Sunday, 2 October 2016

Synthfest UK 2016

Synthfest UK - 50

Yesterday, I caught the train up to lovely, leafy Sheffield and had fun wandering around Synthfest UK 2016.

Now, pretty obviously, there were many synthesizers there. Rare old analogue beasts like this EMS Synthi:
  Synthfest UK - 48

 And the latest digital doodads like this nifty Modal hunk: Synthfest UK - 17

There were three areas, all of them packed with geeks playing and prodding and eyeing the stacks of modules available for sale. I had a play on the above Modal synth as well as fiddling with various modular setups as I passed. It was just *beautiful* to be able to see so much gear, much of it esoteric, in one place and there to use.

I felt a bit stunned, to be honest and I'm sure more than a few fellow geeks I passed had the same glazed expression. We were like tiny, tiny children who'd been let into a toyshop and told we could play with anything. Where do you start?
Synthfest UK - 43

The main hall was filled with the most incredible burbling, bleeping, warbling cacophony of sound. It sounded like Bebe and Louis Barron scoring a Krell riot.

The most popular bits of gear had lengthy queues of fidgety suitors, the least popular had a couple of people sitting behind a table, issuing the occasional desultory squawk.

I got to meet a couple of Sound On Sound peeps which was lovely, actually putting faces to names. We had lunch and ranted about various things but I admit, I indulged in a lot of shop talk because, hey, music tech geeks! I couldn't resist!
Synthfest UK - 47

Then, later, I bumped into my old mate Stephen Bennett who I know from waaay back when I was living in Norwich. And he introduced me to his mate Jarrod, from I Monster. We coffeed and, again, argued vigorously about music tech. It was lovely to catch up with Stephen and meet Jarrod. Got to love someone who can appreciate a fine organ.

Then, back upstairs and back to the stridulations and twiddling. Oh, so much twiddling. By the time I left, I was knackered and slightly deaf thanks to some geezer doing really heavy tweaking of the Oberheim at the GForce booth. But I was very happy to have been at such a vibrant event, crammed with gear and geeks. There's a Flickr gallery here that will give a tiny slice of the day.

I wonder what they'll do for Synthfest UK 2017? :-O  

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

I spent the evening mucking around with my new D1 and it really is a beast. I would say, in some ways, it beats my Voyager for sheer sound design capabilities and it even gives my modular serious competition. 

The key is that there is very little to no menu diving. Little things like trigger type, multi or single - that's a menu function on my Voyager but a front panel button on my D1. Which means, it's eminently tweakable while I'm playing. 

It also helps that everything is very logically and ergonomically laid out. The VCO section is beautifully simple and accessible, the same with the filter. This is crucial, not just when you're building a new patch but for those mid-song tweak times where you want 32' for a break or need to switch in some nasty digital cross mod. 

So far, I've been so spoilt with the complexities of the D1 that I've spent little time evaluating it's less convoluted sounds. But I have worked on a couple of 2 and 1 VCO patches and it does stand up to scrutiny here too. Some synths rely on baroque modulation matrices to cover up what is actually quite a thin and uninspiring sound. Not the D1. Just set up one oscillator, sawtooth or square, filter wide open and you will love that sound. 

My favourite patches so far are, however, the batshit crazy insane 3 VCO ones where each VCO is modulated by it's own LFO / envelope and there's FM mod going on and there's filter mod too. With the D1, it's possible to construct buzzing, swarming terrors that ooze and wobble, reel and collapse. But oh so beautifully!

I think this is the start of a great love affair! 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

I'm so chuffed to finally have a Dominion 1 after lusting them for... at least a year? 

It arrived today and after the obligatory un-boxing phone pic, I set up in pride of place after shuffling a very sad looking Voyager off into the corner. 

Turned it on and ... INSTANT HEAVY FATNESS. 

This synth is a player's dream. Having three oscillators makes such a difference and the fact they're each so wonderfully addressable by modulators.

I did this little improv pretty much as soon I'd got it up and in-tune (cold storage to warm studio = analogue oscillator warm up time). 

This is such a deep synth. I'm gonna have so much fun with it!  

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Modular Fun - Silent Way Controlling My Modular

Earlier today, I made up these leads: 


And then used them to interface Logic Pro X with my modular, courtesy of Expert Sleepers' Silent Way plugin

The result is a marvellous blooping you can hear in the short video below.

I was using two Silent Way step LFOs to generate a baseline and melody sequence and then sending sync to the Tiptop Trigger Riot which was providing the drums, complete with random snare fills. 

 Modular is fun!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

White Town - How Love Feels

Here's a new pop video!

It's for the song 'How Love Feels' off my current album, 'Monopole.' You can buy it on iTunes here or the CD here.

The vid stars White Town backing vocalist Natalie Alice Barratt and she's done a wonderful job, she's a great actress. Even to the point of falling over for her craft which was, of course, totally necessary for the shot I wanted. It was fun directing her! *evil director laugh* :-P

The song is about summer and love and pure, pure happiness. So ENJOY! And I hope you like it!

If you do, please share it anywhere and everywhere! :-D

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Whoops! I really am rubbish at this self-promotion malarkey, innit? Here is another synthpoppy tune of mine from my new album. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Teenage Engineering OP-1: A Perfect Instrument

OP-1 - 1

Recently, I bought an OP-1. I'd been in love with it since seeing the very early demos.

It looked like a VL-1 as re-imagined by Wintermute so of course I wanted one.

  OP-1 - 2

But there's been a lot of hating on the poor old OP-1 on the web. People slagging it off as over-priced, gimmicky and, ohh, the ultimate insult, like something Apple would make. Which I guess is saying that people who love Apple products are more concerned with style and image than actual functionality.

Well, in a lot of ways, the haters are right. If Apple made a synthesizer / virtual four-track / drum machine / groovebox, then they would make something like the OP-1

  OP-1 - 3

I love this instrument! The layout, the ergonomics, the GUI, everything is as smooth and silky as an Apple product.

This is simply great design.

  OP-1 - 4

As a songwriter, when I'm pursuing an idea, I don't want to be de-railed by interfaces which squander my time menu-diving. The OP-1 doesn't ever do that.

This is one of the most musical musical instruments I have ever used. I'm working on a synth sound, the envelope is a bit off, press one button and then twiddle the appropriately colour-coded knob. It is so easy, so intuitive.

  OP-1 - 5

All of that would be charming but rather pointless if the OP-1 was, as its detractors claim, an over-priced toy. It is not. It packs enough DSP to create full tracks, I've been hammering it and I've never had it give up on me like my Micron does when I try to sequence too many parts.

The OP-1 just works. And the main thing?


  OP-1 - 6

Remember the fun of your first synth, just fucking about on it and creating magical symphonies? The OP-1 is that again. I was showing it to my mate Ash, sampled a bit of the built-in FM radio and I had a crazy new tune in about fifteen seconds. It's that easy, that playful.

 So, the OP-1, I fucking love it. Here's a little tune I created on it, enjoy!