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Related: synthesizer - sampling

Emulator I

In the late 1970's EMU started working on completely computer controllable analog synthesizer with 16 individual voices. Peter Baumann, who had left Tangerine Dream in 1977 purchased some of the indivudial voice units. In 1980 Emu displayed this "Ultimate Analog" (as described by Robert Moog), the Audity with a price tag of $70,000. Unfortunately this price tag would keep it from obtaining more than a single order, if that many. (Does anyone know if the Baumann uses the voice units on any of his solo albums?) Fortunately for Emu, (for commercial purposes only) at about the same time Sequential no longer had to pay it licensing royalties. Based upon these two factors, the Audity would receive no more funding. While Emu was displaying the Audity at AES in 1980, Farilight was displaying the Farilight CMI. Emu was fascinated by the sampling section of the Farilight and they figured that they could create a sampling instrument for under $10,000. In 1982 they displayed the Emulator I with a list price of $8,000. The short falls of the Emulator I are enormous but it was just so much cheaper than any other sampler in the market at that time. Sampling for the masses - well sort of. [...]

Emulator II

Only Available In London

Few people ever realised that the EII almost didn't see the light of day. When the smiling Californian demonstrators from Emu Systems premiered the prototypes to such enthusiastic reception at the Frankfurt show in February 1984, the company was actually on the brink of financial collapse. They didn't even have the money to build the first production run of machines. As a result, a deal was struck with Syco Systems, the company Peter Gabriel had founded with his cousin Stephen Paine to distribute the Fairlight in the UK (and which also handled Emu), whereby they agreed to pay upfront for the first 25 machines. But as a consequence, some fairly rigid legal restrictions were placed on Emu to make sure that all of the first 25 machines came to the UK. I have heard stories of Santa Cruz lawyers checking serial numbers and units on the production line to make sure that not even one machine slipped out for delivery to US dealers or stars until Emu's obligation to the bacon-saving Syco was fulfilled.

As a result, some fairly famous American names were left waiting high and dry for this machine they had heard so much about (the Summer NAMM show in Chicago had let the cat out of the bag in Emu's home country as well). When it was clearly explained to them that the first units had all been shipped to the UK, they did what any self-respecting star would do -- they got on planes and came to London. Which is how I came to see Stevie Wonder coming out of the Syco demo room with his entourage while I was waiting to go in, and (literally) ran into Steve Porcaro and David Paich of Toto coming in as I left. I was keeping fine company indeed, and even though I personally hadn't a snowball's chance in hell of coming up with the 10 grand plus VAT needed to buy my own EII, I still felt like I was walking with giants. Both, I believe, bought EIIs from Syco that day. [...]

Adrian Sherwood and "captured sound"

The routine for Dub Syndicate albums was that Scotty drove out the rhythms in Kingston and Sherwood manipulated the finished product in London. What was different about "Tunes" though was the discovery of some new technology, its use and abuse. Whilst in Switzerland working with Marc Hollander, of Aksak Maboul fame, Sherwood together with partner and keyboard-player Kishi Yamamoto discovered an emulator for the first time - hence the delight in pulling the sitar sound from the keyboard which resulted in the almost prosaically titled "Ravi Shankar Pt.1" (because it was!) Also, before sampling had a name, Sherwood stumbled upon the technique of what he called "captured sound" by utilising the locking function in the AMS digital harmoniser. No need to bleed all over the tape deck a la Double D & Steinski as a result of razored edits, instead you just invoke Emperor Rosko (the album's Fats Comet) via machine triggers to appear in "The show is coming".

And so in "Tunes" we have the earliest manifestation of the use of the kind of technology which is today commonplace in the production of the new roots reggae/dub all over the world. But the album, with its mad splashes of sound and out-of-time beats remains uniquely an On U Sound/Sherwood creation. The collaborative nature of the enterprise brought together ex-PIL playmates Wobble and Levene in addition to members of African Head Charge and Creation Rebel, the sweet crooning of Bim Sherman and the apparently game for anything Steve Beresford. The result was the grouping of tracks that eventually became "Tunes", one of the best-selling albums in the entire On U catalogue, re-pressed here on CD for the first time and re-mastered from the original mix-down masters. It would not do justice to "Tunes" to say that it sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1984 because for most people either their ears were just not ready.

Steve Barker - On the Wire
July 1997

See also: Adrian Sherwood

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