It’s been a little while since we last attended Church of Thee Super Sergeat Robotspeak in San Francisco, but we made a point of going this past weekend. For those who have not been there or read our past reviews, it’s an almost-ever-month show on a Saturday afternoon with live hardware-synthesizer performances. As the name suggests, some acts do include Serge synthesizers, but it is not required, and a wide variety of instruments are used. All three sets are featured in our most recent CatSynth TV episode.
The first set featured Lx Rudis performing on an Oberheim Xpander, a somewhat underappreciated instrument from the 1980s.
At its heart, the Xpander is a 6 voice analog synthesizer, but with a complex array of digital controls that can be programmed and applied independently to each voice. Lx Rudis took full advantage of these, especially the LFOs and lag generators, to create subtle and minimal metric patterns. He constantly moved voices in and out, configuring them on the fly, in a way that was very expressive and musical. I particularly liked the sections which had staccato rhythmic textures against slowly moving timbres deliberately out of sync with one another.
Next up was Franck Martin, who performed a solo set on a modular synthesizer with several standalone instruments.
Martin’s setup included a Moog Subharmonicon, which he built while attending Moogfest this year (we at CatSynth are a bit envious), as well as a DFAM (Drummer From Another Mother). There were also additional voices provided by Braids and Plaits modules from Mutable Instruments that he could bring in and out using a touch-plate interface. The result was a slowly changing beat pattern with an eerie inharmonic voicing and gentle undulation.
The final set featured our friends Gino Robair and Tom Djll teaming up as the brilliantly named Unpopular Electronics.
They had a wide variety of gear, including Serge panels in addition to Eurorack modules and standalone instruments from Bugbrand and others. In addition, Gino had an interesting small case that included touchpads.
The music was frenetic and intense, an avalanche of pops and hits and loud cloudlike tone clusters. And there were trumpet sounds entering into the mix at various points. But there was an exquisite detail to the madness with changes among the different instruments and sounds, and musical pauses and rests before the pair dived back into the frenzy. There were also many moments of humor and not just Djll’s book about why there aren’t any Zeppelin-style airships in the United States.
In between sets, it’s fun to browse around Robotspeak and see what’s for sale, or on display in the big glass case.
It’s also quite dangerous, as I am often tempted to leave with another module or instrument. On this occasion, I exercised restraint, but probably not next time…
It seems to be the week of the Elektron Octatrack, as we have two or three of them in today’s pic. Also featured are the adorable cat Lucy, and a large modular synthesizer system. I recognize a Make Noise Tempi and Rene on the bottom row – we have that pair here at CatSynth, too.
The Sub Phatty is perhaps the most under-appreciated member of Moog’s Phatty line of synthesizers, which includes the popular Sub37. We have one at CatSynth, and it has served us well both in the studio and in live performance. You can view my recent video on the hidden features of the instrument below.
We espied this photo on the Facebook page of Robotspeak, our local synthesizer shop and informal gathering place for monthly shows here in San Francisco.
I have myself dropped quite a bit of hard-earned money there (but don’t regret any of it), and I have played there on a few occasions, including the Analog Ladies showcases. You can read about past visits to Robotspeak via this link.
Meet Nemo! He is showing off an original Novation Bass Station keyboard synthesizer. Photo submitted by Arthur Schmitt via our Facebook page.
Many readers will be familiar with the popular Bass Station 2. The original Bass Station was released in the early 90s, first in this keyboard form and later in a more popular rack form. (It was the 90s, so we still all had collections of 1U-3U rackmount instruments and signal processors). From Vintage Synth Explorer:
Before the famous Novation Bass Station Rack module came the small and portable Bass Station keyboard! This synthesizer uses digitally synchronized analog oscillators (DCO’s) to reproduce the sounds of a monophonic dual-osc analog synthesizer with simple and intuitive controls via 17 knobs, 10 switches and 2 Moog-style pitch/mod wheels. Think EDP Wasp and ARP Odyssey.