Friday, 31 December 2010

First Generation

I'm doing some musical experiments at home, and set up three Modular systems from the first generation of synthesisers - a British VCS3 from 1969, and two American modulars - the Serge [1973] and the Paia [1975]. There's also a Roland 201 Space Echo up there which was a christmas present and it is lovely...

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Form In Music

This is a brief description of the musical term sonata, from a book called Form in Music by Stewart McPhereson

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Polygon Vinyl

The good thing about christmas is there are a few days after all the family mayhem when you can sit around and watch tv all day long and not feel like your wasting time. Actually watching old 70's sci-fi movies is not wasting time, especially when the music is purely electronic. The Andromeda Strain is a fantastic Robert Wise movie about an alien virus that comes to earth, and some geeky scientists have to camp out in a secret goverment bunker and defeat it. The soundtrack is by Gil Melle who was an experimental jazzer / film and tv composer who dabbled in electronics. He did a couple of early 70s episodes of Columbo [my favorite tv program] and Kolchak [cheesey 70s version of the X Files]

The Andromeda soundtrack is 90% electronic and is completely amazing. There is a wonderful vinyl version that came out in a hexagonal gatefold sleeve that I would love to get my hands on. As far as I can tell the electronic sounds he used came from home-assembled processors and sound generators as opposed to one of the modular systems that were around at the time [1970]

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Electric Tunesmiths 1971

As promised in this post, I have uploaded another mp3 from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's RECORDED PROGRAMMES PERMANENT LIBRARY. The picture below is of Malcolm clarke and the EMS Synthi 100 around the time of the recording

Friday, 24 December 2010

русских красоток

Here are some pics I took of our recent trip to St Pete

UPDATE - I might add some more to this post so use the 'updates' tag to check...

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Applause Please

Today I spent a few hours making a clap sound on modular synths. Actually me and Phil started it on behalf of Wrangler, and I wanted to document it here

Its sort of modeled on the 808 clap which is awesome, my favorite one. There are two elements to the sound, the first is a noise based crackle which I made on the Roland 100M using noise going into a VCA with an envelope and LFO modulating it very fast

The second element is a space for the clappers to be in. You don't need a reverb module, you can do it with filtered noise using an envelope. I used the ARP 2500 because i love its filter and punchy envelopes

By adjusting the filter frequency and cutoff, and the decay of the envelope a wide range of sounds can be achieved

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Sexy Time

Somehow this album has managed to pass me by all my life until today. It's a synthesizer album with sexy moans on top made in 1972. How cool is that!? The cover shows a couple making out on top of a ARP 2500 Modular....

Actually side 2 doesn't have synths on, it's just someone moaning with a record of classical music playing in the background. But side one mostly features a really simple synth and is awesome. I'm not sure if the synth is actually a 2500, but it could well be, it's certainly got a sequencer which in 1972 makes it seem likely

The music is by Fred Miller, but I can't find out much more than that. I found it here

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Spare Video

I have made some little synth videos in preparation for my Twenty Systems presentation in St Petersburg. They covered the patching principles of four early modular systems, a Moog, an Arp 2500, a VCS3 and a Serge. I will post them here later, but for now here is a spare one that didn't fit in because it was too complex a patch

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Yota Space

I will be making a short presentation of my Twenty Systems album at the Yota Space festival in St Petersburg, Russia next Sunday if you happen to be in town. It looks like a very interesting festival and as I have never been that far North East before I am very excited about it

Hat Work

Preparations are well underway for me and Paul's trip to Russia next Saturday. We've bought hats

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Into The Wonderful

Nation 12 was an electronic music collaboration between John Foxx and Tim Simenon from the late 80s. Trond from the marvelous Dusty Shelf blog asked me to ask JF about it as it is a fairly important period of music history in that it spawned some classic computer game music, and we all know how many hours we spent listening to that as kids. Sadly it seems no one really knows who is the copyright holder of that 8-bit music [note: it should be John and Tim as they wrote it], and therefore its unlikely to get the re-release it deserves. Not all computer game music is created equal!

There is of course a re-issue of the studio recordings they made together which you can read about here

Mastering Maths

Yesterday was spent over at Electric Mastering where me and Fluffy (sorry mate, couldn't resist!) sat and watched Guy Davie do his thing. John was snowed in and couldn't make it. Here is Guy at the incredible EMI TG-series mastering console. Arguably one of the best sounding consoles ever made, the solid state TG series was developed by EMI to replace the valve based desks which had been put to such great effect on the Abbey road recordings of the 50's and 60's. The mastering version of the desk is used essentially as a two channel console and has tone controls, compressor / limiters, and a few secret weapons, such as the 'spread' knob, which is some kind of magic circuit that makes everything in the world sound better. Notice to the left of the console a small green notepad. Using something called a 'pen' the settings of the console can be written down and read back later. In other words the desk even has total recall

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Coast to Coast

Last month me and my friend Hugo went on a road trip from LA to NY, where he lives, in his new [old] 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera, which he just bought. We drove all the way in one go, only stopping to sleep, and eat at drive-ins. Super-size us!

The music here is made on a 1975 Paia Modular system that I managed to buy on the last day I was in America. I will tell you about that later, in the mean time you can see a very condensed version of our trip, which is a bit low-res due to trying to stuff 2 hours of video into 5 mins by using Quicktime

UPDATE: While I was away Joe and co kept a track of our route and marked it on the map. That looks a very long way!

Monday, 29 November 2010


Here are some pictures Joe took of me and John mixing the last few bits of the album. As you can see, we used 3 generations of mixing console on the record; an MCI 416 from the early 70s, a Studer 900 from the early 80s and a DXB from the mid 00s

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Beautiful Retreat

Ike Yard

I was searching through some other peoples blogs and realised that I am not the only person heavily into synths and obscure 80s bands. There are more out there! For example, ether^ra, where I discovered a totally new [to me] obscure 80s band called Ike Yard. Theres a great interview with one of them over on bleep. Anyway, I find their music really inspiring, blending experimental electronics, cool vocals and top notch early 80s studio production (think: Hannett) into a very unique sound. Theres a reissue of some early stuff, find out more here

Synths used: Korg (MS-20, MS-50, SQ-10, VC-10), Roland (TR-909, TR-606, TR 808, TB-303, MC-202, CSQ-600), Arp (Solus, Axxe), the EMS Synthi-AKS, and the Buchla Modular 112 keyboard controller

Listen to 'Dancing and Slaving':

Monday, 22 November 2010

Fifty Five

So the amazing Moog system 55 which I mentioned in this post eventually sold on ebay. What was interesting was the question of it's provenance, i.e. whether it had been previously owned by synth-god Kieth Emerson. As it turned out, there was a mix up / exaggeration by the seller which resulted in an excellent round of publicity for the item for sale. Read below for the full story from the seller. BTW, it got £15000, less than I expected for such a system

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Mixing With The Stars

This week me and John Foxx have started to mix The Maths album, and it will continue through next week too. So its very hectic down here at the moment, either mixing or fixing things [like noisy mixer channels, with the help of Big Al]. Up till now we have had provisional mixes which were done on the DXB digital console, as it has instant recall, but now the proper mixes are being done on either the 1973 MCI 416 or the 1980 Studer 902, depending on what suits the song. And they sound a ton better. Go over to my other blog to find out more about analog mixers if you have nothing better to do

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Cunning Stunts

Geoff from Static Caravan just sent me some new releases from his lovely label, mainly because I either mixed or mastered them [more on those later], but he also put in the parcel an original copy of Stuntman by Edgar Froese. It's a wonderful slice of 70s synth bonkersness and has a great cover and also one of those inner sleeves that has a jumble of random pics. If you look for it you can get it from someone else's blog I'm sure...

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Ebay Modular Roundup

UPDATE: see the comments for a message from Kieth Emmerson's office!

Looking through my saved ebay items list it occurred to me how many really nice modular systems have been knocking about recently

Moog Modular System 55 belonging to Keith Emmerson (or not!), currently £10,000, 8 days left

Roland System 100M, BIN £5,300

Aries System 300, sold for £4,600

EML Electrocomp 101, sold for £1,800

Roland System 700, sold for £5,500

RSF Modular 11, unsold at £3,800

Serge Modular panels, 6 separate auctions - total value £10,800

Paia 4700 X 2, sold for £1,000

EMS VCS3 belonging to Tristram Carey, sold for £6,250


Friday, 5 November 2010

Future Music Feature

There's a feature on us (John Foxx & The Maths) in this months FM magazine. It was done during our concert at the Roundhouse last June. There's a great spread in the mag and as usual John Foxx talks about everything in a really interesting way. He's good at that. And on the DVD is the following video, filmed by those lovely FM people, which features Foxxy, Steve D'Agostino and yours truly talking about vintage synths

Big Dog

So I got back from the states and my new dog, Biba, had grown about 3 times bigger! I took her down into the studio for the first time and she seemed pretty happy there. She sat around while I pumped out super low frequencies and then fell asleep. Its actually better than up in the real world tonight because it's fireworks night and they do freak her out a bit

Back to Work

Hey Ho! Sorry for the huge delay in posting, I'll tell you about my American road trip later, but to summarize it involved 80s supercars and synths. Which is why this post over on matrixsynth caught my eye

Tuesday, 19 October 2010