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Modular Profile: Aimo Scampa

Manifold Research Centre By William Stokes
Published September 2022

Modular Profile 0922: Aimo ScampaAimo Scampa.

Designer Aimo Scampa began his musical journey studying classical and jazz piano in Udine, north-eastern Italy, before moving to the UK to study sound production at New Lanarkshire College in Motherwell. It was in Scotland that he began his deep dive into the world of modular, moving to Glasgow to work for maverick developer Instruō, to whom he attributes much of his knowledge and inspiration. Now he designs modules under the moniker of Manifold Research Centre, with an approach that’s as off‑the‑wall as it is fascinatingly clever, capably demonstrated by his latest module: the Ciat‑Lonbarde‑inspired Tetragrid.

On his entry into modular

I started to get into modular around eight years ago. A dear friend of mine in Berlin had a system at the time, and he was starting to build DIY stuff. He was the one who got me into it (I owe him all my gratitude for this). I got a PSU and a Doepfer A‑119, and I got my first kit — the Tube VCA from L‑1 Synthesizer. I still have that module in my system, it’s amazing. I then got completely caught up in the act of making. The excitement and satisfaction of seeing it working was unreal and I just kept going for it.

On his go‑to modules (apart from his own!)

The L‑1 Tube VCA! Valves: say no more. Also, [Mutable Instruments’] Stages. Looping envelopes are at the centre point of my patches, and cross‑modulation is a great way to create interesting, non‑standard, ‘non‑sequences’.

Next would be the [Instruō] lìon: I designed the lìon because I really needed something like this in my system and always dreamed about an EMS‑style pin matrix. I love routing and summing. Matrix mixers are meta, mate! The [Instruō] I‑ō47 is great as well: filters are my favourite thing ever. Beautiful processors, amazing when pinged, and the outs can be hard‑panned to create beautiful stereo effects. And the notch output on the I‑ō47 is pure class.

Lastly, the [Make Noise] Erbe‑Verb. I love it, I use it mostly as a resonator and delay more than a reverb. It’s very metallic, very good for rhythmical stuff. But I try to be careful with it: long, lush reverbs are a plague in Eurorack. My partner Ewa Justka — aka Optotronics — says that it’s cheating, and I cannot agree more with that. The world should do something about it.

Sequencers dominate the electronic music scene and go against the idea of freedom, especially for something like a modular system. I was looking for something to get away from the constrictions of a bar loop...

On the Manifold Research Centre Tetragrid and the Anti‑Sequencer Manifesto

Sequencers dominate the electronic music scene and go against the idea of freedom, especially for something like a modular system. I was looking for something to get away from the constrictions of a bar loop, so I just started experimenting with cross‑modulating patches. Feedback loops have the beautiful ability to create an ecosystem where every element is in relation to each other. And if you pay attention, underneath this layer of randomness you can find beautiful underlying patterns.

What I’m interested in is to dig down and find those patterns. It’s more about discovery, I guess. I was playing around with the idea of using magnets for an interface or instrument when I came across Peter Blasser’s Rollz‑5 and Roolz‑Gewei circuits and decided to combine the two together. The Tetragrid was born.

On his early days with Instruō

I began working at Instruō in 2018. It’s an incredibly open environment that gives so much; everyone is sharing their knowledge and everyone has the opportunity to learn and work on their ideas. The place is about growth. I’m only here now thanks to Jason and the rest of the team. That’s how I started designing electronics: they taught me how to read schematics and use PCB design software, they gave me the drive to design the lìon and a big push by releasing it as part of the Instruō line. And that’s just the start!

On the culture of modular

I see modular as the perfect learning platform for synthesis, and consequently the perfect tool for the development of new instrument ideas. The growth that modular has seen in the last decade reflects this, in my opinion. Having said that, modular has its dark side too: it can lead to a hoarding problem. It’s a rabbit hole. In some cases it becomes a collecting fetish, rather than trying to understand what you have in your hands. With such a huge variety of modules available, people can feel like they’re never done with a system.

What I like the most about modular culture is the DIY community that grew around it, so I think of it as the main reason why someone should start with modular as a learning tool — not only for synthesis, but also for electronics.