A review of our demo album Sunshine State was published in your excellent Business End feature last month, for which we were very grateful. When you put yourself up for a review in this way, you expect a bit of positive criticism, which will generally be helpful, but in this case we got a complete panning! The panel obviously didn't get what we were doing, certainly didn't like it, and let us all know!
Of course, we fully support the ability of the panel to speak openly and honestly about their impressions, and wouldn't have it any other way. It may sound like a sob story, but our album represents a year of writing and recording on a limited budget, making what we think is a carefully crafted record. So while we do agree with some of the criticism, there's obviously also much we don't agree with, and it would have been nice if the panel could have found at least something nice to say about our efforts!
While we're grateful for some criticism, publicity, and the ability to get our music heard by a wider audience, we still believe in our sound and challenge your readers to judge for themselves. They can download excerpts from our album at www.sunshinestatemusic.co.uk or email us at email@example.com for a free copy.
Carl & Jules
I've been reading a great deal about the proposed licensing bill lately and, following on from Paul White's Leader in SOS March 2003, have added my signature to the petition web site. I've also sent a letter to my local MP, and he responded with a large amount of paperwork from Kim Howells' department that attempts to explain the new bill. I've read through this material and, keeping an open mind, at first glance I concluded that the proposed bill makes a great deal of sense, getting rid of the ridiculous 'two in a bar' rule and, in theory, streamlining the process by which an organisation can get a permit for music.
Now, please keep in mind that while I'm no Labour supporter, I do believe in fair play, and nowhere on the Musicians' Union (MU) web site do I see mentioned that the proposed permit for music is free. There's also a fair bit of wordplay going on: performances will be licensable if the public are admitted, or if people are charged to attend with the aim of making a profit, and these conditions mean that many examples on the MU's list won't, in fact, be licensable.
Why do we even need to license entertainment? Well, that's a bit of a debatable point, but maybe there's some justification on the grounds of health and safety. I think that if the licence is free and easy to get obtain, what's the big deal? But I recognise that these two points are crucial.
I've downloaded the actual bill from Parliament's web site and I don't see too much leading me to believe that the politicians are lying. Where it could go wrong is that these new licences will be issued by the same local authorities who issue public performance licences now. These same authorities haven't distinguished themselves in the past as being pro-music at all, so that's an area for concern, although one that strangely isn't being raised by the MU.
In summary: I'm getting conflicting information and I'm wondering if there's another agenda here that I'm missing? My conspiracy theory says this is the opportunity where 'big music' can clamp down on any music performance where they don't get a cut, but isn't that what PRS is for? I'd really like to bring some light and air to this debate as I'm very concerned by it, being a musician and a music lover; but I'm worried that the MU and other organisations aren't doing the right thing in the long run in terms of actively supporting live music.
I'm looking for a string machine, but don't really know which model to go for. I read Gordon Reid's Quadra review in SOS April 2002, which was useful, but I know that Quadras are scarce. I've been told that the ARP/Eminent Solinas are nice, and was considering an Eminent 310 as they're cheaper, but they're so big and heavy. After some more research, I think I've narrowed it down to either the ARP Omni 2 or the Logan String Melody II — I'm leaning towards the Logan, though, as somebody told me they do sound quite ARP-ish and are more reliable. I do own some really good polyphonic synths, including a Matrix 12, Juno 106, Synthex and Prophet VS, but they simply can't do the sort of string sounds I'm after. None of them are organic and alive enough, probably because they use DCOs.
Also where can I get that CS80, brassy Blade Runner-style sound? I'd hoped that my Matrix 12 would do it, but it can't, and somebody mentioned to me that the next best thing after the CS80 is the Prophet T8. Can the CS60 do it, or was that sound achieved by detuning the oscillators on the CS80? If it could, maybe the CS60 could be a good bet, allowing me to get the brassy CS80 sounds and, as it's quite organic-sounding, it might be quite good for pads as well? I'd be most grateful for any advice.
Gordon Reid replies: Please bear in mind that the first question you're asking is one of taste. However, I have a good reason for suggesting the Logan String Melody II over and above any of the Solina/Omni/Quadra family because it's truly polyphonic, with a VCA and envelope generator for each note, whereas the ARPs have a single VCA/EG for the whole keyboard. I don't know who told you that the Logan sounds 'ARP-ish' as in my view it doesn't; it is altogether thicker and more lush, which may appeal to you — or not.
As for emulating the CS80, while many have tried, all — as far as I know — have failed. If I remember correctly, the Alesis Andromeda can come close on a few sounds if you work at it, but this is more expensive than a CS80. The Yamaha CS60 is also nice but, as you imply, is more limited. But beware: the thing that made the CS80 special was not the basic voicing. If you just press two of the preset buttons and play, I guarantee that you will be severely disappointed. The positions of the non-memorised controls are critical, as is the external treatment.