June 12, 2016

Playlist Week of 2016-06-11

* Boulez: Explosante-Fixe, etc. (Aimard/Boffard/Ensemble Intercontemporain) (DG CD)
* Takemitsu, Hindemith, et al.: Five Pieces (Duo Gazzana) (ECM CD)
* Wayne Shorter: Moto Grosso Feio (Blue Note LP)
* Wayne Shorter: Native Dancer (Columbia LP)
* Art Ensemble of Chicago: Bap-Tizum (Atlantic 4MWB LP)
* Art Ensemble of Chicago: Fanfare For The Warriors (Atlantic/4MWB LP)
* Henry Threadgill Zooid: Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp (Pi CD)
* Derek Bailey & Ruins: Tohjinbo (Paratactile CD)
* Borbetomagus: Snuff Jazz (Agaric LP)
* Combo FH: Veci (Things) (Panton LP)
* Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope 2LP)
* Kendrick Lamar: Untitled Unmastered (Aftermath/Interscope LP)
* Bob Dylan: Fallen Angels (Columbia LP)
* Tim Buckley: Dream Letter: Live in London 1968 (Enigma Retro 2CD)
* John Martyn: Well Kept Secret (WEA LP)
* Vashti Bunyan: Heartleap (DiCristina LP)
* Bill Bruford: Feels Good To Me (Polydor LP)
* Curved Air: Second Album (Warner Bros. LP)
* Bob Marley & The Wailers: Catch A Fire (Island/Mobile Fidelity CD)
* This Heat: This Heat (Piano/Modern Classic LP)
* This Heat: Deceit (Rough Trade/Modern Classic LP)
* Mekons: Crime And Punishment (Sin EP)
* Steven Halpern: Eventide (Halpern Sounds LP)
* Steven Wilson: 4 ½ (KScope Blu-Ray)
* Boris: Absolutego + Dronevil2 (Southern Lord 2LP)
* Boris: Noise (Sargent House 2LP)
* Animal Collective: Painting With (Domino LP)
* Locrian & Christoph Heeman: Locrian & Christophe Heeman (Handmade Birds LP)
* Nothing: Tired of Tomorrow (Relapse LP)†



When I set up my home studio a couple of years ago, I bought an Arturia 61-key MIDI keyboard which came loaded with the first iteration of Analog Lab and a collection of presets from their V Collection of instrument emulations. However, in order to actually edit or create sounds from scratch, you had to purchase the software package separately -- which, of course, I did.

While I thought the sound quality was generally pretty good, the GUI was an absolute nightmare to use: pretty pictures -- but ridiculously small, static displays with often unreadable text. Squeezing the wall-sized Moog Modular synthesizer into a 4"x 6" window made it all but impossible to use creatively. And although subsequent updates to the V Collection added additional instruments and functionality, the teeny-tiny GUI remained a big issue for me. In fact, it was partly my frustration with the Arturia software that led me to purchase an honest-to-god analog synthesizer, my beloved Moog Sub 37.

No regrets there! But I still desired the added instrumental colors (and polyphony) available with the software instruments. So, when Arturia announced the new V Collection Five -- finally featuring a scalable, re-sizable GUI -- I just had to go for it.

The new GUI is fantastic -- but Arturia has gone a step further and totally revamped the entire V Collection of instruments, including an entirely new sound engine. This is immediately apparent on old favorites such as the Oberheim SEM, Prophet 5, Arp 2600 and Solina emulations, which now come stunningly close to their analog counterparts. Moreover, the updated MIDI implementation is ingeniously simple, allowing for easy and flexible programming of my keyboard's knobs, sliders and pedals. Overnight, the V Collection has gone from good-sounding but nearly unusable to great-sounding and extremely expressive. Nice job, Arturia!

Additionally, several new instruments have been introduced in V Collection Five, including a Farfisa organ, the Synclavier digital synthesizer, a Fender-Rhodes electric piano, and a Hammond B-3 organ. Now, for me, the Rhodes and Hammond B-3 are two of the most iconic analog keyboard sounds ever. But, as much as I would love to own the real things, their rarity, immense bulk, and high cost of maintenance put them totally out of reach. And, given the complexity of these instruments, I was extremely skeptical of how useful these software emulations would be. 

But, I checked them out and, dang, I gotta say: These things sound mighty impressive!

What's most impressive is how they not only got the basic tones right but also the additional effect of amplification (and, in the case of the Hammond B-3, that crucial, swirling sound of the Leslie spinning speakers). All this gives these software emulations a remarkably realistic, three-dimensional quality that I was simply not expecting. Amazing to me how these harmonically rich, analog-like sounds are created with nothing but mathematics!

I was so inspired by what I was hearing, I quickly recorded this doodle the other day. Hear for yourself just how close these software emulations come to the real thing:


1 comment:

Sam said...

Sounding great, Rodger! I dig the B-3 sound.

Here are my lists from last week:

Playlist 2016-06-13:

*Beethoven: The “Late Period” String Quartets (Alban Berg Quartet) No. 12
*Various artists: Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music #7: Seventh and Last a-Chronology 1930-2012
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: 1980-04-30 Konstanz, Germany (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: 1980-07-19 Den Haag, Netherlands (CDR)
*Rodger Coleman: recent studio selections (2016) (wav/mp3)
*John Coltrane: 1965-09-30 Seattle (CDR)
*John Coltrane: Live at the Village Vanguard Again!
*Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: The Treasury Shows, Vol. 4 (disc 2)
*Ingrid Laubrock & Liam Noble: Let’s Call This...
*Ingrid Laubrock with Liam Noble & Tom Rainey: Sleepthief
*Ingrid Laubrock Quintet: 2014-01-22 Brooklyn NY (CDR)
*Ingrid Laubrock/Tom Rainey: Buoyancy
*Charles Mingus: A Modern Jazz Symposium Of Music And Poetry
*Evan Parker & AMM: Title Goes Here
*Sun Ra: What’s New (side 1)
*Sun Ra & His Intergalactic Research Arkestra: The Invisible Shield (2014 remaster)
*Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Out There a Minute
*Sun Ra: Unreleased test pressing tracks, NYC, 1965 (CDR)
*Henry Threadgill & Make a Move: Where’s Your Cup?
*Claypool Lennon Delirium: Monolith of Phobos
*Meters: Funkify Your Life (disc 1)
*National Health: Missing Pieces
*National Health: 1977-11-16 Kingston upon Hull, England (CDR)
*National Health: 1979-11-28 Washington DC (CDR)
*Amy Winehouse: Frank

Reading List 2016-06-13:

*Erikson, Steven. Forge of Darkness (reread/started)
*Scott, A. O. Better Living Through Criticism (finished)
*Barthelme, Donald. The Teachings of Don B. (in progress)
*Hinds, Andrew. Acting Shakespeare’s Language (in progress)