Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Manitou featured on Caliper Music

My single Cathode Ray has been featured on Caliper Music: an experimental music blog. I recommend checking them out if you're into experimental music and 'out there' sounds.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Reviews: Reactor Four & Cathode Ray

Mark Barton of The Sunday Experience has reviewed my two most-recent releases. Here's what he had to say:

Reactor Four
Cathode Ray
Those of you loving your electronics spared in minimalism like it was 1979 and steered in a sinister off set funky iciness might want to stay with the Manitou a little while longer for the follow up to ‘reactor four’ – and by a quick head count the fourth in the singles series is entitled ‘Cathode Ray’. This un plugs directly into Human League Mk1’s sound space more specifically having us reaching for our copy of ’reproduction’ in order to sample the dark delights of ‘circus of death’.

My promo video for Cathode Ray has also been featured on Matrixsynth blog, of which I've long been a fan. If you're into synthesizers and you haven't paid it a visit, I urge you to do so.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Digital Single: Cathode Ray

Fourth in my series of free singles is Cathode Ray / U235. These both lean towards the experimental, so they were a lot of fun to put together. There's nothing like unleashing your 'mad scientist' side in the studio!

Bandcamp player:

Cathode Ray opens with a march-like rhythm created from snippets of a sample & hold patch on the Korg Monotribe. The Monotribe also provides a recurring bleepy filter sequence. A bassline, drone, and some percussion sounds recorded from a Toshiba radio form the backbone of the track. The Alesis SamplePad was used to sequence some Speak & Spell percussion and tom-toms. Novation K-Station adds some extra percussive sounds. I manipulated my voice with the Marantz PMD201 tape recorder to create the spoken word part. A very nice VST called Lounge Lizard provides the electric piano.

I should point out that the TV featured in the artwork is exactly as I found it. No TV's were harmed (by me) in the making of this e.p.!



I did something a little different with the video this time. It's shot entirely with a 40mm macro lens and features some of the instruments and devices I used to make the music. My tin robot 'Mini Radiocon,' which you might recognise from the cover of 'Let's Build Mecha!', also makes an appearance.

U235 was the first track I made for the new album project, and my first experiment with the Korg Monotribe. Once I had a patch and a sequence programmed, I recorded several live improvisations, cut them into chunks, and assembled them into a track. I then created various percussion sounds on Roland HS-60, TAL U-NO-LX, and K-Station, and added in a snare from the Yamaha MR-10. HS-60 provides some other synth sounds, more Monotribe was overdubbed, and K-Station and Yamaha CS01 also provide some melodies. Electric guitar can be heard on the ambient sections (backwards). My voice was once again pitch-shifted with the Marantz PMD201.

The title refers to the only fissionable isotope of uranium to occur in nature. In the film A Is For Atom, which I sampled for Isotopes For All, U235 is represented by a frenetic cartoon character. The bouncy arpeggio reminded me of that.



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Equipment: Korg MS-20 Mini

The Korg MS-20 was produced from 1978-83 and has since become something of a legendary synthesizer. The brand new (as of this writing) MS-20 Mini is a complete recreation in a slightly smaller housing, with the addition of very simple MIDI implementation (it has MIDI In to allow sequencing, nothing more). The basics: it is analog, monophonic; has two oscillators, one LFO, and two filters (high & low pass). It's also semi-modular in that certain functions can be re-wired or patched-in via the patch panel on the right-hand side of the synth.

In 2002 I bought my first proper synthesizer: the Novation K-Station. It's a fantastic machine but at the time I found it exceedingly complex. While it has a wealth of hands-on control, a great deal of its parameters are hidden in the menu system. As I've come to learn its ins-and-outs, it's proven its versatility and I still use it as my main instrument. But circa 2005 I wanted to get my hands on something simpler in order to get to grips with basic synthesis.

The K-Station, a true workhorse.
This led to a search for such an instrument, and among the contenders was the MS-20. Unfortunately it was long out of production, and I'd missed out on the 'great analog purge' of the late '80s early '90s, when analog gear was practically being thrown away in favour of digital. By this time analog was back in vogue and the MS-20 was fetching upwards of $2000 USD. So, after much consideration I settled for a Yamaha CS-5. It only had one oscillator, but its design was such that it had oodles of character. It was simple and easy to use, and it helped me get to grips with synthesis and the K-Station. Being of a vintage, and I suspect mistreated by its former owner, the CS-5 failed within a short time. The handful of songs I made with it are among my favourites, and for a long time there was a void in the studio that couldn't be filled.

Alas, poor Yorick... the ill-fated CS5.
When the MS-20 Mini was announced I was understandably excited, and I pre-ordered it the first chance I got. The demand for it was such that it took 11 months to arrive. It has not only filled the gap left by the CS-5 in my sound palette, but expanded it to undreamt of horizons. You will no doubt be hearing a lot from it in the coming months.

The day of its arrival. The postlady dropped it and ran away (I kid ye not).

Sound exploration in progress!