When Make Noise label an instrument an ‘experiment’, you know things are about to get interesting...
The Strega is the third in Make Noise’s occasional series of self‑contained tabletop devices, following the 0‑Coast synth and 0‑Ctrl controller/sequencer. This one is a, erm... Synth? Processor? Drone Machine? Make Noise’s preferred noun is “experiment”, which isn’t as pretentious as it sounds: it’s really the right word for the job.
Strega is a collaboration between Make Noise and the brilliant artist Alessandro Cortini (‘strega’ is Italian for ‘witch’). Whether you’re a general fan of electronic art music, or, like me, a Nine Inch Nails nut, you’ll be familiar with the sound worlds Alessandro spins into existence. His music often has beautiful, delicate tones decomposing into lo‑fi noise and chaos. And this combo is precisely what Strega conjures up.
Make Noise panel designs have a slightly alien hieroglyphic feel that I find appealing, and here they are deliberately and deliciously cryptic. This encourages you to set aside expectations and explore what each control and section does. This getting‑to‑know‑you process is joyful, and to avoid spoiling that I’ll try to avoid fully unpicking and explaining the Strega in conventional synth review terms. Plus there’s still parts of it I can’t explain!
The Strega shares the same slim metal form as the 0‑Coast and 0‑Ctrl. It can sit neatly behind or in front of either, and ships with a splitter cable so you can power it alongside one of its siblings from a single outlet. Although standalone, it is essentially a self‑contained Eurorack standard device which melds readily with the other Make Noise systems or another modular setup.
While the Strega is unconventional and esoteric, it’s actually simpler in some ways than the 0‑Coast. It has no MIDI, and no programmable features, for example. A basic overview shows the Strega to be a game of two halves. The left‑hand ‘Tonic’ side of the panel supplies tones from both an internal oscillator and an external input. These ‘substances’ flow into the ‘time/filter experiment’ section to the right, which is dominated by a grungy multi‑layered delay effect and filtered feedback loop. The final result is a blend of the two sides.
The most logical place I could start was with no patch connections or inputs, where I could get to know the Strega’s inherent sound and routing. The internal sound generator is brought into play with the ‘Activation’ cluster at the bottom left, which is essentially a combined oscillator/VCA section. There are a few ways to stir this into life, but the simplest is to turn up the central knob and introduce a steady tone.
With sound running, it doesn’t take much exploration to learn that the large Tonic dial sweeps pitch over a very wide range, aided by a small fine tune trimmer. ‘Tone’ changes the character of the oscillator, which starts as a triangle, then gets progressively shaped or folded, becoming sawlike, then a kind of pulse+sub that sweeps nicely before finally becoming something like a fat jagged square.
Pushing up the Blend control you’ll hear what the Strega’s other side — the dark side, if you will — is doing to denature this simple seed sound. Again, I want to avoid being too analytical here, and frankly I never fully figured out the structure of the time/filter experiment, but the gist is you have a wild, unpredictable delay which spits noise and mangled up bits of your source into what is maybe a parallel filter arrangement, one of which feeds back into the maelstrom.
Depending on the initial tone and pitch, and the delay/decay times, you can arrive at many different places, albeit different coordinates in a diverse dystopian moodscape. Because of the large amount of self...