing the source across the stereo field. (I’ve been using it a lot, for patches like Sleepwalker and Dissolve, but also in a lot of my generative patches.) Introducing granular and looper-based effects allows for even more sound design opportunities — these patches excel at stutter-y, glitchy, psychedelic-tinged soundscaping.

Each side of the delay gets its own buffer manipulation effect (a decent catch-all for granular and looper effects), so they can be processed separately with independent parameters, then mixed together in the delay network, or affect the output of the delay network with unique effects. You can also link the two sides’ controls to apply the same effects to each.

The patch operates in true stereo. Let’s dig in to some controls.

I’ll begin with the delay controls, which are shared between both patches before going into the Grains- and Loops-specific controls.

The most important feature of the patch is the ROUTING SELECTOR, which is a pink and purple column that runs down the middle of the patch. On the left side are the delay-specific controls; on the right are the controls for the buffer manipulation effect.

There are three options:

PRE- This places the buffer manipulation effect before the delay lines. This is useful for creating distinct sounds/effects which are then blended together by the delay network.

POST- This places the buffer manipulation effect after the delay lines. Now, the product of the delay network is affected by the processor, which can add a distinct character to the cross-fed delays.

FEEDBACK- This places the buffer manipulation in the feedback path of the delay lines. Effects then can have a compounding effect — cascading pitch-shift arpeggios, glitchy dropped and mangled echoes, palindromic delays that play in reverse then flip directions. It should be noted that placing the buffer manipulation effects in the feedback path can affect the gain of the path, and in general, you’re likely to experience somewhat attenuated feedback over time (although it should also be noted that there are probably settings that can cause increasing gain over time as well — this is generally a well-tuned patch, but with this much variety, there are always possibilities of things running amok unexpectedly).

You can select the routing either by pressing the button on the control page, or by using the RIGHT STOMPSWITCH to move sequentially through the routing options, from pre- to post- to feedback and back again.

There is a UI button on the front page that indicates whether the patch is RECORDING or not. When it is red, audio is fed to the input of the delay. When it is green, audio is not passed to the input of the delay. You can also control this with the RIGHT STOMPSWITCH.

There is also an ERASE BUTTON, with an ERASE SLEW control. This allows you to erase the contents of the delay line buffer. The slew allows you to set a fade-in/fade-out time for this erasure. This button is replicated with the MIDDLE STOMPSWITCH.

Along the bottom row are some global controls: DRY LEVEL and WET LEVEL controls allow you to set a mix.

There are also LOW-PASS FILTER FREQUENCY and a HIGH-PASS FILTER FREQUENCY controls. These filters always follow the buffer manipulation effects. They can click when changed (as they use multi-filters, both for CPU-saving reasons and because the resonance of the state variable filter is too pronounced to be placed in a feedback loop), so you may want to set them before entering audio into the patch, and you may want to save the patch once they are set.

There is a DELAY TIME control, which acts as a sort of master for both delay lines. It can range up to 16 seconds. Then, there is an OFFSET DELAY control, which determines how much the delay lines are offset from one another. This control reflects a percentage of the total delay time, so setting it to .5 will produce a delay time for the offset delay of 50% of the master delay time.

There is also a DELAY SLEW control. This affects how quickly the interpolated delay times change. With lower values, the delay times will change quickly (but can produce pronounced artifacts); with higher values, the delay times will change more slowly, which will introduce the sort of slowing down/speeding up artifacts found in “analog-style” delays, but will also affect incoming audio. I tend to set the delay times at first with a low slew, then add slew after the delay times are set so further manipulation can be used performatively.

There is a FEEDBACK control, which controls the strength of the regeneration. This can go slightly above unity. Over long enough times, the feedback can also produce low, resonant frequencies — I didn’t have CPU to place high-pass filters in the feedback path to prevent this (and doing so would have affected the gain structure of the feedback anyway). It’s something you might want to be aware of if running the patch for a very long time at a very high feedback amount.

The BLUR control determines how much the delay lines are cross-fed. At 0, they are not cross-fed at all, and you can use the offset to create interesting phased delay effects. As blur increases, more of the delay lines’ outputs are cross-fed, producing scattering, smearing effects. As you move the control above .5, more of the output is cross-fed than is fed into its original delay line, producing ping-ponging effects (this can be particularly useful with pitch effects, to spread them across a stereo field).

The DRIFT control determines the range of a randomized panning that affects the output.

SMEAR is a very subtle modulation effect that is meant to discourage the production of resonant frequencies in the cross-fed paths. I would recommend using some, but you can set the amount. More smearing will result in a more “hazy” output over time.

WARBLE is a more aggressive pitch modulation effect, modeled on a chewed-up tape sort of sound. Subtle amounts can add nice variety to the sound; more un-subtle amounts can produce warbly sounds I think of as “melted.”

COSMIC GRAINS-specific controls:

Each side of the patch has independent controls for GRAIN SIZE, DENSITY, and PITCH. While they can operate independently, they can also be linked with the SYNC buttons beside each pair of controls. When the sync button is on, the left side will act as a control for both sides.

Below these is a TAP TEMPO button. It flashes in time with the tapped tempo. This tap tempo controls two additional effects.

There is a POSITION MODULATION DEPTH control next to the tap tempo. This controls the range of a randomized position modulation. It can introduce interesting glitches as the granular module jumps around its buffer, but it can also introduce clicks and pops as it jumps from areas of different amplitude.

There is also a FREEZE CHANCE control controlled by the tap tempo. As this is increased, one, or the other, or both granular buffers are more likely to freeze, creating stutters and held sounds.

Finally, there is a TEXTURE control that affects both granular buffers equally. This affects the amplitude envelope surrounding the grains, and changing it can affect the overall gain of the wet signal path.

COSMIC LOOPS-specific controls:

Each side of the patch has independent controls for REVERSE and PITCH. While they can operate independently, they can also be linked with the SYNC buttons beside each pair of controls. When the sync button is on, the left side will act as a control for both sides.

Below these is a TAP TEMPO button. It flashes in time with the tapped tempo. This tapped tempo controls the length of the looper buffers — longer times will result in the loopers capturing longer periods of audio, which can be useful for capturing phrases. Shorter times can produce glitchier effects, as the buffers fail to capture a complete note or sound, chopping it up into discrete segments.

The tap tempo also controls the rate of the START POSITION MODULATION and the END POSITION MODULATION. Each of these effects have a depth control. They produce a randomized value for each loop buffer played. Greater values give each modulation a greater range to chop up the loop buffer. You can also SYNC these modulations, so they use the same random start and end point on either side of the patch.

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