Sunday, December 29, 2013

Casiotone MT11 Review

A refresher course on the almighty Casiotone MT11.

The Casiotone MT-11 is a preset keyboard from you know who. It sports 32 totally non-sensitive mini-keys, something like 2 octaves and a half, starting on F because C would make far too much sense.

As you can see, the MT-11 features four sections.

The first is labelled “Power” and contains a single switch that must trigger something inside the keyboard because when you switch it on, a red diode lights up and strange eighties sounds begin to pour out the tiny speaker on the right.

The second section, “Tone”, allows you to access to no less than eight presets, which happen to be really good. Admittedly, the harp and pipe organ aren’t very realistic, the organ evokes a lilliputian version of a Moog lead, and there’s little chance the piano would fool anyone but a deaf squirrel with a bad drug habit. But given you pay attention to the third “Effect” section, and switch both vibrato and sustain on, the accordion, violin and clarinet will provide a nice, warm, analog-ish tone.

The last section is called “Volume”, and really speaks for itself.

The MT-11 works on a DC7,5V adaptor, or five 1,5V batteries. There’s some sort of line output in the back.

I bought it 1€ (or was it 2€, I can’t remember) at a garage sale.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Live in the Studio : "The Crack-Up"

Merry Xmas everyone.

Some friday afternoon fun.
Live in the studio with Miss Roxanne.
Song "The Crack-Up" from the upcoming 2014 album of the same name.
Casiotone MT11, ukulele and Volca Beats (passing through a little Bose amp).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Aperture Science Groove Generator II

Short improvisation on Korg Volcas, MS20 Mini and Casiotone.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Arturia MicroBrute : First Impressions

This is not a review, just my impressions after playing it for a while at the shop.
The MicroBrute shows Arturia putting to good use the R&D devoted to its big brother MiniBrute. It is basically a stripped down version of the Mini, with a few twists.

The build quality is good. The bottom is metallic while the top is hard plastic. A tad less sturdy than the Mini, but reassuringly heavy and light enough to travel around.

It is indeed micro. I mean, it's really tiny. It takes more space than an iPad, but not by very much, making it the perfect tool for travelling or bringing to a gig when you need an analogue touch without being cumbersome. 

Of course it's got small keys. As usual some people will have reservations about that, and granted, small keys are always a compromise. In this case, I don't think it's much of a problem. Given the size of the instrument, a two-octaves mini keyboard makes more sense than a one-octave regular one. Besides, small keys aren't that much of a issue on a monophonic instrument (it's a different affair on the Microkorg when you want to play something polyphonic and complex, and it's ridiculous on the MicroStation).

The MicroBrute features a very complex oscillator section. Actually the most complex I've seen on an analogue synth (save for its big brother of course). Like Marc Doty brilliantly showed in its demo, you can do crazy sounds just by tweaking the oscillators and not touching the filter and LFO sections. It's that good. 

The filter section. Some have questioned the choice of an obscure design, but I think it's a good thing. Not every filter needs to be a Moog ladder filter clone and this one sure has character. Maybe it's me, but I thought that it was a bit smoother than the MiniBrute's filter, and even than the MS20 Mini's filter (which can be smooth too, but in a murkier, darker kind of way). In any case, you can make it scream like a madman or program gentle old school creamy tones.

The final point that needs to be stressed is the sequencer section. Now that's something fun. Its big brother has an arpeggiator. The MicroBrute has a sequencer. You can enter any sequence of notes on the keyboard and play it back by pressing a key AND you can transpose it live on the keyboard. The only drawback is that since the MicroBrute lacks a LCD screen, you can't input a precise tempo, but it's a creative tool in itself, since you can program up to to 8 sequences and seamlessly hop from one to the other.

All in all, the MicroBrute impressed me. It actually impressed me more than its big brother, which I thought was a big harsher sounding and "mean all the time". The MicroBrute looked like a more balanced instrument (I could be totally wrong on that, I haven't played the Mini for a very long extent of time).

Oh, and it's French;)

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Brussels, Toys Museum, Fujifilm X-Pro1.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Work in Progress : "Backup Monkeys"

New tune for my next "Clockwork Cities" album.
All Korg for the synths and drums (Volca Keys, Beats and Bass, MS20 Mini).

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Work in Progress #2 : Banjo, Hohner Organetta, 12-strings Guitar

Adding stuff to my "Monochrome" song.
Banjo, Hohner Organetta (that's a 1960's german pump organ) and 12-strings guitar.
2 takes of each for stereo effect.
Next time : vocals.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Work in Progress #1 : Korg Volca Beats & Keys, MS20 Mini

Song in progress : "Monochrome"
Album : "Clockwork Cities".
Laying down some analog Korg.
Volca Beats (without FX, this is using the Stutter mode), Keys and MS20 Mini.
Now I'm going to add some acoustic elements (guitar, banjo...)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Korg Volca Beats & Keys

Yup, couldn't resist.
Lots of fun.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Next Gig : October 18th 2013

I'll be playing at Melting Potes in Nantes next month.
This will be a good opportunity to try it live this Mellotronics iPad app I've bought the other day.
I'll put out a word about this app later on, it's a good one.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Swan Song for the Moog Little Phatty

The Moog Little Phatty analog synthesizer is now officially discontinued, after a seven year run.

Analog synths came and went in my studio... Roland Juno-1, Korg Poly-800, Roland JX3P.
But one thing for sure: while I still haven't come to terms with the name, I have to say that the Little Phatty is possibly the one instrument (along with the Prophet 08), that I won't ever sell (actually, just watching at my blog labels while writing this says it all : 74 posts for the Moog, 73 for the Prophet 08, waaaay ahead any other gear I use). I might not always use the Prophet 08 (you don't necessarily need analog chords on a folk song), but I always use the Moog, because whatever the song, there's always room for that round, deep, legendary Moog bass.

I bought the Moog LP at a time when I actually didn't own many keyboards. I actually think it was my first serious (read "expensive") synthesizer.

For years I was a skeptic when it comes to the superiority of analog over digital, because virtual analog and software emulations were progressing by leaps and bounds in the 2000's. What initially seduced me about the Little Phatty wasn't the gorgeous sound alone, but also the sheer beauty of the instrument. Everything about it said "quality".

Then I discovered that true analog was indeed superior to emulation, because the cumulative effect of analog tracks is what provides the warmth, thickness and musicality of a song when compared to something done entirely with digital tools.

Owning an instrument like the LP is akin to owning a beautiful guitar or saxophone. Just watching it makes you want to create music, which is more than can be said about a damn computer in my opinion.

I'm also proud to own a Tribute Edition LP, which is the first batch of instruments with wood ends. As classy today as it will be in 30 years.

So, hats off to Moog for delivering this true classic.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

First Impressions: Novation Bass Station II

This is not a review, just my two-cents after playing it for a while at the shop.

Novation's follow-up to its successful 1993 Bass Station is (unsuprisingly) an analog monophonic synth.

The sound is warm and round, with a beefy sub osc and some overdrive and distorsion functions to make it growl. There are some stunning formant-like factory patches. Lots of filter choices, and apparently you can process external sound.
The arpeggiator is pretty sophisticated, with a mode that lets you input the notes to be looped.
Sonically, it's a lot more well-behaved than, say, the MS20 (or the Minibrute, for that matter).
It's more akin to the Moog Sub Phatty, I guess, but very cheap (all plastic, but feels sturdy enough and the knobs are excellent). I would dare to say that it somewhat lacks character. It's very well-polished, solid analog synth, but you wouldn't listen to it and go "Oh yeah, that's a Bass Station". That said, lacking character doesn't mean it sounds dull. On the contrary, it is a versatile instrument, with a use for pretty much every genre, whether you're into modern stuff, or dub, or acid or like me, more vintage /old school electronics. 
All in all I was favorably impressed. It's a bargain.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gear, Gear...

Resuming live work after summer hiatus and thinking about ways to implement more electronic sounds to our setup.
Right now I'm playing with a bass player, a drummer and a guitar player.
I'm playing guitar and using the Microkorg's vocoder for my tune "Clockwork Cities".
I think it should be somewhat more electro-ish to fit in with the studio albums.

Three solutions came to mind.

1) Keeping the Microkorg for vocoder and some vintage pads, and adding Mellotron via this very good iPad app called Mellotronics M3000. Pristine samples, good effects, dual sound layering and a very fun chord sequencer. The downsize is that you've got to trust the iPad on stage.

2) Keeping the Microkorg for vocoder, forgetting about Mellotron and adding the outstanding DSI Tetra module. I already own a Prophet 08, which was an instant analogue classic and still is my main polyphonic instrument. The Tetra is basically one half of a Prophet 08, which preserves the ability of the Prophet 08 to layer patches and run several sequences in parallel. That way you can program some very complex analog grooves. Good stuff for live.

3) Buying a KingKorg and that's that. Well, it' rather pricey on the face of it, but all I need is there : a Korg vocoder, vintage synths, Mellotrons...

Mmmh, decisions...