Tag Archives: Synthesizers

Nor Cal Synth Meet 2017

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I actually had a free Saturday afternoon for once and was really excited to be able to attend the 15th annual Nor Cal Synth Meet, held at Robotspeak with performances next door at Vinyl Dreams in The Lower Haight SF.  This event was hosted by Binary Society.

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This was the first time I attended the meet and actually the first time I’ve ever stepped foot into Robotspeak. I’ve had a love of synth music for a long time and this place is where it’s at! They have been the local go to spot for anything synth related, and especially now with Eurorack and modular synths hitting new levels of exposure, I’m sure they will continue to grow. I’m sure to be a patron as I slowly develop a system of my own over time.

Here’s a list of the companies represented:

Elektron (Sweden) – The much anticipated Octatrack MKII, Analog 4 MKII, Analog Heat, and Digitakt.
Moog Music (N. Carolina) – Mother 32 Rig, Model 15, Minimoog Model D
Dreadbox (Athens, Greece) – Abyss, NYX, and Erebus desktop synths and couple of White Line Eurorack Modules.
Dave Smith Instruments (SF)
SOMA (Russia) – Lyra-8 Analog Synthesizer
Expressivee – TOUCHÉ controller

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WMD – Chimera and Arpitecht as well as a prototype of the Trigger Sequencer.
Pittsburgh Modular
Make Noise Music (N. Carolina) – Check out their latest modules: the Morphagene, Contour, and DynaMix
Noise Engineering (LA) – the soon-to-be-released Manis Iteritas and Integra Solum and the recently released Loquelic Iteritas Percido and Cursus Iteritas.
1010music (LA) – The new SynthBox will be on hand.
Zetaohm (SF) – FLXS1 Sequencer
Analogue Solutions (UK) – FuseBox

I met up with a friend who has been studying and building modular set ups for awhile now, so it was nice to have a bit of a guide through the myriad bits of gear and their functions. I learned a lot just listening. In the video posted below there is a solid 5 minutes or so of the Pittsburgh Modular rep demoing the Trigger Sequencer prototype.

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Pittsburgh Modular Trigger Sequencer Prototype

I got my hands on some of the WMD stuff and really liked the sounds coming out of those, there is nothing like interacting with the gear after having seen many demos in videos.

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Checking out WMD gear

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Haptic Synapses

Everyone bounced back and forth between Robotspeak and Vinyl Dreams which are side by side in The Lower Haight. There were live sets going on all day so if you needed a break from the cacophony of multiple synths being tested and tweaked, you could go next door for a more focused sound experience. I’m not sure who I saw performing earlier in the day but there was everything from banging Techno to Drones to abstract sounds represented throughout the day. I caught some of Haptic Synapses set, and took some guerrilla video of Normalien, who I had the pleasure to finally meet in person after having been Instagram buddies for awhile.

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I had a really good time, met some excellent folks, and everyone was really into it. The guys at Vinyl Dreams were really nice, and being a vinyl junkie, I look forward to going back there as well.

Enjoy the videos!


 

 

Chris Carter and his Gristleizer modules live at Modular Meets Leeds UK 2017

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I’ve been a fan of the early industrial scene and sounds since I was a teenager in the late 80’s early 90’s. Throbbing Gristle were at the forefront and Chris Carter’s synthesizer work has always been largely, if not wholly DIY, and his sounds have always had that edge and grit or ‘gristle’ if you will, that defined the genre.

 

I always loved that he built his own synths from the beginning and now he has his own line of eurorack style modules, The Gristleizer line.

In the video below you can watch Chris do a short set with his new line of modules that will actually be available to the public. In the video following that is a rig rundown and a chat about the line with a couple of the developers who helped design and build them. From what I can tell, this is just the beginning and there will be more of these to come, very exciting!

 

 

These were shot by DivKid who has an excellent youtube channel that covers the modular world in depth. His is an excellent resource for checking out gear demos and modular events around the UK. He also has a way of making this heady topic make sense and he does it in a way that is engaging and unpretentious, go check him out!

Full Tones @ BAMPFA: Gabie Strong and Robert Lowe

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I found myself at The Berkeley Museum once again, where I had recently experienced another experimental electronic woman artist Suzanne Ciani. My wife and I attended this most recent performance with anticipation and a sense of pride, as my wife has been friends with Gabie since high school, and here she is performing at BAMPFA! If that isn’t enough to get excited about, also on the bill was Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe.

Full Tones was part of a series of concerts held on the Full Moon curated by Land and Sea who operate out of Oakland Ca.

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Gabie has been deeply involved in the experimental music underground for many years. She has been operating the radio show Crystalline Morphologies on KCHUNG 1630 AM radio out of Chinatown in LA. There are show archives that go back to 2011.

She has performed in and curated many events over the years, often developing site specific experiments.

She has also recently added an independent record label (also called Crystalline Morphologies) to her list of accomplishments and her 2 solo releases on vinyl and cassette are excellent slabs of experimental drone/noise and field recording.

Her set was a wonderful wash of guitar drone with a bit of contact mic experimentation deeper into the set that really brought an interesting performance element into the experience.


We had been planning on going to this event for a few weeks before I looked it up online and saw that Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe was also performing! I’d been following him for some time and have enormous respect for him being one of the few people of color operating at that level in electronic music. With cutting edge modular technology and an intellectual as well as soulful approach to the medium, he brings a much needed flavor to that scene. He incorporates his voice in wonderful ways as well as other acoustic elements fed into the modular for an otherworldly effect almost church-like. While I’m at it, I really recommend the stuff he did with experimental electronic legend Ariel Kalma. It was an honor to meet Robert and I do hope our paths cross again!

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Suzanne Ciani at The Berkeley Museum

Hippie Modernism

As promised in my previous post, here is a follow up with some coverage of Suzanne Ciani’s appearance at The Berkeley Museum a week after the main festival of performances celebrating the work of Don Buchla. This was a sort of auxiliary set and also coincided with the ‘Hippie Modernism’ exhibit that runs through May 21st.

I met up with my friend Eric M. and the brilliant folks behind RE-search Pubs V.Vale and Marian to experience this special event.

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Eager fans down in front

Suzanne came out and took in the crowd which had an obvious overwhelming effect on her as she was back ‘home’ in Berkeley again where she originally worked with Don Buchla back in the early days of her discovery of synthesized music. She had an emotional response which set the mood for the event and made it that much more special. She spoke a bit about meeting Don and how he influenced and affected her whole approach and philosophy about music making and perhaps maybe a bit about life in general.

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Suzanne talks a bit about Don Buchla

Ciani's Buchla
Suzanne’s Buchla

Ciani at work
Suzanne at work

Something happened during her set as well, it was that feeling you get when someone hits you with a really personal and emotional performance, which usually only happens in a conventional music scenario involving perhaps heavy lyrics or a soul wrenching melody. I’ve never gotten that from a synthesizer set and I realized the same thing happened during her set the previous weekend, I just didn’t really acknowledge it until it happened again, the hair raising on my arms etc. I told her as much afterwards and she was obviously moved! It was an amazing connection.

Enjoy her full set here:

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Limited program print signed by Ciani

See my previous post for more from Susanne as well as additional footage from The Don Buchla Memorial Shows