August 28, 2012

# 3 Virginia Astley - Hope In A Darkened Heart

It's so strange to be a new fan of something. Most of the music I enjoy I've been listening to for years (or even decades!). Virginia came out of nowhere and I was shocked to find that there were still things in the world to be discovered in my old age. There is still a shadowy mystery around her for me, but it's slowly starting to come unraveled. This album, Hope In A Darkened Heart, is her greatest effort in my opinion. It was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto of the Japanese, synthesizer pioneering band Yellow Magic Orchestra at the now closed Wool Hall Studios in the countryside ten miles south of Bath, England. Here are a couple photos from the recording session:

It is such an amazing album. She really had such a concrete idea of what she wanted to do musically, despite all the post punk / new wave going on around her... she had no problem writing sweet songs and singing like a little girl or a gramma.

I've often wondered what Synthesizers or other electronic instruments where used on this record. Since it was made in 1986, it would have been more digital and thus outside my area of expertise (ie: nothing I could pick out by listening). I also wonder how involved Virginia was with the synthesizer side of things. Orchestral instruments were her forte but she did play synthesizer for Victims of Pleasure from 80-81. And she played some sort of Sequential Circuits Prophet synthesizer on her first release (A Bao A Qu).

Bellow is a picture of Ryuichi Sakamoto working on the record, it looks like he's using an E-mu Emulator II. There's also a Fairlight in the picture that seems to be up and running. There's Roland SBX-80 sync box bellow and I have seen a picture from these sessions that I believe showed a Roland MC-4 (which Sakamoto would have been very familiar with from YMO).

Virginia was quite successful in Japan (may or may not have had anything to do with her choice of producer). Here's an ad for Ana (a Japanese airline I believe) in 1987 featuring A Father from Hope In A Darkened Heart

Could You Imagine?

August 26, 2012

More Animated Narnia, 1979

These amazing storyboards from the animated version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe along with some other great conceptual art and animation cells from the film can be found at the Bill Melendez Productions website:

Also, the soundtrack from this film is one of my favorites! Here's a song from it (it really takes off at about 1:10):

Roger Lancelyn Green

I'm on the hunt for a story called The Wood That Time Forgot By Roger Lancelyn Green who was an Inkling and good friend of C.S. Lewis. I just read a letter Lewis wrote to Green while he was writing the story and it seems very interesting --something about elves trying to live as ordinary people or something.

August 24, 2012

A Sneak Peek

I think the loyal readers of this blog should be let in on the secret first:

August 21, 2012

Clash of the Titans: Korg vs. Roland

A good friend of mine and I have oft gone back and forth about which is the world's best string machine. I've, of course, always been a huge advocate of the Roland RS-09. He has been telling me for some time now that it is the Korg Lambda. And for all it's charms the RS-09 will always be my favorite instrument, but I do realize it's limitations. As you will see in this video (made completely with a Korg Lambda ES-50), the Lambda simply is the best --in terms of versatility. This is also demonstrated on said friend's latest album (Travelogue - Fireworks: Holiday Friends Recordings Co. 2012)

Founded just two years after the Roland Corporation (1960 and 1962), both companies are from Japan and both started out making rhythm machines. I would imagine there was at least a little rivalry there which could have only made their products better. Indeed --the MiniKorg 700 (1974) and Roland SH-1000/2000 (1973) were clearly competitors.

Truth be told: I've always had a soft spot for Korg. I had an EX-800 growing up that I really loved. Also a DW-8000 which could produce really interesting sounds due to it's 16 waveforms and ADBSSR envelope generators. I'm not at all interested in the gratuitous MS series. I think the layouts of those machines are needlessly complex and downright confusing. What does interest me is the Korg Trident. It actually has a Roland vibe about it don't you think? With those buttons and all? I would say this was Korg's answer to the Jupiter 8 except that it was released a year before! I'm interested in a few things Korg released in this era of the Trident and Lambda, such as the Polysix, the Delta and even the EX-8000.

In the end (in my heart) Korg's downfall is that they didn't understand the importance of including CV and GATE on their instruments. They unknowingly cut themselves off from the rest of the world...

...I guess someone has to be second best.

August 20, 2012

The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe 1979

When I was a kid I was completely obsessed with Narnia. My parents and grandparents read me the books early on and one year for Christmas my gramma gave me a bunch of animal puppets, including a lion, in order to 'make my own Narnia plays'. I did make my own Narnia plays with those puppets. Making Narnia plays and drawing pictures of Narnia occupied a lot of my time as a child as I remember it. My childhood was a good time to be a Narnia fan; from the ages of 4 to 6 were the years when the BBC (via PBS in America) ran the live action Narnia series. But my first encounter with a Narnia film was this animated version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe from 1979. I don't remember how old I was, but it was during a family summer vacation (to Alabama I think). It was on tv and I just couldn't believe it. This animated version seemed like such a rare jewel when I was a kid. My gramma had taped the BBC series for me when they'd aired (as much as she was able to anyway... there where a few bits missing here and there but I was eternally grateful for the parts she did manage to get). But the animated version was no where to be found. I don't think it was mass produced and distributed back then. Then one day I found it! It was at a Christian book store a few towns away, but only to rent. I rented it every chance I got. And the hunt for this white stag has gone on for most of my life. It officially ended in 2005 when it was made into a DVD to promote (or more likely to cash in on) the release of Disney's Narnia franchise. Since then I've never been without it.

In 2006 a special edition DVD was released that included this deleted scene as bonus material:

There is a great account of when it originally aired on CBS in two parts, spread across two nights, in April 1979 on The Haunted Closet Blog:

August 19, 2012

CR-68 & TR-66

I found a CR-68 at a shop a couple days ago for a decent price. I went back and for on what to do about it, watched a bunch of demo videos. In the end I decided against it --since I'd acquired a TR-77 a couple months ago I didn't think it would be prudent to start accumulating a bunch of un-syncable drum machines. I love the sounds but I'm going to hold out for the much more functional CR-78 (in the distant future).

August 16, 2012

Jupiter 4 Prototype

This is the same Jupiter 4 prototype I posted about back in June. Here's a pic of it from the Brodr Jorgensen (UK) Newsletter from 1978. I wonder if it might have almost gone into production with this design since they'd already started advertising it?

August 10, 2012


by John Greenleaf Whittier 1881

We live by Faith; but Faith is not the slave
Of text and legend. Reason's voice and God's,
Nature's and Duty's, never are at odds.
What asks our Father of his children, save

Justice and mercy and humility,
A reasonable service of good deeds,
Pure living, tenderness to human needs,
Reverence and trust, and prayer for light to see

The Master's footprints in our daily ways?
No knotted scourge nor sacrificial knife,
But the calm beauty of an ordered life
Whose very breathing is unworded praise!--

A life that stands as all true lives have stood,
Firm-rooted in the faith that God is Good.

Cecil Leuter - Tender Notions


Heresy In Narnia?

I just finished reading a book called Heresy In Narnia? Departures From Evangelical Orthodoxy in the Writings of C.S. Lewis, and well, the title sort of says it all. It was an interesting read. It's about Lewis' ideas that certain stories in the Bible were myths, his belief in evolution, etc -- it's just a really thorough investigation of all his deviations from Evangelical Orthodoxy. The whole thing was quite thought provoking. It was an E-book, I don't know if that somehow devalues the work... I don't think so.

This book, The C.S. Lewis Hoax, just turned up in the mail today! I'm excited to read it. I've just gone through a lot of the stuff Walter Hooper put out (the Through Joy and Beyond documentary, Past Watchful Dragons, The Dark Tower) -- all things published after Lewis' death and all things that Kathryn Lindskoog argues the validity off. I love a good intrigue!

August 9, 2012

#4 Kate Bush The Hounds of Love

I know everyone has this album in their little lists, but I suppose there is a good reason for it! For the longest time I thought that Kate Bush had only two good songs: The Hounds of Love and This Woman's Work. This album convinced me otherwise. Of course she has quite a few amazing songs outside of this album (The aforementioned Woman's Work -- probably my favorite song of all time, but also: Army Dreamers, Wuthering Heights, Deeper Understanding, The Man With The Child In His Eyes, etc.), so this album was no fluke, she knew what she was doing. But the difference is that she made the decision to do it! -- to take things to the next level, to take matter's into her own hands (programming beats on a Linn drum machine on her own), to strive to find her own sound (thanks in part to the Fairlight CMI). Of all her work this album specifically stands out as a truly cohesive, completed work -- conceptual even.

There's not really any special insight that I can give about this album. Everything that could ever be said about it has already been said so I'll just give it my stamp of approval (for whatever that's worth!) and move on. Please enjoy the wonderful video for The Hounds of Love:

August 8, 2012

Vesta Kozo DIG-420

I just acquired one of these a few days ago. I'm pretty excited about it. I could care less about the delay section, but I think the sampler is pretty wonderful. You can only sample about one second of sound, but of course in the context of music one second could be quite a lot of time, especially for percussive sounds, and then you can always ad a bit of reverb afterwards to stretch it out. Anyway, the thing that really interests me about this is that it has CV and Gate inputs and that is the way the sample is controlled. It's the only sampler I know of that takes a digital sample and then allows you to control it with a voltage signal. This means that you can control it with your analog synthesizer or sequencer. It really opens up a whole world of possibilities if you have an analog synthesizer with an audio input; suddenly you're able to mix whatever (organic or otherwise) sampled sound you like with your voltage controlled oscillators before it hits the filter, envelope, etc. If you just wanted more oscillators you could sample your oscillator and feed it right back into your synthesizer, though with all the other interesting possibilities this seems pretty dull.

Update 8/10/12: Portamento from an analog synthesizer also effects the sample. I guess I should have expected that, but it was a nice little surprise.

SH-1000 Synthesizer

I wonder how many times this has been photocopied.

August 5, 2012

Tomita - When You Wish Upon A Star

Tomita was always my favorite of the great synthesizer pioneers. Ever since I found his Snowflakes Are Dancing record in a thrift store as a teenager. His compositions just seemed to have a little more character and a little more texture than Jarre or Carlos or the rest of them. Anyway, here he is doing a little mini cover of the Disney classic, with his signature whistley-lead sound.

And here's a great interview of Tomita From Keyboard Magazine in 1977:

August 4, 2012


Here's an old photo of ELMULAB, Electronic Music Laboratory in Munich.

Looks like they've got a Roland System 700, MC-8 (with accompanying
interface), RE-301 Space Echo and Boss KM-6 mixer.

August 3, 2012

RYK Sequencer 185

It seems RYK made a new sequencer module for the Roland System 100m a few years back. Each stage has gate mode and count switches to set the type of note [mute, single, repeat, long], and the length or repeat of the note [1-8].

The MKII version also features programmable portamento, step subdivision, and a "fixed-length" sequence mode.

I wonder if anyone else has made any new modules for the System 100m? And if so, did they pay such close attention to replicating the original design as the RYK sequencer did?

August 2, 2012

China Crisis - Seven Sports For All (Peel Session)

I'm on a little China Crisis kick right now. Sadly, the Peel sessions are infinitely better than most of their overly produced, overly confident output. The instrumentation is just so much more fun in the Peel sessions. Perhaps they were having fun?

August 1, 2012

Roland MC-202 MicroComposer

Unfortunately this was released in 1983, the same year as MIDI.... and it didn't have MIDI. Sales were poor (rumored to be the worst of any Roland product) and that probably accounts for their scarcity even today. I have a vague interest in these... but it keeps fluctuating. As this is basically a keyboard-less SH-101 (with a bunch of added quirks), and I've always preferred the SH-09 to the 101. I suppose I love the idea of this machine but wish Roland had made such a thing a few years earlier. A synthesizer version of the TR-808 if you will.

If you have one and would like the original data from the cassette tape that came with it, there is a blog called Binary Heap that was a WAV file download of it available:

Here is a very basic demonstration of what the MC-202 can
sound like (paired with a TR-606):