On Tuesday’s CV Fest workshop we can get a better insight on the delicacies of the first Hungary-based eurorack module, the Kasleder Acid Fuzz, and the evening ends with a no-compromise modular techno live act. Apart from members of the Analogue Zone team, Csaba Füle, a Hungarian musician and instrument-builder is also attending the workshop with is DIY electronic instruments, including a clone of a 909 drum machine and a lot of custom fuzz effects. There will be many DIY fuzz effects to test the new MFB desktop drum machines either. As it should be in any synth workshop, everything will be observed by an oscilloscope.
This workshop can be regarded as a warmup for the bigger event on the 15th of May which will last a whole day, and will be attended by local and international distributors, as well as synth manufacturers.
CV Fest will be a great chance to get an insight of the Hungarian electronic music and festival scene, since many of the representative organisers and producers will be taking part in panel discussions and will be happy to answer the visitors’ questions. CV Fest will also be supported by an original modular techno live act from Berlin next to the Hungarian live acts.
The event starts in the afternoon with raffle games in which valuable prizes offered by the exhibitors can be won by the visitors. The further programmes include contemporary music performances by Bálint Baráth and Ákos Nagy, but David Ahlund of Roland will also be showing the best uses of AIRA products in a live music context. The daytime events also include a vocoder karaoke which visitors can try out for fun. The evening kicks in with concentrated techno live acts from local Hungarian artists (Banyek, Arrythmia), and the Berlin-based ZV_K duo is also coming with their full Tiptop Audio modular arsenal (Konstantin, the member of the project is also doing an exlcusive workshop during the day!)
The list of exhibitors and and participants’ names are expanding day after they, so it would be no surprise if further treats would be ready till the 15th of May!
NAMM has shown us a lot of surprises, but the Austrian restless manufacturers have come up with a lot of impressive modules.
After conquering the oscillator market with The Bateleur – a full analog thru-zero VCO with a built in filter, the new Birdkids VCO modules are here. It’s a dual analog VCO and a wavetable VCO. Birdkids also came up with a CV bus, like in the Make Noise Shared Systems, however here you have extra logical functions as well. Birdkids are here to stay indeed, and their modules have started forming a system of their own – who knows where they will end up in future?
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Birdkids started out as a music label, but the creative work did not stop here. Interesting to see that music labels nowadays morph into instrument manufacturers: Justin from Abstract Data was telling us a similar story – after all, only ideas matter, and they should not be limited to one field. Among a lot of things, we were talking to Michael Beim from Birdkids about the development of their analog VCO / synth-voice The Bateleur, which has been seeing more and more popularity thanks to its hands-on and intuitive controls, sounds and possibilities.
Analogue Zone: What pushed you to realise an oscillator / synth voice and why do you find thru-zero FM so interesting?
Coming from a music production background, my main concern is always: How does it sound? How does it perform in a real-life scenario be it a studio, performance or gig? Is there real innovation to the concept?
I always thought of the Eurorack concept as a bit of a compromise, yet an agreeable common ground for development. When the decision came to port our circuit concepts to the Eurorack Format, meaning break it down into constituent parts – the voice would be at the heart of it, obviously. Since we have our special way of doing things at birdkids, we didn’t see the necessity of having a myriad of modules each fulfilling only one single function.
Our R&D process is: start with the things we do very well – then push them to the absolute limit of our abilities, possibilities and understanding, then question everything, learn as much as possible, take a lot of risks, put it out there for scrutiny in the hands of a merciless evaluation team, succeed a little, fail a lot, start all over – nail it. Birdkids would not exist were it not for the artists, engineers, scientists, hard-core users, friends and family surrounding us.
We’d like to see ourselves as our biggest critics, but the reality is – there’s always room for more scrutiny. You always have to factor in even more space for mistakes and give your concept time to grow naturally – give it its own voice!
Let’s take for example the concept of Through-Zero modulation, It might seem absurd that so many manufacturers are “jumping on the bandwagon” – seeing as this concept is essentially something we’ve been subjected to since the heydays of the DX sound. The biggest challenge for us was to see if we can approach the concepts of Through-Zero modulation from an absolutely musical angle in a 100% analog context. It was always meant to be a natural extension of the core’s palate – not a flavor of the month gimmick. It took a while to get it right from our own set of goals and expectations, but it was worth it!
Analogue Zone: You mentioned at the expo that a new VCF was in the works – is there anyhting else being developed?
At any given time we might have about 4-5 different modules in development. It is quite likely that only one will make it into production, It is a very long process, the amount of ideas and influences is almost infinite. One has to have a very strong opinion and position on a certain design for it to filter through the mincer of scrutiny.
Currently we’re finalizing a 100% analog dual VCO/LFO/CLOCK with hard and soft-sync, it is the perfect complementary modulation unit for our System but will go beyond the initial purpose, as a standalone, central Voice without a doubt. Furthermore there will be a complex multiple EG and an exotic VCF. 2016 is shaping up to be our busiest year yet 😉
Analogue Zone: What is the biggest lesson you have learnt so far as a manufacturer?
Generally in a product line we like to focus on a small number of functional elements and execute them flawlessly and coherently in the long run, there is no set deadline for a product, it’s either all that we ever wanted it to be, or it isn’t released at all. We’re always looking for an organic symbiosis between sound, functionality, intuitive operation and design – but above all – ask ourselves over and over again – does it contribute musically? With that concept in mind from day one we had to learn to be even more patient in daily operation.
Sometimes things do not go as planned, sometimes a set deadline is disrupted by failed deliveries, a manufacturer’s failure to produce components in time, botched runs of material, discoloration etc. etc. However the biggest lesson – and perhaps one that seems painfully obvious, even banal once you articulate it for the first time:
The product and brand always has a market value, which is transient, the main value though is an intrinsic one. This intrinsic value has to be cherished and nurtured. It can never fail, it is the very modus operandi – the spark that drives us. We’d like to see ourselves, as a permanent start-up, always struggling for more, always young and foolish and idealistic – unique in our approach, unique in our aesthetic values and self-set goals. We will always strive to develop something that is simply impossible to develop in a given context, and break the rules of what is deemed possible or advisable.
Analogue Zone: Where do you think this intrinsic value lies? Your oscillator has truly become an instrument, it gives you a feeling where you don’t feel limited and confined when you are using its interface. Could you just give some details on the process about how you managed to craft it like that?
Thank you very much, it’s very satisfying to have that kind of resonance! We’re very humbled by the amazing response – this encourages us to transcend the boundaries of a given medium! Our approach is purely a musical one, we work by ear. This might seem counter intuitive when talking about circuits, but the actual circuit, as complex as it might be – is just a means to an end.
During development you’ll see us talking in a synaesthetic manner, our vocabulary is that of color, shape&form, association and emotional impact. We’ll refer to a filter as bubbly-sharp, squelchy and silvery, or buttery muted with a shimmering halo around the edges. Same goes for our design choices when it comes to the tactile interface. Our strength lies in the amalgamation of our individual talents. We nurture those talents and give them space to evolve. Even our calibration process is performed by ear when it comes to final waveform output. No two modules sound alike, no two sounds will ever sound the same.
We like to think of listening to our VCO as having the privilege of zooming-in on a point in time and space, it will never recur, constantly shifting, constantly evolving. Everything we do at birdkids, be it development, design or presentation occurs from first principles – we’re looking for a fundamental truth in everything. From initial explosion of ideas around a core-suggestion, throughout extensive development and ferocious elimination process to a zen-like state – that is the birdkids way.
Analogue Zone: How did you like your stay at our booth at Budapest Music Expo and what were your impressions?
Coming from Vienna – Budapest is always like vacation at your older, rougher, artsy Brother’s place! A remarkably beautiful city.
I love the slightly shadowy quality, the contrast between the old, European Architecture and iron-curtain Era remnants. It’s a fascinating mixture and I always want to explore more, no single visit is enough!
Analogue Zone’s hospitality during our stay were exemplary. The Team made us feel at home from the minute we set foot in the Expo. The dedication and energy these guys exude is second to none. It takes true spirit to build something, especially on grounds that might not seem fertile at first, but Analogue Zone is doing it every day. I wish them the best of luck, success and full support – we’re very eager to return and really looking forward to 2016!
This year’s Budapest Music Expo was special groundbreaking for a lot of reasons. At Analogue Zone‘s booth, visitors were having a lot of fun and exclusivity around, since for the first the time in the Central-European region, they were able to meet eurorack modular manufacturers coming from Eastern-Europe to Brooklyn, and try out their custom built systems. On top of that, a eurorack prototype of a well-known Hungarian stompbox manufacturer also debuted at the booth. They had a lovely vibe in their well-designed booth – it was certainly a place where a lot of thought-provoking conversations, introductions to synths and also exclusive workshops took place.
Bastl Instruments were getting a lot of attention thanks to their servo-motor modules which were controlling various small percussion instruments. Their wooden case and booth design was really fun and aesthetic – their case will be seperately available later. All their handmade modules and synths are produced locally in the Czech Republic, including the PCBs.
The Erica Synths crew occupied one of the largest spaces in the booth, showing their prototypes new Graphic modules (the graphic VCO and sequencer) and their dual ADSR / LFO also one could see their brand new simple but lovely MIDI to Trigger module, which generates simple trigger signals based on MIDI notes and was used during non-stop underground live electronic music. The module was announced for the first time during the time of the exhibition and a few lucky raffle winners were also able to take it home.
The Erica Synths crew were really enjoying their stay here, and were getting a lot of attention. Girts, the man behind the company was emphasizing that they intended to bring a less masculine and more aesthetic type of approach are coming with plenty of new designs this year.
Konstantin came to the both as the representative of Tiptop Audio – showing up their upcoming quantizer module. He was also announcing a new case, when talking about the new quantizer module which was exhibited, he confirmed that new Serge modules were on the way from Tiptop, and it is said that many of them are in really advanced stages already! His techno jamming and general approach to live electronic dance music was also enjoyed and appreciated by the people around the booth. He – as other exhibitors – was playing in sync on the last day with other modulars as one master clock signal was sent from the Erica Synths case which was distributed in the whole booth! A pretty nice and often forgotten approach!
The UK side of the booth was also buzzing. Allan J. Hall from AJH Synth got a lot of visitors as people wanted make sure how his MiniMod system sounded like. His months of hard work of fine-tuning a Model D sound and realising it with 21st century electronics is a convincing achievement indeed. As he said, people were afraid that he was going to lose the characteristic sound of the classic – along with eliminating its inherent flaws – but no doubt that he won that game as well. It was especially nice of him that he helped around to install the Doepfer Monstercase at the corner of the booth. Its robust size and the oscilloscope next to it with laser projection on the wall gave the basic sound a synthesis a visual dimension which continuosly attaracted visitors too. Bernard from Doepfer Musikelektronik was controlling the synth, giving insight to a lot of people around.
Next to Allan, Justin from Abstract Data was having a great time with his system, especially when it was also synced to the other modulars in the booth. His Octocontroller module was busy every day and he was – as all other manufacturers – giving a short demonstration going into details about his system.
Michael from Birdkids had an impressive table with a small but powerful modular system – their Bateleur VCO with both of its 2 new expanders made it an outstanding synth-voice which was played around by several visitors. He was mentioning a “stackable” filter in the works, and he was kindly discussing design difficulties, and even came up with DIY tips for more advanced users.
Trent Gill from Mannequins – who had also held a Monome / Mannequins workshop at the Analogue Zone showroom 2 days before the show was having lively conversations with the people around. Even manufacturers were amazed by the complexities and odds (and evens) of their Monome Mannequins combo systems. However, it turned out quickly how playable and musical they are. He said that a final stage that had not been designed yet in their systems is their envelopes. Not able to leak a lot of details here, though I can confirm that he decided on the Serge-way of doing things. 🙂
Analogue Zone a lot of other new synths to the public, including the new Sequential Prophet 6, people often queued in front of that wonderful new/old polysynth. Not to mention such rare instruments as the Buchla Music Easel, and its latest version, the Easel K, which had its European debut at the booth as well, but recent euro modules like the Roland AIRA modular series were on display. As a Hungary-based
retailer, they were happy to announce the prototype of a Hungarian eurorack module by stompbox manufacturer Kasleder Effects, which luckily made it to the show – it is going to be out soon exclusively at Analogue Zone with a lot of audio and viceo demos! As a voltage controlled germanium fuzzer / limiter, it adds subtle grainy or harsh textures even to a simple sinewave – people praised for its versatile sound and also for the build quality – it will surely be loved by a lot of people. All sound was put out on lovely Monkey Banana studio monitors which offered a good taste of the signals people were able to check out.
All in all, the unprecedentedly exclusive Analogue Zone booth with its workshops, friendly and open mentality and intimate environment at the Budapest Music Expo, a new paradigm was set both for the local and global synth scene and surely, visitors and manufacturers benefited from it, and will be likely to experience a larger edition, next year (click here for the 2016 show’s facebook event).