Akai MPC Renaissance

Akai MPC Renaissance

Akai MPC Renaissance MIDI Controller

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The Weekly LP & Singles Platter, Please!

This is the weekly installment where we recap what we’ve been spinning at The Synthesizer Book headquarters during the week. If it’s on this list, it got played more than once!

I learned a hard lesson these past couple of weeks. You should keep things simple in the studio. Complex routing and lack of knowledge for recording gear can kill a session dead in its tracks. That was my punishment this week. Always at the moment when the drums are hitting hard and you’ve gotten all the synths tuned up too. Keeping things simple was the theme this week in most of these selections. It was a theme I grappled with this week. Time for some change there.

1.John Foxx, The Maths-Interplay
This is the album that has received the most attention this week. It’s easily my favorite album of 2011. Getting this in the mail made for one very happy afternoon. The copy I got from Townsend Records has track by track notes as to which synthesizers were used for each track on the CD sleeve inlay. There are lyrics too. How is that for fanatics! While reading the sleeve we learn that Interplay was written and recorded by John Foxx and Benge. Both of whom are well known for their adoration of analog synthesizers and frequently discussed topics around here. Watching a Building On Fire is the one track written in collaboration with Mira Aroyo (Ladytron) on Korg MS20 synthesizer and vocals. This is going to get a lot of airplay, I bet. Interplay creates a delicious blend of audio candy for the connoisseur synth lover in all of us. John Foxx still sounds amazing. His voice defines a generation of music. So, the fact that Foxx is still involved in defining all of that, coupled with a loyalty to analog synthesizers today, makes for a great story even today. Watching A Building On Fire is a catchy ditty featuring strings from a Korg Lambda string synthesizer, ARP Odyssey and a Crumar Multiman.


One other thing that you find on the sleeve notes of Interplay is the list of FX on Foxx’s vocals. The Digitech Vocalist is one among a few used throughout the LP. Interplay is synthesizers galore, great pop melodies and pure style. Gentlemen, any chance you can give us some performances over here on this side of the pond? Get this album now.

2.Imaginary Cities-Temporary Resident
My Northern friends are producing some very good music in recent years. Or at least, more so! Imaginary Cities are Manitoba residents Marti Sarbit and Rusty Matyas. Sarbit has a very unique voice. I mean, I knew right away I was going to like this album. FromSay You, the albums opening track, you know that you are in for a tasty morsel of a singing specimen. Up against the multi-instrumentals of Rusty Matyas, this combination offers up a most delicious blend of melody rich tracks and a truly noteworthy production. You are going to hear some big things from this band.

The thing is, there are lots of electronics on Temporary Resident too, but the focus is evidently in the songwriting and the choice of instrumentation in each track only serves to add to the songs’ structure. The Pixies have chosen Imaginary Cities to tour with them for the upcoming Pixies Doolittle Tour. So, if you are one of those that shows up late to a show, you just might want to reconsider. Very nice album.

3.Lowfish-Frozen & Broken
Lowfish aka Gregory De Rocher keeps things simple. Upon reading most of the liner-notes, you realize quite quickly that Lowfish doesn’t have a room full of gear. Or maybe he does, but he seems to rely on a choice set of synthesizers. Frozen and Broken was an instant favorite for me. Only overshadowed by Foxx’s Interplay. Though, I binged on Lowfish too. De Rocher uses a wide range of analog kick drums and hi-hat’s and snares on this album which come mostly from a combination of a Roland TR 808 drum machine and a Vermona VRM-1 analog drum machine. It is clear analog drums are still vital to the Lowfish sound and that’s the way I like it. Voltage Controlled Oscillators (VCO’s) are in vogue again. It’s only a matter of time before Fashionistas make the DCO’s fashionable again. For some though, analog synthesizers have always been the instruments of choice. Some artist make connections with their instruments over years of using them. There is truth to that. It makes sense. When you read De Rocher’s liner notes, they show the same. I get the idea that the instruments were like band members. Like they become characters in the script of the album. Lowfish is also not a Luddite or a technophobe. He still relies on his Macbook. However, it is clear when listening to this album that it is transistor based instruments that make Frozen & Broken complete.

4.Skinny Puppy-Puppy Gristle
Legend has it that a fire burned down the location in which this Skinny Puppy recording was conceived. The location in question housed a certain “Thee Gristleizer” the very same Gristleizer that was used by Throbbing Gristle on many of their now classic albums. Genesis P. Orridge was featured on this recording and so too was Chris Carter’s chemistry lessons by way of his custom made effects processors. Puppy Gristle is a little over a 40 minute jam. It’s often dense and off kilter, but somehow it captures an energy that is very Skinny Puppy and most definitely Throbbing Gristle. Some have said this album never takes off. “Why does it have to?”, is my response. It’s a moment in time, a vibe, an intoxication, who knows, but for a jam with electronics, it works for me. Recorded in Shangri-La Studios in Malibu California. If you are a casual fan, perhaps you might start elsewhere in the Skinny Puppy saga, but for the completest of either Throbbing Gristle or SP, this is a must.

5.Shudder To Think-Hot One (Velvet Goldmine)
Remember this soundtrack? Remember the flick? I seem to remember watching it on a VHS tape. Yikes! Shudder To Think is a glam rock treat and I remember playing it quite a bit. Actually, I like the whole soundtrack. Especially, the tracks by Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke of Radiohead as the fictitious, The Venus In Furs. Check it out if you missed it the first time.

6.The The-The Beat (en) Generation & August & September (Mind Bomb)
It must be known that I believe Matt Johnson goes down as one of the best songwriters to come out of London of our generation. He was one of the many great artists to be featured on the Steveo’ Some Bizarre compilation and he has consistently produced some great albums. Mind Bomb is one of my favorites because it was the one I played repeatedly in university. These tracks just put me in a great mood. You see, with Matt Johnson you can’t count on lyrics that bring out the bitter truth, but always offers up some optimism.

7.Thom Yorke-The Eraser Remixes
$1.99 for a CD is too hard to pass up. So, it was this CD I purchased earlier in the week. Obviously, Thom Yorke is going to be on the mind especially with all of the stir with his recent Radiohead album, The King of Limbs and his recent DJ appearance at Low End Theory in Los Angeles. You can see more about that DJ set here. The Eraser Remixes are taken from tracks from Yorke’s, The Eraser solo albums from a couple of years back. The Remixes features tracks by Burial, Christian Vogel, Modeselektor, The Bug and Four Tet. If you are a fan of Radiohead and also like the remix treatments, check this out.

8.The Chemical Brothers-Hanna (Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I was listening to Client featuring Martin Gore of Depeche Mode and somehow The Chemical Brothers popped into my head. I’m not one of those who believes you should wait to hear the soundtrack until you’ve seen it with the film. Then again, some of these tracks would’ve made more sense. Really though, who can wait that long when it’s some of your favorite artists releasing it. I remember seeing The Chemical Brothers in Seattle a few years back. They were one of the first bands, I can safely say, made my ears hurt for days. It was an aural assault. I was mad, but also impressed. Hanna is the score for the film of the same name. Many passages yearn for a visual. That is true. Still, it’s nice to see The Chemical Brothers expanding into other areas with their sound.

9.Client-Overdrive (City LP) featuring Martin L. Gore
CLIEИT was an Andy Fletcher (Depeche Mode) discovery. Fletcher released some the early albums from this London duo on his label, Toast Hawaii. Client is a duo of sexy looking Stasi women, with synthesizers. I like the combination of airline hostess uniform meets shiny fetish fashion outfits. If I ever had to deal with the Stasi, I would hope they all looked this. On this one though, they feature the vocals of Martin L. Gore (Depeche Mode). Client was distributed by Mute Records in North America. The band has changed labels and members, but I still like the idea, sound and aesthetics of this band and this track is among one of my favorites of theirs.

10.Colin Hay-I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You (Garden State Soundtrack)
If you thought the best thing about Colin Hay was his daughter Sia (Zero 7), well this song will show you that Colin Hay has a soul. Good to know he has done more with life after Men At Work. This song is perhaps, one of my favorite ballads in a very long time. It’s a sad song told in the first person, and by the end of it, you just can’t help but admire the song and the artist. This is a very nice piece of songwriting that I enjoy playing.

The iPhone Photo Chronicles: Diamond Rings at the Biltmore (March 15th, 2011) Vancouver

Androgyny is back. Maybe it never really went away. Either way, John O’Regan may have stumbled on to a winning formula with his synthesizer, guitar and drum machine based pop songs. I’m sure you could make the David Bowie comparisons. You’ll probably see the words glam rock come up too. Maybe that time he spent in the hospital was all he needed to get this Diamond Rings thing going. In the end, it’s the songs that made me take notice. Check out Diamond Rings, Special Affections LP.

Diamond Rings Tuning Up

Diamond Rings Live Set

From The Weekly LP & Singles Platter, Please!…

Diamond Rings-Special Affections
I saw Diamond Rings perform on Friday night at the Biltmore Cabaret, which has easily become one of my favorite places to watch a show. But, would someone please raise that stage a few inches? Good friends of mine got me a ticket. They new I would like it. I think they might know me well. I was also given the album and was quite impressed with this album. I was very excited to see him perform. I didn’t know much about him then. Actually, I still don’t know much about this artist. Except that I would highly recommend you get to a club, bar or festival where he is playing and check him out. His set features a MIDI controller, Mac laptop running Ableton Live, a Roland drum pad and his guitar. Doesn’t sound like much, but even with all his silly Hipster regalia and makeup, I was floored. I was impressed at the screaming women. I was inspired by the vibe at the Biltmore that night. The fine folks at Speakerboxxx.com mentioned something about the mixed crowd as evidence that he is making a deep impact across many genres, and I couldn’t agree more. Thanks Jenny for the ticket and thank you Jake for this album. Very good stuff, friends. Have fun in Portland.

The iPhone Photo Chronicles: Simian Mobile Disco (Vancouver 2011)

I got an invite to go see Simian Mobile Disco this past Tuesday. It was a late show, but I couldn’t pass up the offer.

Before the show there were several people talking about the new light show SMD would have. “The Honeycomb” is what people were calling it. I gotta say, if you were getting slightly wavy, it was simply an awesome sight to see. I bet that took about 2-3 hours to set-up and break down for sure.

SMD played a fantastic set. The more upbeat tracks driving the crowd into a great frenzy for a Tuesday night show. The sound coming out the PA was also impressive this time…not too muddy and not too distorted! It was good to see that Venue got rid of that horrible lighting over the dance floor too. Though, why did you close off the top floor, folks? Honestly? There was plenty of squelching and belching coming from the synthesizers that night. Whether it was coming from their modular rack or the legendary Korg MS-20 monophonic synthesizer. They really put the resonant filter on the Korg MS-20 through its paces. Shaw was tweaking it all night long.

One of my favorite moments was when I was talking to a friend about Simon Lord and how I had seen them open for Squarepusher in Seattle a few years back. I saw them at the very hip Chop Suey. Then, at that moment, Simon Lord’s voice kicked in over the PA and SMD kicked into a great rendition of I Believe. What a great vocalist, that Simon guy is.

Simian Mobile Disco from back of Venue

Side View of Simian Mobile Disco modular synthesizer rack

Simian Mobile Disco modular synthesizer (Seeing Green)

Simian Mobile Disco (Centerstage)

Simian Mobile Disco

A Good View of modular synthesizer rack

Simian Mobile Disco (Seeing Blue)

Tiki, Cocktail, Modular Synthesizer, Anyone?…Square Waves (Vancouver) 2010

It was my first time attending the Square Waves Electronic Music Festival. A very good friend of mine had stumbled across some PR for the event and made me aware of it. So, with some dehydration from the Christmas party the night before, I made my way down to the Waldorf Hotel for the Modular Synthesizer Symposium portion of the festival. The setting outside was overcast and rainy. The inside seemed like it was presenting a much better opportunity! The Waldorf, with its newly refurbished hotel, cafe and dining room, set the tone nicely. The new futuristic accents meets 1940’s architecture, made for the perfect background to the event. The actual event took place downstairs in the classic Tiki Bar. Fantastic!

I had some great conversations with many of the presenters that day. I had an especially good time talking to Joshua Stevenson of Otic Sound. More on him later this week.

I learned a few things. I had a couple of pints. I marveled at the fantastic attendance. Most of all, it was quite encouraging for me to meet so many local artists, synthesists, and people interested in building their own instruments and creating new sounds with modular synthesizers. In the coming weeks, I will talk about some of the presentations and presenters for the Profiles section.

Here are a few pictures we have up on our Flickr page.

Joshua Stevenson of Otic Sound with his EMS Synthi “A” and rig! (Thanks for letting me covet the EMS Synthi!)
2010 Square Waves_Synthesizerbook.com

Tiki, Cocktail, Modular Synthesizer, anyone?
2010 Square Waves_Synthesizerbook.com

Christopher Rooney (Buchla 200e Modular Synthesizer)
2010 Square Waves_Synthesizerbook.com

The Shadows Are On Your Side…Danjel of Intellijel (Vancouver modular synth manufacturer)
2010 Square Waves_Synthesizerbook.com

The Harvestman (Seattle based modular synth manufacturer)
2010 Square Waves_Synthesizerbook.com

Mark Sims (Synthesizers.com Modular)
2010 Square Waves_Synthesizerbook.com

Dave Leith (Serge Modular)
2010 Square Waves_Synthesizerbook.com

Flight of Harmony (Seattle based modular synth manufacturer) demonstrating their “Infernal Noise Machine”
2010 Square Waves_Synthesizerbook.com

The Host…Andrew Short (MacBeth modular)
2010 Square Waves_Synthesizerbook.com

From Square Waves website:
“SquareWaves Electronic Music Festival is an annual grassroots event based in Vancouver.

Organized by contributing electronic music practitioners and interdisciplinary artists, the festival debuts an eclectic variety of works featuring new music performance and experimental multi-media collaborations.

This year’s festival will be a two-day event with evening performances and a modular synthesizer symposium.”

What a great event. I look forward to hearing more about Square Waves and all their intended “Happenings.”

Bonobo, SOLD OUT show, Rickshaw, Vancouver! (2010)

Simon Green aka Bonobo delivered what I believe to be a very stupendous performance. One of my favorite of the year and perhaps the last one I will see in 2010. Unless, I missed something in the weekly! In which case, I take that back.

Green was not alone for this occasion. This was the last stop in his North American tour. Armed with horn section, live drums, Rhodes piano and an assortment of other electronic goodies, Bonobo delivered more, far more, than we are all expecting. The Rickshaw was at full capacity last night. The energy was infective and the sound just seems to work at the Rickshaw for all the shows I’ve seen there. Nice work sound crew. I did spot Simon Green on a Jen synthesizer a couple of times. What was more impressive, was the Gibson Thunderbird bass he used for most of the show. Great grooves for sure. Occasionally, he played some parts on the Rhodes and even the Korg MicroKorg synthesizer. At one point, I counted 8 musicians onstage. Yeah, it was a musical chair affair, with everyone changing instruments in between songs. It felt like a jam session that we all got invited to watch. Loved it.

I’ve seen some very good shows this year. Many of which I will post up in the iPhone Photo Chronicles soon. This one stands out for its vibe, soulful vocals and a horn section that brought smiles to my face on many an occasion throughout the night. I’ve always relished the use of electronics, mixed with things like Clarinet. Right now, I think about the only thing that would’ve topped this performance, would’ve been to see X-TG perform. I’ve been thinking about Sleazy, Chris, and Cosey quite a bit this week.

One big question though…When did Pabst Blue Ribbon become so chic?…$5 a beer? I remember when they were 12 for $3. I guess we’ll have to thank Mr. David Lynch and his Blue Velvet for that one!

Thank you to the merchandising manager,…adorable! Thanks to PM for the tickets. Well done. Thanks to Karen (or is it Sarah?!),…what a motley crew you had to put up with. Thanks to Jake & even the Buddhaholic. A couple of the pictures below were taken by Buddhaholic. He was boasting about his new iPhone 4. So, I figured I’d get him to take some pics for us. Not too shabby.

Four Tet, Biltmore, Vancouver 2010

The images below were taken on Wednesday the 24th, February 2010. This was earlier in the year so my memory is vague. It was at the Biltmore Hotel Cabaret. Great place for live music. For those of you that know Vancouver, it was probably a rainy night and damn cold. For those of you that suffer harsher colds, I feel for ya! This was a school night! We were probably more interested in our late night dinner. Would we go Vegan or a Dougie hot dog? In that order, on that night! No, I’m not Vegan, though every once in a while, its a great option. If you frequent Granville, or live in the Couv, you know what I mean.

I did purchase There is Love in You, the album this tour was in support of. Come to think of it, it’s probably the reason I went to the show. I’ve been listening to Four Tet for a very long time. I remember I purchased Dialogue and Pause from the Tower Records on University Street, in the U-District of Seattle. I think that record shop is another story of the past. Thank heavens for Easy Street Records though. I also always remember that Sound on Sound interview Kieran Hebden did for Rounds. It was my in-flight reading, transcontinental. Yeah, a book would’ve been better, but that issue had some really good content. I think Goldfrapp was in there as well.

His laptop creations have been incorrectly tagged Folktronica over the years, but likely, more, a lazy classification. His music is difficult to classify and that is what usually happens to good original music. A Radiohead favorite early on. He would tour with them. Four Tet has gone on to achieve noteworthy music and his collaborations always bring something new to the mix. Check out anything that Kieran Hebden has done with Fridge too. They are a great electronic trio. The Sun got some heavy play-time. Adem’s Homesongs, with its minimalistic arrangement, manages to make homemade music with a guitar, toys laying about, and the electronics offered by his computer.

That Four Tet has moved onto a more dance oriented sound for There is Love in You, should come as no surprise. He had been DJ-ing a lot and that is always bound to impact the creative process. His Rounds album was a great reminder of my time in Munich some years back. From beer garden to autobahn, Rounds was there with me. Great summer that was.

Yeah, okay, here are the photographs…

The Crystal Method, Clipse & Smirnoff (March 4, 2010)

The Crystal Method have been friends of mine for many, many years. I don’t think I’ve missed many of their shows, when they play close to home. If I’m traveling or near a venue they are playing, I’m there. I’ve seen them perform live sets at least a dozen times. We went to secondary school together and lived in the same town for a long time. It’s the same town in which their first LP is titled. I can tell you all the early synthesizers they used too! However, you’re just going to have to wait till the book comes out in 2011. What were those again!?! I have seen these artist become well respected musicians and revered over the years. I can’t recall too many action movie trailers that didn’t feature a Crystal Method song. They go great with Victoria Secret! I still remember the first interview I read on TCM in the local lifestyle magazine, SCOPE. Still have that in the archives. This was mid to late 1990’s, when they were just starting to take off. I also remember going to see The Replacement Killers and that opening scene with Keep Hope Alive just overwhelmed me. I was also very proud of my good friends too.

This particular show was memorable. It was the first time in a long time we’ve had time to talk backstage before they performed. We don’t normally talk too much about music, anyway. However, this night, we got caught up on family life, and Ken’s recent engagement which was captured on film at one of their shows.

These guys are true gentlemen. Watching them interact with their fans is always so heartwarming. This post is for Ken & Scott. They are 2 of the most gracious and talented people I know. I missed you guys in your in your recent Seattle show & you’ve been on my mind ever since. So, here are a couple of shots from this great show.

These shots were taken back in March of this year. The Rocky Mountaineer is a great venue and the Smirnoff mixed drinks were really good! I don’t remember a single name of one, but, yeah, really good! This was a great DJ set. If you get a chance to see them do their live PA, do. They always put on a great show.

The opening bands were really good too.

Simian Mobile Disco, Doepfer Modular, Korg MS-20, Vancouver, a Venue

Simian Mobile Disco at Venue in Vancouver was a very memorable show for me. I like that Venue joint. One thing I wish they did though. They need to remove those lights/rafters over the dance-floor for shows. Or invest in something that you can lift up to the ceiling for heavens sake. Most of the good views are obstructed and its a crying shame, as Venue has the potential to be a nice place to go see lots of gigs. I took this one from the stairs on the side of the stage. Their lights were incredible, if you get my drift!

SMD are amazing live and I would see them again. Makes me wish I had my SLR. They had that circular table, with the Doepfer Modular and the Korg MS20, a bunch of pedal fx too. Tuesday, December 01, 2009 was the date this was taken. I had an early meeting the next day! I remember that evening well, believe it or not! The show was promoted by Sealed With a Kiss. The final encore was a big feedback induced mix of Korg MS20 and the Doepfer modular, with massive distortion. Brilliant. It was a bit mind blowing at the time too.