Friday, April 17, 2020

New Equipment: Behringer Model D

Like them or loathe them, Behringer are making waves recreating synthesizers from the past so that people such as myself, who missed owning the originals, can own brand new iterations of rare classics. The Model D, for the uninitiated, is based on the Moog Minimoog Model D - quite possibly the most famous synthesizer ever made. Most of the musicians who have influenced me used a Minimoog at some time or other. It's appeared on more classic records than you can shake a stick at. So it's no exaggeration to say I've coveted one all my life. The Behringer version promises the same circuit design with some new twists (note the CV input jacks along the top of the unit) at an affordable price. Not having access to an original Minimoog, I can't comment on the authenticity of the sound; suffice to say that it sounds very close to me, and that's what matters.

One of the first things I noticed is that the tuning drifts and is not especially stable. This is what's called a feature, for you can't have the original Minimoog circuitry without the original foibles. The tuning knob provides four semitones of wiggle room. I'm using it strictly in the studio, so tuning it between takes and letting it warm up is not a huge deal to me. It might be an issue in a live setting.

I've owned software emulations of the Minimoog, but never fully understood the architecture until I was able to spend a half hour in front of the hardware. It's all starting to make sense to me now, and it hasn't taken long for certain controls and functions to become second nature.

One thing I still find difficult to get to grips with is what they call legato. In this case, when you play two (or more) notes in a row without lifting your fingers, the amplitude envelope doesn't retrigger. Instead, the first note sounds strong, but the second and subsequent notes sound weak: depending on how your envelope is set. Arturia and Moog's software emulations had a switch to overcome this, but apparently the Behringer D does not. So one has to play the notes with more care in order to retrigger the envelope. That said, the legato nature of the notes can be a desirable effect. The MS-20 also does this, but not as extreme as the Model D.

I'll have to spend some time with the emulations to discover what else is different, control-wise. The CV (Control Voltage) jacks along the top give you patch-points for plugging into modular synths or routing certain functions back to the unit (LFO to filter cutoff, for example). There's also a 440Hz test-tone available at the flip of a switch - handy for tuning - and three separate outputs: line out (1/4"), headphones (1/8"), and main (1/8"). The latter can be routed to Ext-in for the famous Moog overdrive sound.

You'll be hearing this a lot in coming productions. It already features on the first new piece for Music of the Lake II.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

2019: Year In Review

"Welcome to my office"
The picture above doesn't necessarily represent 2019, but you could say that work in the studio was somewhat chaotic. If you look back at my 'year in review' for 2018, you'll note I made some statements about my release schedule that didn't exactly fall into place. The Atmospheres album did eventually see the light of day, but very late in the year because of a busy spring and summer. My magnum opus Dreams of Sleeping Engines is still not out, but on the plus side I took extra time to fix some things I wasn't happy with.

A list of my audio-visual related accomplishments for 2019:

-Collaborated with Disco Antenna on a cover of Bronski Beat's 'Smalltown Boy'.
-Mixed and mastered the 'Seven' EP for No More Cries (on which I also play keyboards and sing backup).
-Filmed a music video for No More Cries (still in post-production).
-Recorded Fender Rhodes and synthesizer for Meredith Higgins' debut EP 'Waves', release date TBA.
-Debuted The Manitou's 2014 album 'Radioatomic' on major download and streaming sites via DistroKid.
-Released The Manitou's album 'Atmospheres' via Bandcamp and DistroKid.
-Composed 11 songs for Sybille Muschik's Shoreline Studio Video Blog, subsequently released as an album titled 'Music of the Lake'. Filmed and edited 7 videos for Sybille's channel.
-Completed work on The Manitou's 'Dreams of Sleeping Engines', release date TBA.

What are my goals for 2020? Certainly to release the things that didn't make it into last year's roster; promote my music better; write a follow-up to Music of the Lake and continue with the filming work for Sybille's show; revisit some material from a 'lost' Manitou album from 2010; start work on some Audio Drama soundtracks I've been asked to compose; remaster portions of my back-catalog for DistroKid release; finish the No More Cries music video (and perhaps film another one). That would be a good start!