Global Bass Music: Could DIY Synths Be The Next Big Thing For Producers?
The art of analog synthesis dates back to the 1920s. Transistors, vacuum tubes, and oscillators can still be found to this day. For the purist, some of the more eclectic machines are highly sought after. But does that mean they are better? Today’s musicians may find that in such a competitive market, where stock sounds are easily recognized, a slight edge can indeed be gained by having something they built from scratch.
The world of Global Bass is very experimental. A revivalist movement incorporating analog sounds seems to be burgeoning throughout the fertile underground. Influential Chicago DJ Searchl1te has created a DIY synth project with Function One audio specialist Antoine Kattar. The result was significant enough to catch the attention of the Chicago International Movies & Music (CIMM) Festival.
On a more publicized level, UK recording artist Squarepusher shook things up a bit with his Music For Robots project. This featured robotic band members created by Japanese firm Z-Machines. Instead of computer or machine-generated tones, Squarepusher’s robots are outfitted with conventional instruments. The rate and accuracy with which they play, however, creates frequencies and variations no human could ever hope to reproduce.
Synth-driven dance music, which would later evolve into EDM, can be traced back to one man. In 1975, an Italian composer by the name of Giorgio Moroder collaborated with Donna Summer to create the first disco hit “Love To Love You”. Known throughout the industry as a rampant experimentalist, Moroder’s music featured, among other things, the sound of the Moog Modular.
The Modular was initially rejected by musicians and was primarily utilized in sound effects labs. It was housed in a bulky cabinet which made it virtually impossible to tour with. The resonances, though innovative, would often fall out of tune. Any temperature fluctuations would further exacerbate the problems. Modular still found its way onto the landscape of popular music, even touching the reggae genre via Johnny Nash’s 1972 hit “I Can See Clearly Now”.
Digital music on the other hand, has a much more recent history. To find the origins one only has to look back to 1957 with the aptly named, mainframe computer program “MUSIC”. Developed by Bell Laboratories, it is considered to be the first widely available musical computer program. Instead of traditional synthesis, MUSIC and its subsequent versions employed Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) technology. This is the digital approximation of an analog signal, still widely used today.
For the budding producer who just wants to “make music,” a logical first step would be to purchase ready-made sample packs. There is still plenty of room for innovation and creativity with how these sounds are utilized. Still, any serious audiophile tends to lean more towards the obsessive-compulsive side. Nagging questions regarding the true origins of sound can linger in the back of one’s mind. Chief among these questions is: “How much of this music is truly mine?” It can help to at least know the origins and work your way back from there.
Once you have found a new way of synthesizing noise, the challenge remains to turn it into a composition. At the core of it all, you are essentially manipulating feedback and the best technicians don’t always make for the best musicians. Trends are difficult to predict, but I would venture to say that current sound palettes are approaching a time when they will need refreshing. Soon, we will see a completely different range of resonances being used to move the crowd. Modern music fans seem to have settled on a certain aesthetic at this point, but the one true constant in life is change. The question is will you affect it, or chase it?
Cover photo credit: Journeys By Jill
Written by MC Zulu