Posts filed under 'Electronic Music'

Crazy Cheap Digital Effects


I love analog effects yo, but that stuff is crazy expensive. Lately, to satisfy my craving for audio mangling, I’ve been picking up unloved digital effects from the early ‘90s (and some of a more recent vintage). One of the best finds was from a couple of months ago: the Alesis Wedge, made for a short period of time circa 1997. The one I found on eBay was covered in grim, but it was also dirt cheap – I think around $35.00. This is a great little reverb box that lets you actually edit the effects parameters via four sliders, which is insanely cool. I’ve been using it to create these huge ambient washes. If you want an idea of what this sounds like in a mix, checkout this six minute jam with Mike Spicer from a while back. It’s mostly my Kurzweil K2000VX played through the Wedge. That other synth noodling is Mike playing his Casio keyboard through a tremolo pedal. Everything was tracked to an Alesis ADAT.


The Wedge and a MIDIVerb III chained-up via a ProCo patchbay. The beginnings of my modular effects rack.


Another, and newer, digital effect boxes I’ve picked-up recently is the DigiTech RP50. I got this one off of CraigsList for $25.00. It’s the crappiest constructed effects boxes I’ve ever come across, but it sounds great. It was designed for guitarists, so it’s really easy to use. I bought it because I love the older DigiTech whammy and pitch shifter pedals – but both of those are super expense on the used market these days. The RP50 has both of these effects, along with a ton of other ones like reverb and delay. And I think you can chain up to five effects at once. To make the whammy or wah effect work, I just hook-up my controller pedal. Apparently there is even a built in drum machine, but I haven’t tried that yet. And it has stereo inputs and outputs. And it works fine with a line level signal. The list of cheap awesomeness goes on and on. Here is an example of my K2000VX played through the Wedge with the RP50 in whammy mode at the end of the effects chain.


I did make one extravagant analog purchase recently though. With some of my tax return money I bought a used Frostwave Resonator effects pedal. I wanted to by an Analogue Solutions Filtered Coffee from the UK, which features the filter, LFOs, and envelope follower of the Korg MS-20, but it runs about $500.00 new (maybe more because of the dollar’s continuing weakness against the Pound). For around $200.00, I bought an Australian built Resonator off of eBay, which just features the filter section from the MS-20. That means no crazy Goldfrapp style vocal effects, but still lots of fun. I’ve found this pedal is most useful when the knobs are not turned to “11” since the Resonator tends to get a bit wild and unpredictable when pushed to the edge. Rather, I’ve used the filter to give character to otherwise boring sounded synths. Here is my junky Yamaha TG-33 played through the Resonator. Here is an ARP Quadra sample on my K2000VX played through the Resonator (with apologies to Boards of Canada).


Cholula loves the warmth of my Lexicon LXP-15. Unfortunately this one has blown capacitors, so I’m looking to replace it with the smaller LXP-1. Oh, one other thing I wanted to mention, Cholula is on Matrixsynth this week. My cat blogging continues unabated.

Add comment May 15th, 2008

Cat Synth

I’ve been good at refraining from posting photos of my cats on this blog, but not so much on other people’s blogs.

Clementine on Cat Synth

Add comment April 30th, 2008

The Legacy of Daft Punk


Daft Punk has already had already made a lasting impact on American popular culture. OK, maybe not like Elvis or even that “Don’t Tase Me, Bro!” guy, but pretty impressive for a couple of shy French kids. There was the disjointed TV commercial they did for the Gap with Juliette Lewis. And then there was the tribute song by LCD Soundsystem awhile back. More recently, Kanye West sampled the hell out of a Daft Punk track for his song “Stronger“. Just head over to YouTube to see all the random reinterpretation of Daft Punk songs. I’ll leave you with a DJ set the boys did for Louis Vuitton.

Louis Vuitton Mix

Add comment April 4th, 2008

Behind the Curtain: Daft Punk Production


Sounding like a robot can be a tricky proposition. Daft Punk uses two musical devices to achieve the effect: the vocoder and the talk box. The vocoder was originally developed for telecommunications in the 1930s by Bell Labs, the idea being to code speech for secure transmission over phone lines. But it became a popular musical device in the ‘70s gaining notoriety with bands like ELO and Pink Floyd. Most readers who are my age will remember the Cylon’s voice from the original Battlestar Galactica, which were created using vocoders.

The talk box is an entirely different beast. A talk box allows someone to modify the sound of a musical instrument, usually a guitar (think Frampton Comes Alive!). The musician controls the modification of the sound by opening and closing their mouth. Really, it’s hard to describe how this works, so you should just watch this YouTube video of some college kid showing how Daft Punk uses one for songs like “Digital Love”.

There is also a darker side to Daft Punk production. It wasn’t until a few years after the release of Discovery that word started to spread around the internet that Daft Punk didn’t really create as much of the original music on the album as they had claimed in earlier interviews. This YouTube video details the alleged theft quite well.

Add comment April 3rd, 2008

Inside Daft Punk’s Pyramid


One of the reasons Daft Punk has had maintained a level longevity not seen among their peers is the popularity of their live shows, which offer insanely cool visuals and a striking pyramid in the middle of the stage. Live performances of electronic music can be quite boring to be brutally honest — you never know if the performer is actually composing/remixing music on the fly or just checking email when they’re up on stage with a PowerBook. But Daft Punk does perform live for the most part with two Ethernet connected touch screens, four analog Moog synths, and cheapo dual MIDI controllers. I think people who don’t really know anything about how electronic music is made don’t care what those guys are doing up there in the pyramid since they’re just at the show for a fun experience. But what kills me is these guys do an entire set in leather jumpsuits and heavy robot helmets. I’m always looking for some kind of cooling tubing snaking up the side of their outfits, but I think the just power through a set and suffer the prolonged discomfort. If I could ask those Daft Punk just one question, it would be about what it’s like wearing those outfits all the time. To see the pryamid in action, go here or here.



Add comment April 3rd, 2008

Electroma: The Daft Punk Movie


For whatever reason, in 2005 Daft Punk decided to make a feature length film. Thomas Bangalter read over 200 back-issues of American Cinematographer and set off to America’s Southwest with a 1987 Ferrari 412. To try and describe the film’s plot would be pointless, since it’s pretty nonexistent. If you’re interested in the film, it can be viewed on Google video in its entirety, but with an annoying time code stamp on the top. Honestly, unless you’re a fan of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry or Vincent Gallo’s Brown Bunny, this movie probably won’t be of interest. Of note is the film’s soundtrack, which actually does not feature music by Daft Punk.

I should also mention that Electroma is not Daft Punk’s only foray into feature length films. After the release of Discovery, the duo made Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, an animated film.
Again, I won’t try and regurgitate the plot (especially since I haven’t seen it), but this instance it apparently involves aliens instead of robots.

Electroma Website

Daft Punk’s Electroma on Google Video

Add comment April 1st, 2008

Daft Punk Week


For no good reason other than I’ve been listening to Daft Punk’s Alive a lot recently, I’ve decided to dedicate an entire week to the French duo. Daft Punk hit their peak in the late ‘90s around the same time other Parisian electronic musicians and DJs were popularizing Frenchified house music. But Daft Punk has been able to maintain a modicum of staying power where most of the big beat artists of the era (Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, et al) have faded from memory.

Daft Punk rose to international prominence in 1997 with their album Homework, which featured the hit tracks “Da Funk” and “Around the World”. The 2001 release of Discovery was a departure from Homework’s more gritty sound. This new album was far more textured and dense, with nods to ‘70s American FM radio. More recent albums have been somewhat of a let down though, since Daft Punk hasn’t shown much interest in evolving their sound. Still, the duo has influenced the work of many current artists like Justice and Ratatat.

It would be a huge oversight on my part if I didn’t mention Daft Punk’s visual side. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo always appear in costume, whether it’s a show, music video, or public appearance. Daft Punk has taken the shtick one step past KISS of yesteryear and forged an identity that shares a closer affinity to Mexican wrestling than electronic music. During the Homework era, the duo chose to blur their press photos, but by the time Discovery came out, the two had adopted a robot look consisting of dark leather jumpsuits and futuristic helmets as seen in the photo above.

Add comment March 31st, 2008

Winter NAMM 2008


I was kind of into Summer NAMM ‘06 as you can see from a previous post, but Winter NAMM ‘08 is a bit of a snoozer. Not much in the way of new electronic gadgets, but there were some interesting tweaks to existing products like a new (Mini) Moog Voyager sans all the fancy bidness like patch storage and MIDI. Still insanely expensive though…like $2,400. Don’t they know there is a recession going on? Moog did update the Little Phatty (I just tasted vomit in my mouth as I was typing “Little Phatty”) by adding USB and an arpeggiator, so those changes are welcome.


Access released a new version of the Virus which I think is kind of retarded. Don’t get me wrong, the Virus is a nice enough sounding synth, but I just imagine their target market being rich Eurotrash bedroom ‘musicians’ making really horrible trance music. Really, I’d prefer to have the Waldorf Blofeld, which is finally hitting the streets. It will be selling for around $699.00 — just about the same amount George Bush will be giving us to spend our way out of a recession. Coincidence? I think not.


And then there is the Prophet ‘08 rack from Dave Smith Instruments, which is basically the Prophet keyboard chopped down and stuffed into a 19 inch case. Yawn. Oh, and for some unkown reason, there were a ton of drum machines at NAMM this winter. I just figured everyone was making their beats and loops on laptops these days, but what do I know.


In a total WTF? moment, someone seemed to have randomely displayed a new Vox Continental organ in a corner of a display booth. I don’t know if this is a joke or not, but it looks totally cool in a ‘nobody asked for it but were gonna build it anyway’ kind of way.

Again, thanks to Brandon at fdisc for the photos I swiped.

UPDATE: Tara Busch has the skinny on that new Vox Continental organ — it’s a one off for NAMM. The internals are provided courtesy of a Korg CX-3. For a video report on Tara’s encounter with the Vox, go here.

1 comment January 19th, 2008

Optigan Update

I’ve created another blog to chronicle my quest to create new discs for the Optigan organs. It’s called The Optigan Project.

Add comment June 21st, 2007

Cool Soundtrack Music

Megan and I watched that documentary Jesus Camp this last weekend and I was really impressed with the ambient soundtrack by Force Theory. They have a bunch of soundtrack snippets on their website worth checking out.

Bright Lights

Cups Final

Abort 1

Bless the Equipment

Missouri Drive Theme


1 comment June 19th, 2007

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