nnnoises.com

Random noises: the crackle box and beyond

Posted on: January 4, 2011

The crackle box designed by Michel Waisvisz in the seventies was probably the first commercially available portable ‘non-keyboard’ analog audio synthesizer with an inbuilt loudspeaker. Crackle boxes are still sold by STEIM and are regarded nowadays to be the archetype of ‘glitch music’ or ‘circuit bending’.

Original cracklebox

Since the new cracklebox has been released by STEIM in 2004, various performers are playing this instrument like Mouse on Mars and Coil. Old crackleboxes have become collectors items. I happen to own a limited edition “2nd release” cracklebox from 2003. Being a “second” and not a first release I don’t know if this also classifies as a collectors item, but that’s beside the point: it still makes an awful lot of noise!

Old and new cracklebox

With the renewed interest in analog electronic music the humble crackle box has generated quite a lot of offspring. A world-wide cottage industry has emerged thanks to the web and e-commerce of small “noise box” manufacturers. Sites like Analogue Haven and NoiseGuide are the trading places and outlets for these builders. Brand names are Audible Disease, Bug Brand, Electro-Faustus, King Capital Punishment etc. Links to the sites of some of these manufacturers are listed in the Links list of this blog.
Usually these builders combine pure analog noise boxes of synthesizers with boutique guitar effect pedals in their product catalog. Being a guitar and synth player and not too fond of playing keyboards, I am always interested in their new product offers.

I own Audible Disease Dementia DM-1 “ultra noise synth” for instance, which although controlled by knobs instead of a touch surface is a direct descendant of the cracklebox to me in terms of sound (noise).

Moody Sound’s BabyBox noise generator is both a noise box and a guitar effect pedal, enabling me to manipulate the noise with my guitar:

A class of their own are the electronic instruments made by Arius Blaze and Ben Houston, a.k.a. Folktek. These devices are genuine sound artworks, also accompanied by the hefty price tags usually associated with art pieces…
But in their “Symbiotic” series of touch based instruments Michel Waisvisz’ crackle box concept and look and feel is still reminiscent IMO, albeit in a far more elaborate design.

So if you are interested in generating spontaneous analogue noises, you now have a wide range of devices to choose from, starting with a simple STEIM cracklebox to a unique and expensive Folktek sound art piece, all depending on your requirements and budget.

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