Basic: The Moog Mother-32

Basic. That about sums it up. The Mother-32 is a basic synth. Ok, there’s one point of hesitation, the sequencer moves beyond basic. But the remainder of it is  indeed quite simple. It’s a single oscillator, single LFO, single envelope, single filter, single VCA, and some noise. And I hate it! I really, really, want to hate it. Actually I… love it. But no, no I don’t, I hate it. I’m…

Conflicted.

I didn’t get it to use all the time. I got it, because sometimes I need a reminder of the truth of simplicity. That simple can sound beautiful. And even if the sort of extreme simplicity of the Mother-32 isn’t where I want to live, so to speak, it’s an important place for me to visit.

Sometimes, we forget just how complex, even a 3u 84hp system can really be. But the Mother-32 reminds us that, we don’t need to have it all to make some great sounds. In fact, even an extremely basic system can provide a great experience and a great sound. The built in keyboard and sequencer allow an even greater freedom from distractions. No need for extraneous control devices. It’s just me the synth, and a handful of patch cables (ok, maybe an effects pedal too, but) that’s it.

It’s gross simplicity doesn’t merely invite focus, it forces it. There are no distractions. With only a handful of knobs and parameters to attend to, it necessitates creativity and thoughtfulness. While I do not love the cramped patch-panel, it leaves the rest of the controls open and inviting. The combination of simplicity and ergonomics invites us to interact not merely with patch cables and set parameters, but to “play” the knobs and switches. The openness of the controls excels even the less cramped euro modules.

So, should you get one of these? Maybe.

As a first step into modular synthesis it’s great. Simplicity allows you to focus on learning the basics. It forces you to think new ways in order to become creative within its confines (which is quite possible). The built in keyboard and sequencer mean you don’t need peripherals. It will help you get your footing and integrates fairly well into a larger eurorack system.

As an addition to an existing system? No, I don’t think its a great investment. You can get some really great modules for the price of admission, and what you’re getting for your money is a small collection of incredibly basic functions.

As a sort of “vacation synth,” something to get away from the hugely complex sound computers that we build, it really excels. Get back to the roots of subtractive synthesis. Refresh your perspective. But, for me at least, it’s not some place I want to stay too long. Usually after a week I’m ready to dive back into the deep end, but it’s a nice respite when I need it.