I decided to test out various Notch Filters around the studio the other day. I really like the way notch filters sound - like a weird phaser. In fact some so-called phasers are done like this - for example the one in the Polyfusion system I have got. Its not real phasing, but it still sounds cool. The principle behind it is this: use a high-pass and a low-pass VCF in parallel and set them so they create a notch (see diagram below). The key to it is how they frequency shift. On some of my modulars (the ARP 2500, Moog 3C and the Emu) there is a notch filter provided, but on the others its just a case of patching together a HPF and LPF and sending an LFO to control their cutoff frequencies. The CV going to the frequency of the LPF is positive and it needs to be inverted to control the cutoff frequency of the HPF so that the notch moves up and down correctly. With some trial and error I managed to get some quite nice phaser-action happening don't you think?
A doodle on the Moog. Here you can see me tweaking some drum sounds made on the 3C Moog. The snare drum is the most complex sound, using 4 VCOs, noise and 2 envelope generators / VCA combos. The bass drum is a simple 1 VCO going through the 904 filter with another env gen controlling the pitch and the VCF frequency. The HH click sound is just the clock going through the fixed filter bank. I'm using the 2 sequencers to trigger the envelopes, and the matrix mixer to mix and EQ it all
I am very excited and overjoyed and almost euphoric because I have just released my first library music album. You know that I am a huge fan of vintage library music albums, I have posted about them in the past, in fact there is a search label for library music over on the right of your screen. Some of my favourite albums are library albums! And finally I have now joined the fray, publishing my first record of synth based 100% pure electronic vintage analog sounds and effects. Its released over on the excellent ULTRAPHONIC library - you can check the album out over on their website. Its called Haute Synth
You know I am not the biggest fan of in-the-box (i.e. plugin based) stuff, but I have really got excited by this new virtual modular system. Its an open platform that seems to be taking off offering totally free access to the modular world. YES ITS FREE. Check it out here. This video is fairly self explanatory but I set this up in about 15 minutes including downloading the software and some 3rd party modules. Its amazing, and even though I can't see myself selling the ARP2500 anytime soon, I'm going to be messing about with it whenever I am away from the studio. Even if you have never dabbled in synthesis before its an incredible way to learn and discover the joys of the modular without having to spend any money whatsoever. If this had been available 20 years ago I could have saved a bloody fortune, which I would be able to spend on.... vintage modular synths
About the patch - there is some crackly noise in there which I think was from one of the delay units - its creating some sort of bit-crush distortion but I quite liked it, it gives it some dirt. Anyway to make a new patch you can just start again and throw some more modules together any way you want, its pretty cool!
Strangely, having posted a few weeks ago about wanting to play in a cathedral - we found ourselves playing in a huge church in Bury! What a great experience - thank-you Curated Place. (2nd photo by Gary Sonic)
My new Korg Sigma, a totally bonkers and short-lived mono synth from 1979. I wanted to try sequencing it, and as I don't have an appropriate Hz-to-Volt analog sequencer (mine are all Volt-per-Octave) I had to rig up a really cumbersome workaround. This involved using the Moog 960 sequencer to output V/Oct CV out to the Kenton CV-to-MIDI converter which output MIDI to the Future Retro Mobius sequencer MIDI input which converted to Hz/V to be sent to the CV input of the Sigma. PHEW! The drums were patched on the Moog Modular. I used two gate outputs of the sequencer to trigger the bass drum and snare sounds, which I had to sum with a mixer. Turns out this summation operation uses the Greek letter ∑ as its mathematical symbol - thats right folks, SIGMA!
Its been such a busy and productive year so far here at Meme-central. Here is a roundup (in chronological order) of album releases that have been co-written-and-or-produced by me here at the Memetune Analog/Digital Music Complex so far this year. And the best news is you can buy them ALL on real plastic things that spin round at 33 RPM
First Up - John Foxx & The Maths - The Machine
This is the album of the soundtrack we made for the stage play version of the E.M.Forster book The Machine Stops. 'Dystopian sci-fi lullabies; icy, minimalist sound paintings; dreamy, woozy, sparkly beauty. (Uncut magazine). 'Glacial compositions suggesting the impressionist side of debut solo album, Metamatic' Mojo magazine. Reviews and interviews here and here. Get it here
Fader - First Light
Next - new project! FADER is my collaboration with Neil Arthur and First Light is our debut album, which came out on 23rd June this year. Reviews here and here and here. Buy it here
Lone Taxidermist - Trifle
Another debut album out this time on our very own Memetune label, this is the long awaited LP by Natalie Sharp, Phil Winter and Will Kwerk. Recorded at memetune over various years and in various settings (we started it in the Hoxton studio, finished recording it when the studio was in limbo in my front room, and mixed it in the new studio). ITS ALBUM OF THE MONTH RIGHT NOW OVER ON THE QUIETUS! Reviews here and here and you can buy it here and here
I Speak Machine - Zombies 1985
This is my collaboration with Tara Busch under her project name I Speak Machine, which is a vehicle for her and Maf Lewis to make short films and electronic soundtracks. If you recall I mixed their previous album The Silence, see here. The Zombies album started out as simply the soundtrack to the short film Maf made, but it evolved like a crazed demonic squirming monster into a fully fledged album with new songs and ideas based on the sound of 1985. Every instrument and sound effect was period correct! Reviews and interviews here and here and Taras blog post on the album is here. Buy it here
Blancmange - Unfurnished Rooms
Its been a total honour to be working with Neil Arthur again, this time on the new Blancmange album - "WHAT!?!? THATS AMAZING!!!" "YES I KNOW!!!!" and whats more its also getting fantastic reviews - AND ITS ALSO ALBUM OF THE MONTH in a different magazine (Classic Pop mag). Reviews and interviews here and here
Re-animating an Akai S612 with the amazing Hideaway StudiosFront Panel Animator modification. Here I am playing the Buchla Easel into the S612 and using the Emu Modular to sequence notes. I am also sending sample start and end modulations from the Emu sequencer to the Akai via the Kenton CV to MIDI converter
Heres a patch on the Buchla 100 featuring the Stereo Locator Model 102 module. It is a strange (as always with Buchla) device that can automatically pan two signals across the stereo spectrum. Below are two pictures that will hopefully explain how it works. In the video I am using the sequencer to pan two signals around in a rhythmical fashion
I love it when something just works, right OOTB. For example, I just bought this Kenton CV to MIDI converter. I took it out of the box, plugged CV and Gate cables from a Roland SH101 into it, then plugged a MIDI cable from it to my Akai S612, set up a sequence on the 101 and BINGO it played the Akai perfectly! Clever box!!
Here are some pictures from our series of Cotton Panic! performances with Jane Horrocks at the Manchester Internation Festival last week. It was great fun and really hard work and this week we are all feeling very Wrangled-out! These pics were taken by Chris Turner
Speaking of Natalie. She appeared in the film adaptation we just performed of THE TOURIST at the BFI London (and previously Home/Manchester and Prince of Wales cinema/Brighton). Wrangler composed and performed the music live on stage while the film, by Tash Tung and Dan Conway, played on the big screen. WHAT FUN!! The run is now over, but we are hoping to do more soon...
As you might know I am a big fan of Morton Subtonick, and his pioneering recordings of the 1960s and 70s. I've posted on him before and his connection with Don Buchla and the development of the first modular synthesisers. I met him in Poland when I did a talk with Foxxy and we appeared on the same bill. He's such a great man, and he played one of the best gigs I've ever seen that weekend too. Well now those nice people behind the I Dream Of Wires documentary are crowdfunding a new biopic of Morton, which if it is as thorough as their previous work should be very worthwhile getting behind. Go here for the details
I finally got the Buchla 144 clones built (thanks Mike & Ross). It was quite a journey from getting the boards made, getting the panel designed (including finding the right font) and manufactured / screen printed, to populating the panel and wiring everything up. Times three. And they look and sound superb. I will do a comparison with my original 144 at some point on the scope. So here is my first patch, layering up all six VCOs and sequencing them and putting them through the incredible 191 filter in bandpass mode. It sounds a bit like a gong! Later that night there was a major thunderstorm, brought about by the enormous power of the Buchla
I had a go at rearranging the long wall of modulars today - trying to get them set up in the best way to make use of the space. The modulars involved are the Polyfusion, the Emu, the ARP2500, the Formant, the Paia and the Serge. So then I decided to get all the sequencers going together and test it out:
My friend Stuart dropped by today and we had a catch-up. He took a couple of 360 degree shots of the studio and I've put them up here, hoping they will be fully interactive on your browser - is that going to work? I hope so, they looked pretty good on the iPhone - you can move around the room (well, kind of swivel) in real time by moving the phone which is pretty cool
Here are a couple of videos of the Emu modular I just bought. Its been fixed by Andy Horrell because the very early (1973) digital sequencer wasn't working properly. Its a quirky thing at the best of times, but at least I can explore the possibilities it presents knowing that its working right and I'm not going mad. I actually managed to get hold of the legendary Dave Rossum who invented the Emu Modular and is still making really interesting instruments. He was able to help Andy debug the modules because there don't seem to be any schematics online for these first generation versions. The first video is a simple enough sequence, the second video is the same pattern but messed with using some other voltage processing modules. Its going to be a fun ride
Fader are alive! My new project with Neil Arthur is officially up, and the shiny new (debut) album will be in the shops soon - I"M SO EXCITED!!! Thanks to Steve (Random) for all the help getting us to this stage, and to Paul (Tench) for designing our logo (above). There is a link to a preview track here on Electronic Sound. Fade out
Using the Mix Sequencer on the ARP2500. I'm sure I've said it before, but this is a really cool module! It allows you to take up to 8 audio sources and it then steps through them in sequence. So its great for rhythmic patterns and the like. Here I am putting various different sounds through such as white noise on one channel, a filtered VCO through another, etc. Nice eh?
Theres a new feature up on The Quietus - Benge's Bakers Dozen - it's my current favourite 13 electronic albums and why. They are not necessarily my favourite albums, just ones I think are very interesting and important. Check them out here