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Topic: Favorite Oldfield Synth< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
Craig Evans Offline




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Posted: Oct. 07 2013, 07:46

What is your favorite Mike Oldfield synthesizer?

My favorite Oldfield synthesizer is the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5.  The Prophet 5 was a classic analog polyphonic synth which played a big keyboard role on Incantations, Platinum, QE2, Five Miles Out, Crises and even Discovery and The Killing Fields with lots of cool sounds.  For example near the end of Incantations Part 3 the Prophet provided Synth horn sounds and in Part 4 it provided a Synth choir and a little later a oboe/violin sound just before "Ode To Cynthia".  Throughout the whole of the Platinum, QE2 and Five Miles Out albums the Prophet was used as a string synthesizer with otherworldly sounds also used.  A synthesized French horn sound from the Prophet was also used in "Wonderful Land".  Throughout all of the Crises title track and all of the Discovery album the Prophet was instead used for more airy sounds with airy sounds also being used in "Evacuation", "Capture" and "Execution" from The Killing Fields.  The Prophet 5 was also probably used for the flute sounds in "Mount Teide" and "Good News".

For Mike Oldfield's live work the Prophet 5 was also a major part of Tim Cross's keyboard rack from 1979 through 1982 as well as Graeme Pleeth's keyboard rack in 1983 and Mickey Simmonds's Keyboard rack in 1984.

The Prophet 5 was also used for string and airy sounds on a lot of Oldfield's singles ranging from "Guilty" in 1979 to "Pictures In The Dark" from 1985.


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Philippe Tavares Offline




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Posted: Oct. 07 2013, 10:05

:)
Try to find a sound used by Mike !!! ;)

http://www.synthmania.com/Prophet-5%20%28Rev.3%29.htm
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Tati The Sentinel Offline




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Posted: Oct. 07 2013, 17:41

Fairlight CMI for me.Love MO's sound approach with the instrument in his music.

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Priabonia Offline




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Posted: Oct. 07 2013, 18:52

Craig

Good question...but before I (try to...) answer it, I am intrigued by your knowledge of the Prophet 5 use on Incantations...do you just know the sounds that well or do you have other information (you may have listened to my cover of Part Four and I am currently mulling over the challenge of doing Parts One to Three - so any tips towards getting the right sounds would be helpful!;)

PS the answer is probably the Roland SH2000...or if I am allowed to go slightly off piste, the Roland Sequencer 104 which I suspect is responsible for the synth arpeggios in Incantations

PPS I need a Prophet 5 emulator if you are right...


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Craig Evans Offline




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Posted: Oct. 08 2013, 06:34

Quote (Tati The Sentinel @ Oct. 07 2013, 17:41)
Fairlight CMI for me.Love MO's sound approach with the instrument in his music.

Thanks Tati.  :)  I really love the Fairlight CMI too.  Mike used the Fairlight synths for all of those lush orchestral sounds on Crises, Discovery, The Killing Fields and Islands.  The Fairlight CMIs also provided really cool Tubular Bells/vibraphone sounds on Five Miles Out, Crises and Islands often with a very cool pitch bend effect!  :cool:  The Fairlight also provided a very nice panpipe sound for "Étude" again with a very cool pitch bend.  :cool:

The Fairlight also provided sweet bagpipe sounds on Taurus II, Five Miles Out title track and "Waldberg (The Peak)".  I've always loved the way Mike layered the lush sounds of the Fairlight with the older airy sounds of the Prophet 5 on Crises, Discovery and The Killing Fields.

I also love the way Mike combined the lush Fairlight sounds with the old chiming Harpsichord sound from the Farfisa Professional Organ at the start of Crises to great effect.  In The Killing Fields Mike also used this same technique for the end of "Bad News" and the next scene after the rainstorm destroys Dith Pran's passport.


Quote (Priabonia @ Oct. 07 2013, 18:52)
Craig

Good question...but before I (try to...) answer it, I am intrigued by your knowledge of the Prophet 5 use on Incantations...do you just know the sounds that well or do you have other information (you may have listened to my cover of Part Four and I am currently mulling over the challenge of doing Parts One to Three - so any tips towards getting the right sounds would be helpful!;)

Thanks  :)  I don't know for certain it was the Prophet 5 that was used for those sounds I mentioned on Incantations Parts 3 and 4 however I used a process off elimination.  The fast organ/recorder arpeggios that you hear all through Incantations came from the Roland SH 2000 with its clarinet sound speeded up but this is a monophonic synth as well as analog.  The ARP 2600 and ARP Solina String Ensemble were used for the electronic string sounds in Incantations especially during the background of the quiet electric guitar section in early Part 2.  Again the ARP synths are monophonic whereas the horn sound at the end of Part 3 and the electronic choir and violin/oboe in Part 4 sound clearly polyphonic which is consistent with the Prophet 5's sound.

Mike Oldfield as was Tim Cross were big users of the Prophet 5 from 1978 through 1985.  Of course the Oberheim Polyphonic synth could produce very similar sounds to the Prophet 5 but Mike used an 1980 model (the OB-Xa) on Crises, Discovery and The Killing Fields which he didn't buy until at least 1982.  To add to the confusion Mike and Tim Cross of course also used the Fairlight Series I and II digital computer synths in this period but I am certain they didn't start using them until 1981 for Five Miles Out.

By the way with regards to a Prophet 5 emulator Mike used the Native Instruments Software synthesizer for emulating the Prophet 5 on Tubular Bells 2003 so I would suggest that.


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mindphaser Offline




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Posted: Oct. 08 2013, 09:28

Quote (Craig Evans @ Oct. 07 2013, 13:46)
What is your favorite Mike Oldfield synthesizer?

My favorite Oldfield synthesizer is the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5.  The Prophet 5 was a classic analog polyphonic synth which played a big keyboard role on Incantations, Platinum, QE2, Five Miles Out, Crises and even Discovery and The Killing Fields with lots of cool sounds.  For example near the end of Incantations Part 3 the Prophet provided Synth horn sounds and in Part 4 it provided a Synth choir and a little later a oboe/violin sound just before "Ode To Cynthia".  Throughout the whole of the Platinum, QE2 and Five Miles Out albums the Prophet was used as a string synthesizer with otherworldly sounds also used.  A synthesized French horn sound from the Prophet was also used in "Wonderful Land".  Throughout all of the Crises title track and all of the Discovery album the Prophet was instead used for more airy sounds with airy sounds also being used in "Evacuation", "Capture" and "Execution" from The Killing Fields.  The Prophet 5 was also probably used for the flute sounds in "Mount Teide" and "Good News".

For Mike Oldfield's live work the Prophet 5 was also a major part of Tim Cross's keyboard rack from 1979 through 1982 as well as Graeme Pleeth's keyboard rack in 1983 and Mickey Simmonds's Keyboard rack in 1984.

The Prophet 5 was also used for string and airy sounds on a lot of Oldfield's singles ranging from "Guilty" in 1979 to "Pictures In The Dark" from 1985.

Interesting thread! :) My favourite synth is the Polymoog synthesiser (Moog 203A) and as it has been used by M.O. a lot it's also my favourite Oldfield synth. :)

Craig, I absolutely don't want to spoil your enthusiasm about the use of the Prophet 5 and I also don't want to play the smart-ass of course but there are some points in your post I've got to comment. First of all I'm very sure that the Prophet 5 was not used that often on M.O.'s albums and not at all on Incantations; as far as I know the first M.O. album which featured the Prophet was Platinum. I'll have to watch the Exposed DVD again which was recorded 5 months after Incantations came out so the synth setup should be similar. As far as I remember the synth/keys setup didn't include a Prophet - I definitely remember a Yamaha CP70 electric grand, Farfisa Professional Duo organ, Polymoog synthesiser, Roland SH-2000 and ARP 2600 with EMS Universal Sequencer. The latter pair apparently was used only for the sequencing on "Guilty" while Tim Cross played the arpeggios on "Incantations part 1" by hand on the SH-2000 - the only possible way actually as the SH-2000 doesn't have sequencer inputs...

The main polyphonic synths on Incantations were the Polymoog (a good example is the start of part 3) and the Solina String-Ensemble which is also prominently featured. I own them both and know them inside-out, so I can safely confirm this. :) The monophonic lead lines are most likely from the Roland SH-2000, some others from the ARP 2600. I'm going to listen to Incantations again and write down some timings where these instruments can be "spotted"...

Quote
Throughout the whole of the Platinum, QE2 and Five Miles Out albums the Prophet was used as a string synthesizer with otherworldly sounds also used.

No, the string synthesiser sounds on M.O.'s albums actually came from two string synthesisers - first the Solina String-Ensemble and from 1980 mainly the Roland Vocoder Plus (VP-330) which is not just a vocoder but also has polyphonic strings and synthesised choir sounds. Wikipedia even claims the "Roland Strings" on Crises are the Roland RS-202 but they are definitely not - the sound of the RS-202 is totally different from the strings on Crises which are actually VP-330.

The Prophet is surely one of the main synths on QE2 (along with the SH-2000, Polymoog and some Yamaha CS-80 maybe), on Five Miles Out many "synth" parts are Fairlight already and on Crises it was only used on the title track according to the gear list but it's unclear where - the horn stabs that start around 3:45 could be the Prophet but most synth parts are actually the Oberheim OB-Xa which had become M.O.'s main 'workhorse synth' by then - see the recently published Crises track sheet). The 1983 live setup on the "Crises at Wembley" DVD is Fairlight, Oberheim OB-Xa and Roland VP-330 - no Prophet unless it's hidden somewhere...
It also seems to be not present on Discovery - the inner sleeve of the LP has a picture of M.O.'s "synth corner" which shows the Oberheim system (OB-Xa, DMX drum machine, DSX sequencer), Fairlight, Roland VP-330 and, strangely, a Fender Rhodes piano. I haven't listened to The Killing Fields for a long time but I seem to remember that apart from orchestra, choir and guitars practically everything on that album is Fairlight. Could you give me the timings where you think the Prophet appears in the tracks you mentioned?

Sorry that this has become such a long post - when it comes to synths, I just can't stop writing! ;) Oh, and I absolutely didn't want to devalue the Prophet, it's one of the greatest synths ever actually! :)


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Craig Evans Offline




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Posted: Oct. 08 2013, 11:23

I'm sorry about that mindphaser.  I'm afraid my "cloth ears" got the sounds of the Prophet 5, Polymoog and Oberheim mixed up.  I agree with you about the Polymoog and Yamaha CS80.  They are both really great synths as is the Oberheim OB-Xa.  Thank you for your input and for being understanding.  :)

By the way I know the Fairlight, Choir and orchestra provided most of the music but I just thought the Prophet 5 might have appeared in The Killing Fields at these times which I will show since you asked:-
1)  In "Evacuation" at 0:00-0:09 and 2:17-2:34 these sounds sound similar to a Prophet 5's bells.  Also I can hear a Prophet 5-like airy sound at 1:11-1:48, 1:51-1:56, 2:35-3:02 and 3:32-3:38.  Finally at 3:53-4:09 this reminds me of a Prophet 5's phat bass sound.

2)  In "Capture" I can hear an airy Prophet 5 sound at 0:07-0:11, 0:53-0:59 and 2:06-2:10.

3)  In "Execution" in the background I can hear a thick airy Prophet 5 sound throughout 0:00-1:54, 2:12-2:20, 3:52-4:00 and 4:27-4:37.  Also at 0:30-0:37 I can hear a descending chord with a subtle Prophet 5 resonance and LFO effect and I can hear Prophet 5 bass sound from 0:36-0:56.

4)  In "Bad News" throughout 0:00-0:45 the main synth melody competing with the strat sounds like a layer of both Fairlight CMI and Prophet 5.  Also throughout 0:04-0:45 I can hear stray and faint Prophet 5 bell sounds in the background.

5)  In "Good News" the flute sound throughout and the clarinet at the end reminds me of a Prophet 5's flute and clarinet sounds.


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mindphaser Offline




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Posted: Oct. 08 2013, 12:07

Thanks for the list, Craig! Good reason for me to listen to The Killing Fields again - I'll do that tonight and I'll also give the Incantations remaster another spin. Maybe I can even spot something sounding Prophet-like... ;) I'll let you know what I've found!

BTW, I find it interesting that you're using the word "airy" quite often in connection to the Prophet's sound. I've got a Pro-One at home which is basically one voice of the P5 and apart from one lead sound I recorded some years ago it sounds quite "un-airy" to my ears most of the time. But of course that's because I mostly use the P1 for those things the Prophets are known for: Big brasses and basses, stinging leads, wild modulations and really powerful percussion sounds.


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mindphaser Offline




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Posted: Oct. 08 2013, 17:59

I've spent this evening listening to Incantations and TKF and I also watched a part of the Exposed film... quite a journey!  :cool:

The film was an easy one: No Prophet on stage but two ( ! ) SH-2000 synths, Polymoog, Farfisa Professional organ (single manual), Yamaha CP70 electric grand piano and CP30 electronic piano, EMS Universal Sequencer and ARP 2600. The EMS is interesting - it's an early digital sequencer which can store 256 notes and has a neat little touch keyboard to enter the notes. Virtually all synth lead lines are being played on the SH-2000s. Although the keyboard players also play many of the arpeggios by hand on the SH-2000s and at least in one occasion on the Polymoog, there are some sequenced arpeggios as well...

THE KILLING FIELDS:
Evacuation
0:00  These bells are Fairlight samples (but maybe sampled from a Prophet, who knows)
*0:43  The lead sound is the OB-Xa, recorded in stereo. It's typical for the OB-Xa that each voice has its own place in the stereo panorama so that every note seems to come from somewhere else.
1:11/1:51 etc.   Definitely a Fairlight sample. This is one of the classic choir pads, heavily filtered. It's the same sound as in "Capture", "Execution" and "Bad News" and it's also on "The Lake" at 0:39 and 3:44 (a bit cleaner here).
3:53  Definitely an analogue synth but I think it's the OB-Xa again. Typical Oberheim brass...

INCANTATIONS

I'm only going to list the "interesting" spots and not every SH-2000 arpeggio... ;)

part one

1:20  Sounds like ARP 2600 (with echo) to me
3:26  ARP 2600 again? It's obviously a monosynth
4:04  Solina
5:20  SH-2000 with Solina in the background
7:28  2x SH-2000
8:30  This part sounds sequenced to me, so probably 2 tracks
of ARP 2600 with the EMS Universal Sequencer
9:44  Polymoog chords in the background. Definitely! ;)
10:30  Very quiet Polymoog chords (off-beat) start here
12:53  Solina comes in
13:40  Polymoog chords get louder
15:02  Solina
15:55  Solina chords (filtered)

part two
0:00  SH-2000 lead, Polymoog strings with a little Solina as
well. The arpeggios seem to be sequenced (ARP 2600/EMS Universal Sequencer).
1:57  Farfisa Professional organ
2:31  Real strings / sequenced ARP 2600 (to me this part up to
7:14 is one of the highlights of the album)
6:00  I think the high notes are real strings as well although
in the Exposed film they are played on the Farfisa Professional
organ
10:25  Polymoog chord in the background
11:05  Solina chord faded in (and being held until the end)

part three
0:00  2 different Polymoog brass sounds, high strings from the Solina
2:35  Solina
7:35  The faint string chords in the background seem to be
real strings.
8:39  SH-2000 doubled with Solina
9:20  Lead is most certainly the SH-2000 again, big Solina chords in the background
13:35  Grand piano chords, doubled with Polymoog (another very
typical sound that uses the Polymoog's resonator bank)
15:20  Here are the horns you've mentioned. Could be the Prophet-5 of course but also easily the ARP 2600 as it's
duophonic. Hard to tell because the sound is very far in the
background and heavily reverberated...

part four
Not much synth in here. The faint pads in the first (nearly) 10 minutes sound like the Polymoog.
9:50  SH-2000
14:03  Polymoog solo
Final chord is Polymoog + Solina


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Craig Evans Offline




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Posted: Oct. 09 2013, 04:23

Wow mindphaser you have been on a big journey!  Thanks again for spotting the synths.  :cool:  It's amazing how well ahead of their time EMS were in making digital sequencers; 10 years before the Fairlight CMI!  EMS also created the Synthi-A KS digital sequencer that Pink Floyd used on Obscured By Clouds, The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here.  It's also clear from your list and the Crises track sheet that Mike was a big user of the ARP Solina String Ensemble from 1975 (Ommadawn) through 1983 (Crises) even when he started using digital synths.  Great synths.  :cool:

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Priabonia Offline




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Posted: Oct. 09 2013, 06:52

Fantastic - vintage synth thread!

A flying visit, much to read and respond to...but quick question to Mindphaser: how do you know that it was the EMS sequencer on Incantations? I have no evidence to the contrary, but I was just guessing that it was the Roland Sequencer 104 as that was what David Bedford was showing off in his "Song of the White Horse" documentary (see Youtube). Given the collaboration between Mike and David I was thinking that maybe there was a conversation along the lines of "hey Mike, you've got to try this"..."yeah, fantastic" ?!

Also (and this is very tangential) the RS104 defaults to a 12 note pattern...and all the synth arpeggios in Incantations are in sextuplets...written on a grassy knoll??


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mindphaser Offline




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Posted: Oct. 09 2013, 12:26

Quote (Priabonia @ Oct. 09 2013, 12:52)
...but quick question to Mindphaser: how do you know that it was the EMS sequencer on Incantations? I have no evidence to the contrary, but I was just guessing that it was the Roland Sequencer 104 as that was what David Bedford was showing off in his "Song of the White Horse" documentary (see Youtube).

Of course it could have been the Roland 104 or any other sequencer but as the combination EMS/ARP 2600 has been used in the 1979 live shows I'm pretty sure this setup was used in the studio a few months earlier, too.  
The sequencer is clearly visible on the Exposed DVDs in the shots from the back of the stage - it sits on the Yamaha CP70 grand piano on the far left side of the keyboard rig, next to one of the SH-2000s. Actually it looks like another small synth (when I watched the DVD for the first time I was thinking "never seen that synth" until I saw the letters "EMS" and the word "sequencer" in a close-up shot later in the film) but it's basically a standalone version of the sequencer section of the AKS. The ARP 2600 can only be seen in a few shots as it sits on the floor, also on the far left side of the rig.

Thanks for pointing me to that David Bedford documentary, Priabonia - I'm going to watch it soon! :)


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Priabonia Offline




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Posted: Oct. 09 2013, 16:11

Ah, OK - I will have to have another look at the Exposed stuff. I only have the Incantations footage (ripped from Youtube) but hopefully it's on that. I suspect your theory is right...I wonder why they didn't use the sequencer live, maybe they couldn't program the key changes etc?

Will also go through your Incantations analysis at some point - thanks for this!


P


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mindphaser Offline




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Posted: Oct. 10 2013, 05:28

Quote (Priabonia @ Oct. 09 2013, 22:11)
Ah, OK - I will have to have another look at the Exposed stuff. I only have the Incantations footage (ripped from Youtube) but hopefully it's on that. I suspect your theory is right...I wonder why they didn't use the sequencer live, maybe they couldn't program the key changes etc?

Yes, the shot I mentioned was on the Incantations DVD (didn't have the time watch the other one on Tuesday). You might have to search a bit - sadly the keyboard players are not shown very often. Worst of all is one very interesting "synth only" section in which the synth players are not visible at all - in their wisdom the film crew decided to film the orchestra instead (doing nothing)...  :(

They did use the sequencer in the live show but only in places where the synth players were busy doing other things (at least it sounds like that). Tim Cross (complete with a big '70s moustache back then) can be seen for a few times playing the arpeggios live which I think is fine - using the sequencer at these points wouldn't have made sense as he definitely could play the arpeggios very well and didn't have other things to play at these points...

I only know the EMS sequencer from photos (seems to be a very rare item); it looks like it could only store notes, not separate key change information. This would have been very unusual btw. . To achieve key changes there are 3 options: Program all the notes (including the key changes), transpose the sequence live on the keyboard of the synth that's playing the sequence or have two sequencers running in parallel - one for the main sequence and one running at a fraction of the first sequencer's speed, controlling the key changes. I think they used the first option on the live shows.


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mindphaser Offline




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Posted: Oct. 10 2013, 17:01

Quote (Priabonia @ Oct. 09 2013, 12:52)
I have no evidence to the contrary, but I was just guessing that it was the Roland Sequencer 104 as that was what David Bedford was showing off in his "Song of the White Horse" documentary (see Youtube).

I've just watched that documentary, it's fabulous! Big thanks again! :)

David Bedford must have been a great influence for M.O. - although his music is a lot more abstract there are many similarities too. Just listen to the music in the "motorcycle sequence" starting around 4:40 - this sounds like an Incantations outtake to me...


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Posted: Oct. 11 2013, 02:58

My vote goes for the SH-2000 or the Solina. They had the most distinctive sound for the era!
Oddly enough, Mike does not ever seem to have used a Minimoog...

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Posted: Oct. 11 2013, 04:59

Quote (emac @ Oct. 11 2013, 02:58)
Oddly enough, Mike does not ever seem to have used a Minimoog...

Well, it didn't have presets, did it?

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mindphaser Offline




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Posted: Oct. 11 2013, 05:38

Quote (larstangmark @ Oct. 11 2013, 10:59)
Quote (emac @ Oct. 11 2013, 02:58)
Oddly enough, Mike does not ever seem to have used a Minimoog...

Well, it didn't have presets, did it?

No, the Minimoog didn't have presets.

Quote (Craig Evans @ Oct. 09 2013, 10:23)
It's also clear from your list and the Crises track sheet that Mike was a big user of the ARP Solina String Ensemble from 1975 (Ommadawn) through 1983 (Crises) ...

Craig, after a long time I've listened to Amarok again this morning and was surprised that M.O. dug out the Solina again for this album after the terrible synths on Earth Moving... To me Amarok is a temporary return to form musically and also synth-wise - still some Roland D50 but also some nice analogue pads and some very low basses (maybe Roland Super Jupiter MKS80 and Moog Taurus?)...


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Priabonia Offline




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Posted: Oct. 11 2013, 08:19

Quote (mindphaser @ Oct. 10 2013, 22:01)
David Bedford must have been a great influence for M.O. - although his music is a lot more abstract there are many similarities too. Just listen to the music in the "motorcycle sequence" starting around 4:40 - this sounds like an Incantations outtake to me...

I was saving this thought for my (one day...) forthcoming "critical retrospective" on Incantations*, but I remember reading once....years ago, way before the web, something along the lines of "David Bedford wrote most of Incantations"**. Contentious I know, and that is my paraphrase of a bad memory, so don't read too much into it. It could of course simply refer to the (e.g.) string arrangements, which as a "classical" musician who could write notation, he would naturally have done...but I suspect that actually he contributed a lot more (a lot of the arpeggio stuff for example). Sadly, I had this in my head a few years back when I stumbled across his website with, wow, an email address! Before I could get round to emailing the great man himself with a respectful request, he had died. More anon


* among my many excuses for not getting on with this is that I have newborn twins, who are still in the hospital. Bizarrely, in the intensive care room, the various bleeping monitors make all sorts of pentatonic scale runs, with several of them all going off together slightly out of sync it sounds like someone let loose in a early 70s vintage synth/sequencer museum! I am convinced they are going to grow up to be minimalist techno artists!


** I have searched the web for any reference to this comment, without success. If any of the audience here can shed any further light it would be most interesting.


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larstangmark Offline




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Posted: Oct. 12 2013, 09:22

Incantations sound like 50% Ommadawn and 50% David Bedford ca "The Odyssey" and "Instructions for Angels". I have suggested this elsewhere on this discussionboard and boy have I been flamed! :laugh:

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