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Basil - Bastl

Basil - Bastl

by Jason Czyeryk

Those familiar with Bastl’s Pizza, which we reviewed in issue #10, might do a double take when they see Bastl’s new stereo delay module, Basil. It looks very similar and is built on the same hardware platform as Pizza, which means that anyone with Pizza can have Basil by uploading the firmware for it. With the same jack/slider/knob placement as Pizza, if it weren’t for the different text and graphics on the faceplate, you’d be hard pressed to tell the two apart if you came across both of them at twenty paces in a dark back alley somewhere, or even a local synth meet with bad lighting.
Just like Pizza, the controls on Basil have dual functionality, where the left and right sides of center offer up different parameter controls. It’s a great way to save space while offering up vast functionality, and Bastl uses this tactic to great effect here, and in quite a few of their modules.
Basil is touted as being flexible—it even says so on the faceplate—and boy is it. With controls over Delay time, Stereo parameters, Mix, Speed, Feedback, Freeze, a Lo-fi setting, Filter, Space, Blur and Taps, and with a user assignable control (CTRL) to modulate any of these, Basil bends over backwards to offer up mass control and features, all in a very Bastlian way.
Basil can operate like your standard delay, with delay times ranging up to four seconds, and you can sync by patching in a clock to Basil’s Sync input. With the Delay knob in Time mode you can choose from synced divisions of 32, 24, 16, 12, 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1, ¾, ½, ⅓, ¼, , ⅛. That’s a lot of divisions and it’d be pretty hard to dial in a specific one on the fly by eyeballing it, but you can get pretty close by listening and it’s a great attribute to be able to have this at your disposal. There are Coarse and Fine modes, to fine tune the delay and pitch—depending on what’s happening.
Just like Pizza, there is a CTRL function, a user-definable control that lets you map pretty much any function/feature on Basil for CV and knob control, and by mapping the CTRL to Fine, you can modulate the delay tails with an LFO and detune to varying degrees; a slow sine wave LFO brought a syrupy, kind of sad dimension to my patch, while patching in a VCO gave me some FM on the delay with the ability to tailor the amount using the accompanying attenuverter. Adding FM to the tails was awesome, with the Mix fully wet and the Stereo at full CW, the resulting ping ponging of harsh and gurgly FM playing in my ears was a lot of fun and with just slight tweaks on the CTRL I was able to get a large diversity of sound.
The stereo spread configuration is such that when in stereo mode and the Delay knob is fully CCW, the two output channels have the same delay, so in effect if patched into your mixer right from there it sounds like a mono signal; the output is identical. If you turn the knob fully CW then the left delay time lengthens while the right delay shortens. This gives a classic ping pong effect and is a trip in headphones. With a mono signal for an input, but with both outputs panned hard each way, shifting the stereo field around was interesting, and CVing it via the CTRL input brought about expected results except that when using a square LFO to alternate between the two extreme sides I got a pop with each change. Getting rid of the right angles—using any CV other than a square/pulse/etc., and the pop naturally disappeared but the tuning became warped and unstable as the stereo effect changed. This wasn’t all bad, and if you have a programmable LFO or EG (like the Xaoc Zadar) you could build specific envelopes to manipulate this to however you’d like. Switching the stereo spread really slowly from mono to stereo is a really fun effect.
The Feedback control’s dual functionality is such that right of center both output channels have the same amount of feedback, and moving the control to the left of center creates a ping pong routing in the delay so that the channels cross paths each time they feedback. It can be bizarre, and the differences between the two methods can sometimes be subtle, but also sometimes really extreme. Basil does have the ability to get out of control and could be in danger of blowing out eardrums and speakers, so in order to keep things tamed Basil has a built-in compressor and overdrive in the feedback path.
There are other ways to shape the sound in the Space section, and to the left of the diagonal slider is where you can select Blur, Filter, or Taps and control that with the (again) dual-functioned Space slider. Blur acts as a diffuser and either affects the signal before the feedback and adds a little LP filtering, or diffuses in the feedback path. More or less, this translated to a brighter signal with the slider fully right, and a more muted flavor when the slider was left, a helpful utility to sculpt the tone.
Filter mode was a different story. Having a built-in filter (fully left for LPF, right for a HPF) for controlling the overall sound of a runaway-ish (the “ish” is because of the taming compressor) delay is a gem. Factor in the ability to CV this via the CTRL and you can automate some sweet sweeps of your delay line.
The last of the Space modes, Taps adds in signals from delay times shorter than the main delay time, thereby creating a multi-tap delay. If you think of this as a tape delay, it’s an extra play head between the other play heads. Moving the Space slider to the left adds odd and even divisions, while to the right and you only add even divisions. If you want to get extreme, moving the slider to either extreme puts the Taps into the feedback route (controlled by the feedback knob). Since there’s only the one Space slider for the three different parameters every time you switch from one mode to the next it resets the previous mode back to zero, its center position. This means that if you want to crank the LPF but also want to add some even taps, you can’t do it, right? Bastl…they’ve got you covered. There’s what’s called the Hyper-SPACE mode where all of those three parameters are active at the same time, their states saved so that you can layer these effects on top of each other. It’s not the default state of the module, so you’ll want to enter that when you power up.
While Basil is honed to near perfection, when changing the parameters, like changing the delay speed by long pressing its button, you can get some fun in-between sounds while the software makes the change and this is interesting to CV control by using the (again, brilliant) assignable CTRL input and attenuverter. By patching in a random LFO, Basil became a jerky, drunken delay machine.
Using the Freeze function as a sampler was really entertaining, especially in conjunction with the Speed button, which, by changing speeds enables you to pitch/speed up or down a frozen section while it all stays in tune. Pitched using the Delay knob and using the Make Noise Spectraphon as a vocoder and patched in as the input source for Basil and I got some pretty way out sounds as Basil now had a voice of its own—a Spectrapone-hacked version of my own! It was all very meta. Spectraphon was resynthesizing my voice and Basil was resynthesizing that. Pitch tracking didn’t always work on Basil, and sometimes the signal would go beyond its range in a shorter span than I would have thought. There was definitely a sweet spot for each signal I patched in, but mostly if the Delay control was turned too far CW I only got a solid stable high frequency at the output. With Delay turned too low there was no pitch tracking, just a low stable frozen section of the input. Though it was a bummer that I was never able to hear a frozen vocoded sub-bass spectral-sampled portion of my voice, it’s a lot to ask, and probably just as well! On the other hand, by slowing or speeding up the delay range—via the Speed section—I got some excellent drones, my favorite being a slow, late night frog/cricket din that pulsated with a tempo that the Freeze provided via its sampling. Depending on the Mix setting you can have a looping drone as a background and play on top of that with the input. Really cool stuff.
Bastl has a clear winner with this whole Pizza platform thing. Once you get the hang of the how one control can tweak two things with the L and R sides for every controller, and you understand how easy it is to use CTRL to CV map almost anything on board, navigating Basil (and Pizza) becomes a breeze.
Basil’s sound is versatile; from dreamy to glitchy to lo-fi, pretty much any way you want it to sound can happen. There’s so much interplay on hand here, or on CV, that it’s amazing it’s only 8 HP. Basil can flange, chorus, phase, do karplus-strong, and yes, even do some reverby things too, kind of smearing of delays to conjure that up, and I’m sure I’m missing some other things it’s capable of. I’m really curious to see if Bastl keep going with this Pizza platform, and if there’s a Mozzarella or Roasted Garlic or Anchovy (my favorite pizza topping) module in the pipeline to go with Basil and Pizza. 

8 HP +12v 90mA -12v 20mA
Price: $283