Dave Smith Instruments is one of my perennial stops at NAMM. This year they introduced two new keyboard instruments, the Prophet 12 and Mopho X4.
The Prophet 12 is gorgeous, but is also a powerful synthesizer. It’s odd to think of twelve voices of polyphony as a lot, but then one must consider that DSI synths are often monophonic. I did of course have to get my hands on one of these:
It plays very smoothly, both from the keyboard and while turning the knobs. I particularly liked the tuned feedback combined with both the highpass and lowpass filters. It was simultaneously a nasty sound but also very polished and playable.
The Mopho X4 was also fun. It is basically a four-voice version of the popular monosynth with a new physical design:
It plays like the original Mopho, very punchy and thick. It doesn’t quite have the smoothness of the Prophet, but it is not supposed to.
As usual, I wouldn’t mind having one of these myself, but they don’t come cheap. We will have to see…
Was supposed to be working on new track (and feeding the cat) but got sidetracked by the MoogerFoogers. Found a sound a bit like the mad glissando CS80 at the start of Love Like A Sunset so tried to work out the part a bit. Stole the Marimba-like bit from the Multitrack they put online.
Arthur (cat) was just hungry and attention seeking. He’s not normally too bad a chewer. Mind you, I did find all but one knob from my Digi002 in the hallway once. Bad boy …
Another perennial stop at NAMM is the ever-growing booth of Dave Smith Instruments. I had a chance to talk with one of the senior representatives on my regular use of the DSI Evolver in my live shows and my fondness for the instrument (despite the tendency of the knobs to fall off). I of course also had to play the Mopho because it was there:
But the real star of the booth this year was the Dave Smith Instruments Tempest, a collaboration of Dave Smith and Roger Linn.
I started with an existing pattern in the sequencer and immediately used the drum pads to subvert the pattern while attempting to remain in the tempo and meter. The pads are very comfortable and playable, and I found it quite intuitive to get different effects of each even without knowing in advance that they would do that.
This would be a great instrument to have in a live performance (and for recording as well), but probably something to ponder for a later time given its retail price of USD $1999.
Earlier this month, I participated in a show at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco called Space Music Night that turned out to be quite memorable. So what exactly is “space music”? It is not straightforward to come up with a definitive answer, except that it should reflect some sense of “outer space” as one might imagine it. Or, perhaps more accurately, as people might have imagined it in the 1960s and 1970s. The music that we performed that evoke “space rock” that one might associate with early Pink Floyd or Gong, but also more freeform ambient soundscapes. The latter comes closer to ambient music one might hear on NPR’s “Hearts of Space” program but without crossing over that dangerous line into New Age. The music was certainly contemplative at times, but retained an edge to it and often veered back to rock and jam idioms, and moved back and forth between defined harmonies and more abstract timbres. The “space” effect was also heightened by having a dark room with abstract video projections by Tim Thompson.
The show was divided into two sets with four musicians each. Although many of us were familiar to one another, this was the first each each set of four played together as a group. The first set featured Matt Davignon on drum machines and effects, Kristen Miltner on electronics, Karl Evangelista on guitar, and Andrew Joron on theremin. Musically, this set had a very thick electronic texture with a soft beat from the drum machines that came in and out of presence. The electronics and heavily processed guitar provided anxious harmonies, and the theremin seemed to be narrating a space story with warbles and slides that approached the rhythm of human speech. At moments, the rhythm dropped out altogether, while at others it came closer to an extended jam. You can hear a bit of the set in the following video:
In the second set, I performed with iPad and the Dave Smith Evolver, along with David Leikam, Sheila Bosco on drums, and Steve Abbate on guitar. Perhaps it was the instrumentation of the set, or the musical leanings of the performers (including myself) towards strong rhythm, but we very quickly gelled into a steady rock jam rhythm that extended for most of the length of the set except for avery deliberate breaks. I mostly used Sunrizer on the iPad to provide ethereal harmonies to set again Leikam’s Moog Rogue and his “electric bass cello” and provide structure for melodic improvisation. This was definitely approaching the “space rock” idiom that inspired the evening.
I was quite happy with how well we able to play together despite having not played together before, and indeed a few people afterwards expressed some surprise that we hadn’t. But perhaps we will get a chance to play again.