Since starting with hardware electronic music in April 2016, I always had that problem that whenever I played, sooner or later I'd drift towards the melody, which moved the groove into a deep, funky, tech-housee style. I am a pianist, so playing on a piano keyboard never meant using keys as switches. It is a piano key, a hidden hammer system which sounds in so many different ways, depending on how you finger it. Most of all - it creates a well-known sound, with hundreds of references, which lead to ...melodies. Well, in my case, at least.
Finally, a week ago I started creating patches based on white noise, pink noise, square or saw-tooth waves bent and layered with different PCM sounds etc. Especially with the drum section on the JD-Xi - the keyboard is no longer a classic key-bed instrument, but a pad, full of black and white switches which trigger dark and crazy beep and blop sounds. Same with Minibrute - I changed it into an analog dark noise machine, with brute factor and resonance set high - squeeeeeeeeeeeekchrszzzzzshhhhhhh.... Finaly it worked. A D-minor piece started drifting into noisy and windy dark scenery.
Techno music has its traits - triolas, drum fills, noises, deep bass drive and multiple kick drums. Keeping the beats clear and simple is what matters. The more you focus on creating sophisticated rhythms, the more it drifts from techno to something else. Dark techno is, by it all means, a variation of ambient music - a repetitive, drone sound which changes, like in Steve Reich's Music for 18 musicians, ...every 300 tacts ;) The same beat goes on, but the accent, filter or timbre gradually changes. You shouldn't move around the knobs and keys too hastily. Give the instrument's sound its own life. Let it lead you to the trance..............
I got sick, I am legally staying at home for another week. Since my fever is low now, I returned to cooking hot patches and composing bits and pieces.
Knowing till when the sick-leave is, I made some arrangements. This is the best workflow - you count days till sick leave is over, then plan maximum a piece a day, per every 3-4 days, then a 1-2 day break to reset. After few days, you just wake up, peel a sound of a raw sawtooth wave, PCM and with fresh LFO & filter combination, with such a ready sound-palette - you just go for it. Nothing to add, nothing to take away. Without preparations, pure improvisation, to see, where the sounds you just created, will and are capable to take you.
Roland's Transistor Rhythm Synthesizer number 8, the TR-8. What a marvelous percussion beast it is.
All the sounds in this video come from it, including the reverb and delay effects (onboard). I also added a slight two step octave arpeggio on TB-3 sub bass sine wave. However, the punch of the 909 kick can still be heard very clearly, on top of TB-3. It is due to the fact, the bass drum is sent through a separate mono channel in the mixer. It has different equalizer settings from the rest of percussions. In the beginning of this improvisation, you can hear the first bass drum used, a 606 or 707 one (can't really remember, the first in the tom section). It has no separate rooting, nor compression and you can mostly hear the higher frequencies. The fact you can use 2 different drum basses makes the TR-8 a jack of all trades for me.
Apart from making techno music, I often play other genres like jazz, minimal classical piano compositions or just fool around with odd tempo signatures, which will never make it to the club.
I was visiting my Father's countryside workshop where I keep two 300W concert speakers. Because I knew he probably would not enjoy a 5hr techno practice and synthesized sound creation noises, I improvised some chilled, jazzy tunes. It was inspired by John Coltrane's Favourite things- a mellow loop on Rhodes, a warm base sequence on TB-3, the bass synthesizer and drum synthesizer, all in 4/4 tempo. It sounded pretty nice, not much like electronic music but rather like a classic jazz ensemble performance.
Anyway, I was playing solos with my right hand and kept changing the bass and drum sounds with the other one. The sequences were evolving, notes were added and removed - my favorite live act style. If you watched me turning all the knobs, playing the solos etc. you would see that I am actually playing it all. I was thinking that I must be looking pretty busy, but after few minutes my Father came to the studio. He stood in the doors, looked at all the lights on the synthesizers, looked at my movements which he did not really understand. I reset the whole song and showed him how quickly incredible sounds can be built and sequenced, how the overdubs are added and removed, notes modified etc. He just looked at me like I remember from the childhood (the image of showing him my new Lego creations or whatever) and said "Nice toys, son. It is all so automatic and computerized. You just press start button... what a pity these are not real instruments". And left.
I was so disappointed, but I quickly laughed to myself - My Ol'man was so sincere. The old generation did not have contact with this kind of instruments ever. They consider blinking lights and electronic circuits as toys, nothing related to real instruments. The sequencer which plays a number of sounds one after another is an artificial computer but a crankcase lira which does exactly the same - no, this is a real instrument. By real - he meant classic ones, those which were used and mastered for past few hundred years. Those instruments which finally made it to such a level that if you see a fool sitting with a viola, you consider him a musician, an artist, while if you see someone controlling with an incredible skill a plastic rhythm synthesizer, some people think - Meh, it is all automatic. it is a computer.
What those people do not understand (yet), is that these devices create sounds which have never been heard, which are associated or related to real instruments, but they take the sound to a much different, higher level which has never been possible to achieve. Electric current is a natural phenomenon, it is new element humanity learned to use as a tool. I wonder when electronic music will separate the so called bedroom studio producers and art, just like rock and roll once did. However, rock used instruments known for ages. Synthesizers are known for less than 50 years. Live electronic music needs virtuosos.
I had some trouble seeing well the sequencer in dark clubs or even at night at home with mild light. I am talking about the situation when you want to manually add high hats on the go etc. Here is an overlay for anyone who needs a more clear visual reference or just needs a nice touch for JD-Xi. Since the drum part is inspired with the TR-808 sequencer, the stripe is in the acid legacy colors:
INSTRUCTIONS: Download the file, print it 1:1 on A4 size, adhesive matt foil (any printing service in town should be able to do it) then cut it out. The dimensions are exactly matching the height and width of JD-Xi official overlay.