Synth Geek

Last month my son and I headed to Birmingham for The Seventh Wave Festival of Electronic Music.

Originally were going to attend An Afternoon With Wolfgang Flur, one of the original members of Kraftwerk, but it turned into a full day of Synth Geekery.

Midlands Modular Meet

This was a late addition to the programme, we were unsure what to expect, but thought we’d drop in on the way to see Wolfgang.

It was a wonderfully amateurish and low key meeting of modular synthesiser fans, one of which brought a complete early analogue Moog along to play, and a few local music stores with a great selection of devices to try out.

moog

My son creates his own music with a combination of synths, keyboards and Garage Band, so this was his ultimate sweet shop.

It was a delight to see him in his element, to see a 12-year-old confidently chatting with grown men, and getting into the kit on display without batting an eyelid.

As a parent, it was an interesting experience to not be the ‘expert’ for the first time, but one I couldn’t have enjoyed more.

An Afternoon With Wolfgang Flur

The afternoon event took place at the Blue Orange Theatre, a cosy little space that held an audience of maybe a hundred, a small stage and a large screen behind.

Peter Duggal was support for Wolfgang. I’d not heard his music before, it was great to hear something completely new. Peter combined his music with visuals brilliantly and performed a great little set.

Peter Duggal

One track I really enjoyed was Birmingham, which feels like a natural extension of 80s era Human League and Gary Human with a hint of New Order. Transpires the hint of New Order is bass provided by the legend that is Peter Hook.

The final version with Hooky on bass is not yet available online, it will appear on Wolfgang’s new album, but here’s the demo.

Wolfgang Flur is a larger than life personality, his visuals bounced between old footage of Kraftwerk and him marching in front of landmarks wearing a Prussian helmet – a self-proclaimed Musik Soldat.

Wolfgang Flur

His set was entertaining, with some great remixes of classic Kraftwerk tracks, including a version of Neon Lights with a female vocalist which we both really liked.

Wolfgang was due to give a Q&A after his set, but it was obvious my Son wanted to catch the end of the Modular Meetup.

We headed back and managed to have a really good play with our favourite piece of kit: the Moog DFAM or Drummer From Another Mother. Which rivals TWAIN  for best name in technology ever.

On the way home we priced up a DFAM, and at £1600 we’re both going to be saving up our pocket money.

Originally published on my Newsletter

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Another Escape

Another Escape and Yallah Coffee

Over the last few years there has been a resurgence in printed journals and magazines. Not mass market, mass media publications, but independent, high-quality curated works created by passionate people.

Another Escape is a wonderful example – well written, with fabulous photography and beautifully designed and typeset. The latest issue is curated around the theme of wilderness, and delivers a fascinating escape from the day to day.

Underworld – Brilliant Yes That Would Be

For a while the hints have been there on Instagram, but we can now rejoice – new music from Underworld.

I would have loved to see Underworld in Reykjavik; Iceland is on my ‘places to visit’ list, and to see Karl and Rick there would have been quite something.

I love this track, restrained yet with an unrequited tension that runs through it. The visuals are brilliant, the simple mirroring of the amazing Icelandic scenery is incredibly effective.

Twelvesouth PencilSnap A Quick Review

Where and how to store your Apple Pencil is ongoing first world problem for iPad Pro users. Apple’s cases and covers don’t include a home for your pencil; except for the eye wateringly expensive Leather Sleeve.

Apple make a very nice looking Pencil Case, but I could never understand why it wasn’t magnetic allowing it to stick to your Smart Cover or Keyboard.

I guess Twelvesouth had the same thought and thus created the PencilSnap – a leather sleeve for your Apple Pencil that sticks to your Smart Cover through the wonder of magnetism.

When I saw the PencilSnap I ordered one immediately. Now, the PencilSnap isn’t cheap; it cost me £35 including shipping, and then there was a further £5 in customs charges, so £40 in all. Suddenly Apple accessories seem almost reasonably priced.

When I removed the PencilSnap from it’s rather nice box I had to check the box for details of the case as I was confused over the PencilSnap’s construction. The PencilSnap is made from leather, apparently, but it looks and feels like pleather or dare I say it vinyl. It certainly isn’t the same quality or feel as Apple’s Smart Cover, and so doesn’t match well visually.

The PencilSnap holds the Apple Pencil securely, very securely. I hope that as the PencilSnap wears in the leather will soften making it easier to remove the Pencil and a better visual match for my Smart Cover.

And speaking of holding securely – the PencilSnap’s magnets are excellent, adhering to the Smart Cover very strongly indeed, there’s no risk of the case falling or slipping off.

The magnets hold the PencilSnap in one location, which causes another issue with the case – it sits proud of the edge of the Smart Cover when I had expected it to sit flush and parallel with the edge. It’s not a deal breaker as I tend to hold the iPad by the side where the Smart cover attachs, but it’s a little annoying. Again I’m hoping that as the PencilSnap wears in it will be less noticeable.

The PencilSnap is a great idea and functions well, but is perhaps a little let down by the materials and final design, which given the cost is a little disappointing.

Should it improve with wear I’ll update this review.

The Epitome of Cool

Slipping The Surly Bonds of Earth

I’ve just returned from the excellent Pixel Pioneers conference in Belfast. I flew from Heathrow to Belfast City, a quick hop over the Irish Sea.

On the way out the weather was misty with very low cloud; just moments after we left the ground we were above the clouds, emerging into bright, beautiful sunshine.

I never tire of this experience, every time I fly it feels like magic to be above the clouds, experiencing a view that nobody beneath you can have.

I was reminded of one of my favourite poems.

High Flight (An Airman’s Ecstasy)

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of; wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air;
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark or even eagle flew;
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

– John Gillespie Magee 1922–41

John Magee was a Canadian airman flying with the RAF in the Battle of Britain. High Flight was in a letter to his parents, received the week after he was killed in action.

The Return – London by Air

On my return we were treated to the most fabulous view as the sun set over one of my favourite cities in the world – London.

We flew in over North London with views of Wembley, then turned back to the west and flew right over Central London.

Following the Thames from the O2 and Olympic Stadium, over Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, the London Eye and finally Kew Gardens. Fabulous.

Originally published in my newsletter – subscribe now…