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Vermona meloDICER & MEX3 MIDI Expander

Eurorack Modules By Robin Vincent
Published July 2024

Vermona meloDICER.Vermona meloDICER.

With the release of the MEX3 MIDI Expander, Vermona haves transformed this fascinating stochastic CV pattern generator into a MIDI‑enabled chord progression instigator. We missed the chance to review the meloDICER when it was first released, and so the MEX3 gives us another opportunity to check it out.

meloDICER: the module’s name pretty much nails the philosophy behind it. It generates melodies through the rolling of dice. Although more precisely, it generates patterns through stochastic randomisation.

The basic premise is that you have the 12 tones of an octave on sliders. As you push up a slider that note becomes more likely to be selected and as you push more sliders you apply influence over the possible melody and how often the notes will sound. To the right you’ll find a pair of Range sliders. These let you set the octave range of the melody. That is the sum total of your melodic interference.

The Rhythm side of meloDICER is conducted via the row of four knobs along the top. The first knob sets a note length relative to the clock, from one bar to 1/32 note. Next, you have a Variation control that starts evenly at the 12 o’clock position and then introduces longer notes to the left and shorter notes to the right. The Legato control will increasingly drop gates until you remove them from the equation entirely. Finally, we have Rest, which suggests to the melody that it should hang on to the last note for a bit. With these knobs set to their lowest values, you get a straightforward gate on every time division. But once you start to exert their influence, all sorts of rhythms begin to emerge.

Without the MEX3 expansion, the meloDICER module has a single 1V/oct CV and gate output and leads you into some great melodies. To generate a suitably fabulous bass line, push up a few notes and lean into the knobs just a touch, and you’re off with some pretty solid patterns. It pulls you into experimenting with range and variations, adding and removing notes or varying their importance on the sliders. The melodies and rhythms generate themselves; your interaction influences the outcome rather than dictates it. And this brings us to the Dice buttons. With the Melody and Rhythm Dice buttons lit, they will repeat the same pattern of 16 steps. While you may influence the rhythm with the knobs and change the notes, the underlying rhythm and movement of melody remain the same. If you want that to change, you hit the button, and the machine rolls the dice to create a new pattern of notes and rhythmic structure.

A roll of the dice won’t give you a banger every time, but you’ll quickly find something interesting and pleasing that you can mould to your liking with the controls. You can also play with the length of the loop via the spinning circle of 16 LEDs. Holding the buttons to the side, you can select the first and last note of the sequence with the encoder. Holding both, you can rotate your range through the 16‑step pattern, seeking out the most interesting elements. If you’d prefer a fully random experience, then you can disengage the two Dice buttons and meloDICER will meander its way through ever‑changing probabilistic melodic and rhythmic events.

MEX3 MIDI Expander

The MEX3 brings this stochastic note generation into your MIDI synthesizers or DAW via TRS Type A MIDI connections. In doing so we discover that the whole module is MIDI controllable and transmits CC numbers for every knob and slider. We also find that the MEX3 is unexpectedly kicking out three‑voice polyphonic patterns completely by default and without any enabling or intervention from us. This can be very confusing for anyone plugging it into a monophonic synthesizer, but once you have it pumping into a polysynth or sliding into your DAW then it becomes a differently beautiful experience to the monophonic modular CV one.

On every step you get a three‑note chord derived from the same stochastic engine, but running three times to produce three notes on each step. So, it’s not deciding on chords as such, it’s finding chords through the random selection of three notes. You have to think about things slightly differently because all the notes you might want in a melody are not necessarily those you want together in a chord. The results are really interesting and can range from demented pianist to synth virtuoso. However, what’s not immediately clear is how we get back to a single line of melody, which is, after all, what we wanted the meloDICER for.

After a good bit of manual analysis it turns out that the three voices can be silenced through the Rest control. Turning the knob on the meloDICER affects all three voices at once and increasingly introduces rests over the whole chord pattern until nothing is playing. To leave just the first voice playing you have to use MIDI CC numbers to turn up the Rest function for voices two and three. Once you’ve configured your software or hardware MIDI controller with the right CCs you then have to enjoy a few hours of troubleshooting until you discover that, by default, the MIDI input is disabled, despite the flashing green activity light that would suggest otherwise. I can’t quite wrap my head around why a MIDI expander that requires MIDI control as a basic function would have a factory setting that prevents it from working.

From the straightforward layout to the familiarity of the outcomes, meloDICER really hits the mark.

However, when it is all up, running and making sense in your MIDI and/or CV environment then meloDICER has an extraordinary ability to generate pleasing patterns with a modicum of effort. Its strength is in the ordered nature of things. From the straightforward layout to the familiarity of the outcomes, it really hits the mark. Sometimes, it feels a bit straight‑laced, like a safe pair of hands that perhaps lacks a sense of adventure. But it’s never been easier to write a sequence without writing a sequence.

meloDICER £429, MEX3 £159.

meloDICER $529, MEX3 $189.