Because you’ve been reading our words all year long, and, let’s be real, we can get a little monotonous, our year end coverage will consist of commentary from a number of friends and associates. The commentary will sometimes be delineated in a numerical, vertical manner and sometimes it will consist of blocks of text, audio files and moving images. Today we have our good friend and sometimes contributor Riley lake with us, bringing some cheap hardware finds that you Ableton-dowloading folk should get to know. We can’t all afford a LinnDrum after all… To top it off, Riley included a cheeky pack of hardware loops and clips from each piece of hardware listed below for your listening pleasure and even potential functional usage. Expect a debut solo release and big things throughout Mr. Lake throughout 2015. Download Riley’s loops and clips package here.
During 2014 I found out that I possess a burning desire for hardware music production but will also always spend all my disposable income on weed. As this realization has settled in, I’ve stopped tragically searching for the typical apples of the analog fetishist’s eye and started figuring out how to make shitty, cheap tools work together to make weird and wonderful noises. In an age where producers focus on cleanliness to the point of sterility, for me 2014 was all about grit and noisy signals and sounds that don’t fit neatly into boxes, and my In honor of the journalistic instinct to make lists of commodities at the end of a temporal cycle here is my list of 5 pieces of underrated discontinued hardware that I discovered in 2014.
5. Alesis Midiverb iii
I copped this one off a nice guy on Craigslist for 30 bones and I couldn’t be more satisfied. This rack mount unit does everything from lovely, weightless half minute chamber reverbs to short metallic clangs, with some wacky, unpredictable gated and reversed settings for some bonus flavor. Furthermore it’s got full midi control over all parameters as well as a simple intuitive interface on the front of the unit. Versatile, timeless vibes.
4. Casio rz-1/boss dr-660
K so these two digital drum machines which make up a big chunk of the percussive palates of ghetto house classics, and have received their fair share of accolades. L-vis made that one kinda boring track for mr. Edgar’s label that was presumably an rz-1 jam (he didn’t even use the sampler like c’mon) and gear lord legowelt has given a strong cosign to the dr660 (which looks like an oversized scientific calculator). Nonetheless they make the list because I really like the idea of these machines (along with something like the 707) as the antithesis of the grotesquely overpriced tr808/909. Rock solid, iconic drum sounds and sequencing that can be sent sent around to your chosen arsenal of signal processing tools. The rz1 has the added bonus of useful performance tools and 2 low bitrate sampling slots that will drench anything in character.
3. Guitar stompboxes
Reverend Richard D James said in an interview earlier this year that no digital system could quite match analog distortion and it’s true, ain’t shit a bunch of 1s and 0s can do against the sound of a circuit being pushed to saturation or starved of current. A good friend let me borrow his stomp boxes and I’ve been obsessed since the moment I put them on an effects send. A little tweaking can make the blandest keyboard spring to life and make any hi hat slice through a mix. Plus turning knobs is fun!
2. Digitech vhm5
Literally the sickest thing ever. The first or second affordable pitch correction/harmonizer ever to be rolled out and 20+ years later it still goes hard as fuck. 127 modes of infinitely tweakable vocoding/harmonizing/pitch correction will make yo ass sound like James Blake guaranteed. It can be played in a tactile way via keys on the front of the unit or controlled remotely via midi. Most preset patches give a lush stereo spread to the harmonized doubles. $70 shipped off eBay and I’ve used it on no lie every recording since I got it. I almost feel like I shouldn’t be spilling the beans on this one it’s so good. Big shot out man like ross oldenburg for putting me on to this 1.
1. 5 pin midi cables
If u don’t have a midi cable from your computer/sequencer to every piece of gear in your studio with a 5 pin midi in port, u fuckin up. A fully midi connected studio basically makes all of your gear as “smart” as the midi master, so for most of us that means we have the potential to let a supercomputer control things instead of doing such mundane tasks as playing keyboards. Even something as simple as getting all of your gear on the same clock unlocks all sorts of compositional and performance strategies by making those built in sequencers that you may have disregarded before actually useful. Midi cables are how you take advantage of the tactile goodness of hardware without sacrificing the limitless possibilities of making music with control of a computer.
Here’s the fun thing about analog synths. They aren’t even that hard to build! U just need some patience and a temp controlled soldering iron. Google “moog low pass ladder filter schematic”; it ain’t even that complicated. Most components are dirt cheap, and the synth diy community is skrong af and will provide u with endless designs and support. They all hang out on a forum called muffwiggler. Instead of buying a 303 for way too much money, just cop the xox-heart (303 voice+filter for like 60 bucks) and port a sequencer to a microprocessor that’s hooked up to the analog shit. Build midi in and a little box for all of it and voila u have a near perfect 303 clone for the extra low. Shots out to my man Jason Nanna for showing me that this is a thing.