Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Buchla With Labels

I was bored, so I labelled up the modules in the system from this post

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Music Not Working Today

For some reason the muzicons widgets are all broken today, so you can't listen to any of the music on my blog. Thats really annoying and I hope its fixed soon otherwise I will have to redo all my posts with mp3 players on. Which is why I generally prefer my Revox G36 as a music playback device

Monday, 22 February 2010

Serge Modular

After spending quite a bit of time with the Doepfer recently I decided to have a play around on the Serge system in the studio and have to say that for the kind of 'organic' inter-modulating patches I have been working on it totally rules! Interesting sounds just ooze out of every pore [patch-socket] and because of the stackable banana cords you can keep building up the complexity of a patch really intuitively. I should get some of these new stackcable minijacks for the Doepfer / Roland 100M / Formant, but they are not cheap - a very modest patch is going to be around 20 cables / £100!

My Serge system consists of the following modules, mostly from the early 70s:
[its hard to describe the modules properly as they usually have multiple functions depending on how they are patched, but heres a brief summary]

3 x dual positive slew [osc/env]
3 x dual negative slew [osc/env]
3 x smooth / stepped function gen [sort of dual osc, but much more as well]
2 x precision VCO
3 x noise/random sources
2 x dual VC processors
5 x multi filters
3 x VCA
3 x phasers
2 x 10 step sequencers with 4 banks of 3 x 4 matrix mixers for VC output
2 x spring reverbs
2 x 4 ch VC mixers
dual 3 ch mixer
analog shift register
ring mod
dual VC slew
bi-directional router

This patch is completely self-generating and has no external effects or delays on it, just pure Serge. It uses a sequencer, two oscillators, ring mod, 8 LFOs, two filters, a VC processor, two phasers, two reverbs and a stereo mixer and about 40 banana cords

Here is the patch and the audio

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Warp Six?

I've never ever seen or even heard of one of these synths before.... on ebay uk for £350, item no: 320489995036

Quad Eight

There's a beautiful Q8 console on the bay today. It's in Shelburne, MA, US, and is curently just $100. More info in the comms

Apparently Quad Eight are really up there with the best, though I've never used one. This one looks great, if a bit tatty. I have to say it looks older than 1982, more like '72

Here is a really good article about the history of Q8, Sphere and Electrodyne consoles that appeared in Tape Op mag, by Larry DeVivo

Saturday, 20 February 2010


I've been lying roung the house the last few days cos I've got flu, hence messing about so much on the Doepfer. Here's another sketch, this time layering up 3 passes of sound, but unedited

Old Computers

Here is a timeline of Digital Equipment Corporation [DEC] with some great pictures of their back-catalog. That last picture shows one of their VT100 video terminals, which is the same one used by NED. I bought one of those years ago on ebay for next to nothing just in case I ever pick up a Synclavier ii, or maybe if I figure out a way of running it with my PSMT

Below is a stock picture of the PSMT and a track I made on one, from my album Twenty Systems

Friday, 19 February 2010

Doepfer Video

Shot a self-sequencing patch on the Doepfer:

Focusrite For Sale

Here is a Focusrite Studio Console for sale, as referred to in in this previous post. POA though, so not a lot of useful info. Imagine how much power this thing would use up each day. And you would keep yourself fit just walking round eq-ing things. There's a gallery here

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Relocation Required

I guess Michael Cretu might be in the market for a new house / studio at the moment. He's the person responsible for Enigma, and has sold at least 100M records. He spent 9 years building an enormous house [more like a private village] in Ibiza, which contained one of the best electronic music studios ever. Here's a link to his previous studio, the one before the one that just got demolished, pictured below

He spent $26M dollars on it. Unfortunately he didn't get planning permission, and so after a long battle the bulldozers came in last summer and razed the whole lot. Story here



Relocation Opportunity 2

Alternatively, how about moving in to Vince Clarke's house / studio in Surrey. It's on the market for £2M. I first saw this on Matrixsynth. Here's the brochure


Relocation Opportunity

I was having lunch with Al yesterday and we were flicking through the papers when we saw that Abbey Road Studio is up for sale.....

I visited the studio when I was mastering my Memetunes album a few years ago. They very kindly showed me round Studio Two where the Beatles had their notorious lock-ins. The very same Hammond organ and piano were in that room, which naturally I had a plink on

The Synth Wranglers

Wrangler is an ongoing project I am doing with Phil Winter. The idea is that we work on one synth at a time per track. We do use some effects and mixing desks but only vintage ones of course! Here's our new myspace page. The picture above is of the Moog and Formant modular synths with Phil's crazy new laser-pen firing at it. The following track is called Glitching on Ice [edit] and was done entirely on the Formant. The effects used were an Eventide H3000, EMT 140 plate reverb, MuTron phaser and an Ibanez AD80 analog delay

Sequencer Sequence

Here is a short video of a big patch on the modulars me and Al set up. The idea was to try and use as many analog sequencers as possible, but we only managed 4 in the end. Once set off everything plays together. So there's a melodic line on the Moog 3C coming from the Dotcom Q960 clone, which is being transposed occasionally by a Dotcom Q119 sequencer. We sent trigger pulses from the Q963 trigger buss out to an envelope for the bass drum, others for the clap and hh [from the amazing Formant cymbal / hi-hat module]. A drone was set up on the Roland 100M and also an 8 step drone sequence using the 100M sequencer triggered from the Q960. The ARP 2500 was used for a percussive, slightly melodic 10 step sequence, again locked to the main clock. The whole lot went through the Studer 902 console and some delay and phaser pedals and Telefunken spring reverb

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Fairlight CVI

There's a Fairlight CVI for sale on the bay today. No, not a Fairlight CMI, a CVI . That stands for computer VIDEO instrument. They developed it in the early 80s and it was supposed to do for video what the sampler did for music. It looks supremely 1980s. The model for sale is the slimmed down single channel version....

It's in Arizona, starting bid $1400 [£900] and has been on before with no bids. Auction text: Fairlight CVI "Compact Producer" NTSC video effects unit. 1980's rare device. Real time single channel composite video with digital graphics. Copy of manual included. Sold AS-IS. USA sale only! (video monitor not included) This is the last one I have for sale

Here's some clips showing its incredible eightiesness. The first one is funny because the video keeps playing up. All the music is done on the CMI, natch


Another tipoff from Gavin, I present the Scanimate, one of the first computer animation devices. I think 8 units were sold in the US in the late 70s, which were used mainly for logos and idents, and it was pretty much the only way of doing moving graphics on screen at that time. Check out these excerpts from a laserdisc called Music Image: Odyssey by Ron Hays which was a compilation of videos he made with a Scanimate system. The music is by 1] Lary Fast and 2] Frank Serafine

It was also used in the film Demon Seed, which is a 70s sci-fi / horror classic and you must watch it today if you haven't already seen it. Thanks

Saturday, 13 February 2010

More Video Art

I think i need to get an analog video synthesiser. Now. I'm just starting to investigate them, and so far have discovered that EMS [yes who make the synthi stuff] also made video synths, such as the spectre. Here is a still from one

Here is the user manual. This is what it looks like

Gavin pointed me to the audiovisualisers site, as he is also on the trail....

Next up is the Chromaton 14, an american unit made in 1977

And here is a video made on one

The investigation continues, especially as I hearing rumours about old Buchla and Fairlight video synths. Could this be one?

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Meet Some Synthesisers

This vid had done the rounds of course but I've only just found it, on synthgear. It's from a geek-extravaganza in Austria last year. A bit like an alternate version of 20 Systems

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Analog Modular Video Synthesiser


Here is a short video by Dan Sandin called Colorful Colorado from 1974. Ok so guess what? He made this on a modular video synth! check out this film about it. Cool hat dude

Pixillation 1970

Here is some video art from 1970 by Lillian Schwartz. The amazing music is by Gershon Kingsley, almost certainly done on his modular Moog system. He was responsible for the pop song 'popcorn'

Old Videos

Here are some posts about old videos. I'm really interested in old videos at the moment. The first one is from an interview / lecture with B.E. from the 70's on youtube. I edited these snippets together and put on a track from music for films from the same era

Dope Two

Another patch that plays by itself. I should dig out my video camera....

The Thing Is

Here is a TV programme by Paul Morley about Brian Eno. Its an interesting contest. I like the way 1993 looks so old fashioned

It Bites

I got the Doepfer modular system up and running today, after abandoning the project years ago when the power supply snookered me. I bought some Roland 100M modules about 7 years ago and got some A100 modules in with the deal. I added some more from ebay about 4 years ago, and later some from Emis. I built a home made box for them all out of walnut offcuts from my kitchen, and then realised that the original power supply was not going to be powerful enough. So I bought a new one last week. Fuck, this is a really boring story

 Anyway, the first sound I made is pictured above and sounds like below

Monday, 8 February 2010

Yamaha DX1

I want one of these

Sold for $5595, shipping $900 from Dallas. In the comments is an interesting point made by someone who contacted the seller. From the seller:

Here we have the king of FM synthesis and one of the "Holy Grails" of vintage synths (in my opinion). The Yamaha DX-1. Only around 140 of these were produced at an original cost of $13,900 in 1985. That is $26,500 in today's money! This is serial number 118. Yamaha hand selected the finest components available and hand assembled each synth. This is very apparent when you see, hear and play it. The keyboard action is luxurious. It is equipped with a professional wooden, weighted 73 note keyboard. The sound is stunning. I know everyone on ebay says their item is "amazing" but there is something special about the DX-1. I have A/B compared it with Yamaha's FM plug in board, two DX-7s linked together, and a DX-5 and there was no comparison. The DX-1 has a distinct superiority in sound every time, and it's not just a subtle difference either. There is a rawness to the sound of the DX-1 that is lacking in other FM synths. It feels alive, like an old modular synth's immediacy of sound and control. The only way to get the sound of a DX-1 is to own a DX-1 , no software emulation or other synthesizer compares in my opinion. (I have since sold the other Yamaha synths on ebay and received positive feedback for them all) This synth is functioning perfectly and just received a check up at Audio Electronics here in Dallas. Cosmetically it is a 7/10. It has a few light scratches and spots were the acidity of hands has dulled the finish, especially around the volume slider and from taking it in and out of a flight case when moving it from studio to studio. It has been professionally owned and maintained it's entire life and has been used on countless recording and film scores but over all, it looks fantastic as you can see from the photos, and will stop any vintage synth enthusiast dead in his tracks

Sunday, 7 February 2010


Here is a short film by Gavin Toomey that features music by Oblong, a project I do with Sid Stronarch and Dave Nice. Gavin also released two albums on my electronica label Expanding Records under the name Vessel

Drop 11'30" (2009) from Gavin Toomey on Vimeo.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

A Diabolical Liberty

I just watched The Long Good Friday again and its currently my favorite film ever. The music is totally amazing, a mixture of synths, drumming, orchestral sounds and plenty of old FX units [and yes, lots of saxophone]. It was composed by Francis Monkman, the keyboardist from Curved Air and The 801 [late 70s prog band put together by Eno]

Here is the track 'The Scene Is Set' from The Long Good Friday OST

Friday, 5 February 2010

A 70s Sound in Blue

My friend Hugo is in LA at the moment, writing his first feature which he will direct. I will be doing the music. Well done mate! He regularly sends me videos and pictures of Porsche 911 cars even though he knows full well that I don't get on with them. But I couldn't resist this one because of the spectacular soundtrack:

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Fairlight Factory, circa 1984

As a kind of update to this post, here is a wonderful video about Fairlight, the company. Check out the Neve console while you're in there

Bambie, by Benge / Ben Sheppee

Music by Benge, circa 2005
Expanding Records

Video by Ben Sheppee

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Knack

Thanks Jack!

Analogue Cheese, Literally

I had this for dinner last night, bought from my local corner shop. The perfect studio meal......

Monday, 1 February 2010

Neve, DSP, Montserrat, Police, etc

Some days I come over all Neve and have to look at pictures of old consoles and listen to Dire Straits recordings. I was telling Alan about this today and he began reminiscing about when he worked at Neve. He was there for most of the 80's when it had been bought out by Siemens and the main project he worked on was the Neve DSP, the first ever digital recording console. Check out this scan of the brochure, it's amazing.  The thing about that product is that it was so cutting edge the only ones sold went to institutions funded by the British government. The designers published scientific papers on the technology they were pioneering. Siemens bought the entire Neve company [outbidding 60 other competitors for it] just so they could own the digital technology. Read more about the DSP here, but basically they cost over a million pounds each and they made less than 10 of them. One of them [the one in the picture] went to a studio in London who actually had the entire left side of the console constructed as a dummy non-working sidecar because they wanted it to look more impressive! Another system went to a Russian national broadcast studio that never got completed, and the console remained in its shrink-wrapped container for the next 15 years, when some lucky person bought it for next to nothing in its perfect state, just as it had left the factory

Rupert Neve had left the company in the late 70s, but before he did he designed three consoles that were commissioned by George Martin. One of them went into his new studio on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, pictured above. That console has been around a bit now, including being pulled from the wreckage of the studio after it was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, but here it is for sale if you have 1/2 million dollars spare

At the end of this video you can see Sting being a prat and jumping on it. Damn! [skip through to 3.10]

The Air consoles were the last ones Neve had a hand in before leaving and setting up a company called Focusrite. The next console he designed was the legendary Focusrite Forte. Below is a picture of the one that is still in daily use at Ocean Way in Hollywood. Sadly one was recently split up and sold off in small sections by Funky Junk. There are a few bits left....

Alternatively for a much more reasonable £40k you could buy this Neve 5316 which are also selling: