;-p shut up about providence. ok? ok.

it's mostly my job. really. another disappointing one. surprised? i was happy to behind the stick again but the stick is hitting me back.

i've wanted to leave for a while but it's hard. it's decent money. i've recently heard that accusation again: golden handcuffs. it's difficult, sitting as i am here in paris in le bar at the george v nursing an old bottle of tattinger, considering leaving my job for something less lucrative. 

seriously though, what the fuck should it be called when you are just a bit above breaking even in a life where even the banal dreams of package vacations or apartments where the couch (actually I don't even have one) and the bed are in separate rooms, are impractical? i know what's being said but really, the phrase comes off the wrong way in this context. like will the newfound freedom of a job that provides no disposable income really make up for not even shopping for records in the dollar bin, for not repairing the broken music equipment littering my apartment (some of which was purchased broken because it was the best i could do at the time), for not even being able to consider putting off necesssary dental work because it will now be impossible to afford, even if i could put aside such luxuries as slices of pizza or the occasional beer. 

(and i think anyone who has ever said "golden handcuffs" to me has been a home owner!)

golden handcuffs? i'd sell them if i had them.


Just another Providence rant...

I'm sure there are nice people, sorry to bitch so much, etc., but, man, I'm burnt.

Someone I know was talking about throwing a disco party and it just really underscored it all. I need to make some changes. I don't even know where to start.

Disco. I love it. Or rather, I love uptempo r&b from the 1970s and 1980s. But this dude was talking about it as if both the actual history and the critical revaluation had never happened. Like still with the leisure suits and fake afro wigs and gold chains and suburban shit and yes this is the suburbs but still. "Like" Studio 54. Aren't people confused? Well they have to read first, but still? When people say they like Blondie and New Order and they hear those basslines? When they hear New Order went out clubbing? Studio 54? New Order in midtown? Midtown??? New Order waiting in line outside with junior stockbrokers with houses in Jersey buying stepped-on shit from dealers who know they'll never see these suburban fucks again? Downtown, idiot.

A disco party. With no Salsoul or Prelude or West End or Leroy Burgess or Patrick Adams or Larry Levan, probably without even entry-level serious shit like "Love Sensation". What the fuck.

Then this dude had the audacity to tell me that disco was the easiest of all genres to DJ with. Just fuck off. You have three turntables? A rotary mixer? Serious skills on the isolator (which in turn means knowing every drum fill and drum break and breakdown on every ten minute extended remix in a crate or two with, I dunno, at least 100 records)? You have doubles? How tightly can you loop those doubles? Oh, and let's not forget, you know, that whole live drummer thing. How long can you hold a mix when both records have live drummers and they are both changing tempos in different directions? Do you have all those tempo changes memorized? Oh, and how perfect is your pitch? Do you know all of the records in your box that change keys in the middle? Are you ready to anticipate? Will the next record be in key? Which one? To match what's playing now or what happens after the bridge? You do know what a bridge is, don't you?

Disco is easy? Fucking idiot. Disco is the hardest. By far. Any monkey can mix house made with drum machines, and, increasingly, many do.

But why I am sad I guess is that there is something really self-miniturizing about listening to this. Especially when the other person actually knows I am a DJ. Condescending idiocy. I guess I could have said something but I didn't even know where to start. In order to help prove Godwin's law, I'll say: it's like dealing with someone who actually believe that the Nazis were left-wing because they called themselves National Socialists*. There is such a fundamental breakdown of signification that you have to trace the assumptions back to some place before memory, before cognition.

It's not like I haven't dealt with this before. Just usually I get to meet up with people afterwards and laugh and know I am right and move on. But here. Fuck.

*These same people probably also watch those crazy Youtube documentaries about how the Frankfurt School Socialists brought us political correctness. So Socialists kill "fags" and also ask that we call them "homosexual" instead in order to not hurt their feelings? Socialists are really a confusing bunch, no?



Suddenly, I am obsessed with the following song:

I don't know that the lyrics really do much for me. I'm not really from the suburbs, more a small city next to a large one, and access to the large one was a miles walk away. So it could be this:

Or this:

I don't think of myself as a Rush fan, though I did own a copy of Moving Pictures, which is basically a necessity for anyone who has ever played drums. Anyone? Well, yes. Even if you are like me and consider the perfect drum kit to be a four-piece Gretsch or Slingerland from the mid-1960s with a pair of hi-hats, an 18" ride on the left and a 20" ride on the right, close, or even highly-distracted, attention to the above shows that Mr. Peart really has his shit together when it comes to hi-hat/ride/snare/kick interaction. The excess surrounding him is genre-driven, the basics are universal.

Related but different. Something I've wanted to discuss forever but don't know where to start: bands that critics hate that people love that are actually as intelligent as the critics who hate them. Sabbath and Zeppelin got their due, obviously. Rush sort of gets it now, but more in the sense of, "hey, they are still around; respect!"; likewise Depeche Mode. Smashing Pumpkins? If people can accept Geddy's voice, then certainly Billy's too. As a fan I reckon that that concept album is what killed them. It's not that they couldn't escape their ambition. Rather, their concept, or, really, Billy's concept of what ambition should realize was just wrong. There's a really, really, really good album amidst the b-sides of Mellon Collie, but usually one goes "back to basics" after the massive concept album. I wonder what would have happened had they gone the other way…

And just because:

Lastly, why don't you tell me about bands you love that critics hate?


Retromania - Synth Edition

That older synthesizers, for the most part, sound better, has been an article of faith for years and years now. This was discussed a bit here. A little more history:

If virtual analogs and "groove box" sequencer/sampler/drum machines pitched towards the aspiring dance musician were the hallmarks of the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2000s, the middle of the past decade saw a relative lull in hardware products aimed squarely at the electronic music producer (the products of Moog, Elektron and Dave Smith Instruments are notable exceptions). Software took over, and for the most part, the major companies (Yamaha, Roland, Korg) responded with tepid updates of their hardware workstations (devices generally aimed at keyboard players in bands who need "real instrument sounds" and people who compose/produce outside the house/techno-derived electronic music sphere).
Yamaha RS-7000 Sequencer/Sampler/Drum Machine(2001)
Dave Smith Instruments Poly Evolver Synthesizer (2005)

Roland Fantom X7 Workstation (2004)
For those paying attention, those interested in sound design, the real action was happening in the world of boutique manufacturing. One of the oldest forms of the synthesizer, the modular, was making a comeback. Better MIDI to control voltage converters, more-stable oscillators and the affordability of digital multi-tracking meant that the modular became less of an obtuse and ponderous indulgence and more a useful tool. Manufacturers who had been working seemingly covertly for years and upstart basement/garage dreamers sensed their opportunity and responded in kind; there is now a massive diversity in module design across multiple formats that dwarfs what was available throughout the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. While consumer demand is partially responsible for this, the, well, modular nature of modular synthesizers was certainly a boon to manufacturers of all levels of skill and capitalization. The upfront costs for developing a new synthesizer are significantly higher than those of developing a single module, and the still-cultish nature of the market sector ensured that nobody would have to have the cash to manufacture thousands, or even hundred of modules, at the time of release.

Moog Modular System 55 Synthesizer (1973)

Modcan Modular Synthesizer (a contemporary example)
Simultaneous to the increased popularity of modulars, the increased popularity of software also, ironically, created more demand for hardware. Experienced users who tended to default towards interest in new things, after having sold collections of hardware built over many years towards switching to more efficient software-based setups (and lets be clear: on the level of individual units, using hardware is generally easier, but having a whole studio of hardware, with the all the cables that go with it, all the MIDI routing headaches, is a hassle easily on par with any issues one runs into with computers), found themselves disappointed with the sound quality of most software synthesizers and the use of the computer mouse or generally-flimsy hardware controllers to interact with them. Longing again for their hardware days, these users found that prices had gone up as the classic hardware synths became more rare over the years, and the market had become globalized with the increased popularity of eBay and the price-fixing that seems inherent in the internet marketplace (more on this in the future).

While experienced users dealt with the problems mentioned above, those new to electronic music production, people with no experience of the "better days" of high-end hardware synthesizers made to cost-no-object standards meant to be sold to keyboard players of bands who were drowning in major label advance money, embraced software in droves. They must have noticed, at some point, however, that most of the best software programs had user interfaces and sound engines modeled after older hardware synthesizers. Turning to the Internet for understanding, they would have found countless threads by the aforementioned experienced users, who had actually traded in real Roland Jupiter 8s for software versions of them, lamenting the marked difference in quality. And so new producers became part of the demand for older synths as well.
Roland Jupiter 8 Synthesizer (1981)
Arturia Jupiter 8 Software Synthesizer (c. 2007)
It's hard to say when this demand reached a critical mass. It became apparent to me around 2007 as I began to see the prices of older synthesizers climb at a seemingly-unprecedented rate. At a certain point, prices for some vintage synthesizers began to exceed contemporary manufacturing costs for the same or a similar item.

While Moog had been making the Voyager, a synthesizer somewhat similar to the classic Moog Minimoog of the 1970s, since 2002, I feel that the real sign that things were changing on a mass level was Tom Oberheim's re-release of his classic SEM synthesizer. While the Moog Voyager updated the Minimoog with contemporary features like MIDI and was priced for the serious musician at around $3500, the SEM, partially due to size, lack of keyboard, relative simplicity of design and relative lack of features, was priced significantly lower at less than $1000 for the MIDI-less version. Suddenly, a new, fully-functional analog synth reproducing a pre-existing design was available at an affordable price.

Concurrent with and, especially, after the release of the SEM, the market was flooded with all manner of monophonic synthesizers inspired by classic designs and, in some cases, lacking basic amenities like patch storage, that most synthesists had come to expect since at least 1982. While many don't specifically emulate a previous design, most are designed in the spirit of the 1970s, with the most notable example being the Arturia MiniBrute (the first analog offering from a company that initially only made software [see above]).

Tom Oberheim SEM Synthesizer (2009)

Arturia MiniBrute Synthesizer (c. 2011)
The increased demand for classic hardware has culminated in developments that would have seemed unthinkable even a few years ago: after reissuing their 1978 MS-20 in a "mini" version last year, and a few days after Roland announced virtual analog recreations of some of their classic machines (808, 909, 303, System 100 mono), Korg has announced that they are reissuing the Arp Odyssey synthesizer, first released in 1972.

It will be interesting to see what happens. Just as common as the complaints by former and current Jupiter 8/Prophet5/OBX owners, etc., that the software just doesn't quite do it, are the complaints by former and current owners of Minimoogs, SEMs, MS-20s, etc., that the new hardware just doesn't quite have the character of the old…

… (and it is important to note that the real or perceived weaknesses of hardware recreations, just as with their software counterparts, have not served to decrease the prices of the originals)

I guess here is where the editorial content comes in, but this all seems an object of remote curiosity to me more than something to feel angry or happy about. Any good electronic music studio has a mixture of old and new synthesizers, and old synthesizers can be programmed to make more contemporary sounds, and vice-versa. Modulars are a good example of this. Sure, I can go out and get a new filter for my modular modeled to sound like the filter from a Roland synth from 1979, but I can send a digital oscillator into that filter, can overdrive that filter, can modulate the frequency cutoff of that filter at audio rate at non-repeating intervals, etc. - i.e., all things that can't be done if I were to own that actual Roland synth from 1979. Likewise, the output of the new Korg Arp Odyssey could be sent to a digital distortion box and then into a computer for treatment by an impulse-based reverb plugin.

That being said, this wouldn't be this if it wasn't for this: the caveats.

I guess, on a general level, I feel a certain disappointment in the focus on recreating synths from the analog era, a disappointment mitigated by the fact that I couldn't afford the classic synths when they were cheap because I was young and didn't have the means, and can't afford them now because, even with a decent job, the ones I really want have gone up in price so dramatically over the last few years that I am just as unable to afford them. In other words, when the retro trend finally reaches the polyphonic synth era, I may be in the market.

So if the retro trend might be beneficial to me and the creative nature of synthesizers means that hardware meant to sound like older hardware can be used in contemporary ways, what is the nature of my disappointment? I guess it comes partially from the desire to see new forms of synthesis realized in hardware (as it has been in software) and partially from the desire to see new kinds of user interfaces, preferably a combination of both (there have been some intriguing options released on iPad, but, compared to the possibility of a design integrating a touchscreen, dedicated hardware controllers, a keyboard or others means of pitch source generation, and high-quality digital-to-analog converters married to great-sounding post-conversion analog stage, the iPad feels like a compromise). Sort of sad that, if we were to measure "futurism" in terms of a synth's quantity of colored lights (actually not unreasonable given that many who put together studios love the aesthetic feeling of being surrounded by what feels like the control panel of a spaceship) then Roland's monophonic virtual recreation of their 1970s mono synths, the AIRA System-1, sure to sound vaguely disappointing compared to the originals, is the most futuristic-looking hardware synth that will be released this year…

Borderlands Synthesizer for iPad (2012)
Roland AIRA System-1 Synthesizer (2014)


Don't Even Bother Reading This One

I just want to say, for no reason, apropos of nothing, to nobody in particular, that the layering of water on top of snow on top of ice on top of pavement is particularly unpleasant.


Site Changes Part Two

Links to other writers updated and broken into two categories:
1. people to see = active sites
2. …but not forgotten = inactive sites with lots still worth attempting to digest

again, if you want on or off any lists, let me know.

lastly, I just want to say that I am sorry to report, rather belatedly, that Pere Lebrun deleted the entirety of his archives. this makes me sad. I hope he is writing out there, somewhere, even if only for himself.

when else to post the following?



Made plans to do something, caught the flu. Maybe if I hadn't made plans, I wouldn't have gotten sick?

Apropos of nothing, I love multitrack recording. Thanks Les Paul.