electronic music

Self Generating Exploration

I use a modular synthesiser called the Buchla 200e Electric Music Box. It crops up in nearly every project I work on and is an endless source of inspiration. Its inventor Don Buchla, whilst a synthesiser pioneer just like the better known Bob Moog, chose a more experimental approach to his designs, preferring to discard traditional interfaces like the common white and black keyboard, and instead creating touch sensitive input panels with layouts that better suited the human anatomy. 

This recording uses the 266e Source of Uncertainty module to drive a self generating composition. Pulses and modulation are randomly generated and control the rhythm, pitch and timbre of a single oscillator with the results being very musical. I could just leave this patch alone and it would play endlessly, but I'm making subtle changes to various settings to interact with the machine music. The original idea for this particular patch came from Todd Barton, Buchla expert and inspiration source for many synthesiser explorers. 

There is one last element to this recording, the Ciat-Lombarde Cocoquantus - which is a cosmic looping machine from another dimension. More about that another time!

Akiha Den Den Bonus OST

As the Akiha Den Den series unravels I've been sharing tracks from the soundtrack in between episodes. I'm also busy putting the finishing touches to the soundtrack album which will be released on vinyl in the new year. Here is a piece of music used to introduce Silph, the thought mining cockroach. It is pure EMS Synthi A magic. 

Video feedback is by Ian Helliwell.

Cosmic Surgery Cassette

Sadly not for sale. Made exclusively for limited edition packages as part of Alma Haser's Kickstarter campaign. There are two tracks up on my Soundcloud though. Buchla Electric Music Box and Oberheim 4Voice (serial No.1 owned by Stevie Wonder according to the A-Z of Analogue Synthesiser book) used throughout. 

Cosmic Surgery is a photo book, set in the not too distant future where the world of cosmetic surgery is about to be transformed. Find out more about Alma Haser's Cosmic Surgery project at www.haser.org

Oberheim 4voice

Oberheim 4voice

My favorite soundtracks - Utopia (2014)

I just picked up the Utopia series 2 soundtrack album on Record Store Day. I have to admit that I don't like all of the music from the brilliant Channel 4 TV series. Some of the more uptempo cues veer on the wrong side of cheese for me and those off beat chords always make me think of bad reggae, BUT all of that can be forgiven due to the absolutely astonishing amount of programming and sound design that really makes this soundtrack shine. There are so many off the wall and unexpected sounds that creep in to every cue, twisting and mutating like the story it underscores  - a truly original piece of work. Fragments of voices (sampled voice is used heavily throughout the work), manipulated choir, squelchy bass lines, found percussion and loads of distortion feature throughout, but it is the more subtle cues that really standout for me.

Vinyl copies are pretty scarce (It was released as a limited edition issued for Record Store Day), but if you search hard enough I'm sure you'll uncover a copy.

Testing the Stone Tape theory

I'll be testing the Stone Tape theory again this Friday at The Phoenix Gallery in Brighton. Expect heavy oscillations, eerie modulations and unholy frequencies from my Buchla Electric Music Box.

The event will also feature films and performance from Ian Helliwell, and more music from Trying to Kill Me and Adam Cobell.

8PM - The Phoenix Gallery, Brighton. £2 on the door.

Fort Process - photo by Agata Urbaniak

Fort Process - photo by Agata Urbaniak

Oracles video

Really excited to be able to share the video for black channel's Oracles. Its a DIY affair made by myself and Becky with help from Kyle Bean, Curtis James, Emily Macaulay, Ian Helliwell and Rollo. The Quietus premiered it this morning and we are now busy putting our live show together in preparation for some events in the not too distant future. We have an album almost ready and are looking for the right label to work with.

black channels

Wheels That Go

I love the collaborations between puppeteer and film maker Jim Henson and pioneering electronic musician Raymond Scott. Created for a film competition at Montreal's Expo '67, Wheels That Go, explored motion and movement and featured Henson's son Brian.

This next film Paperwork Explosion, for IBM explored the problems of too much information and not enough time and how computers might help readdress the balance. Scott's electronic treatments are perfect for this hectic fast paced montage, with a noticeable contrast between the cachophony pre IBM and the organised rhythms and tones once we start finding out more about their new time saving technology.

More about Scott's electronic sound design company Manhattan Research Inc. here. He was way ahead of his time, building early sequencers and collaborating with Bob Moog to build many more of his own musical inventions.

'Machines should work, people should think'

Toy Drum synthesizer programming

I've been doing a bit of synthesizer programming for Pablo Clements and James Griffith at Toy Drum/Underscore. With a studio full of highly desirable synths, I'm like a kid in a toy shop every time I visit. In the pics below you'll see an EMS Synthi K, Oberheim 4 voice (serial number 001 - rumored to have belonged to Stevie Wonder) , and just in the background a Yamaha CS80 and Macbeth M5N! - good company for my Buchla 200e which I took along for the second session.

Out of shot is Pablo's impressive Eurorack system which got a lot of use during my first session. I sold my Eurorack setup shortly after getting my Buchla 200e as I wanted a nice Polysynth (Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 with latest update), but I always love to have a go on the Make Noise and Intellijel modules.

The sessions were to add some electronic elements to a new project coming soon from Toy Drum.

Best Artwork/Packaging 2013

Very pleased that 'The Beam' limited edition 'Pilot Pack' made it in at No.2 in The 405's best artwork/packaging of 2013. Of course most praise should go to Emily at Stanley James Press for creating such a stunning package. It's also very nice to be featured alongside artists whose work I respect and admire such as Luke Insect and Julian House.

Sadly the Pilot Pack sold out within 24hrs of going on sale, but the standard (its far from standard!) issue on 10" clear vinyl with full colour printed map, is still available here.

Korg Little Bits Synth Kit

A lovely little package from Korg (who seem to completely get the current synthesizer craze right now, with their classic filter featuring Monotrons and recent re-issue of the classic MS-20 monosynth) and electronic gadget company Little Bits. From the little information available it seems to be a snap together kit for building your own modular synth. I know what I'll be doing this Christmas if Santa reads my letter. I'm rubbish at soldering and this fact has put me off attempting to build my own electronic music circuits - but this kit appears to be solder free. Perfect.

More info here


UPDATE - Peter Kirn over at Create Digital Music has a hands on review with some interesting sound examples sounding very much like Raymond Scott. More here.



FORMS Series 1 - Buchla 100

Under the name Benge, Ben Edwards has been sharing the sounds of his vast collection of vintage synths for nearly twenty years. His Twenty Systems LP (2008) charted the development of electronic music technology, with each track using a particular synthesizer. 

His most recent work FORMS Series 1, is an exploration of the Buchla 100 Electronic Modular Synthesizer. 

Don Buchla at his System 100

Don Buchla at his System 100

On most tracks the patches were set up and left to run by themselves, with minor human intervention other than adjusting the various potentiometers. The Buchla 100 system is very adept at producing self-perpetuating sounds and it is this aspect of it that is explored here