A Note On David Bowie

David Bowie is the optimiy of what an artist should be.  He taught us all to throw away the rule books and do whatever we wanted in the name of art.  To name all the the artists he influenced is nearly impossible. He always had glamour and a unique style that can never be duplicated.

I think his album Low is indeed one of the most truly admired albums by my circle of friends. Nonetheless, for me, it is virtually impossible to find fault with much of his work.

His collaborators were vast and the output always noteworthy.

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David Bowie with ARP String Synthesizer on Iggy Pop Tour

I think the words said about him today and always will resonate with us forever.

Until the last moment of his life he was still giving us art.  This video for Lazarus was his parting gift.

David Bowie, thank you for influencing me so very much. And thank you for influencing all the artists I so greatly admire.

Rest in peace Ziggy Stardust,

The Synthesizer Book

 

 

Black Eg: Making Music With Low Budget Drum Machines and Cheap Samplers (Circa:1991)

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Today it isn’t hard to get your music out to the world anymore. You no longer need a record label or a manipulating Artist and Repertoire man seeking to suck the life out of your magnum opus! Just about every musician I know has at least a few tracks on a SoundCloud page. Before it was most certainly on MySpace. There is Youtube, Spotify, etc, etc, etc. There is no end to the possibility of others being able to listen to your music.

Keeping up with just the artist I know, love and have grown to admire is becoming near impossible. There was a time not too long ago that I felt like a junkie out of control with all my CD & vinyl purchases. I haven’t gone cold turkey mind you. I’m not on the wagon or going to a support group. I still buy at least 10 albums per month. I still go just as many concerts and gigs too.

I do however finally feel comfortable with the fact that I just can’t keep up with it all.

I continue looking at the past for those hidden nuggets in dollar bins in record shops and eBay stores.

There has always been something charming about the obscure recordings made at a time when “portable” and “home recording” meant a 4-track reel to reel and cassette tape machine. That is where I got my start too. If you look, there is still great music waiting to be re-disovered and shared with the world. For one thing is certain, that often, when you look into the past you will find something new. At least I always do!

Black Eg is Karel, Otto, and Emil Von Dämmerung. They were brothers united in their opposition of the sufficating Eastern Bloc agenda. I knew nothing about them or their music before. That is until spending some time on The Jazz Butcher site researching their discography that I learned about Black Eg. Amongst the lists was the liner notes to Black Eg sole album (self titled). The descriptions with keywords such as Czechoslovakian secret police, cassette tapes, bohemian 4-tracks begged for further investigation (see liner notes below).

Seek this album out if you can. This album sounds completely new and fresh to my ears. Whether its the low end pounding of the drum machine, the Spaghetti Western type guitar or the dance oriented electronics, this album was worth the hunt. Sure the spoken words sound slightly dated. Who wasn’t using their cheap samplers for that in 1991 anyhow? Regardless I am glad I found this Made In France only recording it will definitely receive some listening from me.

From the Liner Notes Via JazzButcher.com:

Karel Von Dämmerung, writer, adventurer and self-proclaimed beacon of the bohemian gonzo faction, has long been a legend in the seedier cafes of central Europe. For many years his extraordinary fanzine Sinful Beat provided a lifeline to those in Czechoslovakia and Hungary who wanted to keep abreast of international music developments, while his own reckless encounters with authority provided both hilarity and inspiration to the inhabitants of grimly over-protective regimes. Unlikely tales of his personal crusade on the frontiers of modern pharmacology are legion, and there was a time when he said to be known by sight to some two thirds of all the members of the Czechoslovakian secret police.
Karel left his native land and settled in Vienna in 1985 after being refused re-entry at Prague airport by the authorities. The word is that, returning from some partially legitimate ‘Cultural Exchange’ trip to Cuba, he caused havoc at the Customs desk by presenting the official with a large bag of high grade ganja and announcing his intention to import two live Pygmy Crocodiles. Somehow he succeeded in obtaining Political Refugee status in Austria, where for the first time he was able openly to publish his deranged writings.

Early in 1989 two events occured which led to the formation of the combo whose first waxings you are now holding. First, Karel’s two brothers, Otto and Emil, arrived in Vienna, having taken advantage of the new freedoms introduced by the enlightened government of Vaclav Havel. Second, Karel obtained in a second hand store and ancient sequential circuits drum machine and a primitive sampler. The Black Eg was born.

After travelling to Italy for the World Cup, where they did their best to establishthe hitherto concept of Czech hooliganism, the brothers Von Dämmerung travelled across Europe, arriving in England at the end of July. Whilst there, they circulated copies of a cassette they had made. The general reaction was one of disbelief. Many people were heard to make rather unkind remarks about people who took too many drugs.

The record which you now have in your hands has been mastered from that cassette. Recorded on four-track equipment in bedrooms across central Europe, it makes no claim towards sonic sophistication. Indeed it makes no real claims of any kind whatsoever. The Brothers Von Dämmerung are only too proud to retail the story of how, at their first and only public appearance, at a bar in Vienna, the proceedings closed in utter confusion after members of the public, objecting to The Black Eg’s relentlessly tedious version of Morricone’s theme to The Good, The Bad & The Ugly caused a near riot when they attacked the band with C.S. gas.

Nor are the “band” remotely apologetic for their spectacularly odd choice of samples. It is tempting to speculate that all the loops on this record derive from free review copies sent to Sinful Beat in the hope of publicity. Certainly one can detect the presence of the ansaphone machine on many tracks.

Since Creation Records acquired the tapes for this album they have been unable to locate Karel Von Dämmerung or either of his brothers. There is a rumour that they are currently in Los Angeles engaged on some form of private espionage. Other sources have them in Vietnam, looking to collaborate with local musicians on a curious hybrid of the native folk music and the American Twist craze which blossomed in the mid-sixties. Their names have been linked with that of California’s Braindead Soundmachine and east coast legend Meathook Wiliams (Stepfather of the Blues). It is quite possible that no more will ever be heard from there shadowy degenerates. Meanwhile Creation Records is proud to offer this brief and fascinating glimpse into the world of three foolish central Europeans who thought they were making dance music.

A.C Lionheart. London 1991.

Dave Smith Relaunches the Sequential Brand and the Prophet 6 Synthesizer (2015)

Dave Smith has regained the rights to the Sequential name brand. This occurred after a kind gesture not typically seen from giant manufactures or corporations. For more details on that story visit Synthtopia.

The result is…Sequential is back with a new synthesizer! 100% analog signal path with discrete voltage controlled oscillators, filters, and amplifiers. More info at www.sequential.com

Vintage with a Modern Twist
The Prophet-6 is Dave Smith’s tribute to the poly synth that started it all—the Sequential Prophet-5. But it’s not simply a reissue of a classic. Rather, as Dave puts it, “It’s the result of our effort to build the most awesome-sounding, modern analog poly synth possible.” The Prophet-6 takes the best qualities of the original Prophet-5—true voltage-controlled oscillators, filters, and amplifiers—and adds enhancements such as studio-quality effects, a polyphonic sequencer, an arpeggiator, and more. The result is pure, unadulterated analog tone with the stability and reliability of a state-of-the-art modern synth.

Classic Tone, Classic Vibe
Central to the warm, punchy sound of the Prophet-6 are its two newly-designed, discrete voltage-controlled oscillators (plus sub-oscillator) per voice. Continuously variable waveshapes provide the tonal palette with triangle, sawtooth, and variable-width pulse waves. There are two discrete filters per voice—a four-pole, resonant, low-pass inspired by the original Prophet-5 filter, and a two-pole, resonant, high-pass filter. Voltage-controlled amplifiers complete the all-analog signal path.

Dual Effects
The dual effects section provides studio-quality reverbs, delays (standard and BBD), chorus and phase shifter. While the effects themselves are digital, with 24-bit, 48 kHz resolution, a true bypass maintains a full analog signal path. There’s also an independent stereo distortion effect, which is 100% analog.

Poly Mod and Poly Step Sequencing
Also present from its classic predecessor is a Poly Mod section, with enhancements. True to the original, modulation sources are filter envelope and oscillator 2 (both with bi-polar control). Destinations include oscillator 1 frequency, oscillator 1 shape, oscillator 1 pulse width, low-pass filter cutoff, and high-pass filter cutoff. Another welcome reprise is Unison mode, which features configurable voice count (1-6 voices) and key modes. The polyphonic step sequencer allows up to 64 steps and up to 6 notes per step. You can create sequences polyphonically, with rests and sync to an external MIDI clock. The full-featured arpeggiator can be synced to external MIDI clock as well.

Easy to Program
The knob-per-function front panel offers instant access to virtually all Prophet-6 functions. Included are 500 permanent factory programs in 10 banks of 100 programs. In addition to these, you can create and save up to 500 user programs of your own. Toggling off the Preset button enables live panel mode, in which the sound of the Prophet-6 switches to the current settings of its knobs and switches. In this state, what you see is what you hear.

Easy to Play
All of this awe-inspiring sound is packed into a four octave, semi-weighted keyboard with velocity and channel aftertouch that’s an ideal combination portability and power for the project studio or the gigging musician.

Prophet-6 Specifications
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OSCILLATORS
Two newly designed, discrete VCOs per voice
Continuously variable wave shape (triangle, sawtooth, pulse, square) per oscillator
Pulse width per oscillator
Hard sync: oscillator 1 syncs to oscillator 2
Triangle sub-octave generator (oscillator 1) per voice
Low frequency mode (oscillator 2)
Keyboard tracking on/off (oscillator 2)
Oscillator slop amount for increased tuning instability, from subtle to extreme

MIXER
Oscillator 1 amount
Oscillator 1 sub-octave amount
Oscillator 2 amount
White noise amount

HIGH-PASS FILTER
Two-pole, resonant, high-pass filter per voice
Bi-polar filter envelope amount
Velocity modulation of envelope amount
Keyboard tracking: off, half, full

LOW-PASS FILTER
Four-pole, resonant, low-pass filter per voice, inspired by the original Prophet 5 filter
Filter can be driven into self-oscillation with the Resonance control
Bi-polar filter envelope amount
Velocity modulation of envelope amount
Keyboard tracking: off, half, full

FILTER ENVELOPE
Four-stage (ADSR) envelope generator

AMPLIFIER ENVELOPE
Four-stage (ADSR) envelope generator
Velocity modulation of envelope amount

LOW FREQUENCY OSCILLATOR
Five wave shapes: triangle, sawtooth, reverse sawtooth, square, and random (sample and hold)
Clock sync (internal or external MIDI clock)
Initial amount
Mod destinations: oscillator 1 frequency, oscillator 2 frequency, oscillator 1 and 2 pulse width, low-pass filter cutoff, high-pass filter cutoff

POLY MOD
Sources: filter envelope (bi-polar) and oscillator 2 (bi-polar)
Destinations: oscillator 1 frequency, oscillator 1 shape, oscillator 1 pulse width, low-pass filter cutoff, high-pass filter cutoff

AFTERTOUCH
Source: channel (mono) aftertouch with bi-polar amount
Destinations: oscillator 1 frequency, oscillator 2 frequency, LFO amount, amplifier envelope amount, low-pass filter envelope amount, high-pass filter envelope amount

CLOCK
Master clock with tap tempo
BPM control and display
MIDI clock sync

ARPEGGIATOR
Selectable note value: 16th note, 8th note triplet, 8th note, dotted 8th note, quarter note
One, two, or three octave range
Up, down, up/down, random, and assign modes
SEQUENCER
Polyphonic step sequencer with up to 64 steps and rests

EFFECTS
Stereo analog distortion
Dual, 24-bit, 48 kHz digital effects, including: reverb (room, hall, plate, spring), delay (full bandwidth digital delay and emulated bucket brigade and tape delays), chorus, and phase shifter
Delay sync
True bypass maintains fully analog signal path when digital effects are off

PERFORMANCE CONTROLS
Full-sized, semi-weighted, 4-octave keyboard with velocity and aftertouch
Backlit pitch and mod wheels
Spring-loaded pitch wheel with selectable range per program (1 to 12 semitones up and down)
Transpose controls for an 8-octave range
Hold switch latches held notes on
Polyphonic glide (portamento)
Unison (monophonic) mode with configurable voice count, from one to all six voices, and key modes
Preset switch: when off, the front panel is live; what you see is what you hear

PATCH MEMORY
500 user and 500 factory programs in 10 banks of 100 programs each
Direct program access, including Prophet 5-style single-button access to the current set of 10 programs

IN/OUT
Left/mono and right audio outputs (2 x 1/4” phone jack)
Headphone output (stereo, 1/4” phone jack)
MIDI in, out, and thru ports
USB for bidirectional MIDI communication
Low-pass filter cutoff expression pedal input
Volume expression pedal input
Sustain footswitch input
Sequencer start/stop footswitch input

POWER
IEC AC power inlet for internal power supply
Operates worldwide on voltages between 100 and 240 volts at 50 to 60 Hz; 30 watts maximum power consumption

PHYSICAL SPECS
32” L x 12.7” W x 4.6″ H (81.3 cm x 32.3 cm x 11.7 cm)
20.0 lbs (9.5 kg)
Walnut end panels and trim

Coolicon by Carter Tutti: A Must For Your Vinyl Collection!

Coolicon by @Carter_Tutti @chris_carter_ @coseyfannitutti

This has been on repeat all morning.

Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti have always been at the top of my list of artist I most admire (search synthesizerbook.com for more).

As always, the drones, electronic beats, & synthesizer goodness is plentiful. Sigh!…I needed this today.

Download it from the Carter Tutti Greedbag store or check out @greedbag (twitter) for more.

The 10 inch vinyl is en route and I can’t wait to spin this for others and shake the walls with all this goodness. Enjoy.

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NOTE: If you order from Greedbag and have a download coming with your order don’t panic. It takes a couple/few days to process your order. Though waiting for music from Carter Tutti is always worth the wait.

My Brief Thoughts On Bernard Sumner’s Book: Chapter And Verse [New Order, Joy Division and me]

bernard sumner chapter and verse book

I had to special order this book from the UK. I just couldn’t wait to read this when it became available in North America. In just a few days I devoured every page. This is an absolutely quick and brilliant read.

It’s about time Bernard chimed in with his historical version of his youth, life in Joy Division, New Order, Electronic,etc. I loved the mystique surrounding the band while they were the soundtrack to much of my youth. Although, I enjoyed finally being able to see behind Bernard Sumner’s curtain too.

I’ve read some reviews about a lack of coverage of certain New Order albums in this book. Of course as a lifelong fan, I wanted more. As a fan you always want more. Especially, all the work in the 1980’s for me. Nonetheless, there is plenty here for old fans and new.

If you are looking for the most comprehensive book on New Order and Joy Division you might not get it here. There are plenty of books on the subject of the JD & No. Also, there is a world wide web on which to start too. For me, when someone (Bernard Sumner) has stayed away from the limelight for so long, getting a concentrated focus in a book like this is a very positive thing for any fan.

New Order will forever be a band of 4 beautiful music makers to me. As a realist I know the original four member lineup seems unlikely any time soon. So, I choose to take comfort in all of their past work instead. I look forward to all of their output in the present and future regardless. Whether it’s a collaboration, side project or solo work, I will forever be a fanboy.

My nine year old son can now claim that one of his first concerts was New Order. The first concert he went to was Kraftwerk just a week before. The fact that he saw it with me?…yep, it’s the sweetest perfection.

For the synthesizer heads reading this and wanting some insight on the gear, you will undoubtedly find quite a bit of it in this book too. From Joy Division’s “no-synths” attitude, to how it became a vital part of their sound.

Get it. Read it. Dig it.

Wrangler’s-LA Spark Is Out Now (Review) 2014

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Cabaret Voltaire’s-Collected Works 1983-85 on Mute Records is a collection of their music from a small segment of the 1980’s. It is in those couple of years when I became a Cabaret Voltaire convert. Those were my formative years and their music was in the background often. The music of that collective is extensive (both as a group and separately), and encompasses a vast array of musical styles and disciplines.

Fast forward to 2014 and we have a new collective to talk about. A collective, or maybe I should refer to them as a group, known as Wrangler. The group is comprised of artists I greatly admire. Starting with Benge whom we know for his work John Foxx & The Maths or for his fantastic aural dreamscape- Twenty Systems. Then there is Phil Winter, whom I learned about in an article in Future Music, where he and Benge shared some pages. He is also in the group known as Tunng and a DJ. Which brings us to Stephen Mallinder, an artist I knew about at the start of my electronic obsessions. Mallinder is an original member of Cabaret Voltaire and now is in this amazing group. Between the three of these artists there is a lot to write about and listen to. Their combined output is sure to be mind-expanding and inspiring for any electronic aficionado.

First off, I’m kicking myself for not buying this on vinyl too.

So,what of LA Spark? When an album starts out with a theme it’s bound to possess large potential. Come on, it just does! Theme From Wrangler has been played in my Volkswagen CC for the past month. It was the free download you got when you pre-ordered the album. So, I was already at home with it and primed and ready for the entire album to be released. It served as the opening act if you will. And I was ready for the headliner!

The rest of the album tracks, continuing with Lava Land, LA Spark, Mus IIC, Space Ace and finishing off with Peace & Love (Edit) are divine.

This album is a sonic assault worth craving. Please give me more! It picks up where Cabaret Voltaire’s-Collected Works 1983-85 left off and finishes right here in today’s quagmire of an audio landscape. Though, it’s most definitely the type of sounds you could easily just pick out of all the dense electronic confusion.

I want to pretend it’s the type of music played in a discotheque in a Cold War Eastern Bloc setting had that war not ended and we had continued on with it in place. Yes, you could argue it hints at some type of dystopian setting. You see,sometimes we need more than graphic novels to provide us with some noir or dystopian vision. LA Spark could be just what we need.

The drum sounds are bombastic and sharp throughout.The low end frequencies on this album are monstrous. I’m talkin bout the bass, man! You could also say that about all those analog synthesizers used, and found in Benge’s studio (MemeTune Studios). The synthesizer sounds are like a slice of a good suspenseful nightmare. The strings on Lava Land are provided by a Logan string synthesizer. There are Moog’s (Modular), Roland synths and a whole array of other wonderful synthesizer goodness.

Stephen Mallinder’s effects-filled vocals are like something possessed or that of a controlled subject in a technology complex bi-polar world. Whatever it is, it works on this Wrangler album. LA Spark is a magnificent album that you owe it to yourself to listen to and obtain.

I know its only April, but so far it’s the best recording I’ve heard and the one I most anticipated. A close second would be the collaboration of John Foxx with Belbury Poly & The Advisory Circle. I’m talking about Empty Avenues by John Foxx & The Belbury Circle.

For a great interview with Wrangler be sure to also check out Electricity Club.

Wendy Carlos Talks Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange & the “Cir-Con.”

I just saw this video today. This appeared on my Facebook feed via Automatic Gainsay. All I can say is that she was an inspiration for many of us. Her music was always epic and seemed so out of reach for a common button pusher like me! Her scores were always noteworthy and were the perfect background for the movies they were part of. She deserves all the recognition and respect she gets.

To see her speak so candidly in this video is heartwarming and brought back so many visual and auditory memories for me. As I mostly only know her from interviews in magazines & limited segments in videos, this is a treat.

She was way more than just her Moog Modular and her Switched On Bach album.

Enjoy!

From Youtube.com
Published on 10 Apr 2014
Wendy Carlos plays selections from the soundtracks for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. She plays an instrument she helped design called the Circular Controller or “Cir-Con” and remembers Stanley Kubrick.

No infringement intended. Video uploaded with the intent to share some insight on the artist and her work.