You Are A Pearl!

Hi guys,

It’s been a while since I last posted anything here. Two years  and five months to be exact. The last time I posted, The Turku Synth Club probably numbered about a 70 or 80 synth enthusiasts, but at the moment there’s 365 of us. One synth-freak for every day of the year. This fall we held a big synth meeting and we’ve been spreading the message by having a course on synth basics for land lubbers in the local Turku library.
Wow! Never would’ve believed this would happen when the four of us met for the first time to have a beer and talk about our hobby with fellow synth-heads.

DSCN1014

This time I’ve dug out a real gem for you. As I probably told earlier, a local radio station decided to get rid of all their vinyl and I went there and bought approximately 400 7″ singles for my collection. There’s all kinds of weird stuff but this particular single is totally in it’s own league. A band called Freelance with another name Kätkä & Pietikäinen written underneath it. Basically the band consists of a multitalent musician Ippe Kätkä, whose job description on the record cover is – songs, arrangements, synths, machines, percussion and production – and a poet of somekind Seppo Pietikäinen whose area of expertese is – lyrics, spoken vocals, ideas, making coffee and taking care. On paper that doesn’t amount to much, but on record the combination is killer.

The song I uploaded is the b-side of the single Tanssitaan Mammuttiaikaan (Let’s Dance Back To The Mammoth Age) which is not the greatest song on the album. But the b-side is pure genius. As you can probably make out, it’s called Sinä Olet Helmi (You Are A Pearl) and it sounds like it could’ve been made by Pori-dwelling krautrock-folk-masters Rättö & Lehtisalo. It also makes me think that maybe Dxxxa D has been listening to this song to get the inspiration to make his own stuff. The single is on Bang Trax a legendary Lahti-label which put out a lot of really interesting stuff in the late 80′s. Keep your eyes peeled for that logo in second hand record shops. It’s from 1988 but it could be from 2088 as well. As soon as I heard the single I had to get my hands on the full length album and luckily found one copy lying around in a Helsinki record shop. I ordered it and the album is filled with weird, excellent music that’ll make you laugh out loud and sigh in amazement. It’s also got some really high class guest stars like Dave Lindholm on guitar and Henk Hofstede (of The Nits) on backing vocals. And on top of that, possibly one of the best album covers done in Finland in the eighties.
Sit back and enjoy. Maybe I’ll post something else from the album in the near future.

I’ll get back to you soon,
Tomi / Turku Synth

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Flight of fancy

The cover is very bland to say the least

Tomorrow is once again time for my Softrock -club night in Bar Kuka. Been doing that for a little over 3 years now. Can it really be that long..? Anyways, usually a couple of days before these nights I go through the local second hand vinyl shops hunting for new softrock 7″ singles to play. Maybe also have a quick look in the fleamarkets for some Miami Vice -style garments for the night. Just to keep things exciting for myself and also for the public. This time was no exception. Yesterday I went to Kaakko on Yliopistonkatu and brought him 65 euros worth of vinyl from my own shelf to trade for 7″ singles.

As Kaakko’s prices are very reasonable (1-3 euros a piece for the kind of 7 inches I’m looking for usually.) it took a long time for me to find a suitable set of records to fill the 65 euro quota. I spent maybe 2 hours going through singles and listening to them and as I grew more desperate I branched my search to include also the Finnish Rock and Schlager -departments just in case… Well it was definitely worth the effort. Finally I ended up buying about 25-30 singles, mostly AOR, soft soul or disco. Many of those singles will appear in the future in Turku Synth, but I’ll start with this.

Flight 205 by Jokke, (better known as Jokke Seppälä of Sunshine Reggae -fame) is a rare jewel of a song. As soon as I put it on in Kaakko’s listening post I knew I had a winner in my hands. The song starts slowly with a synthetic imitation of a jet plane taking off, filter opening slowly. After the hard-rock-style cool intro, it starts as a slow & quiet verse with some synth flourishes. The real fun begins when Jokke gets to the chorus. Flight 205! And of course a vocoded voice seconding Jokke’s every desperate plea.

Thematically the song reminds me of Motors‘ only big hit Airport (of which there’s a quite good Finnish version “Lentoon” too by a guy called Tinni) where the lyrics wave goodbye to a girlfriend, who’s leaving the protagonist’s life through the aforementioned airport. Jokke’s story is different, but easily as sad. Musically the song reminds me more of Mike Oldfield‘s amazing Five Miles Out from his pop-period. Maybe it’s the fact that both songs mix vocoder -vocals with distorted hard rock styled guitars and both have this stomping beat to them. And again Five Miles Out is also a tale about aeroplanes and flying. It seems that in the early 80′s flying was almost as popular subject matter for songs as the far east. The B-side You Are My Life is nothing to get too excited about. A bland weepie, with no synth whatsoever.

Jokke’s Flight 205 was a double winner. At the same time, I found something new & exciting to post in Turku Synth and it also fits tomorrow’s softrock-bill perfectly. Soft but not too soft. There are more finnish and/or otherwise rare synth goodies on their way, but for now, fasten your seatbelts, put out your cigarettes, lean back and listen to Flight 205. Hopefully we’ll see tomorrow in Bar Kuka.

All the best (girls, All the best they got boys),

Tomi / Turku Synth

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Old habits die hard

In the late nineties and early noughties, I did a lot of sample-based music with a genius little Windows music program called Making Waves. I had no experience in sampling and basically knew nothing about writing music, but I was very much inspired by DJ Shadow, Four Tet, Max Tundra and all the Ninja Tune- and MoWax- stuff I had listened to in the nineties. Many of my compositions from those times were completely original pieces made with found sounds that I had sampled into my computer. In the time before laptops I carried my tabletop machine to the kitchen to sample the motor of our fridge or I took my portable minidisc-recorder with me and recorded all the different voices I heard during a walk in the nature. Recently I discovered a c-cassette filled with these original compositions. At first I didn’t recognize them as my own pieces of music, but then in one song there were some vocals and I recognized my own vocoded voice. I was amazed. Or more like completely blown away. I had done a cassette full of music that sounded – if not great then at least – interesting and inspiring.

More about those compositions later, but now for something else that was long forgotten. As my crate-digging-abilities weren’t yet on the same level as Josh Davis’, I sampled whatever I could get my hands on. I only had one guideline – sample only original stuff, not something that somebody else has already sampled. I went through piles of cassettes bought cheap from a second hand shop and cheap vinyl obscurities looking for that perfect drumbeat or bassline. I found a lot of religious speeches, self recorded childhood theatre on cassettes and some great drumloops, but one particular disco compilation had a – back then still unknown – early eighties italian song from Pino D’angio’ called Ma Quale Idea. This song was perfect for sampling. It had an infectious, very catching bassline a deadpan vocal performance about marmelade and those lovely lasery disco-toms. I was sure I had a hit on my hands when I was working on my track, but then MTV started to play a new dance song “Don’t Call Me Baby” from an australian group called Madison Avenue. They had sampled Ma Quale Idea before me and made it into a MTV-friendly dancepop track. I gave up.

Years later I came across a seven inch single in a swedish record shop. The cover was funny with a tough looking guy with curly hair smoking a cigarette in black and white and looking ominously and kind of pissed off at you. I had to buy it just for old times sakes. For a while I thought of the song as a personal curiosity not worth of public airing, but maybe 2 years back I decided to take it with me for a spin in the dj booth. Needless to say the song was an instant hit. Now looking at the video for the first time in my life I get the sense that smoking cigarettes was an integral part of mr. D’Angio’s image and perhaps also the secret ingredient behind his growly “I don’t give a fuck” -singing voice.

Just Perfect,

Tomi / Turku Synth

P.S. Here’s the Madison Avenue version, mine would’ve been a lot better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4-PcMSxrUA

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Flying F!

Slowly in my life, I’ve come to realize that every good idea (and also every good melody) is already old in it’s infancy. Somebody somewhere has had the same idea a long time ago and usually they’ve even gone through with it. Maybe some five years back me and a couple of my friends dreamt about building our own midi-controllers with a bit more edge than the normal ones. We were making plans and drawings for building additional parts to a normal run off the mill midi-controller to make it look more “evil” or “heavy-metal”. There was talk of adding “Flying V” -type wings to one end and hanging the new beautiful heavy-synths from our necks like traditional keytars.

Well. Once I was visiting a  second hand recordstore in Uppsala Sweden, I came across this album by a swedish guy called J.C. Barreto made in 1981 which is like 25 years before we had the same idea. On the cover J.C. is posing with an unknown keytar, with added white Flying V -wings, dressed head to toe in white.  Just amazing! The back cover lists grand piano, Prophet 5, Minimoog and digital Clavatar as Barreto’s instruments and as the instrument on the cover sure as hell isn’t any of the three first one’s, it has to be the digital Clavatar -with the gui-tar-like “tar” -ending. The rhythm’s are provided by Korg‘s legendary Rockmate Doncamatic.

At first listen I was terribly dissappointed with this album. When there’s a rare unknown synth on the album cover, the album title is Dr. Love and the vinyl itself is transparent red, you can’t help but get a little excited. Actually I got v-e-r-y e-x-c-i-t-e-d!  But Dr. Love was a real turndown. There’s almost nothing to be heard of the SCI Prophet or The Minimoog here and the songs are all bland middle of the road funk-rock.

Then recently when I was going through my vinyls to sell some of them in a car boot sale, I had a second listen and realised that the title track is actually quite good. The whole album is heavily indebted to Stevie Wonder‘s late 70′s output, but there’s something completely disarming in this swedish guy with a cornrow-hairdo and a good style sense imitating the master. Dr. Love is definitely not the synthiest track ever featured in Turku Synth, but for the album cover alone it deserves it’s place in our blog. As it is also a very much scandinavian obscurity it’s probably not been seen or heard much outside of Sweden, let alone Europe.

Enjoy responsibly,

Tomi / Turku Synth

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Battlestar Synthetica

"Bye bye baby, baby goodbye."

Last week I sold my Yamaha CS-15. Yes, the exact same CS-15 you can see as the wallpaper of our synthblog. I was in desperate need of some cash and even though I really loved the CS-15, I thought that it’s sound and features were too similar to my Korg MS-20. It had some physical deficiencies (The pitch bend was missing the slider-hat and the portamento and brilliance slider had been broken off, although the little stumps still worked), so the asking price for it was a measly 450 euros. Usually a CS-15 in perfect shape goes for about 600 euros here in Finland.

Anyways the first one to give me a call about the CS-15 was none other than my old friend Jori Hulkkonen. He’s been in the business of re-acquiring the same set of equipment he had when he made his first album Selkäsaari Tracks and the CS-15 was the last piece of puzzle missing. At the time Jori was in Helsinki for his record release party for the Stop Modernists 12″ single Subculture, but he promised that he’d pick up the synth first thing on monday. I received a pile of e-mails during that weekend about the now reserved CS-15. Soon I had three or four guys in line waiting for Jori to pull out of the deal. On monday I saw a facebook -link concerning a demonstration of the new Roland Jupiter 80 -synth in the local SLSX -music shop and felt the need to go there. As Jori’s studio is right around the corner from that music shop we arranged to meet there and I took the CS-15 with me.

When I got there and parked my CS-15 somewhere in the shop corner, I noticed that basically I was there by myself. Jori was supposed to meet me there in 20 minutes, but until then I had to be the sole customer to take part in the demonstration of the Jupiter 80. I’m not a guy who goes to a synth-shop to play the solo to some Emerson, Lake & Palmer -song. I’m embarrased by my lack of skills and I’d rather watch a Youtube-video of a synth at home than go to a shop to try it myself. So I wasn’t too happy when I was left alone with the music shop guy and the Roland salesperson as he booted the JP80. Fortunately, as the demonstration got on it’s way, an older guy entered the shop to see the new Roland workhorse too, and soon after that a second one. Both of them laid their eyes on my CS-15 too and asked the shop clerk if that one was for sale.

I was not too impressed with the Jupiter 80. It seemed to be the same exact workstation-synth Roland has been doing for the last ten or fifteen years. Only this time they had given it a retro look and a legendary name. The Roland sales-dude was a talented player and an experienced sales person and he showed the three people there how the new Jupiter could sound JUST like a violin or an accordion. In my opinion that’s the whole problem with these workstation-synths. If I’d wanted to sound like an accordion player, I would’ve bought an accordion and not an MS-20. I don’t want a synthesizer that realistically mimics “regular” instruments. I want a synth that sounds like a synth. I want my synths to sound like melting plastic armour in a laser-infested space-skirmish, not like a guy blowing a flugelhorn in a white t-shirt. There’s a difference right there.

Enter Jori. After the Roland-guy showed the new customer Jori some of the tricks the J80 was able to do and even demonstrated the machine’s shortish boot-time after powering up (Basically all of my synths start instantly when I turn the power on), Jori asked the guy bluntly: “Who is this synth made for?” My thoughts exactly! Who needs a synth that’s teetering on the edge of serious analog-modelling power and being a multi-purpose kitchen appliance for schlager musicians? The Roland-guy had trouble answering Jori’s questions and Jori kept annoying him with comments about the synth’s menu-driven nature and “ease of use”. Basically almost every aspect of synthesis in the J80 is accessible only through the touch screen. The sliders and pots on the machine surface give access only to a couple of parameters for the machine’s 4 different “channels”.  Personally, if I wanted to control a synth with a touch screen, I’d buy an iPad and download a couple of Korg synths for it. I’d also save about 2400 euros in the process.

After Jori had harrassed the Roland guy for long enough we both asked him why has Roland taken this approach and direction in the noughties. Even though Korg has made the Kronos and all the other shitty workstations for schlager-music-one-man-bands, it has also made a lot of interesting products for people who are still interested in real synthesis. At the same time Roland has completely forgotten it’s great legacy and concentrated on workstations and “pro-audio”. Roland has forgotten it’s strengths and started to mimic a small swedish company that makes red coloured keyboards for musicians who play on the Turku-Stockholm ferry. That’s a weird niche market, but Roland is going to conquer it with it’s workstations. Nobody at Roland seems to realize how much money there is to be made by making new versions of the classic X0X-series drum-machines etc. In the past Roland catered for dance-musicians, nowadays they make gear for dansbands. There’s a difference again.

After we had had our say, we took the CS-15 and walked to Jori’s studio. As a downpayment for the Yamaha, Jori gave me the amazing battery operated Boss DR-55, forefather of the Dr. Rhythm -series and one more example of the style of equipment Roland should be making today instead of these 3000 euro moulinexes. But more about the Boss in a later post.

Sorry if I have offended someone. I just can’t see the point in these modern “synths”. The newest synth in my own collection was made in the year 1985.

Tomi / Turku Synth

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Summer Solstice Synth Celebration

It's butt-ugly!

After yesterday’s posting I was informed that the whole output from the band Escape From New York has been recently re-released on a 12″ EP. In these times of knowledge moving so fast, it seems to be harder all the time to find any true obscurities or rarities to post. Every song that is somehow worthwhile has already been made into a disco edit or just rereleased. So I had to dig a little deeper and I came up with this.

T. Laitila & Teutorit is the early eighties finnish new wave project of it’s namesake Terho Laitila who did the vocals and played guitar. It seems that they released only one album –  Teutorock –  in the year 1984 and a couple of singles were taken from that album. I am the proud owner of the band’s Nainen vai Auto, Rakkaus vai Raha (Woman or Car, Love or Money) seven inch single which looks very much like a self-released punk single. However it was released by Music Production Company POWER from Helsinki, but there’s very little information besides that.

Nainen vai Auto, Rakkaus vai Raha starts off with a fast synth riff that reminds me of Devo, The B-52s or some other edgy & nerdy american new wave group. The verse is first class stuff in it’s own genre. The pulsating synth riff keeps repeating with some eastern style synth flourishes & effects and nervous spoken vocals about the difficulty of choosing between a car and a woman. Then comes the b-part which rockets the track into a completely progressive new territory. This far everything is perfect, but then comes the chorus, which is really really unspeakably bad. It’s annoying when this happens. The band has made a perfect finnish amalgamation of Ohio’s late 70′s punk/new wave/synth-movement and then destroys it completely by gluing on a bad Suomi Rock-chorus. Well at least that confirms that there will be no represses of this track made, ever! The B-side is worse than the A. It’s a track called Automerkkitietokilpailu, which is even more firmly rooted in the Suomi Rock-tradition.

But then to a completely different thing. Just yesterday when we were out in a bar playing foosball with Jori Hulkkonen he suggested that we should have a pagan celebration of the summer solstice today. And by celebration, of course he meant that we should carry our synths into Dynamo, form a proverbial Stonehenge with them and start improvising in a very new age -ambient vein. There were thoughts about building a huge synthesizer out of straws and twigs, filling it with Casio-gear and old unwanted drum machines and putting it to fire to satisfy the sun god and all the other pagan deities.

Anyways, if you’re in Turku, Finland tonight at 21:00, I suggest that you come to Dynamo to see and hear our Summer Solstice Synth Celebration. There’ll be about ten more-or-less well known synth-players each taking only one favourite piece of equipment with them, improvising in the style of Vangelis or maybe if it get’s out of hand we’ll reach the apocalyptic tones of Aphrodite’s Child. From what I’ve heard there’ll be at least one Prophet 600, a Jupiter 8, an MS-20 and a whole list of other sexy gear on display. It’ll be a blast. We’ll probably make a recording of the gig and I’ll try to post it here on a later date.

Have a good one,

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

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Escape From Monday

The graffiti inspired cover is kinda nice too...

It seems that a long time before the birth of Zombi, Gatekeeper, Nightsatan and all the other Carpenterphiles of the noughties there was a Snake Plissken appreciation-group running amok in pop-music. This 7″ single is from a american group from the early eighties (1983 to be precise) that blatantly took it’s name straight from John Carpenter’s masterpiece Escape From New York.  Save Our Love is the first of two singles put out by this group and I decided to include the instrumental version from the b-side, after all we’re supposed to be a synth blog, not an early-eighties-curiously-gay-disco-vocal-blog.

Musically Escape From New York has very little to do with the movie of the same name. Save Our Love is disco, but not in the Philly tradition or any other american tradition. If something, Save Our Love has a very european flavour to it. Although at the same time the productions of one certain Bobby O. spring to mind from the very beginning. With it’s driving bassline and steady four on the floor disco beat Save Our Love is like the blueprint for the balearic/spacedisco -sound of today. Even though the single cover lists Save Our Love as “slowbeat” it would benefit from a further slowing down of around -15BPM. That way it would be basically indistinguishable from Studio’s or A Mountain Of One’s best monumental slowdisco-tracks.

The instrumental version obviously loses the vocals but replaces them with some heavy delay on the guitar and synths and makes the track even more “now” than the vocal version. These guys were way ahead of their times not to mention their american contemporaries of 1983. I originally bought this seven inch for the band’s name, and after the initial dissappointment of not getting what I was promised, I have started to really appreciate the track.

Hope you enjoy it too,

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

Here’s a link to the 12″ vocal-version of the track which has it’s own benefits too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-B00sIXLcs

 

 

 

 

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