Even as rave culture faces new hurdles in Russia, nerd culture thrives. That was the feeling at August’s Synthposium in Moscow; here’s another look.
For an impressionistic feeling of the space station adoration of electronic sound production, here’s a montage shot inside the Expo, which somehow captures the milieu of the event and passion of its attendees.
Apart from space exploration, Russia has its roots in rigor both engineering and compositional, as nicely embodied by Synthposium artist Alex Pleninger. An interview (English subtitled) takes you inside his world, and an adeptness for machines then led him to the classic Buchla modular from … a Nintendo Game Boy. (Love that lofi camera.)
Lest you think Russia is all synth noodling, freestyling (seriously) was a lot of what I heard. Hip hop seems to be resurgent in the Russian capital. (Fight the powers that be?)
We also get fresh views of the gear.
Builder Vyacheslav Grigoriev was there representing VG-Line; here’s a look inside his workshop:
Vyacheslav Grigoriev, the founder of the VG-Line workshop and production, is Moscow’s chief man when it comes to repairing and modifying synthesizers. An expert in Soviet electronics, Vyacheslav is known for his modified and upgraded version of the cult RITM-2 synthesizer, as well as the TR-909-inspired desktop bass drum module, that goes far beyond the original. His workshop is a unique enterprise with a DIY attitude, that denies any corporate classification, where he repairs and manufactures synthesizers of different designs and basically lives. Grigoriev will join the Expo section and present his newly-engineered products at the Vintage Hall on August 26 and 27.
As we were wandering the expo floor, manufacturers were queued up to demo their gear in a convenient light box a series called Things had set up. Here’s a look at the (mostly) Russian entries – starting with VG-Line:
The VG Line bass drum BD 9Q9. Totally analogue clone of legendary Roland TR-909 kick with wide range of settings, which original TR 909 doesn’t have — a switcher to extend decay and the pitch.
35 years after the release of the first model, the creator of Polivoks, Vladimir Kuzmin, decided to release an updated version, which already fell into the hands of many lucky people and, judging by the existing reviews, the legend has already returned. In the work on a modern embodiment, engineers Alex Pleninger and Alexey Taber took part. At the moment there are only 100 copies of the new Polivox and each of them is collected manually.
You’ve seen Roland’s kit a lot lately, but for one international input, let’s add a Czech input – especially as Bastl’s Thyme just became available for preoder:
The Thyme is an effects processor that is best described as a sequenceable robot operated digital tape machine. With a lot of parameters at hand it enables the exploration of all the time based effects and the vast space in between their classical multi-effects categories (delay, phaser, reverb, chorus, pitch shifter, multi-tap delay, tape delay, tremolo, vibrato, compressor) and in stereo! Each of the 9 different parameters (Tape Speed, Delay Coarse & Fine, Feedback, Filter, extra heads Spacing and Levels, Dry Wet Mix and Volume) has a dedicated, very flexible modulation source – called the Robot – which can be phased out differently for left and right channel to create psychedelic new sound effects.
and SoftPop, for that matter:
SoftPop is a playfully organic, semi-modular light and sound synthesizer with wide variety of sounds: from random dripping water pops to heavy subtractive basslines. Its fully analog core consisting of a heavily feedbacked system of dual triangle-core oscillators, state variable filter and sample and hold is played through an intuitive interface of 6 faders that provide countless combinations which can be explored by anyone.
The Pribore MDP101 Baby connects to a computer or a phone via bluetooth, defined as a MIDI device. It has 2 assignable control knobs (Rotary Knob CC), 2 assignable keys (Button CC), 5 transport keys (Rewind, Stop, Play, Record, Loop), 1 angular acceleration sensor (accelerometer), for capturing emotions and expression (Motion Sensor), 1 battery for stand-alone operation, and a USB port for charging and connecting as a usb-midi device.
From Playtronica came some of the more experimental, DIY / physical computing-tilted entries:
Touch Me is a HCI device that turns human touch into music.
When the surface area or intensity of skin contact between two or more people changes Touch Me modifies sound output according to selected scale and tone parameters.
And yes, for when you win the lottery / sell your startup / swap bodies with Trent Reznor or deadmau5 or Hans Zimmer (Freaky Friday!), it’s the Deckard’s Dream! That beats Blade Runner tickets: