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

Back to synthsounds.net

Blog entry

Submit a synth sound!

Send sounds to:  info@synthsounds.net
(pref via Dropbox / WeTransfer / etc)

SynthSounds.net is a 100% crowd-sourced project so if you have a vintage synth which hasn't yet got a soundfile, we'd love you to send one in.

The dream is that on this page all synths will have a short demonstration of it's sound...compare a MiniMoog to an Arp Odyssey. Compare a TB-303 to a MC-202. Or even a Con Brio ADS 200 to a PPG Realizer...

Sound files should be relatively short - a couple of mins maximum with no other instruments - this should be a 'one instrument' demo - what it sounds like by itself, pure and simple. It could be a couple of juicy basslines, a searing lead or two, maybe some arpeggiation, plus an illustration of what the filter sounds like and what the LFO can do. But most importantly, try to show what makes that synth unique, what it's especially good at, or what makes it distinctive. Maybe even show what it's *bad* at! No external FX and no layering (except for naturally multi-timbral instruments, of course).

Files should be high quality mp3 / wav / aiff / etc, and all submissions will be credited on the credits page, along with a link to a URL of your choice (Bandcamp, official website, whatever!). In addition - sounds that make it onto the site will get a 20% discount on a Synth Evolution poster or mug.

Full copyright will be retained by the producer of the file and will be taken down within 7 days if requested. Note that this being the internet, there's nothing we (or anyone else) can do to prevent people downloading your sound file(s) and doing what they like with it. Sound files must be submitted on this understanding.

Submitted soundfiles will be used at SynthSounds.net's discretion. Submission does not guarantee usage, but we will do our best to make use of everything sent in!

All images are copyright (c) synthevolution.net 2017, 2018.
All sound files on synthsounds.net  are the copyright of their owner.

FAQs

- Why on earth are you doing this?

I love synths and thought this would be fun! AKA seemed like a good idea at the time.

- But most synths can be made to sound like most others, so what's the point?

Well...I would argue that every synth has something unique about it (check out the hard sync on the  Moog Prodigy sample on the site - beat that!) and that's what I'm hoping people will try to bring out in their samples of it. Plus, a FM synth is going to sound very differnt to a mono analogue, and let's see if we can really hear the qualities that make up the 'Moog' filter sound compared with a Roland one or an Arp one (Did Alan R Pearlman really copy the Moog filter ladder for the Arp 2600 and cover it with epoxy resin to hide the fact?*) *Yes.

- What if a synth already has a sample and I want to do one for it as well?

Feel free to send it in; if it's good enough or shows something interesting I'll append it to the existing one and credit both / all contributors. Can't promise, but will do my best.

- That's not nearly all synths, what a swizz!

Ok - so the first iteration now is analogue synths from 1960-90(ish). It's a lot of illustrations and sounds to handle, so am starting small, but I do have plans to:
- Increase the date range to include the 90's synths like Nord Lead, Access Virus, etc.
- Create a drum machine page
- Include more string synths and orchestral synths (but I never quite believe they're real synths...except for the Eminent 310 which is the sound of Jarre's Equinoxe 1, swoon)
- I can't quite bring myself to do electric organs, electric pianos - that would be too samey, right?
- I don't know if it's even possible to cover the modern renaissance of modular synths - there's so many being released all the time!!!
- Maybe I'll do all the Russian synths one day - there's loads of those. I do have the minimoog clone, the Altair Estridin 312
- Maybe I'll do all the old and very weird electronic sound generation instruments pre-analogue one day.
- Samplers seem a bit pointless to include, though it'd be nice to cover some of the classic libraries of Syclavier, etc. Copyright issues though?
- I may have missed out some of the more boring Korg workstations of the 90's, sorry!


Back to synthsounds.net

 

 

Videos

Exploring dorian mode

Brief video exploring the character of the dorian mode by playing some dorian melodies first in dorian and then in the natural minor.

The dorian mode differs from the natural minor only by one note, so was interested to see how changing that note affected the character of the melodies. In dorian, the 6th note is major, whereas the natural minor's 6th is minor.

A lot of the songs written in dorian seem to exploit this characteristic. Possibly also because the major 6th gives you a major dominant (V) chord in the scale, which otherwise would be minor.

Videos, Blog entry

Me demostrating the Prodigy used a Korg DS-8

Quick video on me comparing the synth stab on The Prodigy's 'No Good (Start the Dance)' and patch 68 on the Korg DS-8. I'm pretty sure that's the sound they used - perhaps a couple of minor parameter tweaks (there are two 'timbral' slders on the front panel that could well have been altered).

See what you think:

If it's not the DS-8 (and I think it is), then the quality of the sound suggests that it could be another FM synth, like DX7, etc.

Blog entry, Videos

Photosound experiment

Daphe Oram was a 20th century composer who experimented with her own method of sound synthesis back in the 1950s using images to generate tones. Lots of interesting facts here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oramics

I did a similar sort of experiment with a Bridget Riley picture - the x-axis is time, the y-axis is frequency. I think the resulting sound compliments the painting quite well actually!

Let me know if you agree...

Videos

Peculiar synth based sketch

What do we make of this? Plus points - pitch perfect 70's style mini-doc about an imagined synth-off between Vangelis, Moroder and Wendy Carlos.

Negative points - it's only very mildly amusing and goes on for ages. (Though I did like the line, 'Vangelis - a reclusive genius who's appeared in public only...never'.

A strangely niche sketch with an apparently large budget.

Think I prefered Synthesizer Patel from Look Around You!

Happy New Year!

Hi all,

I thought I'd write a quick blog post explaining more about the rationale for the selection of the synths. I've had some great conversations with customers about the poster and the reasons for stopping at 1995 and why some synths are on there and some aren't.

Great questions, and not ones I want to simply say 'my poster, my rules' (except a little bit ;-)

The original concept was to celebrate analogue and modular synths - my first (real) synth was a Moog Prodigy and I immediately fell in love with the sound world.  I already loved the electronic music of the time  - Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Jarre, Depeche Mode, Bilinski, et al - so that's not too big a surprise probably!

The original concept was to celebrate analogue and modular synths - my first (real) synth was a Moog Prodigy and I immediately fell in love with the sound world.  I already loved the electronic music of the time  - Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Jarre, Depeche Mode, Bilinski, et al - so that's not too big a surprise probably!

But I've loved analogue synths and sounds ever since and it occurred to me that it would be great to have a poster charting the progress from massive individual transistor based modulars, through the 70s and 80s analogue golden age, right up to the point where modern chips could model analogue circuits in software. An amazing story and symbolic of technological progress in our era.

So I started gathering data on all those synths, but I soon realised that I couldn't just do analogue. Partly because how purist should I be? Some synths with digital oscillators have analogue filters and are classics (eg, Alpha-Juno). Would seem a bit odd to exclude those.

And some digital synths are truly great as well - PPG's wavetable synthesis, the additive synths (Kawai K3) and some of the weird and wonderful ones..

And could I really exclude the revolutionary sound of FM? A synth poster without the Yamaha DX7 would be absurd.

And a poster with the DX7, but without the D50 and M1 would be hard to justify...

So, I ended up including pretty much every major synth ever made during that era - which is nearly 300!

But it was the ROMplers where it got tricky...it was important to have the early 'sample & synthesis' synths like D50, M1 and K1 on there, obviously, but it all gets a bit boring once you get to the Korg T1 and other run of the mill synths and workstations like that. Or rather - there are a lot of them, and that type of digital synth just doesn't excite me in the way analogue does. And I suspect that's true for a lot of synth fans!

The other difficult area was where to stop. I decided to complete the story with the Korg Prophecy and Yamaha AN1x as they were the ground breaking original analogue-circuit modelling synths. I was tempted to carry on with Access Virus, Nord Lead, Supernova....but I had to stop somewhere, and that was all getting a bit modern and far away from the original concept.

Given this is a synth poster, there are drum machines, samplers or FX units. Though it's a shame not to have Fairlight and Synclavier on there. I don't think there's a sheet of paper big enough to include those categories on there.

I also excluded most rackmount synths as they're often simply keyless versions of keyboard synths, and to be honest - a bit boring to look at.

Also part of the 'synth poster' rules was not to include electric organs, electric pianos, early pre-analogue electronic instruments. Most organs and pianos look very similar.  And although early 'synthesizers' like the Trautonium, the Oramic Machine and the Birotron (invented by Dave Biro - true!) are fascinating, they are out of scope for this - I want VCOs, Filters, ADSRs and LFOs!

I also mostly excluded synths with divide down architecture as they tended to be preset synths without 'synth-like' controls and again, tend not to be classics or that interesting. Same for string machines, though there are some honourable exceptions like the Eminent 310 used by Jarre for Equinoxe I and the preset Moog synth Polymoog used by Gary Numan on Cars.

Another large category that I haven't covered are the Soviet synths - there are vast numbers of them and I would need a poster double the size to do them justice, but I've popped couple on there by Polivoks as a gesture.

Finally, I'm aware that there are a number of quite obscure synths made by fairly obscure companies who produced a protoype or two and perhaps had a small commercial run or two, but have generally not included those, again on grounds of practicality of poster size, aesthetics and general familiarity.

So, I hope that explains why a synth or two may be missing, but hopefully have justified that in some way. Always happy to hear about obscure synths or other favourites. I'm sure the Synth Evolution poster won't be my last...watch this space!

Happy New Synthing Year!

Oli

 

 

Videos

Nice Minimoog mini-doc made by Moog Inc.

Lots of nice archive footage and pics in here, including an interview with Bill Hemsath, the engineer who built the original. Most interesting fact: he puts the unique sound of the Minimoog down to the fact that a miscalculation by a colleague caused the filter to be overdriven by 10-15% and that he avoid the 'horrible sounding' integrated chips of the day, and used discrete transistors instead. (I guess that would also make them easier to maintain to this day than other manufacturer's machines, such as the notoriously hard to keep going Oberheims that used ex-military chips which are completely unavailable these days)

Audio

Some recent BBC Synth clips...

Screen Shot 2017-11-16 at 13.29.14.png

 

Peter Zinovieff of EMS talking about the VSC3: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05m93vw

Hannah Peel talks about EDP Wasp: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05m93sx

Article about women and synths: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2GfqNLhxxrsQf67K36sVg8F/is-the-synth-the-ultimate-feminist-instrument?

(not sure about the clickbait title - the article doesn't make any actual references to feminism. It's just an article about female synth players. Why would a synth be a feminist instrument? Doesn't really make any sense. Anyway, the link to Eliane Radigue is well worth a listen)