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
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.
Tomi / Turku Synth
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
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
My wall of John Carpenter movie soundtracks.
I’m a huge fan of John Carpenter. I love his movies, but most of all I love the music he wrote for them with his associate Alan Howarth. At the same time it’s very very minimal and constrained but delivers the mood perfectly. For his masterpiece Assault On Precinct 13, Carpenter wrote a score that used basically twenty different versions of only one central theme, but oh what a theme that was. When I first started toying around with synthesizers more seriously, I tried to emulate Carpenter’s style of pulsing one note basslines, long, eerie pad sounds and a hihat ticking nervously. Never quite got the mixture right though. Our band, Nightsatan can perhaps be seen as a continuation of that ongoing quest to achieve the feeling of tension and anxiety through music.
As you can see from the picture, my absolute favourite movie from Carpenter is Escape From New York. I have five different pressings of the soundtrack vinyl and I’m still looking for the spanish and german pressings. For starters I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies. As a kid watching rental-VHS movies they were my favourite kind. Nuclear war had destroyed the world and only a handful of punkrocker-looking people had survived and started fighting each other. Perfect. Secondly there’s just something about Snake Plissken that makes the Rambos and Terminators of this world flee in panic. Snake Plissken is truly the most badass character in the history of cinema. And the soundtrack for this movie is exceptionally good too.
As some of you might have already noticed, my “Wall of Carpenter” includes one soundtrack that isn’t by the master himself. That’s because I only had 14 Carpenter soundtracks and the wallhanger is for 15 vinyls. The placeholder vinyl until I find the fifteenth Carpenter, is the soundtrack for the cult movie Liquid Sky by russian director Slava Tsukerman and it has it’s place on this wall, because like Carpenter, Tsukerman too made the music for his movie himself. The film’s storyline of aliens running out of gas for their flying saucer and landing in New York to collect the chemical that human brain excretes in the moment of orgasm to fill their gas tanks is wonderful enough, but the soundtrack is something utterly mindblowing.
Excluding the “hit song” Me and My Rhythmbox the album was completely recorded with a Fairlight CMI “Computer Musical Instrument” an early digital sampler that only a handful of people could afford on it’s release in 1979. The sound of the Fairlight is instantly recognizable and unimitable. But for this album they went completely over the board with it.
The melodies heard on Liquid Sky’s soundtrack are at the same time very childish and unmusical, even dischordant, like a child getting their hands on an expensive synth for the first time and at the same time quite complex and somehow remniscent of classical music and the minuets of 17th century France. Somehow this music manages to alienate the listener completely from the western tradition of hearing music and fits the overtly psychedelic imagery of the movie perfectly. It’s like the sountrack to a feverish nightmare. It’s been sampled among others by Trevor Jackson for his Playgroup project.
So if you ever come across a vinyl that looks like this, be sure to pick it up, I ordered mine from Australia and paid well over 40 euros for it.
Tomi / Turku Synth Club
The beautiful vinyl cover.
Way back in 2005 I had a Polymoog Keyboard for a few months. It is a relatively simple synth, essentially an analogue “paraphonic” preset synthesizer with very little tweakability, but I thought it sounded amazing. Eventually I sold it to finance something else because I was constantly afraid that it would break, Polymoogs being notoriously unreliable. Because I only had it for a short while, it never ended up in any proper tracks, but I did record some demos with it during that time. As always, these are just to demonstrate how the synth sounds, not to be mistaken for proper music 😉
This one has some Moog MF-105 MuRF step filter action:
Hot pitch ribbon actiooon, chorus from Boss DC-2:
This is just a collection of sounds, chorus from Boss DC-2:
Matti / Turku Synth Club
and the beast.
This is the bomb.
As many of my friends know, I’m a collector. Not the kind you fight in Mass Effect 2, but the kind that takes every chance he gets to find curious things from flea markets and yard sales. Besides the obvious synthesizers, drum machines and synth memorabilia, I collect among other things old videogames and records. The best thing happens when two worlds and collections collide as is the case now.
I have a small but well formed collection of videogame-themed records and this 7″ is perhaps the crowning jewel of that collection. Tuijamaria, who had previously scored a goal with her single Ai-ai-ai-ai-Jussi, teams up with the songwriting skills of American duo Buckner and Garcia and does a cover version of their great early eighties novelty hit Pac Man Fever. Of course Finland’s own Giorgio Sivonen is at the controls and the outcome is psychedelic to say the least.
The track starts with sound effects from the original arcade machine and they repeat many times later in the track, but the pulsing synth bass is what really gets the wheels turning. If you’re not fluent in finnish you’re really missing a big part of the weirdness in this song. The lyrics happily confuse VCR:s with game consoles and also mention Dallas and Pamela. Starting from the first pair of sentences “Kun ihan mamot tykkää Tarzanista sekä apinoista, niin on koko meidän jengi saanut kuumeen videoista!” Hahahahaha! Firstly “mamo” is a word I haven’t heard in a long long time.
Basically what it says is that Tarzan & his monkeys are for pussies and that their gang is now addicted to their VCR. And it just gets better from there. A lot better. Who ever did the translation should’ve been given a Finlandia-prize, it’s priceless. Oh, and did I mention the cover? For a videogame freak like me the frontside is really classy stuff, beautiful hand drawn rendition of Pac-Man complete with the Atari-logo and no mention of Tuijamaria at all. The backside again is a whole different story.
Sit back, kick off the shoes, turn up the volume, press play and get ready to start the weekend. You really can’t go wrong with this.
Oh, was that the sound of the mailman bringing me my new sampler? Have to go.
Tomi / Turku Synth Club
Eduard Parma Jr. (probably not his real name) - King Kong In Hong Kong
Besides Finland they apparently did decent synth stuff in Czechoslovakia too.
In 1982 Eduard Parma Jr. recorded this semi-futuristic novelty-disco track in Prague and with it won a talent search contest held by a London radio station. It doesn’t take much more than two brain cells to come up with a title like King Kong in Hong Kong and the cover for this single is beyond awful, but there’s something oddly likable in this track. Much of this song’s charm for me lies in the fact that when it came out in 1982 the Iron Curtain was pretty much still intact and I’m quite sure, that Mr. Parma Jr had never been to Hong Kong much less seen the movie King Kong. In my mind this single represents hope and optimism in a similar way as people’s utopistic visions of the future from the same period. For Eduard it was his ticket out of the socialist regime. (Or so I like to imagine.)
Obviously this track also goes well together with the raging Far-East-Romanticism of the early 80’s (Aneka‘s Japanese Boy, Japan‘s Visions Of China, Alphaville‘s Big In Japan, Murray Head’s One Night In Bangkok to mention but a few.)
This being a synth blog and all, King Kong In Hong Kong also makes me think about the equipment Eduard had at his disposal in the early eighties Czechoslovakia. As I have understood, western products were generally considered evil & bad in the eastern bloc and it could well be that this track was done completely with army grade communist synths from the well known Ukrainian factories. That would make this song even more of an achievement. Trying to get his russian Polivoks and Elsita synths to stay in tune for the whole duration of this track must be what made Eduard look so tired on the rear of the single cover.
Tomi / Turku Synth Club
And the rear with a pic of a dead-tired Eduard
I recently acquired a Roland Juno-60, One of the most legendary budget analogue polyphonic synthesizers. In the 1980’s those who wanted that sweet and liquid Roland sound, but couldn’t afford a Jupiter-8, often opted for the Juno-60. It has the same filter and envelope circuitry as it’s “bigger brother”, and it compensates the lack of a second oscillator with a super sweet chorus effect. When you switch the chorus on, you’re instantly back in the 1980’s.
One of the most fun features on the Juno-60 (and Juno-6, which is exactly the same as 60, except it has no patch memory) is the arpeggiator. Press down a bunch of keys, and the arpeggiator plays through them automatically at a set speed. But the real fun starts when you synchronize the arpeggiator to your sequencer or drum machine with the help of a click / trigger track. I put together a couple of demos where I did just that, just because it was so damn fun.
In these demos I used a TR-909 rimshot sample sequenced in Cubase to drive the Juno’s arpeggiator. Besides for the drum tracks, these are all Juno-60. Musically these are just pure sillyness, but hey, I was in a silly mood 😉
Matti / Turku Synth Club
A rare 7" on top of it's inspiration.
As a synth collecting record collector I’m always happy to find 7″ singles with synths on the cover or similar stuff but this is even better. Years ago I found this mysterious single from a second hand record shop for a couple of euros. With no mention of the performer the single only has the track’s title “The Roland Rap” with writer credits on it’s label and the texts “All instruments by Roland & Musiikki Fazer 1984”. Instantly when I saw the title I wondered if it could be a Finnish advertisement jingle for Roland synths. And that’s exactly what it was.
A cheesy soft electro track goes on for well over a minute but then the long wait is rewarded. As the lyrics go on about the benefits of midi and the amazing sounds of Juno- 106, you can’t help but wonder, who was this track made for and why? Soft spoken vocalist rambles on and on about Roland’s 1984 synth and music gear line-up but the real treat comes at 1:53 when he tell’s about Roland’s new guitar synth. “Try the guitar synth, play a note and see, it will blow you off, just wait and see.” Hahahah! Personally, I’ve never owned a guitar synth and am not aware of their sexual abilities, but that claim seems just a little bit exaggerated. None of my synths have unfortunately ever blown me off.
The chorus is just pure amazingness. A high pitched voice singing “Roland! We design the future!” All in all, surely the best synth advertisement I’ve ever heard. Made in Finland.
Tomi / Turku Synth Club
P.S. Don’t forget today’s Synth meeting at 17 in Bar Kuka.