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Bastl Instruments Kompas

Eurorack Module By Robin Vincent
Published April 2020

Size: 5HP. Current: +12V 30mA.Size: 5HP. Current: +12V 30mA.

Kompas is a delightfully odd three-coordinate probabilistic pattern navigator. The module is inspired by a non-linear approach to music, life and the universe, and designer Stefano Manconi hopes it will take you in unexpected directions and down new pathways.

I've never really had a Eurorack module that came with a philosophy before. Kompas comes with a hand-printed magazine that's packed with thoughts and ideas about navigating music and navigating life: if our lives don't have an 'undo' function does that make them inherently destructive? Is it the same with music? Shouldn't it be? Stefano relates how, with the future being so uncertain, his generation will have to learn the skills of coping with loss and improvisation given the conditions of the moment, and maybe we can learn these skills in the making of our music and the design of our instruments.

So, what does Kompas do? It generates three channels of triggers governed by three 32-step pattern generators with travelling algorithms. The channels are called Longitude, Altitude and Latitude and each one has its own method of navigation. Each direction has a Coordinate knob. With the knob turned fully to the right all the steps are active and all the way to the left turns everything off. Somewhere in between the probabilistic algorithms are engaged and that is where all the fun begins.

Bastl describe Longitude as being the safest route whereas Latitude is the most unpredictable. Altitude is defined as being always related to the other two coordinates. Everything after that is down to experimentation.

The module is inspired by a non-linear approach to music, life and the universe, and designer Vaclav Pelousek hopes it will take you in unexpected directions and down new pathways.

In use Kompas is a wonderfully simple and fascinating trigger generator that has the ability to run as an interactive drum machine. I found myself using Longitude to drive a kick, Latitude on a closed hi-hat and Altitude to trigger an open hi-hat or another percussive sound. Adjusting the probability and so the intensity of each channel produced these varying patterns and organic rhythms. All thoughts of our 'undoable' future were quickly replaced by happy thoughts and the potential for some dancing. This is really good fun! Trying to discern the relationship between the three became more unnecessary as I played with the knobs. I would find myself intuitively pushing rhythms and finding different grooves that were then replaced by other directions and ideas.

The triggers could also invigorate sequences when applied to envelopes. I'd often divert a single channel to run the sequence in relation to the percussion. Wonderfully simple and effective. It has the feel of the pulse output of the Turing Machine but with more perceived control and adjustable intensity.

There are CV inputs for the three directions which can do all the knob twiddling for you. There's also a Reset input to restart the pattern and it takes the tempo from a clock input. It's all run by an Arduino-compatible chip which can be hacked and repurposed if you are into that sort of thing.

The mindfulness of the manual and the way it's been realised in the module is inspiring and a very welcome approach. I'm not sure how Kompas will help us save the world but it will certainly distract you from caring about it long enough to pump some very satisfying rhythms through your rack. I'm thinking that I might need two!