In pictures: The gear that fuels Beyond The Wizards Sleeve
Having met on London’s club scene, Erol Alkan and Richard Norris decided to work together on a project under anonymity – a plan that was wrecked when their identities were leaked before they could even release a record.
Frustrated but undeterred, the duo set about re-editing tracks by the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Interpol, Goldfrapp and Franz Ferdinand, collated for the release of a remix album, Reanimations (2009).
Having ‘reanimated’ other artists’ records, the duo then focused on creating original material. Despite coming from very different musical backgrounds, it was their shared love of psychedelia that would form a strong backbone of ideas for their recently released studio debut, The Soft Bounce
We snuck into Alkan’s London studio to have a chat with him and Richard about the many vintage synths and tools behind 'TSB'.
Rhodes Chroma Polaris
“I think it’s made by Fender. You get sounds out of it that you can’t find on anything else. It’s quite pretty – not a million miles away from the Akai AX80 in that it’s a digital interface with analogue VCOs.”
Powertran Transcendent 2000
“This was used on the track Creation. It’s a kit synth. It was so complicated to make that they reckon only 200 were finished. We were told by loads of techs that it’s impossible to MIDI because of the circuitry inside, but a really talented chap called Simon Flynn built a circuit inside to turn it to MIDI. It sounds a bit like an Oberheim.”
“There are only 300 of these in the world. It’s from the mid-’80s. That was the synth that destroyed ARP, because they wanted to make a guitar synth but it didn’t work properly. We didn’t have the pickup for it when we got it, so we had one made but it doesn’t work that well. Basically, if you use it with CV it’s an ARP Odyssey.”
“This has been quite a recent acquisition. I wanted it because of the amount of voices it’s got and it’s quite powerful. I like how you can switch modes, which can be quite unpredictable, and it almost plays itself. It’s got arpeggiators and you can clock it really well, so it’s great to use alongside a computer.”
“This is a really wild synthesizer – it sounds quite demented. On the pendulum scale, it probably swings the widest of everything in here. It was out of tune for a long time, so we haven’t really used it for much, but I have used it for basslines. If you don’t have an idea you’ll go to it because it’s quite unpredictable.”
“We used this on Delicious Light. It’s similar to a Roland SH-101, but a little more brittle. The SH-101 is a feminine version and this is a male version – a little angrier. They’re not that revered, but I know Hot Chip love using them.”
“I’ve had it for about 11 years. It was actually bigger; we cut it down a bit. It’s got 22 channels and we mainly use it for its preamps and EQs, which are unbelievably good. A lot of Dub guys like the EQs on this because they’re so extreme. It’s from 1974 I think. They mixed Human League records and Bowie’s Spiders From Mars on these desks.”
“We can’t rave enough about this Akai sampler. It’s only six seconds of sampled sound, but you just get something amazing from it every time. Whatever you put into it, it just feels alive.”
Jen SX-1000 Synthtone
“This was used on The Soft Bounce too. It’s an Italian synth that was originally used on a lot of Italo records. It’s quite a happy-sounding synthesizer, really joyful, so we put it on the moodiest track on the record.”
“This is our favourite synth out of everything. We just love it and think it’s brilliant. It’s incredibly simple, but a really thunderous synthesizer. It’s definitely one that we’ve become really attached to.”
Richard: “I like the Pure Synth Platinum VST, Sugar Bytes and OhmBoyz’ Ohm Force, as they’re quite extreme. Sometimes, flangers and phasers can add quite subtle effects, but I like ones that go way too far. I also use some of the Waves SSL plug-ins.”
Erol: “A really good one is the Sonalksis 3G, which is a free plug-in. It’s basically a fader and much of the time, rather than adjusting your automation, if you just want something that’s completely colourless yet louder, you can go up 2dB – or 3dB if you’re feeling a bit frisky – and you’ve got this little paper trail of what you’ve done.”