Software Cthulhu Plugin by Xfer Records Review


gearbot73

Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Nov 2, 2017
Messages
16
Likes
2
Points
3
#1
Cthulhu Plugin by Xfer Records

Cthulhu is essentially two plugins in one, containing both an arpeggiator and a “chords” module. There is a lot of information and reviews already available regarding the specifics of these two tools so this post focusses on a few aspects of the plugin that I didn’t find online previous to purchasing it.

A lot of times traditional arpeggiators are used in the classic “straight” linear fashion, and that is a useful sound we all recognize. But the flexibility and detail of Cthulhu’s arpeggiator takes the concept to a whole other level. In actuality, if you have the ears to conceive it, one can program extraordinarily complex moving lines that sound more “played” than “arpeggiated” by a machine. These can comprise of bass lines, melodic moving lines, and even randomized “accident hunting” for sampling.

Through the process of creating such lines, I have unexpectedly learned that the arpeggiator in Cthulhu is actually an amazing tool to heighten one’s awareness about the key elements of what encapsulates “feel”. I believe that every musician could benefit from experimenting with Cthulhu, to learn and practice the interrelationship between the key feel components: velocity (Vel Scale tab), note length (Gate tab), and note placement in the timeline (Late tab). It sounds obvious at first, but it really is amazing with the layout of this particular GUI how complex that interrelationship actually is. It is fascinating to me how the slightest adjustment to one element can so drastically affect the feel as a whole and impact the other element settings. After working intensively with these parameters for a few hours it’s obvious how much more aware one becomes with a heightened focus on feel.

So why not just play it in to get the feel you want? A few reasons here why Cthulhu is so great, and they apply to both the arpeggiator and chords modules....

1) For myself, I am not a keyboard player so I will always have physical technical limitations in that regard. Cthulhu allows me to program what I already can hear as a musician but can’t execute on a keyboard itself. Sometimes these lines get so complex and with large intervals that even an experienced keyboard player can’t pull them off.

2) Because I love analog synths filled with wonky character, my personal process used to be to attempt to play lines/chords directly on the hardware synth, recording them into a DAW. It would inevitably take me many attempts to get it right, involving a ton of editing and take selection review. Then as the song would evolve I would realize something wasn’t quite right (harmonically or rhythmically) with that synth part I had recorded so long ago, putting me back to square one and wasting a lot of time. Now my process involves temporarily using a software synth and creating a patch close to what I hear the song requires or close to the analog sound/synth I eventually will use. I program the lines with Cthulhu and feed the soft synth with them. This allows me to keep the harmony and feel of the synth lines “liquid” until the very end of the song creation process. At the point where the song is near completion, then I finally send the Cthulhu midi information out to the hardware synth. Huge time saver and you end up with a better result, often even lightly layering in the original soft synth with the new analog line. One thing to remember here is that many vintage synths aren’t velocity sensitive so if you plan to trigger a synth or module without that option then don’t spend too much time on the velocity tab (mixing in a soft synth with velocity can help add more dynamics in this scenario).

3) So much of what makes a synth part (or most sounds in actuality) hip sounding these days is having motion on the sound itself. If I’m trying to play the parts on a hardware synth then I don’t have my hands free to add motion/variance with the classic hardware synth parameter knobs, so using Cthulhu allows for this as well.

4) Keyboard player or not, generally speaking we all have certain chord sequences in our head that can almost lock us into a predictable pattern of chord changes. The randomizing functionality of the arpeggiator and the ability to play predetermined voicings by pressing only one key on a controller when using the chords module can both lead to some very interesting musical results. Recording the stream of midi data as you explore these options can often result in an unexpected musical “accident” that can be fresh and inspires new directions.

Cthulhu is offered for a bargain price considering all of the useful functions that it provides and there was only one improvement that stood out for me. I would like to see smaller “steps” added for Late, Velocity, Gate because currently they aren’t quite precise enough to my ears. Particularly the Late tab would benefit from being able to make finer adjustments, as I am regularly wanting to use a half step between what is available.

That said, I highly recommend Cthulhu, you can’t really go wrong with this purchase.

More info: https://www.xferrecords.com/products/cthulhu
 

Monkey Man

VIP Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2017
Messages
60
Likes
2
Points
8

Location
Australia
#2
Thank you for the great review, gearbot! Fantastic also to read such an impeccably-written post; the art of using "proper English" is dying, as you'd know, so reading this really made my day, mate.

I'll take another look at the plugin when I can "afford" it, thanks to you.

Have you informed Steve of your higher-resolution wish? From what I can tell, he's very-responsive and of course able to implement such things more-promptly than your average "company".

Thank you again for sharing, mate. :jam:
 

gearbot73

Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Nov 2, 2017
Messages
16
Likes
2
Points
3
#3
Thanks Monkey Man! Ha ha that does sound pretty “proper” now that I read it back! I was actually just trying to articulate what I learned in a way that would be useful to people... it’s so hard to do. Yeah I was thinking of contacting Steve with the idea. Like you say, he offers amazing support for his plugins. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he found this thread and chimed in. I have a request for a slight modification to his LFO Tool too, which is another absolute favourite of mine that I highly recommend if you don’t already have it.
 

Monkey Man

VIP Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2017
Messages
60
Likes
2
Points
8

Location
Australia
#4
Oh, it's on my list to buy this year, along with Nerve and if I can muster the bucks, Serum. I've only watched John SkipPy Lemkuhl play around with it a bit, but I saw enough - LFO Tool is a must-have AFAIC.

I've got Nicky Romero Kickstart, mainly 'cause it's so-cheap, but LFO Tool's in a league of its own I reckon.
 

Squawk

Minor irritant. May cause a rash.
VIP Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2017
Messages
159
Likes
22
Points
18

Location
Under a rock
#5
Great review gearbot! I've been meaning to try this plugin. I'll have to check it out. It's always nice when a product inspires and forces you to go outside of your creative comfort zone.
 

gearbot73

Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Nov 2, 2017
Messages
16
Likes
2
Points
3
#6
For sure! Steve Duda’s plugins seem to always spark new angles of creativity, they are so great that way, along with being effective “tools”.
 
Top