by ELLISON WOLF
In the 90s Sci-Fi movie Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger's character Quaid was a bored working class dude who thought it’d be a good idea to try and spice up his life by having a memory implant of an action/adventure vacation inserted into his brain. The technology goes awry, chaos ensues, and the implant doesn’t quite go as planned. If you’ve never seen the movie, rest assured that Arnie and pals beat the bad guys, he gets the girl, etc. It's with this in mind that we can take solace in the fact that ALM’s Quaid doesn’t have an issue with their technology and there is no botching of the mind. And while there is no life threatening adversity to overcome, there is plenty of fun to be had with this module, all without needing to mess with your brain.
The Quaid Megaslope is a five stage function generator that has three modes; a multistage complex envelope, a user defined LFO, and a step sequencer. Each of the three modes creates a shifting output voltage, moving from stage to stage. In terms of controls, each stage contains a destination level, a rate for reaching the destination level, and a variable slope control that goes from logarithmic, to linear, to exponential and all spots in between. The SUSTAIN/LOOP button changes the length of the number of stages from one to five while in Loop or Step mode, and also sets the sustain point while in Env mode. There are two different voltage outputs; unipolar and bipolar, and trigger outs for both end of selected stage [EOS], and end of cycle [EOC]. A GATE input and a TRIG [ger] input complete the lower portion of the module.
ALM states on their website, “The Quaid Megaslope is designed to be fun, flexible and intuitive to use” and there’s no false advertising here. Patch a trigger into Quaid, set it in Envelope mode, and patch either the bi or uni-polar output into a filter or VCA and start sliding and turning the knobs. It’s really fun to use it as the five stage envelope to get some glitchy, odd rhythms. Using either the EOC or EOS to trigger, say, a kick, gives the beat an anchor, which is a great idea if you’re using a sample and hold, or some randomly ratcheted gate as your gate or trigger source. It’d be cool if there was a way to randomly jump from stage to stage for more unpredictability, but you can get plenty of randomness by inserting some CV control for each individual stage’s Level and Time controls. Self patching yields some cool results, but the most fun I had with Quaid in this mode was when I had it all patched up and messed with it’s controls by hand. I love manipulating rhythms and by doing this you can change the overall stage length [from 1-5], as well as the length of each stage. If you can sense where I like this mode most, it’s in creating unpredictable rhythms. When I was in my initial stages of learning to play drums I used to challenge myself to keep 4/4 time with my hi-hat via stick [not foot] and trying to make the most random [albeit awful, musically] beats, just trying to have my limbs be as independent as possible. When I was able to do this, and to know what was going on and control each limb separately, I knew I had achieved some sort of nirvana. Same goes with Quaid. All I really want to do is create the most f*cked up, unmusical rhythms and beats that are as glitchy and unwieldy as possible, and Quaid is perfect for this. Turning the TIME knob clockwise on Stage One yielded a simple ramp wave with the SLOPE in the middle position when using a quick gate time to trigger it. The relationship between the gate/trigger source and TIME/s of each stage is pretty interesting, and is really fun to experiment with. The slightest change in TIME can increase or decrease the Stage's length as shown/heard by the outputted waveform. One thing I really love about Quaid is that you can stutter with it. I suppose there are other ways to do this in a system, like a random trigger into a randomized ratcheting gate or something, but with Quaid it’s effortless and you can change it around with your own two hands - no programming, menus, encoders, etc.
The second mode on offer is Loop mode, a really cool way to make custom, or “bespoke” [in fancy language] LFOs. I pretty much maxed out my XAOC Batumi patching it into the CV ins on Quaid for every stage, seeing how funky I could get. The thing I like about modules such as Quaid are the randomization of accents you can get. I had a really cool patch going, kind of a Aboriginal tribal Didgeridoo-ish sound with a steady but surprising, slow, droney beat going and the + and - outs CV'ing the resonance of my Vermona twinVCFilter, using the Joranalogue Generate 3 as the sound source [Hear it at https://www.waveformmagazine.com/issue3]. You are free to correct my adjective laden description of the sound, but no matter how you say it, I was into it. Again, minor adjustments to each stage’s TIME [via knob, CV, or both] provided a lot of variation in terms of beat and either lengthened or shortened the number of stages that cycled.
If you have an oscilloscope handy, it’s really fun to see the envelopes you can create. Things get interesting when you patch some CV to control the level and rate for each stage, so load up on LFOs to feed this beast. Each stage can occupy from 1ms to 3 minutes, so you could have a nice 15 minute, sllloooowww moving envelope with which to modulate something, or something super fast and clicky—perfect for the jittery rhythms and percussive hits that I like. You can do the same in LFO mode, and it’s a pretty cool thing to be able to create your own custom LFOs. The shapes you can create, can be almost anything, it’s a nice departure from the standard and expected square, sine, triangle, etc. LFO that we’re all used to modulating with.
Quaid is surprisingly flexible as a step sequencer as well. I remember thinking a long time ago how odd it was that things like the Buchla Music Easel had only five steps in its sequencer. I didn’t understand it, being used to the near endless amounts of steps [16, 64, 128, infinity?] that a lot of sequencers offer. I suppose I always felt more is better, even though I like easily recognizable repetition, something not always so easy with a 128 step sequence. With the advent of endless amounts of steps available nowadays via software [or software disguised as hardware] based sequencers, you’d be forgiven if you thought the same. But you know what? With five [or less] steps, there’s no programming. And repetition—so easy to come by with so few steps—can be extremely musical. And CV'ing each stage’s Level along with the Slope and Time makes Quaid a pretty flexible and really fun sequencer to work with. The Time value in this instance acts like a fall parameter, giving a little glide from note to note when turned counter clockwise.
My only wish for Quaid would be to have the ability to CV the Step/Sustain, but all things being equal, unlike the character in the movie, there’s nothing boring about this Quaid.
19 HP +12V 70mA -12V 35mA