Imperfect Machine


Yoshio Machida
Music from the SYNTHI

Thirteen bleepy-bloopy improvisations on the SYNTHI: a portable modular synthesizer from 1971, which made appearances on well-known albums by Jean-Michel Jarre, Pink Floyd and Brian Eno to name a few. Unlike many other synthesizers, the SYNTHI lacks both keyboard and stability: its cycles and pitches fall in and out of phase capriciously, resulting in ‘organic’ (i.e. imperfect) sounds unpredictable to listener and composer alike; a feature the composer holds in high esteem. The present collection – a curious and varied exercise in variable modulation – builds on Machida’s ongoing involvement with generative music, previous efforts of which include Amorphous – released on floppy disc – which utilised Brian Eno’s Koan software. Purchasing a SYNTHI was the realisation of a childhood dream for Machida, and with evident relish he recorded at least thirty improvisations prior to release, of which thirteen were judged to be up to standard. Reflecting the vintage of the machine, the collection transports the listener to a golden age of invigorated exploration of new musical technology.

Each piece consists of three to five patterns generated by a host of potential modular combinations and connected via matrix panel. Once up and running, Machida sat back and listened with interest to the results, mistakes and all: a process you should be happy to repeat. Indeed, they are at the very least interesting – justifying Machida’s fascination with the SYNTHI’s pecadilloes – and frequently fascinating (when not too jarring for frail nerves that is). While titles are too functional to warrant special mention, not by accident was the final piece (#30) – a soft, misty undulation that communicates an indefinable longing – allowed to exceed all others in duration and act as the sign off, exceeding as it does all in emotional content. Still, there’s a fair smack of proto-glitch, vintage electronic and musique concrète meandering (if such terms don’t repel) for your exploration beforehand, all of which is proffered not in the name of novelty but as a museum of evocative miniatures.

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