Zorx Electronics
Noon - Landscape

Noon - Landscape

by Ellison Wolf

When  we interviewed Eric Pitra of Landscape (Waveform, Issue 9), he spoke about his fascination with how a synthesizer is a sculptor of the electricity that comes out of your wall, the very same electricity that powers your blender and desk lamp. Noon, Landscape’s new passive drum machine, is a continuation of this line of thinking in that it it sculpts (what is primarily sculpting voltages: CV, gates, etc) electricity that comes out of your wall and runs through a synthesizer or some other synth-adjacent electronic device. It’s the sound of control voltage gone…well, not necessarily wild, but more like free. Finally gates, triggers, envelopes, LFOs and the like are free from their patch cables, free from their predefined roles, free to be heard. No longer relegated to being the helpers, the sidekicks, to the more heralded voltages that come out of your synths and drum machines, we can finally hear what all of that CV sounds like, hear their voices. Noon is a conduit to another world, a hidden life. It’s the closet in C.S. Lewis books, the Rabbit Hole in Alice and Wonderland, the creepy needle that goes into the back of Neo’s head in The Matrix.
Born from a collaboration with Eli Pechman of Mystic Circuits (also Waveform, Issue 9), Noon is described as “a passive drum machine/synthesizer.” If you type “passive synthesizer” in a search engine (or ask your local synth wizard) only one thing comes up: Noon. There’s been nothing like it before, there’s no real precedent. While there are passive modules, passive pedals, and plenty of passive circuits and devices, until now nobody has come up with an entire synthesizer that’s passive. With an Art Deco meets Buchla blue and gold PCB faceplate and housed in a light wooden enclosure with buttons and multi-colored sliders galore, Noon doesn't look like any drum machine, rhythm generator, or percussion making device that’s ever come before it. It’s most certainly a beautiful looking thing that always draws questions whenever someone sees it, if not an enigmatic one when one tries to play it without an understanding of what it does/can do, but it’s a pretty easy thing to get into and one that offers up sounds and rhythms that you probably won’t get anywhere else.
As for its passivity, Noon might technically be that, but it still needs power to do its thing, it just outsources that job to other devices. Whatever you patch into Noon—gates, triggers, CV…whatever provides voltage it can handle (up to +12V, but…)—it transforms that voltage ultimately into sound. As for the “drum synthesizer” part, if you’re looking for an 808/909 sound/clone…well…you should definitely get this!
Landscape’s instruments have always been cryptic to play, and other than “Landscape” and “Noon” written in tiny print at the bottom of the instrument, there are no words, arrows or other help or instruction on Noon as to how this instrument operates. For sure this is about aesthetics—and there is in fact a well-written manual for Noon available—and this mystery has never been a deterrent for me when it comes to playing any Landscape instrument. My Stereo Field has aged well with constant playing and is a cherished studio tool and instrument; I foresee the same with Noon.
Noon has eight odd, yet descriptively-named channels (Dot, Dual, Sys, Plast, Cympath, Cyrinx, Lyrinx, and Bacid), their names giving a hint at what their audio style is. To whom that nomenclature makes sense I have no idea as it was a bit lost on me, but no matter. For controls each channel features three sliders: a long one for Pitch One, a smaller slider at the top of each channel for Volume, and another small one below the Volume for Pitch Two. These sometimes work as you’d think, but not always. There are many reasons for this, and Noon keeps you guessing in every way possible.
There is a Gate/CV input for each channel on the left side of Noon with a conductive touch pad for messing with each input by touching them to other conductive touch pads located on Noon’s front panel (or something else conductive), and there’s also an Odd and an Even Gate/CV input which can be switched on or off for each channel with a button at the top of each to do so. Each channel also has a Mod button, which changes its character, both in the way it acts and the way it sounds, and there’s a two-colored button for Muting the channel that lights up showing that channel’s Gate input signal, if any. There’s also a Link button between adjoining channels, linking two channels, which means that one channel’s behavior will affect its neighbor, and this highlights one of the most important and interesting aspects about Noon: linkage of channels, where each channel can/may/will? (sometimes) effect its neighboring channels and therefore those down the line. This makes Noon really interactive, and really unpredictable, in the greatest of ways for those who love sonic exploration/experimentation. All of the buttons at the bottom are surrounded by more conductive touch points in a flowy, flowery layout that reminds me of tulips, and all of these touch points on Noon make it a very playable machine. Absolutely unpredictable for the most part, but very interactive and playable.
As for outputs, next to the Odd/Even CV Mute button at the top of each channel you’ll find individual outputs for each, so it’s easy to obtain more detailed mix opportunities. Each output has its own small squiggly touch point next to it so you can alter the outgoing voltage/sound. There are also outputs for Mono or Stereo on the right side of Noon, accompanied by more squiggly-lined touch points for mussing up the output there, too.
While each channel is passive and looks the same (minus the different colors for the slider caps) they aren’t identical and each responds differently to incoming CV. This means that if you patch one flavor of CV into two different channels, or use the Odd and/or Even Gate/CV input on various channels, you’ll get different results from each channel. Patching an LFO into Cympath (Channel 5) did very little, but that same sawtooth into Cyrinx (Channel 6) and that channel came screaming to life.
At its most basic, a square wave going to Input one (Dot!) and a mono output and you’ve got a click. Hit the Mod button for Dot and you’ve got a toned and tunable kick drum sound. Using the Pitch sliders can change the pitch from a recognizable-ish kick to something outside of an audible range, and touching the Output and Channel 1 Gate Input touch points gives you a click along with the kick that’s in sync. At least that’s what I got. Noon changes with…well, it changes with a lot of things and I imagine it’s very different from person to person and day to day. It’s personal, slightly temperamental, and…touchy. With that one input it sounds simple, and it is, but multiply that by eight…Patching a ramp LFO into Dual (fine, Channel 2) and tweaking that channel’s parameters a bit, and linking Dot with Dual introduces crosstalk and more complex sounds for both channels. Do this on all eight channels and you’re off to the races.
Once it’s all patched up, Noon is a groove machine that takes center stage. Yes, you can dial in an interesting rhythm, track, etc. and move on to other musical matters, like sweeping a filter or something, but you can just as easily lose yourself to experimentation with Noon. Oh, how you can. Buttons, sliders, touch points, oh my! Not all of my experimentation was immediately satisfying, and there were many times where I’d have something pretty cool dialed up and would hit a button or change a slider and Poof! it’d be gone forever. Then I’d wander around for a bit, touching this, sliding that, and randomly stumble into something perfect, something impossible, without knowing what I did and without any preparation whatsoever. This luck of the draw made me very aware to hit record everytime I stepped behind Noon, especially if I was looking for something to build around/off of. It’s a fine line between creating something unique and genius and creating something very much not so. A lot of this has to do with Noon being pretty hard to tame, though not impossible once you get to know it. It just takes some time, sometimes. With the Main Outs and every channel going, it’s hard to tell what’s doing what, and it’s not easy to isolate a track without altering what you’ve got. The illuminated Mute button helps identify Gate/CV patterns to give a little idea of what’s causing what, so at least there’s that, but it’s pretty easy—not so much to get lost—to diagnose and tweak something you want to change in the slightest. And good luck with that.
When you patch into a channel’s output it takes that channel out of the Main Out signal path, and I found that on the whole I enjoyed not doing so as it’s a domino effect and I liked seeing the interaction between the channels in the final output, how changing the Mod in one affects the nature of the overall sound and stuff like that. At one point I patched each of the Main outputs into various delays (4ms Looping Delay, the Maneco 16 Digital Delay, and Joranalogue’s Delay 1) and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There was no way I would have, could have, ever patched something like this in some other machine. I wouldn’t have even thought to try. It had a melodic bassline, a shuffling rhythm, and some loud squelching from a wayward LFO that I’d patched into Plast.
Noon is an experimentalist’s dream, and the sound sculpting world is better for making its eight voices heard. Whether or not you learn to love (or already do) or not, the hidden nature—the true voice/s—of the CV that’s locked away in your modular rig, sequencer, or whatnot, Noon is their open road with a full tank of gas, their ticket to freedom. For control voltages, gates, LFOs and the like; their time is now, so be prepared.

Price: $770