how quickly can you oscillate?

i’m all over the place in the new issue of WAMM magazine. it’s madness, i tell you. who knew i was “famously tongue-in-cheek?” who knew i was famous? who knew i had cheeks? the important thing is that i knew those subliminal messages i’ve been planting in the songs would take effect someday…

but seriously, is that a cool cover with tara on it or what? and don’t say “or what”, because if you do i’ll hunt you down and force-feed you spicy pickles. i think it’s pretty neat that the arp omni-2 got a mention in an article that takes a look at how electronic elements/sounds have been seeping more heavily into local music, in some cases in some unexpected places. i realize that sentence—or at least the last seven-word-cluster of it—makes little to no sense, but it rhymes, so i say it can be redundant all it wants. the point is, this got me all wistful, and my wife began to flash before my eyes. you know…my imaginary wife. she sure knows how to slow-dance in the dark.

the arp omni-2

the arp omni-2 came into my life back in 1997. my on/off/invisible piano teacher (“dust in the wind”, as we so fondly refer to him around here) was selling it, and i thought it might be kind of cool to have. at the time my equipment consisted of the yamaha clavinova that served as my go-to digital piano for ages (and it’s still here today, with plenty of life left in it, even if the real piano has relieved it of some of its duties), a cheap sony tape recorder, and a stopwatch. as it happened, i didn’t know a thing about analog synthesizers, and though i managed to get some interesting sounds out of the thing, after a while it seemed pretty limited and not all that tweak-able. i was much more interested in digital synths that did most of the work for me, with countless complex sounds immediately at my fingertips, and before long the arp’s place on top of the clavinova had been taken by a yamaha W-5. aside from a few brief appearances here and there (the title track on SINGIN’ THE OESOPHAGUS TO SLEEP, “light in the terrace” on LIVE AT THE NAKED GIRAFFE THEATER and “rippin” on YOU’RE A NATION, all from 1999) it basically served as a glorified shelf for almost a decade, often submerged beneath backup cds and dust, and rarely was there electricity running through it for any length of time.

a closer look

a few years back i decided on a whim to dust the thing off, and to my amazement i found that for such a simple analog synth it was capable of a lot more than i had initially thought. there are sounds i never knew i could coax out of the thing…turns out i just needed to know how to better manipulate the VCF, LFO, attack, release, decay and other such slide-y things. after years of exclusively working with digital synths, i also came to realize that it was capable of a certain warmth you just don’t get from digital synthesis. since then i haven’t made nearly as much use of the arp as it deserves, but it does have a bit of a spotlight moment on the second half of “the ass, enchanted with the sound” on the newest album, and there’s a track that showed up on myspace briefly back in the summer called “an avalanche in hell” that’s nearly all arp omni-2, all the way through (it’ll eventually show up, along with a lot of other things, on that mysterious ambitious thing i’ve been picking away at for a little while). i suppose i just don’t want to overuse it. but when it fits, even in a supplemental role, it imparts something that no digital synth can. i’m not sure how to describe what that is exactly…it’s got a certan funkiness to it. the bass section has a wonderfully lo-fi thing going on too, and i need to make more use of it. one of the keys no longer sounds, i’m sure the guts could use some servicing, and there’s a dissonant drone that will develop sometimes depending on what keys are played (you can hear it happen near the end of “the ass…” right around where the synth in the right stereo channel drops out), but on the whole it’s still in good working condition. the one note that isn’t available to me anymore is easy enough to work around, and i kind of like that drone popping up occasionally at unexpected moments.

now i just need to get a prophet-5, a juno-60, a jupiter-8, and i’ll be set. not that i have any room left for any more keyboards. still, between the arp omni-2, the korg triton LE and the yamaha w-5 (the last two of which haven’t been getting much love lately), it might be an idea to get back into making synth-based music at some point. i’m not sure it would come out sounding much like GROWING SIDEWAYS did, since at this point i’d have a hard time not throwing in other, more organic sounds, but it could be fun to spice things up a bit. maybe it would be an idea to not limit things sonically to one synth per album…i mean, NUDGE YOU ALIVE was a W-5 affair, GROWING SIDEWAYS and WHO YOU ARE NOW were completely triton-centric, and the omni-2 just pops up for brief cameo appearances here and there on albums that are not very synthy at all. perhaps they should all learn to play together.

i wasn’t aware of this until just recently, but apparently sometime in the 1970s arp made what they called a “matrix edition” of the omni-2. only fifty were ever made, so they’re incredibly rare. but i think they’re pretty cool-looking. i dig the green.

the "matrix" version

now, it might seem like i joke a lot about the “studio” being dusty and chaotic, but the dust ain’t no joke. i actually hadn’t realized how serious it was until people started drawing faces and things on my drum shells. ultimately dusting had to be done, but before that happened i thought i should preserve the dust drawings for future generations to enjoy. i’m not sure who drew what…katie might have drawn one of the faces. or nik. or anna. or kiwi.

dusty-drums-1

dusty-drums-2

what’s important is that i left my own little message mere moments before recirculating the dust and wiping it out:

dusty-drums-3

also, the next album is starting to come into focus a bit more. i guess you could look at it as the third installment in a loose trilogy. not that there’s anything thematic connecting the albums, or even running through them individually, but i think there’s a certain aesthetic that’s been developing over the past little while, beginning with CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. it seems to broaden in scope and mutate a bit with each successive album, but i think after this one it might be time to do something different altogether. then again, what i plan on doing and what ends up happening are often two different things, so we’ll see what transpires. there are a lot of different ideas in the works, some of them longer-term projects than others. the list of potential albums i outlined in my first-ever post here has grown and changed quite a bit over the past twelve months. the main thing is that i’ve got my focus back after the “lost year” that was 2007 and the subsequent fallout threw everything off balance for a while. it’s nice to be accomplishing things at a somewhat reasonable pace once again.

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