The Soundtracks Of My Life

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Audio, Fairlight CMI, Rare synth track, Synthesizer

Some old Polymoog sound demos

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 ūüėČ

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Audio, Moog, Synthesizer

Tuijamaria – Pac-Man-Kuume (1983)

The beauty...

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 tykk√§√§ Tarzanista sek√§ apinoista, niin on koko meid√§n 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.

Ta ta!

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

3 Comments

Filed under Audio, Rare synth track, Synthesizer

Satu – Matka Tuntemattomaan

Satu is a sexy synth hottie.

It starts with a laser, like every good song ever…

Then comes the insisting, driving octave-bassline, which forms the backbone of this 1982 finnish synth-orgy. The rest is history.

Satu Pentik√§inen, who at the time of this single’s release was barely 20, had four years earlier had her first big hit with “Menolippu“, but this cover of Kim Wilde‘s beautiful Cambodia with a finnish title Matka Tuntemattomaan (A Journey into the Unknown) was distinctly more synthetic and therefore more interesting for me, myself & I. The song slowly grows with additional synth elements coming into play in every verse. I really really like Ricky Wilde‘s (Kim’s brother, who wrote and produced most of her hits.) songwriting and sense of melody on this and somehow the finnish lyrics for this ain’t half bad either.

From the cover it’s hard to imagine Satu to be in her late teens/early twenties. She looks more like 38, but I guess that was the style back then. Matka Tuntemattomaan is actually the B-side to this 7″. On the A-side there’s an unbearable version of a really awful Buck’s Fizz hit – The Land Of Make Believe – from 1981. Sometimes record companies just don’t get it.

Anyways, have a break from work and take a trip to the unknown, sponsored by the good people in Turku Synth Club.

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

The missing key, a 4 euro fix.

Not a month goes by without at least a minor change in my synth setup.

Yesterday I sold my beloved Korg Dw-8000 to a new enthusiastic owner and it’s place was instantly filled with a beautiful Roland JX3P. I even managed to make small profit in the process. I originally found the DW-8000 in a recycling center¬†for a hundred euros (actually it cost only 80 euros, because I cunningly used my girlfriend’s student discount card). It was in quite a bad shape at the time, with missing screws, a fucked-up power connector and most importantly the memory battery needed changing. I gave the synth my usual TLC+CRC -treatment, replaced a couple of parts with new ones and gave it a new lease of life. Yesterday I sold it for 260 euros and bought the JX3P for 300.

It’s a peculiar feeling when there’s a new synth in the house. You try to do your work, read the paper, watch tv or wash the dishes, but every once in a while you have to turn the new synth on, fiddle with the knobs, program a new sound or just play a couple of licks. Then turn it off again and return to whatever you were doing before. You can’t really keep your hands away from the keys and the same tingling feeling kept me awake this morning when I tried to sleep a little longer.

The beauty of JX3p, besides it’s sporty good looks, compared to other Roland/Korg synths from the same period is that it has a 16step step sequencer built in. I love the arpeggiator in all it’s different disguises as much as the next nerd, but you can’t really write songs with an arpeggiator. It’s a little too arbitrary. With a sequencer you can program exactly the notes you want in exactly the order you wish and even have notes with different lengths. I instantly programmed some italo-style basslines and then played a melody on top in the upper register. Just lovely. On top of that, the sequencer can be synced to an external trigger-signal so I can get my basslines in sync with the aforementioned arpeggios. Beautiful!

After a few minutes of furious fiddling, the sound programming also started to make sense. There’s no display in JX3P and I had doubts on the functionality of sound programming without any visual feedback, but the ingenious Roland engineers from 1983 have decided to use all the leds on the unit to display edit-data. Surprisingly it works and looks cool too.

As the DW-8000 was in a little rough shape when I got it, so is the JX3P too. The highest C is not playable as it scratches against the metal case and gets stuck. The synth is missing one of the sequencer buttons too. I already checked, and you can order those silvery buttons for the price of $3,95 each. I’ll order two or three just to be on the sure side. And some of my other synths could use a few spare parts too, I’ll order those too. The stuck c-key seems also to be a quite easy fix. I wish I only had the time to open the synth and do my magic. Maybe I’ll wait for the spare parts to arrive first.

One of the many sympathetic things about this synth is the way it says “Enverope” on top of the ADSR-charts painted on the synth’s metallic top surface. Supplies, supplies!!!

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

3 Comments

Filed under Roland, Synthesizer

A couple of vintage synths for sale

Sometimes I wish I had continued my childhood hobby of collecting stamps instead of synths.

Stamps take so little space and you can get shitloads of them from fleamarkets for basically no money at all. Then again there’s no real use for old stamps. My synths I use every day. Well it’s once again time to sell a couple of synths to make room (and money) for new ones. Just 10 minutes ago I put up a classified ad in muusikoiden.net, which is the best website in Finland if you want to buy or sell second hand music gear. It’s not an auction, the prices are fixed and I like it that way.

This time I’m trying to get rid of my erratically working¬†Juno 6 synth which I just can’t seem to have the time or energy to get fixed and then there’s the Korg DW-8000 analog/digital hybrid synth which I just don’t use anymore. It’s just sitting there gathering dust, and it would be better off in a new home with a new excited owner. On top of those two beauties there’s a really rare and beautiful Yamaha TA-60 solid state amplifier from early 1970’s for sale. I just don’t seem to have any use for it although it’s easily the most beautiful guitar-amp I’ve ever seen.

Here are links to the ads I just put up. If you’re interested in any of them, just e-mail me.

http://muusikoiden.net/tori/nayta.php?id=506563

http://muusikoiden.net/tori/nayta.php?id=506573

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

Leave a comment

Filed under For Sale, Korg, Roland, Yamaha

Something for the weekend

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

3 Comments

Filed under Audio, Rare synth track

Roland Juno-60 sounds

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 ūüėČ

Matti / Turku Synth Club

4 Comments

Filed under Audio, Roland, Synthesizer

Stiina – Automaattirakas

I didn't even know they had coloured vinyl in the 70's?!

It seems that there’s never been as much traffic in our synth blog as in the last few days. The Roland Rap proved to be a very succesful track among people from all walks of life.

Well, I kind of like it when our blog has a lot of traffic. That’s why I wrote this post.

Last night I was arranging my 7″ singles which had been lying on the floor since my last dj gig. I did some maths and came up with figures around 1600-1800. That’s the amount of 7″ singles that I have in my collection. Quite a lot, I’d say. There are a lot of obscure 70’s and 80’s disco and synth tracks from all around the world, but to my tastes the finns did by far the best disco. This particular track is a “home made” cover of Dee D. Jackson‘s great Automatic Lover hit. It features a throbbing Moroder -style sequenced bass and because in Finland there apparently were no vocoders in 1979, the parts that originally were vocoded to sound like a robot speaking, are just some guy talking in a monotonous tone. That’s finnish hi tech disco for you. A stand out synth track from finnish musical history that’s been hidden for way too long. (If I remember correctly, I bought this one from a yard sale for 0,5 euros.) ¬†The cover is amazing too with the name of the artist written in “gothic” black letter font and the vinyl really is transparent blue.

Enjoy responsibly.

Tomi / Turku Synth Club

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Roland Rap

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.

8 Comments

Filed under Advertisement, Audio, Roland, Synthesizer