2013.03 Mix

March 30, 2013 Leave a comment

A little mix I made featuring recent releases I’ve been enjoying plus some older stuff I thought fitted along similar lines….

2013.03 Mix by Barkertrax on Mixcloud

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Drowning In Synthesizers – A Trip To Synth Heaven

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I first read about the existence of the Five G synthesizer shop quite some years ago – most likely through Matrixsynth. The article showed what was essentially a synthesizer museum masquerading as a shop.

Being a keen synth nerd, a visit to this synthesizer heaven was high on my list of places to visit since arriving in Tokyo and on Saturday an expedition was finally mounted. Actually that’s not entirely true as I had popped along on Thursday, only to find the place locked up – something worth bearing in mind if you’re thinking about visiting.

Finding the place was no problem – the closest station is Harajuku on the JR line. To get to the shop take the Takeshita exit out of Harajuku station, cross the road and head north up the hill. After about 25m you’ll see the Le Ponte building on the left. Five G is on the 4th floor.

The first thing you see as you enter the shop is a N.E.D. Synclavier. A few more steps into the shop and you come face to face with their monster modular system (they’re the Japanese dealers for Doepfer and Analogue Systems.) Note the Roland System 700 casually dumped on the floor in front of the Doepfer gear.

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A glance to the right gets you a look at the various drum machine/groovebox-type machines they have on offer. Not often you see 3 Roland TB303’s for sale in a shop.

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The rest of the shop is pretty much split into 2 ‘corridors’ of synths and a sectioned off repair area. I forgot to take photographs of the first corridor, but here’s some from the 2nd corridor. As you can see it’s pretty much floor to ceiling synths! I’m annoyed that I didn’t photograph the glass cabinet that contained 9 Roland System 100M’s.

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As always, I was in shy mode and didn’t introduce myself to any of the staff. The atmosphere was certainly friendly enough and I got the feeling that they were used to people wandering in for a gawp. I think the deal with all the synths stacked up on the floor is that they either aren’t for sale, are already reserved or awaiting repair.

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It’s funny as up until my visit to Five G I hadn’t ever seen a Prophet 5 in the flesh. This photo shows 4 of the buggers! And there were more scattered around the rest of the shop.

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5 Arp Odyssees! At this point I caught sight of the humble Roland SH101 (seen at the top left of this photo) and had to brush away a tear as I thought of my SH101, which I have left behind in the UK.

So, all in all, a fun and worthwhile trip. I think that I’ll go back again sometime as I don’t really feel I quite took it all in during the one visit. Lots of the gear was plugged in so it’d be fun to go back and play with some of stuff. In particular I’d like to fart around with the Doepfer system they have on display as I’ve had a ‘modular itch’ I’ve been waiting to scratch for some years now.

Amongst the analogue selection there weren’t really any bargains to be had and things were priced on the high side. I think the pricing was fair though, given that a) they’re a shop, which is never a cheap place to buy secondhand gear, b) everything was in tip-top condition and c) I’ve read that everything gets serviced before being put out for sale. That said, there were a few cheapie items amongst the digital synths, such as a DX7 for less than £100.

Categories: Japan, Synthesizers

Drowning In Film

September 22, 2011 3 comments

Since moving to Tokyo a month ago, one of the photography related things I’ve been really pleased to see is the abundance of ‘high street’ shops where you can go in and select from a large range of film *off the shelf*! This is stark contrast to the UK where buying film would always involve putting together an online order and waiting days for the film to arrive.

Here’s a photo of the film refrigerator at Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku.

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Amazing! And the cool thing is that all the emulsions are stocked in all formats – 35mm, 120, 4 x 5, 8 x 10….

The only shadow-y cloud hanging over this film heaven is the recent announcement from Fuji about cuts they’re making in their film ranges. Whether or not the steady erosion of available film types will continue into the future remains to be seen over the next few years…

Categories: Japan, Photography

DX100 Commercial

September 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Saw this linked on Matrixsynth today. It has kind of a Streethawk vibe to it – just fantastic!

Categories: Music, Synthesizers

Barkertrax EP For Sale

October 28, 2009 1 comment

Who’d ever’ve thought my Barkertrax EP would become a collectable – £7.21!!!

BarkertraxForSale

Categories: Music

Synth Britannia

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Since first seeing the trailer some months back I have to admit that I’d been very much looking forward to the BBC’s Synth Britannia documentary, which was shown recently.

Following on from the decade-spanning, multi-episode Folk Britannia and Dance Britannia documentaries, Synth Britannia set out with a much narrower remit – to chart the adoption of the synthesiser by a few Kraftwerk-savvy individuals through to the mainstream onslaught on the UK charts by “synth pop.” In other words, about 5 years in a single hour-and-a-half programme.

Split into 2 parts, I found the first to be fantastic. One thing that was portrayed very nicely, and that I hadn’t appreciated previously, was the isolation in which each band had been working, largely unaware of the others. Excellent use was made of period footage to drum home the point that the music was very much a sonic analogue for the architechtural brutalism inherited from the late 60s and early 70s – I don’t think I’ve heard the word “dystopian” used with such density before. In amongst the talking heads was a rare opportunity to meet Richard H Kirk, from Caberet Voltaire. Having not seen him in “real life” before my minds eye picture of him had been formed by listening to the stripped down bleep-funk he created as Sweet Exorcist. It was something of a minor shock to be greeted by an elder statesman of the Goth tradition!

After such an assured start, part 2 made a slighty less cohesive job of retelling how this new music spilled out from art schools and into the charts at large. The problem for the most part lay with the bouncing back and forth in time that the narrative took. With that said, all is forgiven once the archive footage is taken into account. As Depeche waxed lyrical about the hammers, steel and anvils used as sampling source material for their “Constuction Time Again” album, the footage told a different story as we watched Martin Gore roll a small pebble along the metal sill of a sliding door. Just lovely. The blanket omission of the term “New Romantic” had an almost Orwellian touch. Whilst I can fully appreciate the undesirable associations – Spandau Ballet anyone?! – it was undeniably something that happened, and made heavy use of both synths and pop.

As a bit of a synth boffin, there was always going to be as much appeal in seeing the artists in their studios as there was in hearing what they were saying. And in this regard Synth Britannia did not disappoint, unless you include Throbbing Gristle who, as far as I could tell, were interviewed in their kitchen. It would seem that you don’t count as a bone-fide ex-synth popper unless your studio contains at least a Moog IIIc modular and an example of each model in the Korg MS series! With the odd small editorial oversight aside (Chris Carter posing in front of a Roland System 100M in one shot, then declaring in the next that Throbbing Gristle didn’t use “Roland stuff”) the programme was refreshly accurate in the technology department. my only disappointment was that Vince Clarke’s appearance on the BBC’s Rock School series wasn’t included. Here it is via YouTube:

So, all in all an excellent programme that lived up to expectations – you don’t get too many of them to the pound!

Categories: Music, Reviews, Synthesizers

Warp20 Box Set – Part 2

September 30, 2009 2 comments

Part 1 of my look at the Warp20 box set can be read here.

Since part 1 went online, I note that Hard Format has given his copy the once over and produced some very nice images that make my efforts look supremely amatuerish. Whilst not as luxuriant in the photo department, Gutterbreakz has also produced a post documenting the arrival of his copy. And yesterday, The Quietus went live with the strangest of reviews.

With the (Recreated) collection largely digested, it’s time to take on the (Unheard) series. Spread across 3 10″s, each housed in a heavy card sleeve with embossed text, they really are quite the objects.

Boards Of Canada begin the proceedings with Seven Forty Seven. As any self respecting Boards Of Canada boffin knows, Seven Forty Seven isn’t actually “unheard,” as such, having originally made an appearance on a short lived incarnation of BoC’s website (archived here) some years ago. Non-exclusivity aside, it’s fantastic to not only be able to hear the piece uncompressed, but also to own it on vinyl.

Favourites of this writer, Autechre, contribute a single track to the package, taking up the majority of side B. The familiar sound of a TR606 and Juno106 immediately betray this as being from the Incunabula period. A quick peek at the small print confirms this with publishing rights for the track dated at 1991. Listening to Oval Moon, one can hear why it wasn’t included on the first album as it’s cut from a different cloth entirely concerning itself more with groove than the so-called ‘artificial intelligence’ that personified Warp’s output of that time.  What’s interesting though, is how much kinder the passage of time has been to Oval Moon than to other Autechre tracks from the same period. Whether this is down to the mastering process that the track would’ve been subjected to for this compilation, or that the IBC Mix subtitle infers that the piece has been the recipient of some more recent tinkering is difficult to tell.

Unfortunately, with the first 10″ done and dusted, there are no more blockbuster surprises to be had on the remaining two. And the definition of (Unheard) continues to be stretched. Two contributions each from Nightmares On Wax and Plaid are joined by a token track from Elektroids, an uncharacteristic turn from Flying Lotus, and solid tracks from both Broadcast and Seefeel.

Whilst I’ve always been a big fan of Nightmares On Wax’s Biofeedback, I’m not sure that the Dub version included here is either better or different enough to warrant inclusion. The second track from Nightmares On Wax, Mega Donutz Dub, from the same era, was an abomination in the first place and is not helped in any way by the Dub treatment! Both tracks from Plaid exhibit the usual Plaid trait, a bit dull to begin with, build to a luscious cresendo, and forgettable once the track has finished.

Finally, things pick up on the last side of the last disc. The sound of Broadcast is one that I can listen to over and over and Sixty Forty is no exception. Pretty much the same goes for Seefeel, whose Succour album I often find myself returning to. I’m looking forward to hearing the new Seefeel material that’s rumoured to be in the pipeline.

With all 3 10″s devoured, I have to admit that I’m left with 1 big question on my mind – where’d the contribution from Aphex Twin get to? Is it really possible that a chap who boasts in nearly every interview about how big his mountain of unreleased material is was unable to locate a single DAT from the stock pile? Similarly, Squarepusher is also notable by his absence. Perhaps less Plaid and Nightmares On Wax might have made these additional inclusions possible?

Categories: Music, Reviews