Back in 2008 we came up with the idea of creating an album that would recreate the unique audio soundscape that is generated by analogue synthesisers while bringing back the nostalgia that we heard through instruments from the 70's and 80's. The plan was simple: collect together and record only from analogue electronic instruments, coupled with the live composing restrictions that ageing technology brings to the table (detuning issues, bad chips, broken keyboards, no MIDI etc) while a call was made for other Cosmonaut fans and collectors of retro gear to guest on the album showcasing their own distinctive gadgets. This COSMONAUT music release also commemorates and coincides with the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin - the first human to journey into outer space, after his spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961.
Although the original music was composed in the 90's and had been sitting in hypersleep since then, the actual recording started in September 2013. After 6 months graft the final product is a very organic and improvised sound; everything was designed live and nearly all of the sounds you hear were not saved (and some old synths don't have that ability!) as a more raw experience was deliberate.
Our featured COSMONAUT space travellers include:
Mirai (Retro Synths, Drums & Music), Ms. Hypnotique (Moog Etherwave Pro THEREMIN), Morley Robertson (SERGE Modular Music System), Christopher J Wray (PROPHET 600) & James Munro (Elka SYNTHEX & Roland Vocoder VP330).
Elka Synthex, Serge Modular Music System, Theremin (Moog Etherwave Pro), Roland VP330 Vocoder, Juno 106, JX3P, 808, 909, Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, Six-Trak, Yamaha CS5, CS30, Voice Spectra Vocoder, Doepfer MS404, Simmons Drum SDSV, Bias BS-2 Percussion, Boss DR110 Drum, Small Stone Phasor, Korg Minipops 7 Drum, Linn Drum LM2.
This is the most full on and lengthy track on the album, while being reminiscent of the Berlin School time length of Tangerine Dream, spliced with soundscapes more familiar to Jean Michel Jarre fans. There's a lot going in this piece, built from many sounds from most of the synthesizers listed. From 6:00 onwards you can hear Morley Robertson introducing more experimental sounds via his Serge Modular and then around 7:50 James Munro joins the mix on Synthex and Vocoder.
. MILLENNIA (Alien Sunset Mix and Reprise)
This piece was first written in 1994 for an ambient project heralding the coming of the new Millennia (which instead appeared on our first album release: FEDERATION). Originally this was only going to be one track on Cosmonaut, but after I played around with the sounds and patterns further, a new version was born which I liked enough to feature. For some reason I kept seeing orange/red images of a Martian beach and alien sunset.
I was lent a broken Yamaha CS30 in our studio in Tokyo, and even though the keyboard was broken, its unique arpeggiator programmer was still working. So one night I sat down and recorded a one off session of myself playing it live. Meanwhile I focused on sculpting a really lush string section on the Prophet 600. Although these are the only 2 sounds being used in this track, the resultant soundscape is immense. Christopher J Wray's composition here brings together a very emotional piece. What I am very happy about is that Chris played this in one recording session as well. No sequences or computers, just very raw analog sounds and 2 live performances.
A popular live show piece that I really wanted to convert to analog sequencing. (I think a USA insurance company used the original version in their marketing). This took a few weeks work, with recordings of around 48 layers of analog synths. The very metallic sounds of the Roland JX3P features a lot in this track, while you might be able to hear me in the background vocalising through the Korg VC10 vocoder.
. SPACE CADET
This track was originally called "Amoeba 3" which I wrote around 1996 while working for a Japanese video game company. I imagined various peculiar and cute aliens on a far away planet (and you can hear spacecraft flying overhead.) Lots of liquid, bubbles and water sounds in this one. It's fun track which I hope will be used for a video game or animation one day. Ms.Hypnotique plays out the piece (and the album) on her Moog Theremin while giving the finale a slightly 60's kitsch and nod to our analog past.
Listen to the music here!