Pitta of the Mind, Usufruct, Alex Cruse, Murder Murder at Pro Arts

As we get ready for our next Pitta of the Mind show this Thursday, March 8, we look back at our recent show at Pro Arts in Oakland, where we were joined by Usufruct, Alex Cruse, and Murder Murder.  You can see a bit of all four groups in this recent CatSynth TV episode.

Pitta of the Mind’s color theme (we always have a color or pattern theme) for this evening was blue and featured blue-themed poems by Maw Shein Win, many from her new book Invisible Gifts.  

Pitta of the Mind
[Photo by Tom Scandura]

I used the Prophet 12 synthesizer, along with the modular system, my trusty Nord Stage, and some percussion instruments to create a musical interplay with the words as well as the space between them.

Amanda's Pitta of the Mind Setup with Prophet 12, Modular synth and Nord Stage EX

Even though we haven’t performed in a while and only had one rehearsal, I felt this was one of our strongest performances – and the feedback I got from the audience backed up that perception.  In particular, I think the poem “You Will Be With Me in a Town Called Paradise” came out particularly well, with a sultry vibe and jazzy accompaniment on electric piano.

After our set, Usufruct, the duo of Polly Moller Springhorn and Tim Walters took the stage.


[Photo by Tom Scandura]

As the word “usufruct” implies, they make use of materials for which they have usage rights beyond ownership, such as public-domain text sources.  Polly’s vocal interpretations of the texts are processed electronically by Tim using custom programs written in SuperCollider.  The end result is simultaneously dark and playful.  But beyond the text sections, I was particularly taken with the instrumental portion at the beginning, which featured bass flute live and electronically processed.

Alex Cruse brought a very different vibe and sensibility to the evening, with an electronic performance that focused on beats, loops, and hits.

There were many delightful sounds and many hard-edged industrial noise moments as well.  The vocals were deliberately obscured by heavy distortion and other processing but provided a percussive element that worked well with the rhythms.

The final set by Murder Murder was again something altogether different.  With two drummers, two horns, two electronic performers, and vocals, it was nonstop intensity from the first drum hit.

The intensity continued for several minutes and then came to a sudden close.  It was the musical equivalent of a tornado tearing through our calm evening of voice and electronics, but perhaps it was a fitting coda to the evening.

We thank Pro Arts and Sarah Lockhart for having us at this series, which has become quite a mainstay of the Oakland scene.  I hope to be back again soon with one of my other projects.  And of course, we are looking forward to our next Pitta of the Mind Show – where we will once again be joined by Usufruct – at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco on Thursday, March 8 at 8 PM.

CatSynth pic: Nala and OB-6

Nala and OB-6

Nala the cat playing a OB-6 from Dave Smith Instruments and Tom Oberheim. Photo from nathan.yeager on Instagram.

Analog Cat. Nala plays the OB-6. #catsonsynthesizersinspace #catsofinstagram #cat #davesmithinstruments #oberheim #homerecording #ob6 #analogsynth #keyboard #keyboardcat #synthesizer #catsynth #cute #cutecats

CatSynth pic: Pioneer Toraiz SP-16

From our friends at Eevo Lute Music & Technology.

A new test victim has arrived.. #pioneer #pioneerdj #davesmithinstruments #toraiz Pioneer Toraiz SP-16

We hope that human and feline enjoy their new “test victim” 😸. You can read our early take on the collaboration between Dave Smith Instruments and Pioneer on this product line in our report from NAMM 2017.

We hope that human and feline enjoy their new “test victim” 😸. You can read our early take on the collaboration between Dave Smith Instruments and Pioneer on this product line in our report from NAMM 2017.

Dave Smith Instruments: OB-6 and Prophet 6 at NAMM 2016

Dave Smith Instruments has consistently made a big splash to the instruments they have presented at NAMM, and it’s almost always something I quickly find myself wanting. This year the unveiled the OB-6, a collaboration of Dave Smith and Tom Oberheim.

Whatever comes out of such a collaboration should be good, and indeed the OB-6 a strong, solid and professional instrument. It combines the playability and polish of a Dave Smith keyboard with the unique sound and architecture of an Oberheim SEM. Indeed, it employs voice cards based on Oberheim filters and oscillators, with a Prophet 6 architecture underneath. It it is quite pretty as well.

OB-6 synthesizer

Close-up of OB-6 synthesizer

I did have a chance to both play the OB-6 and talk with Tom Oberheim about it. You can see his description of the instrument and how the collaboration happened in this video.

And here I attempt to play it.

It was only once I put down the camera and played with both hands that I could understand what the Oberheim technology adds. In addition to the distinctive sound, the SEM filter allows sweeping between different topologies (high pass, notch, and low pass) in real time.

However, the OB-6 does not completely eclipse last year’s big announcement from Dave Smith, the Prophet 6. It is still quite impressive, and a pleasure to play.

DSI Prophet 6

It is perhaps because I am more familiar with the sound and feel of Dave Smith instruments that I found the P6 still more approachable than the OB-6. But I do like the distinctive sound. Another option for that is Oberheim’s SEM synths issued by his new company. That will be discussed in the next article.

CatSynth Pic: Black Cats, Moog Voyager, DSI Pro 2

Black Cats, Moog Voyager, and DSI Pro 2

Two black cats with a Moog Voyager and Dave Smith Instruments PRO 2 synthesizer. What’s not to love? 🙂

Submitted by Station2Station via Twitter.

CatSynth pic: #NationalCatDay

Cats on the Prophet 12

In honor of #NationalCatDay, the cats have taken over my Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12.

Luna and I wish everyone a day full of feline and musical joy.

DSI Sequential – Prophet 6 – Program Test -f1

From peff on SoundCloud, via matrixsynth.

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 6 program and sequence demos.

level and balance test 6dB headroom (-6dBFS)

ref: Prophet6-kurt_k-051315.syxOS6

The Prophet 6 is quite a synth. The cat seems to agree 🙂

NAMM: Dave Smith Instruments and Sequential Prophet 6

Our first stop at NAMM 2015 was Dave Smith Instruments. And they certainly had big news, with both the acquisition of the legendary Sequential Circuits (aka “SEQUENTIAL”) brand name and their first instrument under the new name, the Prophet 6.

We were able to talk with Dave Smith himself about the “new old name” and the new instrument.

The Prophet 6 itself is quite a sight. It includes the industrial design, lettering and other features from the Prophet V, and includes custom component based VCOs and analog filters.

Sequential Prophet 6

It has a rich sound that ranges from the lusciousness of the Prophet 12 to the nastiness of the Evolver, though it doesn’t really do the same things as either of those instruments. As described in the video, it doesn’t have the complexity and feature set of the Prophet 12, but it’s not intended to. It is it’s own creature, and probably best as a lead synth used in conjunction with others. And it was definitely fun to play.

Amanda tries out the Prophet 6

It does appear that both the Dave Smith Instruments and Sequential brands will be used on future offerings, which we look forward to seeing and hearing.

CatSynth video: Synth Studio Tour with Zac the Black Cat

Submitted by James Bragg via our Facebook page.

Quick view around the Fernforest Project Studio. My black cat likes sitting on things that are black and stylish. He thinks he fits in well and looks cool.
Synths in order – Doepfer Modular A-100, Moog Etherwave Theremin, Moog Voyager Old School, Schlagswerg analogue drum machine, CP-251 moog control processor, Dave Smith Mopho and Tetra, Mackie Onyx firewire mixer, PC, M-Audio Oxygen 25, NI Maschine and a Monome my brother built.
The music is called “Dark Glow” by me. you can find the whole track on soundcloud.

Dave Smith Instruments Tempest and Mopho at NAMM

Another perennial stop at NAMM is the ever-growing booth of Dave Smith Instruments. I had a chance to talk with one of the senior representatives on my regular use of the DSI Evolver in my live shows and my fondness for the instrument (despite the tendency of the knobs to fall off). I of course also had to play the Mopho because it was there:

But the real star of the booth this year was the Dave Smith Instruments Tempest, a collaboration of Dave Smith and Roger Linn.

I started with an existing pattern in the sequencer and immediately used the drum pads to subvert the pattern while attempting to remain in the tempo and meter. The pads are very comfortable and playable, and I found it quite intuitive to get different effects of each even without knowing in advance that they would do that.

This would be a great instrument to have in a live performance (and for recording as well), but probably something to ponder for a later time given its retail price of USD $1999.