Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Astrogator, The Omega Syndicate, Create & Modulator ESP, Live at the Awakenings 8th July 2006

The gig last saturday went really well, I got there last but was set up first, which shows that keeping the same rig from one gig to the next really helps.

I went on first at just after 7pm (halfway through my tea) to perform for roughly half an hour as Modulator ESP, doing a lightly more ambient set than usual and using my laptop to edit Nord Modular sequences on the fly. i also had some sequences set up in the Regelwerk, which was triggering the SH-101 and Mono/Poly. The time went really quickly without any major cock-ips and I was fairly satisfied with my set. Audience feedback was pretty good.

Next up was fellow Astrogator Steve Humphries aka Create, who performed a couple of nice spacey pieces for his solo set, he had a few technical difficulties in the first one, but carried on regardless. there were also a few humourous samples, just for fun. I really enjoyed Steve's second pice which had some nice minimal backing sequennces.

Next up were The Omega Syndicate, with new members Glenn Alexander on keys and Rob Clynes on guitar. What followed was a powerful set of sequence heavy EM/prog/space rock. The new boys added extra dimensions to the TOS sound and allowed Dave and Xan to concentrate on some nice lead work and sequencing respectively.

Finally to round off the evening Steve and I performed a live improvised version of Dreamlight, which sort of had the main themes and ideas from the rehearsal versions, but with a slightly different structure and extra bits. I really enjoyed this set and according to Steve the recording sounds pretty good so who knows, maybe it will be made available as Dreamlight Live.

The only downside was that the audience was quite small, though we had a nice surprise in that a US EM fan who happened to be in the UK came over from Manchester to see us. Thanks Tom. Read his review on the Awakenings website.

We released the new limited CDR 'Dreamlight' and sold quite a few copies on the night.

All in all a fine evening of EM

Photos soon...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Time Zero Review

Nice review of Time Zero by Artemi Pugachov

"Tronic Pulse" starts with warbling & rasping synthesizers coupled with mysterious Mellotron flute. After a while a sequence builds and we are immediately in mid-70's Tangerine Dream territory. Not bad!

"Beyond the Sun" has excellent deep intro. Jez made an excellent job of synthesizing really out-there sounds on this one. This is cosmic EM of the highest order. I just have to wonder why they don't use this stuff in movies about cosmos these days, going for some boring orchestral drek instead. Excellent sequence starts and what a great sequence it is! Coupled with a super-punchy bass sound it really has a bite to it! The Mellotron flute appears in this track as well, combining to great effect with synthetic textures. This is Berlin School with a fresh attitude - top notch stuff!

"Quadratic", once again has quite an aggressive intro, with harsh, raspy sounds and echoing clangs. After a while a slow sawy bass sequence appears. Another sequence joins the flow, making this a real wall-of-sound experience. This is stark, dark and decidedly un-commercial Electronic Music. The sequences are excellent while the overall nature of the track remains absolutely otherworldly. I think if you're into geometry - you will enjoy this. Jez has really managed to express the beauty of simple geometrical forms with this one - sort of a dry, naked beauty wrapped in intricate forms. And where one would be without that Mellotron flute? There's a bit of that too, but it only appears for the last several seconds of the track.

Next is "Eos Flight" that initially sets the stage with deep and mysterious effects & pads. A rhythmic pulse starts but never dominates. Looks like it's the most laid-back track so far. Various lead sounds and additional sequences play on top but overall the track retains that relaxed, jamming feel.

The title track starts with echoes of unknown origin but after a while we hear some whooshing sounds and very deep bass throbs. Various other sounds can be heard and this is easily one of those effective intro's you don't want to end. However, as we are closing the 10 minute mark, a slow bass / rhythm combination starts and takes us to the next section that is dominated by ever-so-slightly shifting and morphing rhythms, all of them of the laid-back variety. This is an unusual track indeed and it's unlike anything I've heard from Jez so far. A great lead line is heard around the 16 minute mark. Another sequence appears as the lead line continues its play. Some heavier rhythms can be heard after 20 minutes into the track that has turned into quite a journey by now. Superb analogue-sounding solos add a pleasant warmness and really make me go "wow!" This is quite simply some of the best neo-prog EM I've heard in a while. Fans of Berlin School will be delighted, especially those who favour complex, long-form compositions with great rhythms, lots of sequences, atmospheres and a sparkling solo or two to boost. One thing to add is that Jez' sound is now much more refined (compared to previous efforts) and supplied with a good dose of reverb, adding the pleasant "spaciness" to his compositions. He seems to have put much more effort in his songs which are now better thought-out and composed with a level of precision and feeling that many would be jealous of. The last part of the title track lets the sequences to shine in all their glory and adds a new bell-like sequence that sounds very organic. A mournful pad sound is all one needs to complete the mental picture of traveling through space & time. The journey's over and we want more.

But wait, Jez serves us a little dessert in the form of "Chromium". It consists of typical "Modulator ESP" atmospheres - all in a mysterious and a bit claustrophobic setting. Interesting little track.

"Time Zero" is the best Modulator ESP album so far and a real must for fans of Berlin School / sequencer music. Excellent!

from the Encyclopedia of Electronic Music

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Latest Updates

Shrewsbury gig with Mooch:

This went very well and was most enjoyable, there was a good reaction from the audience and I even sold some CDs. Stayed over at a very nice B&B and spent the following day mooching round Shrewsbury with Steve Palmer (Mooch).

Time Zero:

Was released at the Shrewsbury gig and initial sales went very well with virtually no advertising and I got some good reviews from people who bought copies. At the time of writing there are now only 7 copies left. There are full details here and reviews here

Awakenings 2006 vol 2:

This compilation will feature a new exclusive Modulator ESP track entitled 'Time Running Out'.

Awakenings 2006 vol 2.5:

This ambient compilation will feature a new exclusive Astrogator track entitled 'Astral Drift' which is an edit of material from the second Chesterfield Jam.


Went over to Steve's house on 2nd - 4th June, primarily to go on his stag do but also to plan/rehearse our set for our next gig, which is on July 8th at the Brudenell in Leeds. We will be doing a set as Astrogator and individual solo sets. Also appearing are the mighty Omega Syndicate. Should be a good one.

Listening back to recordings of the sessions we decided we probably had enough material for a limited edition release, provisionally entitled 'Dreamlight' which we hope to get sorted in time for the July gig.

I am also working on my solo set for Awakenings on July 8th and hope to do something a bit different from my last appearance.

Artist Server:

I've also just upgraded my Artist Server account so I can upload loads more music, I've just put up some old stuff and a couple of new pieces, which were improvised using the step sequencers in the Nord modular:

Modular Xperiment 01 - An experiment using multiple layers of shifting sequences, ebbing, flowing and morphing. One slot was used for sequences and another was used for background noise effects. This one turned out to be quite 'Berlin School' like.

Modular Xperiment 02 - Another experiment, this time with more random sequences. Sort of minimal chaotic ambient.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

New album - Time Zero/ Gig update

The next Modulator ESP album is due for release at the Shrewsbury gig on 2nd May 2006. The album is called 'Time Zero' and will contain a selection of unreleased studio and live recordings. The provisional track listing at the moment is:
1. Tronic Pulse (Retro Improv)
2. Eos Flight
3. Quadratic
4. Chromium
5. Undecided as yet (possibly something new, if not, one of the catalog of studio and live improvs currently residing on the hard drive)
6. Time Zero
It will be a limited edition CDR release, probably of about 25 copies. Each copy will be individually numbered and signed. Let me know if you'd like a copy reserving

Provisional cover artwork:

Flyer for gig:

Running times:

Doors around 7:30
Modulator ESP 9:00-9:45
Mooch 10:00-11:00
DJs Jez and Steve playing spacey music 'til about 12:00-12:30

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Modulator ESP: Live Shrewsbury 02.05.06

I am currently due to play at a club/bar in Shrewsbury called C:21 on Tuesday 2nd May.
This will be supporting Steve Palmer aka Mooch as he launches the new Mooch album Gaiaspace.

Further details as and when they become available.

New tracks and Myspace

I've recently uploaded a couple of newish, rather Berlin Schoolish tracks:
Quadratic - This was to try out some ideas for the Quadra Jam recorded on 18.02.06. A bit rough, but some nice sequencing using the P3 and the Cheetah MS6, other sounds were from the Microwave XT, Prophet 600 and Prophet VS. A report of the jam is still being drafted.
Retro Improv - This is a simple improvisation, and is my first recording to feature Mellotron flute, courtesy of my new Roland M-VS1 sound module. Sequences were from the SH-101, other sounds were from the Prophet 600 and Prophet VS.
Also if anyone else on here is on Myspace I have recently set up an account. Both of these tracks are currently available to stream from there...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Updates: Forum, Recording, Jams

Forum: I have a new forum, for the discussion of my music and electronic music in general, it's at:

Recording: Work has begun on my new studio album at last.

As I've been concentrating on improvising it's been a bit of a change trying to do something a bit more organised.

I've booked a couple of days off to do a bit of recording as I never seem to be able to find the time, what with work and life and stuff .

It's not gone so well so far as I'm still suffering from my cold and my concentration isn't so good. The hacking cough doesn't help either.

Have managed to get started though, which is always the biggest hurdle.

Have a very nice spacey intro and some nice analog sequences laid down so far.

Hopefully, now that I've got the ball rolling I'll be able to add to it in due course.

Jams: I've got a couple of jams lined up, tomorrow I'm off to jam with Steve and Dave and Xan of The Omega Syndicate. Should be fun.

Then on the 25th of February Steve and I are off down to Bedford to jam with Brendan Pollard (Rogue Element) and John Sherwood (4m33s, Entity, Cult of Ashand). This should be a very interesting session as we will get to try out some of the vintage gear in the Rogue Element studio

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Formication + Modulator ESP 19.01.06

Well the gig with Formication went really well, apart from a few technical problems and a few car-related incidents that I will get to later.

Got to the venue for 7pm, parked outside (on a bit of pavement) and unloaded, helped by the Formication guys.

Got everything set-up quite quickly and tidily and was soundchecked by about 8:30. Somehow managed to misplace my camera while setting up but did manage to get the video camera set-up to tape the gig.

The venue was full of young trendy students, quite a different crowd to a normal EM gig. A few friends also came down, including Dave, Pete, Alan, Ian and Katy. (Thanks guys)

I was quite nervous due to the large crowd, but pulled myself together and went on at 9:05 and played about an hour long set of drones, spacey ambient sections, sequencer sections and a few wig-out solos too.

Unfortunately I had a few technical problems during the gig:

I forgot to press record on the minidisc, then when I did remember, when I checked the recording levels I realised I'd also forgotten to plug the minidisc in, as I'd been using it's output with my headphones for a few final checks. Hopefully I should only have missed about 5 mins.

Also, during the first half of the set, when I came to fade things out for a transition, I found I had some stuck notes droning in the background. After desperately checking all the faders on the mixing desk I realised it was the Prophet 600, but in the dark I couldn't really work out why, so I just turned it off. Later when I decided to give it another go I discovered that about 5 of the top keys had slipped out of alignment and were sticking down.

Apparently no-one noticed so hopefully the recording won't have been ruined.

There was a fair bit of applause at the end of the set and at several points during the set where it sounded like I may have been coming to the end of a piece.

Unfortunately, as soon as I came off stage, Alan, one of the promoters, came up to me to tell me that someone had snapped the wing mirror of my car whilst I was playing. Luckily the bouncers had manged to get the pieces off the miscreants. I managed to put all the pieces back together but despite the best efforts of Alan and myself we just couldn't get it back on. Deciding to leave it 'til the morning I headed back inside to sort a few things out.

I was still on a high from the performance and wasn't really bothered, as I was sure it could be fixed.

Reports from people I spoke to afterwards were that my set was pretty well recieved and that there were even people dancing. I sold a few CDs too.

Next thing I knew, Jared, the other one of the Leftlion promoters was outside arguing with a traffic warden, who wanted to give me a ticket for illegal parking. Ooops, in all the excitement I'd completely forgotten to move my car and lo and behold I was issued with a £30 fine. Bugger.

Even this didn't really phase me, so I got in the car and drove off to find a parking space 1/2 a mile up the road.

Headed back in time to catch the bulk of Formications set, slightly dazed by the evenings events.

Jared very kindly paid my fine too, which made me feel rather guilty as it was really my fault, but it made him happy as he was still feeling guilty about the wing mirror incident.

Some photos:

Gratuitous gear shot

Me in action (photo by Alec of Formication)

Formication in action

rest here

All in all, quite a strange evening, but overall a positive experience.
I even had some girls come up and ask me questions after the gig which was nice.
Also big thanks to Joe who helped me pack up afterwards

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dave Davies + Modulator ESP 13.01.06: Secret gig report

Did a 'secret' gig supporting Dave Davies at Bunker's Hill on Friday 13th January, sort of as a dress rehearsal for the gig supporting Formication on the 19th. Was very useful as it helped me iron out a few wrinkles in the sounds and setting up departments. gig was video-taped and recorded and highlights should be made available in due course.


The funky backdrops lit properly

Dave performing his very minimal spacey electronica

Nice shot of me in action

More here

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Modulator ESP interview in LeftLion

Here's the text of an interview I did recently for LeftLion, a magazine and website dedicated to Nottingham culture

When did you begin to record as Modulator ESP?

Well, I have been recording bits and pieces in between playing in bands since the early nineties, though I didn’t actually decide to use the name until about 2001, when I compiled my first proper solo album (Random Fluctuations) out of the best stuff I’d produced over the previous 5 or so years. More recent albums as Modulator ESP have all been recordings of improvised gigs. I’m just about to start work on my second studio album, if I can ever make the time.

How would you describe your style to new punters?

A mixture of (dark) ambient, ‘70s electronic music (Jean Michel Jarre/ Tangerine Dream) and prog rock (Rick Wakeman). To people who don’t know the music of the artists mentioned I’d say it was spacey instrumental music, the sort of music they would play in planetariums.

So what exactly is this experimental synth project?

A ‘get out clause’ so that I can do different things when I want to without getting labelled as one particular style. Also a way to get round the one small problem I discovered after choosing to call my project Modulator, that there is an American pop/rock band who have been using it slightly longer.

What instruments and kit do you use to create the music?

I use analog and digital synthesizers in combination with analog style step sequencers that allow real time interaction with the sounds and the rhythmic parts enabling me to improvise more freely.

Tell us about the other bands you’ve been in during your time in Nottingham?

I’ve been in three ‘bands’ in my time in Nottingham: ‘Spiritland’ was a studio project with a guitarist called Dave, we made a tape and then he left to play with Toyah, she dumped him after the tour and he lives down somewhere down South. ‘Voyage Within’ was an obscure ‘prog’ band. We did about 3 gigs, very weird, complicated music in all sorts of odd time signatures. We had terrible problems with drummers and vocalists and were an instrumental band for most of the time we were together. I left due to ‘personal’ differences. ‘Made in the Shade’/ ‘Shadowdancer’ was the last band, doing quirky melodic rock/pop, with another two guys called Dave, we did lots of gigs around Nottingham and even one in Derby, again without a drummer. I left to do my own thing, which turned out to be the current project ‘Modulator ESP’, and I’m also in another band called ‘Astrogator’ with a chap from Manchester.

If you could get anyone in to hook up on a track, who would you choose?

I’d quite like to do some stuff with a guitarist, someone like a young Dave Gilmour or Robert Fripp, into more textural stuff.

What other music in Nottingham are you feeling?

Not a lot really, there doesn’t seem to be anyone doing the sort of stuff I’m into in Nottingham these days. I mostly go to gigs up in Leeds or at the National Space Centre at Leicester.

What other music are you feeling generally?

At the moment, I’m listening to lot of pretty obscure electronic music, stuff by Steve Roach, Stephen Parsick/ [‘ramp], a band called Node etc.

What’s your idea of a good night out in Nottingham?

On a night out I generally prefer the rock end of the music spectrum, so I like the Tap for a drink then on to Rock City.

Do you follow County of Forest in the footy?

Neither, I’m afraid I’ve never understood the appeal.

Who is your ultimate Nottingham hero?

After much deliberation I’d have to say Richard Beckinsale, he was funny and it was tragic that he died so young.

What was the last thing that made you laugh?

Marvin the Paranoid Android shooting the Vogon soldiers with the Point Of View (POV) gun at the end of the Hitch-Hikers movie, leaving them all collapsed on the floor moaning about how depressed they were. Sad to say the POV gun was probably the funniest bit of the film.

What was the last thing that made you cry?

The end of King Kong., when Kong dies at the top of the Empire State building

What was the last film you saw?

At the cinema – King Kong on my birthday, fantastic, made me laugh and cry and even feel a bit sick.
On DVD – The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as a huge fan of the books/radio series/TV show I couldn’t bring myself to see this at the cinema after reading a review that slated it. It was an interesting experience, with great visuals, but I felt it suffered from superfluous additions to the plot, crap characters and the wanton removal of all Douglas Adams jokes. I did laugh occasionally though, the POV gun amused me

What was the last book you read?

Batman Year One, graphic novel by Frank Miller, an extended take on the Batman origin detailing his first year as a fighting crime and corruption in gotham City.

What can we expect from your gig at the Orange Tree?

Depending on time, one or maybe two quite long evolving improvised pieces, with some weird abstract bits and some more rhythmic, melodic bits. There are several good examples of live sets available from my website, including one recorded very early on New Years Day which was streamed live around the world.

Is there any question that you really wish we had asked you..?

No, these have been pretty comprehensive.

Anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?

Come to the gig at the Orange Tree if you fancy an evening of music almost but not completely unlike anything you will hear anywhere else...

link to interview online here

Thursday, January 12, 2006