Saturday, 13 April 2013

Over the Ice

In the previous post I installed an SSD into a laptop. There was some music, too:

Performed with Ableton, using a mass of samples and my favourite VST plugin of all time, Korg's Polysix emulation. (edit: Soundcloud's HTML5 widget sounds stuttery on my machine, with Firefox - but after following the instructions in the second post here and disabling SPDY everything is fine.)

The actual Polysix - the physical instrument - was launched in 1981, but it was overshadowed by the Roland Juno. Korg quickly replaced it with the Poly 61, which was overshadowed by the Juno 60, but the next year Yamaha's DX7 overshadowed them all. It blew a cold digital wind over the synthesiser market. The DX7 was powerful and flexible but difficult to edit, and helped introduce a tendency whereby synthesisers were sold as a box of preset sounds (specifically E Piano 1 and Bass 1, in the case of the DX7). The post-analogue, pre-FM, pre-sample based instruments of the early 1980s - DCO-based machines such as the Alpha Juno range, the Korg Poly 800, Casio's CZ-101 - seemed to fall into a pit of obscurity in the 1990s, which was handy if you were a student, 'cause they were cheap on the used market.

And so the Polysix has at least one claim to fame - in the 1990s, Japanese student Hiroyuki Hayashi started off his musical journey with a second-hand Polysix, and ended up naming his band, the Polysics, after it:

Korg's VST Polysix is relatively old and has a tiny interface, and there are cheaper and more powerful choices out there. The real thing was quite basic - a single-oscillator six-voice synth with a chorus/phaser/ensemble and a sub-oscillator to beef up the sound. The VST expands upon this by adding many more oscillators, more polyphony, and expanded modulation routing. It has a neat combination of easy interface with just enough power and flexibility for my needs. In Over the Ice - this is an early version, in mono - it does the Big Bass, which is twelve detuned oscillators in unison (the lead voice, which you can see in the screenshot, is a single square wave with the effects turned off).

My first keyboard synthesiser was a second-hand Roland D-10. I can't very well call myself D-10, that would be silly.

Ten Bands Named After Synthesisers
1. Polysics
2. Prodigy
3. Opus III ("It's a Fine Day")
4. (long pause)
5. (longer pause)
6. (fill in later)
7. (fill in later)
8. (fill in later)
9. (fill in later)
10. Odyssey (but were they named after the instrument? -ed)

Look, I can't help it that the two leading synthesiser manufacturers chose to give the vast, vast majority of their instruments alphanumeric code names, such as DX7IIFD and MKS-80 and MC-202 and TX81Z. The American synth companies tended to use names, but who wants to call themselves Pro-Soloist?

One day there will be a band called Axxe. One day.