The Attic : a project to document & sample interesting, characterful instruments that may not always be the obvious choice when we think of classics. Instruments which, when added to a track, instantly add some special magic, even if it is due to the fact that it sounds a bit cheap or quirky.
We asked around some friendly producers: Neil Davidge, Adrian Utley & Liam Howe were all happy to open up their attics to us, & the resulting collection is a fascinating journey into the corners early analogue synthesis, offering a huge palette of sounds to reach into when you need colour, character & exuberance.
* 10 different virtual instruments in one package.
* Meticulous sampling : every single note from each orginal unit is recorded, capturing all the variation & inconsistencies that make vintage analogues so appealing.
* Modelled analogue behaviour : oscillator drift, natural attack variation, custom chorus & ensemble effects, mono mode & legato
* Extensive effects section with bespoke convolution effects, phaser/chorus/delay, compression, EQ, filters, amp modelling, overdrive etc.
A simple monosynth by Korg from 1974, the same era as the Minimoog & the Rol& SH2000. It has semi-fixed parameters, with a selection of toggle switches offering limited editing of these. It has a very fat, zappy sound, & fantastic chunky coloured controls. The filter (Traveler) is particularly interesting, with a LPF & HPF semi linked by interlocking faders.
RS202 String Machine
Dating from 1976, the RS202 is 61 note polyphonic, with Strings I, Strings II & Brass sound sources, & a split keyboard - any sound could by assigned to either section of the keyboard. The ensemble chorus effect was a key part of the sonic signature, contributing to its classic, fizzing disco string sound.The RS202 is an all time classic string machine.
Dating from 1951, & a true oddity. The first electronic venture for Tom Jennings who later went on to create Vox amplifiers AC15, AC30 etc. The Univox was used by the Beatles during their early Cavern days in Liverpool & can be heard on Telstar by the Tornados.In about 1951/1952 the Univox took off in a big way due to its competitive price & Tom's country wide marketing program. The first version was the J6, single keyboard model, later followed by the J10 with two rows of Tone & effect tabs. All models were supplied with metal screw-on clips, to fasten it under the right h& side of a piano. Later we designed an adjustable chromed st& that enabled the user to do gigs in other locations with out haveing to screw on fixing brackets each time. Most customers in those days were either Pub owners or pianists playing Pub gigs.
Introduced in 1981 & manufactured by the Suzuki Musical Instrument Corporation. It typically features a touch plate, & buttons for major, minor, & diminished chords. This unit (belonging to Neil Davidge of Massive Attack) is a ‘System Two', & it has a great synth tone, which sounds ‘cheap' in all the right ways. You can mix two different tones, one straight, & one modulated with a basic LFO. While not sounding much like a plucked string, it does have a pure character all its own, which won it many fans, such as Daniel Lanois & Brian Eno.
Korg LP10 Electronic Piano
Korgs first ever electronic piano, the fuzzy, dreamy tones of the LP10 weren't strictly realistic, but with retro-spectacles on it has a lot of charm. With Piano, Electric piano & Clav settings & a useful shaping EQ, but no velocity sensitivity.
The USA precurser to the Jennings Univox, produced in Canada for Hammond by the Northern Electric Company, Ontario between 1940 & 1948. A monophonic, valve driven keyboard instrument with a separate amplifier cabinet, the sound was derived from a single LC oscillator which had a frequency range of one octave. The signal from the oscillator was then passed through a series of 5 frequency dividers to create a further two octaves. On the front of the instrument there were a series of large thumb operated buttons for oscillator range (switch-able +/- 3 octaves: 'soprano', 'contralto', 'tenor', 'bass'), vibrato, attack time, 'deep tone', 'full tone', '1st voice', 2nd voice', 'brilliant' & a switch for selecting woodwind, string sound or mute.
Godwin String Concert 249
Little known compared to the RS202 & Arp Omnis etc, but in fact this string synth has one of the most lifelike string sounds you will hear from an analogue synth. Manufactured in Italy by Sisme, it has 49 keys, 3 string sounds - Cello 16' / Viola 8' / Violin 4' controllable by faders. Its chorus & tremolo are particularly unique, adding a fabulous shimmer to the sound.
The Philicorda is a 1960s transistor based organ that has found favour with producers in recent times ; one was used on the album '19' by Adele by producer Jim Abiss. This particular unit belongs to producer Liam Howe, & has been used on records by Marina & the Diamonds, Ellie Goulding, & Cocknbullkid.
The second synth ever produced by Rol& (after the sh1000), it was designed to sit on top of a home organ to provide additional sounds. To that end, it is based around presets which are selected by a series of brightly coloured paddle-switches, & sounds very fat & characterful indeed. Basic filter & LFO controls are present, as well as 'growl' & 'wow' effects, which can be linked to aftertouch to give great performance potential.
The EMS Synthi AKS is a legendary instrument with an illustrious history. First manufactured in 1972 by EMS in Putney, south-west London, The Synthi A was basically a portable version of EMS's famous VCS3 synthesiser, & the KS keyboard (an unplayable 30-note touchplate) was added to make the Synthi AKS. It cost ?420.It was quickly adopted by the likes of Brian Eno & Pink Floyd, & has been used by experimental musicians ever since. The Synthi has a unique patching system that uses a small patchbay grid. Each of the Synthi's components appear as a source & destination on the patchbay, & by placing a pin into that x-y position, you can route the signal from one component to the other. This was a very effective way to make a powerful modular system very compact.