Blog entry

SynthFest 2019! I'll be there!

Pleased to announce Synth Evolution will be hosting a stall at Synthfest this year. Last year was a blast! (Exhausting, but still a blast).

It’s October 6th 2019 at the Octagon Centre, Sheffield, UK.
All the details are here: www.synthfest.co.uk

I’ll have some exclusive Synth Evolution products this year - more mugs, t-shirts and mousemats with all the synths we know and love on them.

See you there!

ps: I notice in the Sound on Sound video from last year, you can just see the edge of my stand with Martin Ware (Human League, Heaven 17) standing somewhere in front of it. Success!

Martyn-Ware.png


Videos, Blog entry, Reviews

The Divine Comedy's Synth Song

I see the Divine Comedy have a written a silly song listing out a whole load of synthesizer names:

Not entirely sure what to make of it. My main thoughts are:

  • All synths namechecked are on the Synth Poster except for some of the post-90’s workstations like the Korg Triton (cos they’re kinda boring)

  • Musically it’s a bit of one-shot novelty song. All the silly kind of sounds that people used to think that the word ‘synthesizer’ represented and thus feels a bit dated. Perhaps that was the idea. Dunno. I don’t think it’s going on any of my Spotify playlists…

Let me know what you think of it!

Gigs, Blog entry, Synth Sounds

SynthJam - Friday 12th April - I'll be there with Moog...

If you’re in the Telegraph Hill area of south east London tomorrow evening, pack up your modular synth and bring it to SynthJam - an evening of jamming on Synths..! I’ll be there to jam, hope you can make it too!

SynthJam.png

Peter, the organiser says “Grab your modular, drum machine or synth, plug in and jam! Be part of an evening dedicated to live improvised electronic music (of sorts) Places will be limited so message me if you want to be part of the performance. I'm keen to bring as many different electronic textures to the group as possible including acoustic instruments manipulated through pedals or laptops. Spectators are most welcome and we'll hopefully have time for some hands-on audience participation. Message me if you have any questions, Lets Jam!”

Blog entry, Audio, Synth Sounds

Jarre & the Eminent 310

This is a must listen - Jean-Michel Jarre demonstrates how to create his classic ‘Oxygene pad sound’ by setting up an Eminent 310 string machine sound from scratch and then strapping triple-chorus and a StoneBridge phaser across it – instant Oxygene!

This is from the Planet Jarre podcast, hosted by Matt Berry.: https://planetjarre.podigee.io/8-neue-episode

All the episodes are vital listening to any fan of electronic music, but this one is the best!

Blog entry

Synth Legends of the Week: Yamaha, Akai, Kawai, Dave Smith

Here’s the quartet of Synth Legends I published on Instagram recently:

Synth Legend of the week:  Torakusu Yamaha  established his eponymous company in 1887 as a piano and reed organ manufacturer. He originally copied a reed organ he repaired in a local church before moving into piano manufacturer and toured the USA to learn techniques in the early 20th century. My first real synth was a Yamaha B200 from 1989 - a nice 4-operator FM machine.

Synth Legend of the week: Torakusu Yamaha established his eponymous company in 1887 as a piano and reed organ manufacturer. He originally copied a reed organ he repaired in a local church before moving into piano manufacturer and toured the USA to learn techniques in the early 20th century. My first real synth was a Yamaha B200 from 1989 - a nice 4-operator FM machine.


Synth Legend of the week:  Dave Smith  founded Sequential Circuits in 1974, designed the Prophet 5 in 1977 (the world’s first microprocessor based synth), and is known as the ‘Father of MIDI’, thanks to his role in the development of the MIDI spec in 1981. The Prophet 600 was also the first commercial synth to sport MIDI ports. Not only that, he designed the first software synth for a PC, and designed the Korg Wavestation whilst working for Korg R&D in the 80's. In 2015 he reclaimed the ‘Sequential Circuits’ name from Yamaha, after releasing several successful ‘Dave Smith Instruments’. Not bad going, eh?

Synth Legend of the week: Dave Smith founded Sequential Circuits in 1974, designed the Prophet 5 in 1977 (the world’s first microprocessor based synth), and is known as the ‘Father of MIDI’, thanks to his role in the development of the MIDI spec in 1981. The Prophet 600 was also the first commercial synth to sport MIDI ports. Not only that, he designed the first software synth for a PC, and designed the Korg Wavestation whilst working for Korg R&D in the 80's. In 2015 he reclaimed the ‘Sequential Circuits’ name from Yamaha, after releasing several successful ‘Dave Smith Instruments’. Not bad going, eh?

Synth legend of the week:  Koichi Kawai  was a neighbour of Torakusu Yamaha, and was his apprentice in early 20th century. He founded the Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory in 1927. And I still have my Kawai K4 from 1989 - still a good synth.

Synth legend of the week: Koichi Kawai was a neighbour of Torakusu Yamaha, and was his apprentice in early 20th century. He founded the Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory in 1927. And I still have my Kawai K4 from 1989 - still a good synth.

Synth Legend of the week: Akai was founded by  Masukichi Akai  (pictured) and his son, Saburo Akai in 1929. Akai also means 'red' in Japanese, hence their logo colour. Akai helped revolutionise modern music in the late 80’s with the S900, S950 and ultimately the S1000 samplers. Hip-hop, rave, jungle all have a lot to thank this guy for!

Synth Legend of the week: Akai was founded by Masukichi Akai (pictured) and his son, Saburo Akai in 1929. Akai also means 'red' in Japanese, hence their logo colour. Akai helped revolutionise modern music in the late 80’s with the S900, S950 and ultimately the S1000 samplers. Hip-hop, rave, jungle all have a lot to thank this guy for!

Blog entry

My Dr Who Cover Version..

I composed and performed a version of the Dr Who theme for the Design & Engineering department of the BBC at their end of year conference in Dec 2018, at the BBC Radio Theatre, Broadcasting House, London. Helping with the performance were Jim Simmons (keys) and Des Griffiths (bass).

Good fun to compose and perform.

Should note - for avoidance of any doubt - that I’m more than happy for the producers of Dr Who to approach me regarding the 2020 series of the programme. The door is always open, lads! ;-)

Salient synth related info is that the lead and bass were done by the Arturia Arp 2600 and the synth stabs are the Arturia Oberheim SEM. All lovely kit!

Blog entry

SynthFestUK - new poster & fun times

SynthFestUK was a blast! Held in Sheffield, UK in October 2018, our stand was up near the entrance of the upper level. Had a great view of the Novation stand and Erica Synth opposite, and was sandwiched between KMR Audio and Tubbutec.

This was how the stand was looking after set-up on Friday:

Synth Evolution stand at #SynthFestUK 2018

Synth Evolution stand at #SynthFestUK 2018

Picture doesn’t include the iPad I had with the SynthSounds.net website on so visitors could check out all the vintage synth sounds on that site.

The day was a great success - many happy visitors leaving the show with Synth Evolution posters, mugs and t-shirts. Would definitely love to do it again. The best thing was meeting people and ‘talking synth’ for eight hours! Tiring, but fun. Was great to find out about people’s set-ups and synths. And how far some people had come - Germany, Sweden, Belgium for some.

I walked past Will Gregory (Goldfrapp, WG’s Moog Orchestra) and Martyn Ware (Human League, Heaven 17). (Did I ever mention that I’ve supported the Human League with my band Cassette Eletrik in 2007? Probably.) It was also great meeting writers and editors of Sound on Sound and Electronic Sound, both magazines I’ve been a fan and reader (and occasional writter) for years.

The only thing I’d do differently next time is to bring a buddy to share shift duty on the stand. I literally only had 10 mins break all day and didn’t actually get to see any of the synths or talks. HIGHLY FRUSTRATING!!! :-)

Posters

New synth poster to be unveiled at Synthfest!

I hope you’ve all got your tickets to #synthfest2018? Synth Evolution are very proud to be hosting a stand with our posters, mugs and t-shirts. (Plus an interactive version of the SynthSounds website)

Not only that, but we’re launching a new poster - ‘Syntheseizer’s Greatest Hits’ which features all the most important and influential synthesizers of the last 80 years (yes, 80 - can you guess the earliest?' ;-) 10% discount to the first correct answer! info@synthevolution.net)

Here’s a sneak preview:

Synth Evolution - A1 poster - ‘Synthesizer’s greatest hits’

Synth Evolution - A1 poster - ‘Synthesizer’s greatest hits’


It will also available in white, and will be on sale on this website from October 7th 2018.

Blog entry

Synth Sounds: update

A regular series of posts charting the development of www.synthsounds.net - the website which aims to have ALL the sounds of ALL the synths at the click of button

Current status: beta
Number of synth sounds: 42 of 375

June 29th 2018
Have been able to upload a large number of great synth demos, thanks to Jexus of http://www.syntezatory.net.pl/

So we've got some of the classics already - DX7, D50, some ARP, Moog, Korg and Roland...but no TB-303 yet! Come on guys - someone's got to claim that one for their own! :-)

I've also listened to feedback and am working up an updated version of the site with a play button so you can tell that you've triggered a sample playback and can pause it, etc. Will be a couple of weeks before it goes live as there's a fair amount of hacking around in code to get the correct mouse behaviours, etc.

Gigs

BBC Biggest Weekend - gig reviews

Ok, so I wasn't at any of the events, but I watched a load on iPlayer; here are my reviews, starting with electronic music superstars Orbital and Underworld...

Orbital

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b4d7bk

- Great set, all the classics (first five mins wasn't so keen on)
- Nice synth malfunction in Satan, proving something was being done live

Underworld

- Rez into Underworld was amazing

- Born Slippy always raises the hairs, especially when seeing it enjoyed by 1000s of other people

- Rick Smith was clearly miming a record-perfect rendition of Rez. I mean, really? It’s not dignified to do that at his age!!

 

Goldie

- Wanted to like it, but style of vocals just not my cup of tea

- I just can’t get on with live drums for an intensely electronic style such as D’n’B. See a foolish article I wrote for Sound on Sound in my youth: sss (I still stand by it!!!)

 

Selector

 - Quite fun 

 

Lykke Li

- Always loved Dance Dance Dance so giving this set a whirl

- This first song ‘Swimming Pool’ is going on a bit

- All the songs I’m finding a bit boring I’m afraid. One chord per bar, vocal style unchanging, etc. 

- Enjoyed the second half a bit better, more interesting sounds and evocative atmosphere.

- No Dance Dance Dance! Wot a swizz!

 

Public Service Broadcasting

- not entirely convinced by the four-part Titanic piece, but at least they’d made an effort for the location

- Will they play Spitfire?

- Yes!

- Enjoyed second half of their set from Spitfire onwards

 

Simple Minds

 - Yeah, I know, a bit of nostalgia. Good 80’s keyboard styles! 

 

Baloji

- This was great, need to track down more of their material

Blog entry, Audio

Chapter 2: Berlin. Tracks from Rave On by Matthew Collins

Following on from Chapter 1, here are the tracks mentioned in Chapter 2 of Matthew Collins' excellent 'Rave On' book. As noted before, there's no point just reading about the music of a scene - it kinda helps to hear it as well!

The Berlin chapter focuses on the import of techno to Berlin, the free parties of Love Parade and the sex parties of Berghain, Snax and others.

As a result the playlist is early 90's techno and artists like Westbam, Jam & Spoon, Spiral Tribe, etc.

Enjoy!

 

Worth a watch - Free Tekno documentary about the current incarnation of the free party scene, a la Spiral Tribe:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7MUlimHYx4

 

Blog entry

Tracks from Rave On by Matthew Collin: Detriot TECHNO

I recently read Rave On by Matthew Collin - an excellent tour of global and historical dance music styles and I thought it'd be interesting to gather up the tracks mentioned into YouTube playlists to give a flavour of the music under discussion. 

51uZ6y7ziPL._SY346_.jpg

(There's no point just reading about music if you don't then listen to examples!).

Typical synths and drum machines (as if you didn't know!): Roland TB-303, TR-808, TR-909
(buy the mugs here:
https://www.synthevolution.net/shop/any-synth-rz?category=Mugs)

So, here's the overarching playlist:

 

And here are the individual tracks and links, with the relevant introductory quotes:

Chapter 1: Detroit

Chapter one covers the birth of arguably the most influential and mature dance music styles - techno. With it's roots in Detroit of the early 80's, it's sound is raw and it expresses the feelings of the people of city in tragic decline (at that time).

"When you hear tracks like UR's, 'Riot', that's Detroit screaming from the pressures of a racist society surrounding the city and bleeding it to death from the inside out" - Robert Hood. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vx4mjEfCe58

"Because of the elegiac chord sequeneces and wistful melodies of some early Detroit techno, it has sometimes been interpreted as pure head music, but many of the original tracks were actually hard-pumping machine funk purpose-built for the dance floor, which is why tunes like May's 'Nude Photo' and Saunderson's 'The Sound' became anthems at British clubs like the Hacienda." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIx32rZdENM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiQFME5bym8

"(Derek) May sold a Roland drum machine to (Frankie) Knuckles, which he used to make the emotive anthem 'Your Love' with Jamie Principle'." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPrGnh7QUDo

"We played [May's classic track] 'Strings of Life' to one A&R guy and he was just on the phone. He didn't even look at me. So we just left.'" - May https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjdmPALLna0

Underground Resistance, ‘Has Good Left This City?’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0Eao-8ikqo

Was (Not Was), ‘Wheel Me Out’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScviwFh6T3M

"When Kraftwerk headlined Movement in 2016, it felt like a kind of homecoming. 'When they dropped the beat on Trans-Europe Express, I shivered’" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMVokT5e0zs

 

Notes:
--------

The Belleville Three / Detroit Trio: Derek May, Frankie Knuckles, Juan Atkins

First wave: Atkins, May, Saunderson, Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter, Anthony Shakir

Second wave: Stacey Pullen, Carl Craig, Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, Octave One

Canada: Richie Hawtin, John Acquaviva, Kenny Larkin

European influenced artists: 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Baby Ford, LF

Notable labels: Transmat, Metroplex, KMS, UR, Submerge, Planet E

Videos, Reviews

Carl Craig @ The Barbican, 6th April

Billed as the Carl Craig Synthesizer Ensemble, I was not too disappointed with the set up - four keyboard players and piano. Carl was very chatty this evening and said that the synths in use were three Dave Smith Prophet 6’s and a Dave Smith Oberheim OB6. So, very definitely part of the current wave of sexy new analogue synths.

Before I review the gig, I know you synth fans will want to hear the jam session at the end where each keyboard player did a little solo in a very classic keyboard player style. Unfortunately missed the first guy, but got the other three and the pianist (Kelvin Sholar). Sorry about the visuals, I wasn’t really paying that much attention, more listening to the grooves!

The gig itself was very enjoyable; it’s always a bit weird hearing dance music in a classical music venue - it never quite feels right. Though the nature of tonight’s music was much more on the epic and symphonic scale - from the album Versus - so was less about the dance and more about the journey of the tracks. What also helped was the large back projection of Detroit cityscapes.

The visuals were immediately compelling - an orange circle with a black cross on it filled the screen at the start - an already pleasing geometric image. Then as the camera (drone!) rose up, it was revealed to be the top of some weird chimney in the middle of a Detroit intersection, with roads going everywhere, strange pedestrian raised tunnels and curves, and geometry everywhere. A very arresting and exciting sequence.

In fact nearly all the images of Detroit were epic and grand in some way - focussing largely on the tall buildings in what I assume is central Detroit. Craig was clearly trying to present a view of Detroit other than the ‘apocalypse porn’ we often see of the decaying buildings there, following the collapse of the car industry. And judging from what he himself said, he is definitely proud of his home town and wants to try and change the standard narrative we have.

And I think that worked. The music fit the visuals perfectly; frequently starting from a small repetitive phrases before building into huge, overwhelming climaxes, it felt to me  (nearly) like a Koyaanisqatsi for the 21st Century. The pieces started at night, moved from dawn and daytime before returning to sunset and night.

I think that feeling would have been intensified had Carl not done so much talking in-between tracks, but it was actually quite nice to go to an electronic music gig and hear something about the motive for writing the music, and some reminisces about previous times in London, etc.

And then to round things off, we had the jam / solo session as embedded above. And why not - after quite an intense hour of music it was fun to let off a bit of steam and enjoy a bit of unpretentious synth noodling!

 

 

 

Synth Sounds

About Synth Sounds

Every fancied comparing the sound of every synth with the sound of every other?

Yes, us too. And here it is! A growing compendium of over 300 synths from the first golden age of synths - 1960 - 1990.

It will be expanded to include more recent synths and modular systems, drum machines and samplers in due course.

We hope you enjoy listening to them all and if you have a synth that isn't currently represented by a sample, then please send it to us at info@synthevolution.net

Thanks!

Oli

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