Ephemere is a glitch percussion synth by Inear Display which has 12 sound generation engines assigned to each note of an octave. Sounds are generated using FM synthesis with a multi-mode filter and 2 envelope generators and there are also extensive randomisation options.
The UI has a clean look and is designed to be easily accessible and they have definitely achieved this. The top half displays the synthesis settings for one sound with a mixer below for balancing sounds and selecting which one you want to edit. Below this are several global functions to allow quick edits.
The synthesis engine has one engine per sound and one sound per note type. Only one engine is displayed at a time and you click on the background of the desired mixer to display the sound to be edited. In practice this is very straightforward, I’m sure the description makes it sound more complicated.
Ephemere comes with a number of preset kits which can be loaded from the blue bar at the bottom of the display. It also has about 160 factory sounds presets which can be used as is or edited to suit. The preset kits sound great and have different sound characteristics which would suit different styles.
Randomisation is set through the RND button in the top right corner. The knob immediately to the right sets the amount of randomisation which can be used to vary the sound a little or a lot. Additionally, most of the synthesis engine controls have a small slider underneath which allows you to set their randomisation range. These are ‘bipolar’ so you can have a negative value to the left and positive value to the right. In practice this means if your parameter has a value of 25, a negative value setting means the randomisation value will be less than or equal to 25 to the minimum value; a positive randomisation value means the randomisation value will be greater than or equal to 25 up to the maximum value.
FM synthesis is used to generate tones. This is deceptively simple having only 4 controls but being capable of producing a very wide range of sounds. In essence there are 2 sinusoidal oscillators, a carrier and a modulator. As you increase the FM value, the modulator acts as a modulation source for the carrier oscillator frequency. The more FM you apply, the more metallic and noisy the sound will get. The final feed control adjusts the level of oscillator output sent back to the carrier to use as an additional frequency modulator. Adjustment of this value is highly dependent on the other 3 controls.
The filter has 4 modes – low pass, high pass, band pass and notch with cut-off and resonance settings. You can use one of the 2 envelope generators to modulate the cut-off frequency. This is the A (ENV) P control which is bipolar and as it’s name suggests in an anti-clockwise position makes the envelope impact the cut-off frequency whilst turning it clockwise will make the pitch envelope impact the cut-off frequency.
The pitch envelope only has a release stage. The attack stage is instantaneous meaning the envelope directly fades out when triggered and it also has a looping option.
The amplitude envelope has attack and release times as well as attack and release curves.
The output module has drive, random velocity and trigger probability which determines the probability for a sound to be triggered. There’s also a velocity track option which enables sound amplitude to be dependent on input midi velocity.
The mixer view is where you select a sound for further editing and you also have amp, pan, mute and solo settings.
The global functions have randomisation settings; copy/paste functionality; resetting mute/solo settings; options to route to main stereo output or each mixer to a separate channel if your DAW supports this. There’s also an amplitude setting for the final output.
The config menu has a number of options for undo/redo; random seed; directory settings plus others.
I really like the preset kits, there are some great sounds from glitchy to industrial to more melodic and you can mix and match sounds as you want to. It’s pretty much ready to go straight away.
Creating your own sounds is easy too. There’s great scope for a wide range of clicks, dings, thuds, impacts even reversed or side-chained sounds to squelchy LFO type sounds.
An important point to note is that you need to control it via midi, there isn’t a built in sequencer as such. You can of course use a standard midi piano roll but in Sensomusic Usine Hollyhock II DAW which I use there are a number of modules and add-ons that can give you great variety and control and really bring the best out of Ephemere. I really like the depth of sound and control that it offers. Randomisation is a great way to add subtle or more extreme variation into your patterns and you can easily create simple to complex patterns with midi sequencers or controllers.
For example, Tremoresque is an add-on produced by drakh on the Sensomusic user forums. It is based on FX Pansion Tremor and is an 8 track 16 step sequencer with probability and velocity controls. There are randomisation options too to give an excellent starting point. This track uses only Ephemere and also A1 trigger gate at times. It starts with the leftfield kit then I’ve used A1 trigger gate. I’ve then used the clicking kit, then the glitch kit and applied A1 trigger gate.
Hollyhock also has an excellent advanced midi sequencer add-on which has 32 steps, with sequence, velocity, length and probability settings plus a few other controls. This track again uses only Ephemere and A1 trigger gate at times. It starts with the digits kit then A1 trance gate; technoid kit then A1 trance gate and then the industrial kit.
To give an example of Ephemere in a full song, the one embedded at the top of the post is an alternative take of a song which will appear on an upcoming EP – The Kalipheno Trilogy Part Two which also features sounds from a pack which will be entered into the KVR Developers Challenge 2016 and also uses the Frostbite VST by Audiothing which I’ve reviewed separately.
Ephemere is available from Inear Display for 49 euros + VAT.