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…
After a brief hiatus over the weekend, we’re back – more on that later. In the meantime, we have this cute photo of Zelda the Gray with a DSI Evolver, Arturia KeyStep, Native Instruments Maschine, and more 😺. From skaterdays on Instagram.
Winter Modular Eloquencer is the main sequencer with all 8 tracks used for: bass from Verbos Harmonic Osc, 4 drums from 2 Erica Pico Drums.
The chords are formed by Intellijel Shapeshifter, Mutable Instruments Elements and Braids, through Makenoise Erbe-Verb and Erica Black Hole DSP.
The lead and blips are from Tiptop Z3000 and Malekko Anti-Oscillator, triggered by the Varigate 8+.
Other modules, vcas, mixers etc: MI Veils, Doepfer A-132-2, A-143-2, A-134-1, A-138b, A-138p/o, Waldorf KB37, Low-Gain Submix7, Makenoise Maths and Optomix.
Meet Zelda the Grey British Blue, who approves of the studio updates that include painted 1U panels, a microKORG, Roland rhythm box, and intriguing little DIY synth in an Altoids box, and more. From skaterdays on Instagram.
“Love Rings and Braids, need to build more of both. I can’t wait to build Clouds and Elements. Klee is controlling the Rings, Turing machine on the Braids. Drums are a Corny Rhythm controlling a Barton Analog Drum, Decaying noise, and Synthrotek DSM. Radio Music and Wogglebug are making noise in the background. Kept things simple.”