Free-flowing, forward-thinking with Pigments 3

Free-flowing, forward-thinking with Pigments 3

As human beings, we’re limited to listening to music in linear time. That doesn’t mean that our sonic journeys have to feel linear, as Plaid’s imaginative artistry proves. Read up to discover how to achieve meditative, fearless loops through Pigments 3 with Andy Turner’s guidance.

Electro beginnings

It all started with a spark of an era:

Me and my partner Ed have been working together since the late 80s. I guess our passion started with electro and that kind of version of electronic music. Initially, we were considered an experimental band, and we were certainly using synthesis that maybe people wanted in music at that point.

Ed and Andy are now with Warp Records, who house big names like Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus, or Boards of Canada.

The open journey

The bliss of making music lies in new discoveries, and Plaid are known for their experiments in heavenly euphoria. The Pigments 3 software acts as a sonic guardian angel when embarking into the unknown:

With Pigments, it’s very easy to start from scratch and just create a new patch and decide what engines you want. I guess we don’t always know where exactly we’re going to end, when we start making sounds. Sometimes you can be quite surprised.

Witnessing Andy experimenting with Pigments in his North London home points to the incredibly versatile power of the software. While playing with the Pid Porta Rnd preset, ‘a slightly weird portamento-y arpeggiated thing’, Andy guides us through getting to those soul-opening pulses:

I’ve added very occasional octave shifts. It will always randomize, and it’s slightly gating, so the lengths of the sounds are changing.

With Plaid in the room, music becomes a way of decoding the Matrix with liquid, accurate splashes. Thanks to Pigments’ massive modulation capabilities, the software allows you to anchor your free-flowing structures into solid compositions filled with intoxicating vibrations.

Inhale the infinity

With 64 new wavetables for metallic, aggressive timbres, and 4 new FX including Pitch Shift Delay and Flanger BL-20, the ground-breaking software has got everything you need for an unrestrained sonic ride.

Pigments is a good example of a very forward-thinking synthesizer and with this latest iteration, there’s pretty much every synthesis you can imagine. It’s a kind of everything all in one. It’s tab-based, so you’ve got everything in this one area if you want to open a tab. For the synthesis, we’ve got our basic envelopes here, LFOs, there’s also these functions and randomizers. It’s just very fun to play around with.

The workflow spectrum

The tab-based visual interface makes it incredibly easy to take off with the sonic foundation and jump to coloring the composition with all the wild shades of synthesis. Moving on from the Sequencer tab into the FX tab, Andy added Pitch Delay, made the track faster by adjusting the Time Division, and added an octave by editing the Pitch Shift. Lastly, he filtered up the top-end sound by using the Low Pass Frequency control. With the user-friendly design, accessing the editing parameters is smooth and quick:

The fact that you’ve got feedback on your LFOs and your envelopes is wonderful. I suppose the ears come first, but the eyes do take you in different directions.

Fast-growing structures

Stumbling upon the Baroque preset, Andy discovered its ‘nice wobble’, which he then locked into different keys. Moving between Locrian, Phrygian, Dorian, Mixolydian, and Melodic Minor, he finally settled with the Lydian one. Flicking through these options, the breath of these soundscapes felt like a translation of the quantum field into the sonic grid. With the right tools that have the power to liberate creativity, pushing a vision forwards becomes more accessible than ever.

Some presets, such as Motor Synth, inspire an instant reaction: ‘Wow, I feel like I’m down the club already - it’s amazing!’ The great news is you’ll be spoiled for choice with Arturia’s Sound Banks, released monthly, so your library of inspiration will never run out. Added with the sampling potential, the possibilities are endless:

If people are looking for an all-in-one, you can drag a limited amount of samples into Pigments and create your drums with them.

Tripping with circular soundscapes

Powerful sequencing is what makes looping in Pigments 3 original and satisfying. You can sequence and arpeggiate with advanced randomization, scale quantization, or polyrhythms, and get into the zone in no time:

Writing electronic music, especially when we tend to work in loops, is quite meditative really. I mean, it’s probably spiritually enriching. Just listening to something repeat over and over, subtly changing is a real joy.

A harmonic craving

As long as our hearts beat, we will need new music to resonate with. That’s why the never-ending playfulness and colors of Pigments 3 are perfect for crafting the music of the future:

We still like music and obviously, people will say - well, everything’s been done now, you can’t possibly write a new piece. But I don’t agree. There’s an emotive quality to the progression of notes. It’s like a game of go or a game of chess, there’s millions more permutations to be made.