CatSynth Pic: Bill on Quarantine (Vintage Synthesizer Museum)

Bill enjoys the quarantine life with an Arturia MicroFreak and sundry Strymon pedals. Via our friends at the Vintage Synthesizer Museum.

You can see our visit to the Vintage Synthesizer Museum earlier this year in this video.

This was from the beginning of February. Not so long ago in time, but a world away from where we are now.

CatSynth Pic: Big Merp, MicroFreak, and Modular

Today’s CatSynth pic features our very own Big Merp! He likes to bed down on the synthesizer desk when I’m working on the studio, and on this occasion, he seemed particularly blissed out.

One of the few bright spots amidst all the pandemic craziness is that mandatory work-from-home affords me more time to spend with my cats and my music.

CatSynth Pic: Pansona, Arturia MiniBrute 2B, Roland TB-03 and TR-08

Pansona with MiniBrute 2S, Roland TB-03 and TR-08

Adorable black cat Pansona with a MiniBrute 2S synthesizer and Roland TB-03 and TR-08 Boutique synthesizers. Submitted by Vito del Valle via our Facebook page.

Pansona (Fatgirl) with an Arturia Minibrute 2S, Roland TB-03 & Roland TR-08… She’s wondering why I’m not yelling at her to get off the table…

Far from yelling at cats to get off the table, many of us not only tolerate but have grown to enjoy their antics on our music-making surfaces. We at CatSynth certainly feel that way.

CatSynth Pic: Studio 23

This cat has found an optimal napping spot in the center of this studio. Submitted by Paul Toohill via Facebook.

Studio 23. There is reason in my madness, order in my chaos. And a cat in my chair, damn it… 

Farewell to 2019: Tipping Point

Our year-end collage is a long-standing tradition at CatSynth. And we had a lot of fun making this year’s edition, so many wonderful images to choose from. One of my best solo performances to date took place at the Compton’s Cafeteria series at the Center for New Music. Big Merp came to live with has at CatSynth HQ. And our adventures took us from the halls of NAMM to the bottom of Death Valley to the subways of New York.

As we mentioned at the end of last year, most of the energy has moved to CatSynth TV and our social media platforms (especially our Facebook page). The blog is mostly our core cat-and-synth pics these days, although I do enjoy sharing long-form articles now and then. And In 2020, I do plan to revive the “primary highways” series from eight years ago.

On the video side, things have been going very well. Here are the top videos for 2019:

  1. Rick and Morty Pocket Operator, Part 2
  2. Introduction to the KOMA Field Kit [Episode 106]
  3. Ginger Baker, In Memoriam
  4. EXCLUSIVE! Arturia Pigments 1.2 First Look
  5. Folsom Street Fair 2019
  6. NAMM 2019: Rossum Electro-Music Trident [Episode 116]
  7. Rick and Morty Pocket Operator Unboxing [Episode 166]
  8. Mutable Instruments Plaits [Episode 102]
  9. Strymon Magneto Loop & Sample Modes [Episode 125]
  10. NAMM 2019: Interview with Dave Smith of Sequential

By early autumn, I was also thinking about this year as a “tipping point.” The transition from the blog to the video channel is the most obvious, but it also applies also on the personal side. The arrival of Big Merp was one of the big stories, and it’s been a tough integration getting both cats to coexist, but things have been trending well in the past few months, with Sam Sam regaining her confidence and HQ becoming a more harmonious place again. Musically, I have moved in a direction that is perhaps closer to my roots in jazz, fusion, funk while maintaining the experimental electronic aspects. I have also moved to a point where studio work is how I spend most of my musical time, between the videos and other projects. Finally, I am getting older, as we all are, and that adds both perspective and a need to focus on health and wellbeing. In 2020, I may “do fewer things” than in the past, but I hope the things I choose to do make an impact both personally and beyond.

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming days: NAMM 2020 is around the corner, I have a full queue of demos to share, and I am laying the foundations for some major musical projects. And of course, we will continue to post cats and synths.

CatSynth Pic: Studio Meowskers with Persephone

Beautiful Persophone returns. This time she has an Arturia keyboard controller to go along with the Behringer Model D (center rear) and sundry other items. From Rob Robinson via Facebook.

Ambient Chaos at Spectrum (Brooklyn, New York)

It is that time of year when I invariably return home to New York for a visit. And this time it began in dramatic fashion with a return to the Ambient Chaos music series at Spectrum. Perhaps not quite a return, as Spectrum as since moved to a new location on the waterfront in Brooklyn. But it was still the same concept, hosted by Robert L. Pepper of Pas Musique, with a variety of local and visiting musicians performing adventurous electronic music.

The evening opened with a duo featuring Public Speaking (aka Jason Anthony Harris) and pianist Gabriel Zucker.

The unfolded in with sparse but structured piano set against electronic sounds evoking metal machinery. Both elements started out slow and quiet with lots of empty space but increasingly got more dense and urgent. After a brief interlude, a new phase of the music began with vocals set against fast piano runs. The vocals began very expressive and plaintive but soon morphed into a complex electronic sound under vocal control. Underneath this, an incessant thudding drum emerged.

Next up was The Tony Curtis Experience, a trio led by Damien Olsen on keyboard and electronics, Jeremy Slater on guitar and electronics, and Neb Ula the Velvet Queen on theremin – specifically, a Moog Theremini with which we at CatSynth are quite familiar.

Their performance mixed long tones on theremin, slide guitar + electronics, and synthesizer pads with loud percussive moments. The early portion of the set evoked some fantastic futuristic nightclub with crystalline hits and pedal tones. But Olsen’s keyboard brought it back to the present and near past with melodic and harmonic playing reminiscent of mid-20th century cabaret as well as synth-pop of the 1980s. The theremin, acting as both sound source and controller, provided antiphonal counter-subjects to these familiar sounds; and the guitar drones glued everything together. It was a fun set, especially with Olsen’s playful performance and his use of familiar idioms.

Then it was my turn to take the stage. And I compacted the setup for travel, with the Arturia MicroFreak, laptop, Novation LaunchPad Pro, tiny modular with Qu-bit Prism and Strymon Magneto, a new handmade touch synthesizer, and Crank Sturgeon Pocket Gamelan.

I planned a slimmed-down version of my solo set from the Compton’s Cafeteria Series show in August, including White Wine and an evolving improvisation over an 11/8 groove.

Overall, the set went well – a highly dynamic performance with a lot of melodic elements, jazz riffs, and noise solos layered over rhythms. A few items misfired, but all recoverable. I particularly enjoyed the sections of melody and jazz improvisation where I floated back to the sounds of the 1970s; it seemed the audience appreciated that, too. Finally, it was also just fun to be playing in New York again after an extended break. Watching the video of the set (which will be shared soon as an episode of CatSynth TV), I particularly thought this noisier and more “electronic” version of the 2019 set worked well in Spectrum and especially with the every-changing “spectrum” of light from yellow to violet and everything in between.

The final set of the evening featured 4 Airports, a duo of guitarist Craig Chin and synthesist Nathan Yeager. Chin performed with guitar and an array of pedals, while Yeager brought a large synthesizer setup complete with a modular system.

Perhaps more than the preceding sets, they lived up to the “ambient” in Ambient Chaos. Chin’s guitar gestures were subtle as he guided the sound into the electronic arena of the pedals, and Yeager’s synthesizer sounds were complex but still lending themselves to long ideas even when the tones and timbres moved between quick and slow. From the chaotic undertones and singular and dreamy landscape emerged, with occasional ebbs and flows and punctuations.

Overall, it was a wonderful night of music in this corner of the Brooklyn waterfront, with an intimate crowd in the cavernous but cozy space. I would also be remiss if I did not give a shout out to Sofy Yuditskaya for her video projections that reflected the music on stage. I certainly hope the gap until my next performance here is much shorter than the last.

[Photos by Banvir Chaudhary and Amanda Chaudhary]

[Full video coming soon. Please subscribe to CatSynth TV to be noticed when it is available.]

CatSynth Pic: Arturia MiniBrute 1

We at CatSynth love our Arturia MiniBrute 2, but this cat really loves their 1st edition MiniBrute. From Rene Ubachs via Facebook.

Cats really like synths !

They certainly do 😺

CatSynth Pic: Bisou in the Studio

Bisou joins us from France today in a very tidy studio. We at CatSynth are quite impressed with the plastic covers – and should probably consider getting those for our space. Beneath the covers, we do espy an Arturia MiniBrute 2, several offerings from Korg, and more.

Submitted by Greg Roussac via our Facebook page. Here is another pic of Bisou sans synths.

CatSynth Pic: Arturia MicroFreak and Elektron Octatrack

House panther with an Arturia MicroFreak, a current favorite of ours at CatSynth. From Mark Mosher via Facebook.

My cat is helping me rehearse for my performance at meetup on Tuesday “Intro to the Arturia MicroFreak + Performance by Mosher-Deane” https://www.meetup.com/Rocky-Mountain-Syn…/events/264937585/

I can has Octatrack?