Controlled Bleeding “TROD”

The new album “Sans Fixer” is available NOW!

I’m pleased to announce that my newest full length album “Sans Fixer” has just released on Silber Records. This is my first new collection of released material since 2018’s “Intone Drone” and probably one of my favorite releases since 2014’s “Crickets were the Compass”. While it’s hard to shake common threads I feel that this record is a pretty big departure from the rest of my solo stuff and I hope that some of that is evident while you listen. You can stream and buy at all of the usual outlets. Here’s the link to the labels release page:
Thanks to Brian John Mitchell for releasing this on Silber Media! Special thanks to We Never Sleep for the collaboration on the last track on the album!

House of Prog – Chvad SB “Intone Drone″ (2018)

US composer and musician CHVAD SB has an extensive career that goes back to the early 1990’s, with tenures in multiple bands along the way. He released his first solo album back in 2012, and six more releases have followed since. “Intone Drone” is his latest solo album, and was released through US label Silber Records towards the end of 2018.

As one might expect from the title of this album, drones are rather central here. This is a one song album, clocking in at just over 63 minutes, and while this may sound rather massive and challenging, not to say monumental, this is a case of a skilled creator of sounds managing to establish and maintain a distinct mood and atmosphere throughout, with effective and efficient use of subtle details to maintain tension and interest. Continue reading House of Prog – Chvad SB “Intone Drone″ (2018)

F.E.S.T.E.R. A Tribute to the Residents released along with 2 additional t.o.t.s. rarities released on Bandcamp.

F.E.S.T.E.R. hasn’t been available for a long long time so here it is in the light of day once again. I also pushed out two alternate versions of the THINGS OUTSIDE THE SKIN albums “God in a Box” and “You Knew It All Long” that were created for a label deal that long ago went sour. They are all free so check them out here:
F.E.S.T.E.R.: A Tribute to the The Residents and THINGS OUTSIDE THE SKIN on Bandcamp.

Controlled Bleeding LIVE 3-27-2019 @Brooklyn Bazaar

Brooklyn Bazaar
150 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, New York 11222

tickets for sale on eventbrite

Bandcamp Interview and Feature, Controlled Bleeding (2017)

Experimental Groundbreakers Controlled Bleeding Straddle the Primal and Cerebral

Controlled Bleeding bandleader and guitarist Paul Lemos isn’t the type of artist you can pigeonhole. Since founding Controlled Bleeding in Boston in the late ‘70s, Lemos has led the band through a dizzying array of musical styles including post-punk, fusion, power electronics, and industrial, to name just a few. Not unlike King Crimson or Swans—acts whose names function as institutions that host revolving casts of players—Controlled Bleeding can appear to be an entirely different band depending on which album or period you focus on.

Last year, after a lengthy hiatus following the deaths of longtime creative partners, drummer/keyboardist Chris Moriarty and singer/keyboardist Joe Papa, Lemos released his first album in 14 years under the Controlled Bleeding banner, Larva Lumps and Baby Bumps. Anchored by the talents of new collaborators Chad Bernhard and Mike Bazini, both drum programmers, sound sculptors, and keyboardists, the album was the result of a gradual (but initially unintended) five-year build towards reactivating the band.

In a career defined by exploration, Lemos and company are still pushing themselves to discover new sounds. On their appropriately-titled new remix album Carving Songs, 15 like-minded artists including Merzbow, Justin Broadrick of Godflesh and Jesu, and Child Bite reimagine Larva Lumps for a varied but surprisingly cohesive take on an already-eclectic album. Of course, it wouldn’t be Controlled Bleeding if the project didn’t also put fresh twists on the idea of the definition of the remix itself. Lemos spoke to us from his home on his native Long Island, his base for over 35 years. Continue reading Bandcamp Interview and Feature, Controlled Bleeding (2017)

Controlled Bleeding and Crowhurst LIVE Sept. 28th at Brooklyn Bazaar.

Festival details updated!

Controlled Bleeding will be performing on the main stage on the 27th. Tickets can be purchased at EVENTBRITE

House of Prog – Chvad SB “Phenomenalism, Cartesian Doubt and Bomb #20″ (2018)

US composer and musician CHVAD SB has been active for around a quarter of a century at this point, perhaps primarily best known as a band member in a number of different set-ups, but he also has a few solo productions to his name. The curiously named “Phenomenalism, Cartesian Doubt and Bomb #20” dates back to 2016, and was released through US label Silber Records.

The back story to the creation of this album is Chvad’s stated admiration of the earliest electronic movie scores, dating back to the 1950’s. Furthermore, this isn’t material that has been composed or otherwise created in a normal manner, but rather music made by way of a programmed, self-playing modular synthesizer using feedback loops. The main work, as such, was apparently to fine-tune the programming. A task that took a few good months, then in addition to setting up this equipment in the first place I’d suspect. Continue reading House of Prog – Chvad SB “Phenomenalism, Cartesian Doubt and Bomb #20″ (2018)

Controlled Bleeding performing at Days of Darkness Fest

QRD Interview with Chvad SB (2015)

From QRD #74:

QRD – What was your first guitar & what happened to it?

Chvad – My first guitar was my Opa’s 1960-ish Sears Silvertone. I beat it up a lot over the years, but I still have it. I get really emotionally attached to instruments. I can’t see ever parting ways with it.

QRD – what’s your typical set-up from guitar to effects to amplifier?

Chvad – My “go to” guitar is a black walnut Carvin custom shop guitar based on their SCB6 body style. It’s fitted with two Carvin Humbuckers. Prior to that I’d been using a Schecter Damien FR for the past 8 or so years. I have two pedal boards I use to keep things lighter to carry. The FX chain is as follows: Pedalboard 01: Earthquaker Devices Dream Crusher (fuzz), Fairfield Circuitry Randy’s Revenge Ring Modulator, Tech 21 Boost R.V.B. (reverb), MXR Fullbore Metal (distortion), WMD Geiger Counter (distortion), Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone (fuzz), Dentone Swamp Thing (tremolo) & a Death by Audio Ghost Delay. This chains into pedal board #2: Morley Volume Plus, Earthquaker Devices Tone Job (EQ), Red Panda Particle (delay), Strymon Brigadier (delay), Pigtronix Infinity Looper/Nose Expression/expansion pedal, Earthquaker Devices Dispatch Master (reverb & delay), Tech 21 Sansamp Classic. My amp is a Peavey Studio Chorus 210. When I’m recording I usually go direct from the Sansamp. If I’m doing a more drone oriented show I’ll also go direct. If I’m working on heavier material live, I’ll use the amp. It’s the only amp I’ve ever had. Continue reading QRD Interview with Chvad SB (2015)

Floorshime Zipper Boots – Chvad SB “Structure” (2018)

North Carolina’s ethereal auteurs Silber Records bring us Structures, a hauntingly charming guitar drone from Chvad SB. The album encompasses two 20+ minute pieces of sculptured sonic hegemony, that swirl, glisten, crackle and shout with stunning effect. The album is minimalist and engaging, with lots of edge to tread and spark to admire. Love this one, and an absolute must have. Stream and buy Structure at the link below.

Review by FZP
Review originally published here:

Heartache With Hard Work – Chvad SB “Structure” (2018)

A deep electronic drone, punctuated by little ripples of organic sound. It’s the sound of quiet unrest, the slow etching of shadows cast by the light of a full moon. It reminds me a lot of the meanderings of early Pink Floyd records, but spooled out ever so slowly. There’s a contemplative quality, but one that is constantly interrupted and reset by the need to cross gaps and fissures. It produces a meditative effect, but one defined by interruption more than unity.

The record is Structure, from Chvad SB.

Review by; olneyce
Review originally published here:

Dayz of Purple and Orange – Chvad SB “Structure” (2018)

Every now and then along comes a record that is just so beautiful….so heartstoppingly gorgeous…that you can almost feel the endorphins being released and a veil of bliss and contentment being drawn over the despair and despondency of the modern world. Well, this album is one of those. Chvad SB is a prodigious artist having produced some 80 releases (albums, singles, film scores, compilations & remixes) and is also known for being a contributor to experimental legends Controlled Bleeding. Of his prior releases the only one with which I am au fait was his last album ‘Phenomenalism, Cartesian Doubt and Bomb #20’ – a sci-fi based ‘self-playing construct’ that is a masterpiece of electronic abstraction. On ‘Structure’ however Chvad has produced an album of guitar drones and sublime slide guitar that is pure radiance. 

There are just the two tracks on the album, both hovering around the twenty minute mark. The first, ‘Column’ opens with a drone that positively resonates with a slight oscillation. More layers of gentle drone are added and this in itself is a thing of beauty but then enters the guitar. Gentle strums add another dimension to the drones and the result is evocative, emotive and utterly, utterly beautiful (I know, I know…I keep using that word). For those of a spiritual bent, this is transcendent….lifting the listener up and over the humdrum drudgery of everyday life and into a much better place. Absolutely spellblinding. The second track, ‘Pillar’ takes a slightly different path…percussive knocks add an almost primal edge to more captivating drones but again these herald more of that almost transmundane guitar. The guitar is maybe a tad more strident and, at times, veers into more sedate spaghetti western twang. As the track progresses the presence of synths becomes more obvious, adding rich washes of dystopian colour that complement the guitar and the drones nicely. 

‘Structure’ is a majestic album, rich in texture and conjuring soundscapes with what, in today’s world, is a simple palette. It is an enchanting forty minutes which you spend in a blissful reverie. The ‘Structure’ title is no red herring…it is in the structure of these two tracks that the secret note is out of place and it sounds as though every sound has been carefully plotted using some form of arcane mathematics…and the fact that Chvad is no slouch with a plectrum helps. This, in short, is superior music making. It is released by Silber and as a download only found on their Bandcamp page here.

Review originally published here:

Beach Sloth – Chvad SB “Structure” (2018)

Stately with its epic sprawl, Chvad SB’s “Structure” feels utterly mesmerizing. Featuring a mixture of ambient, drone, with a nod to a spaghetti western twang, the whole thing simply consumes the listener whole. Physicality dominates the two extended pieces as they explore true dream worlds. Texturally rich, Chvad SB ensures that every single element positively glistens in the air. Without needing to say a single word, a narrative begins to form throughout the album. Gestures are amplified beyond belief within this sweeping symphonic style.

Angelic with its origins, “Column” introduces the album with a tremendous amount of heart. Featuring a post-rock sort of style, the way the piece unfolds gives it a strong emotional core. Over the course of the track the buildup happens with the utmost of grace. Rather beautiful, the glistening textures and patience feel reminiscent of Eliane Radigue’s careful compositional tact. Quite soothing, the multifaceted, multilayered approach works wonders as the cyclical nature feels hypnotic. Seemingly more static than it actually is, the track transports the listener to a wholly different universe. The organ swell further emphasizes a force of nature sort of spirit, ebbing and flowing with ease. Going for a more minimal take “Pillar” ends the collection. Far eerier, “Pillar” refuses to let up, as it flirts with noise and almost pure cacophony. Industrial in tenor, the song is the harsher of the two with the guitar distortion a particularly fine touch.

Chvad SB sculpts a true piece of art with the powerful emotionally charged experimentation of “Structure”.

Review originally published here:

Emerging Indie Bands – Chvad SB “Structure” (2017)

The two track single (available on bandcamp) runs for roughly three quarter of an hour of immersive soundscape.

The opening track Column sits around an extended note from which half-caught inflections almost imperceptibly surface akin to, invisible to the naked eye, imperfections in glass.

Pillar, my pick of the release, is a blurry flow of frequencies which clear to reveal, again, an extended single note, circled by detuned melodics of guitar.

As is usually the case with drone – be in no hurry having hit play as Pillar lasts the better part of twenty two minutes.

Chain D.L.K. – Chvad SB “Structure” (2017)

Apparently this is Chvad SB’s 80th release in about 27 years, which with some artists might imply that they’re knocking them out without much thought. And on the surface, the bold simplicity of the layered drones, strung-out notes and heavily processed guitar noodling in the two 22-minute pieces that make up “Structure” could imply that it didn’t take long to formulate. But scratch a little deeper and you find that, like strong minimalist art, the exceptional balance and control of this release is what makes it really strong.

Supremely long synthetic tones, some imitating strings, others their own form of steady tubular or sine wave beds, loop and loop. Six minutes into opening track “Column” we begin to hear the first elements that could be described as notes, playing out glacially slowly like the melody of a slow ice melt, before with admirable patience we are finally introduced to the reverb-soaked electric guitar sounds, which strum away with a surprisingly happy tone.

“Pillar” is a more echoey affair, with a hall-like ambience and gentle waves of electrical hum and interference sounds being cut through by spontaneous percussive tube hits and single strained guitar notes. Hints of American twang just creep into the guitar work at the end.

It’s yet another really strong bit of guitar drone from the very prolific and consistent Silber label.

Review by; Stuart Bruce

Originally posted here:

Tech21 Boost R.V.B.

Reverb is a tough little monster to get “right” and we all know that “right” is subjective. There are reverbs that are space accurate and then reverbs that “just sound good.” The Tech21 Boost R.V.B. isn’t a reverb pedal that is seeking out to model “exact spaces” but it is a reverb that, in a very big way, sounds amazing.

The Boost R.V.B. features 6 knobs for controlling tone, two ¼” instrument jacks for input and output, a switch for turning the pedal on and off and an input for a DC power supply, and like most pedals, it can also be powered with the standard 9-volt battery. The switch is a buffered bypass switch that is easy to open and close and doesn’t create any kind of “pop” or “click” when engaging the signal. Although not a “true bypass” pedal the Boost R.V.B. doesn’t mute or adversely affect the guitar tone in any perceptible way (Tech 21 supplies an interesting document on pedal bypass types HERE).

The knob controls are all pretty standard for a reverb pedal like this, with flexible mix and EQ settings, but it’s worth making special mention of two of the knobs. One of them, “Feedback,” creates an internal feedback loop of the reverberated signal, and opens up tons of interesting effects. If pushed too far you can actually create a monstrous feedback signal that quickly spirals out of control. It’s an awesome feature that allows for some pretty imaginative applications and I like the fact that Tech21 didn’t limit the amount of feedback that could be applied, instead leaving that choice up to the consumer. It is an interesting option both for those seeking more tame and musical applications and for those with more experimental purposes in mind. The other control worthy of special mention is the “Level” knob, which is responsible for the “Boost” in the pedal’s name. The knob adjusts the overall volume of the pedal’s output, allowing you to cut through a mix for big solos, if you’re interested in using the pedal for that. Personally, I just keep the in/out level at unity but this extra flexibility may be helpful for some players.

Despite the fact that this is a mono pedal, it excels and creating the illusion of space. A lot of reverbs sound like a muted decaying white noise carrying a hint of tone… they’re cloudy, muddy and in general sound very poor to me. The Boost R.V.B. doesn’t suffer from these shortcomings. I tested several pedals in the sub-$200.00 price range for my purchase and the Tech21 Boost R.V.B., a solidly built pedal meant to last, was by far the most pleasing to my ears.

Review by; Chvad SB
Edited by; Lars Casteen

Rocktron Big Crush

The Rocktron Big Crush is a fairly standard compression pedal with a basic set of controls including output level, attack and sustain. It can run off of one 9-volt battery or an external power supply. If you are looking for a transparent noise free compression this does a pretty good job with that. There is a moderate amount of noise with the sustain pushed past 85% but a lot of that is dependent on the signal you are feeding into it. If you are looking for a compression with “character” this is not the pedal for you as it really is mostly transparent aside from the obvious restricted dynamics of the signal when the sustain is pushed. When bypassed there was no appreciable tone loss. Build-wise this pedal is an absolute tank as most Rocktron pedals tend to be. The jacks and switches are all surface mounted with metal nuts and the knobs are mounted on potentiometers with metal shafts. Even with abusive stomping I can’t imagine any of the components on this breaking anytime soon. The blue LED is annoyingly bright but it doesn’t leave any room for question regarding its power state… when it’s on IT’S ON.

-Chvad SB

Rocktron Hush, The Pedal

The Rocktron Hush pedal is a noise reduction pedal with a super simplistic design and if used for the right type of noise it can be pretty effective. The Hush pedal is not a noise gate so it shouldn’t be confused with one. Unlike a noise gate. the Hush doesn’t clamp down on noise around a specified threshold, it attempts to remove the actual noise from the signal with what I am assuming is some type of phase inversion. On slight humming or dirty pickups this is pretty effective. Using the threshold knob you can determine the amount of noise reduction applied and up to about 75% you can remove noise with little audible loss to the signal. Past 75% the is a definite loss in tone in higher frequencies. This pedal is best applied directly out of the guitar before any other pedals. The Hush sitting post-distortion is entirely ineffective. This won’t solve any grounding issues you may be having either. If you are suffering ground related hum look elsewhere. I get the feeling a lot of people look to this pedal for the wrong reasons and post some pretty negative stuff about it but for what this pedal is intended it does its job extremely well.

-Chvad SB

Real Traps Portable Vocal Booth

Room acoustics and audio treatment is a world unto itself… a world usually riddled with mathematic calculations, rocket science, and a strong dose of voodoo. For the sake of simplicity, article space, and personally sanity, I’m not going there. For most users, the important issues are simple things like “it works” and “it doesn’t work,” and I can say without any hesitation that Real Traps Portable Vocal Booth (PVB) works. It’s awesome. It works so well, I doubt I’ll ever stop using it. Really. It’s that cool.The PVB is a hinged two-panel device that attaches to a microphone stand and encloses around the mic while you are recording. It comes with an easy-to-use kit that sets up in seconds. The panels don’t attach permanently, so it can be removed and re-purposed fast and efficiently. This device is ideal for anyone recording in a space that is not acoustically treated, whether it’s a bedroom or a kitchen, or anything. Even in treated spaces, the PVB will have its uses, but in an untreated environment this is easily a “must have” item.

What this ISN’T is a sound isolation device. This will not prevent the neighbors from hearing you. This will not prevent you from hearing the neighbors. What it does, and does extremely well, is isolate room noise, so your recordings only pick up what you’re directing at the microphone, rather than reflections off the walls and other noise that can dirty-up recordings. I tested this out recording vocals and a guitar amplifier inside a horrible sounding apartment and the Portable Vocal Booth excelled in both cases. Room reverberations and echo were almost entirely absent and the recordings sounded tight and full-bodied.The PVB is not so cosmetically appealing, however. It is large, dense, and when attached to a microphone stand, it sits very close to your face. This wasn’t a problem for us while testing, but for people who don’t want to feel too closed in, especially if they have limited experience in the studio, use of the PVB may require some coaching. It also completely removes line-of-sight to anyone else in the room, so forget about visual cues. This is a minor issue considering how great the PVB can benefit the over sound of your recording, but the way that it changes your workflow is worth taking into account.Overall the PVB is built well, the microphone stand attachment is incredibly sturdy and the product surpassed any of my expectations in its abilities to keep unwanted room noise from recordings without having to shell out for full room treatment. Highly recommended.

Ibanez Time Machine, AD190

Analog Delay. The kind of you thing you just can’t understand until you have had your hands on one. These were eventually replaced by digital delays due to the digital delay having longer delay times and crisp exact delays with no signal loss. Then, like most things analog, people realized that the analog delay had a certain character that wasn’t easily replicated digitally and that both digital AND analog were cool and could co-exist with one another and all was good with the world.

The Ibanez Time Machine is a table top analog delay not easily fit into either a rack or a pedal board. I’m assuming Ibanez were thinking “on top of amp” would be a great place for these. It has one 1/4″ mono input jack, variable pad switch for the input signal, two 1/4″ mono outputs (dry plus delay and wet only), and seven pots controlling input level, tone, delay time, regeneration (feedback), blend and two for a flanger mode “width” and “speed”.

Here is what I have to say about the AD190 flanger mode. It has a switch. That switch turns on the flanger. The delay is bypassed when flanging. There are two knobs to fuck with the flange. I’m not a flanger fan so we will not be flanging today. That is all I will write about the flanger.

Delay. The BEST. EFFECT. EVER. MADE. It makes everything sounds better. EVERYTHING. If I could delay my late night chinese food delivery it might make that taste better. The “tone” knob on this does what you’d expect but the need for it ebbs and flows as the tone is also radically altered with “delay time” knob. The longer the delay time the darker the tone gets. There is significant loss in upper frequencies with long delay times even with the tone knob turned up all the way but this is not a bad thing. The delayed signals are dark, warm and muddy. You get a gooey mess of a delay that doesn’t fight for your original signals bandwidth and is extremely pleasant to listen to. The shorter the delay time, the brighter the delayed signal and the greater the effect of the “tone” knob. The “regeneration” knob is your delay feedback that will take you from a pleasant one or two delays to a monstrous gain-heavy feedback loop cycle that is more than capable of destroying the finest of well… anything. Watch your gears and ears people. This thing gets loud and rude FAST. It’s awesome. It’ll even start feeding back on it’s own signal path noise without anything being fed into it which makes the AD190 a capable noise generating instrument unto itself in the correct hands.

The bottom line? You like delays? Get it. You like noise? Get it. Want better food? I’m sure this will help.

-Chvad SB

Critter and Guitari Pocket Piano GR

Armed with 18 wooden buttons (16 for the “piano” keys and 2 for mode/waveform/octave changes), 4 knobs, a jack for an external power adaptor, ¼” mono audio output, two LED’s and a built-in 3 watt speaker the original Pocket Piano first caught my eye late last year and after coming across the more recent Pocket Piano GR with it’s super sexy green anodized aluminum enclosure and extra sound I was sold ($220.00). So what is it?

The Critter and Guitari Pocket Piano GR (PPGR) is a small digital synthesizer that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Each mode that the PPGR offers (vibrato synth, harmonic sweeper, two-octave arpeggiator, octave cascade, mono FM synth, FM arpeggiator and MONO Glider) also has a subset of functions depending on the patch. These functions vary from LFO rate and depth to glide rate to arpeggiator speed and gate time. All modes have two knobs dedicated to volume and pitch control (a 2 octave range). Additionally 5 of the modes offer alternate waveforms while the remaining 2 offer an octave “jump” function. For the patches that are polyphonic you have a 4 note polyphony. So how’s it sound?

Perky, bright, dark, gloomy, glitchy, nasty, pretty, video gamey. For a tiny little box the PPGR is more than capable of delivering a wide palette of playable tones. The built-in speaker is surprisingly good and after a couple of months of playing the device I never really found myself needing much more than that unless I was recording or routing through external effects. The PPGR aliases all over the place but that really is part of the charm. A lot of people get their panties all up in a bunch about aliasing and digital/analog etc etc.. this thing is noisy and I’ve had a ton of fun playing with those aspects of the instrument. Push the LFO too far in some modes and yer in straight up glitch land. It’s super fun because the PPGR has in spades what so many other devices are lacking: CHARACTER. Which bring me to… TINY WOODEN BUTTONS.

They are so amazing I’ll say it again… TINY WOODEN BUTTONS. These are your keys to musical expression on the PPGR. No velocity or after touch or anything.. they are simple on/off switches and they are a blast. They have a pleasantly tactile “plop” when depressed and clack and rattle a bit when moving the instrument around. They look fun and generally when an instrument looks fun I tend to play it more and the PPGR is no exception to that rule. It has lived in my backpack for a couple of months now and I routinely pull it out at work, home, on the train… wherever. The PPGR was meant to be used and the build quality does nothing but underscore this fact.

The build is nothing short of SUPERB. The body is wood and aluminum, the wooden buttons are firmly in place, the power switch feels solid, the audio out and all 4 knobs (metal stemmed potentiometers) are mounted to the chassis. No need to be gentle here. My only gripe about the construction is the battery compartment. Located underneath the unit, the battery compartment is basically a hole in the body of the instrument with a snap in 9 volt casing. It isn’t inherently a “bad” thing but as it is an open hole I can’t help but feel like something is eventually going to slip in there while I’m toting the instrument around that could potentially be a pain in the ass to deal with.

The Critter and Guitari Pocket Piano GR is awesome. $220.00 might be too steep for some as an impulse buy and for others a hard sale over a VST which for the same dollar value could have 1000’s of more options as a synthesizer. You DO get what you pay for though. A fun, good sounding, solidly constructed instrument that is entirely unique in presentation and SCREAMS to be played with. A co-worker has pleaded with me to stop bringing it into work because he insists it prevents him from getting anything done. The thing is, the only time I get anything done at work anymore is when HE has it. As far as problems with instruments goes, this is a pretty good one to have.

More info and demos on the Critter and Guitar website:

-Chvad SB

Atomosynth Mochika XL

The Mochika XL is an analog synthesizer and step sequencer combo hand built by Atomosynth in Peru and is available for $249.00 US. There is a lot going on with this deceptively simple looking device so I’ll break down each of the major components one by one and I’ll start that off absolutely superficially… with it’s looks.

Yes… before I say a word about the sound this thing makes I just want you to take a look at the image of the Mochika XL again and drool a bit. This thing is mad sexy looking. I’m the guy that lost my shorts and started humping the synth rack when I first gazed on the grotesque orange monstrosity from Waldorf, the Microwave XTK and I’m also the same guy that drooled over the brushed aluminum body of the Kawai K5000. So clearly when a green glowy transparent box shows up in the ether with flashing LED’s you can bet I’ll be the guy wanting to buy it regardless of how it sounds. Well, ok… I DID check out the available sound samples and YouTube videos and well… they mostly suck horribly and you know what? I STILL BOUGHT IT. I had faith that something that looked this cool would still sound rad in the correct hands and it totally does but before we talk about the sound… LOOK AT IT. IT IS TRANSLUCENT GREEN AND THERE ARE LITTLE ELECTRONICY THINGS TO SEE!!!! This is the stuff that creates gear porn. The laser cut acrylic case seems thoughtfully laid out and despite the plastic body the construction seems fairly sturdy though I am sure very susceptible to scratches and things like, well… falling. So you know, don’t drop it. I don’t think it’ll crumble under regular use but don’t use it for a football. The knobs, sliders and switches are all very tight and sturdy feeling and obviously meant to be used. The rear of the synth has one jack for your standard three prong AC cord (NO WALL WARTS!), one 1/4″ out for the audio and a MIDI in jack for clock signals. So how does it sound?

The Mochika XL has a single oscillator that can produce either a square or a sawtooth waveform. You can control the pitch and level of the oscillator and there is a noise generator that can be mixed into the signal path or used as a modulation source for the oscillator which can produce some nice and crunchy results. The Mochika is also equipped with a switchable filter (low pass or high pass) with cutoff and resonance controls and a simple filter decay envelope with a variable release. The LFO is switchable between square and sawtooth waves, has variable depth and rate controls and can modulate either the oscillator pitch or filter cutoff. The immediate tonal characteristics of the synth are predominantly nasal with an extremely squelchy filter that is reminiscent of a 303 filter type. The filter can EASILY eat over the oscillator and become it’s own tone source. With some careful tweaking you can push out some pretty good bass tones or melt everything into a blissful squelch of noise. It isn’t the most flexible synth in the world but I’ve had fun tweaking it and pushing the oscillators into lower than musically useful octaves and letting it burble into cascading piles of neat sounding analog mush. How useful any of these sounds really are rest heavily on the sequencer section of the Mochika XL.

The sequencer is how you will coax any sound out of the Mochika. You can’t trigger notes from any external sources so your sole method of controlling the Mochika is with the variable 8-step sequencer. The sequencer can function in 4, 6 and 8 step modes in a looping or back and forth fashion, it can jump randomly between the 8 steps or it can drone endlessly on a single step. In all of the modes except the “drone or osc” mode there is a tempo knob that will adjust the tempo of the sequencer during play back… in the “drone or osc” mode, the tempo knob allows you to manually shift from one step to the next either forward or backward. Each of the 8 steps has a on/off switch and a slider to vary the pitch of the note. There is a “Range” switch that will limit the range of the sliders allowing for a potentially easier tuning of a step… albeit having half of the tonal range available. There is also a GATE knob which allows you to dictate how long a note sounds in between each step. This is a very simple analog sequencer and setting up musically cohesive steps can be challenging but that’s all part of the fun when using a tool like this. This isn’t a modern analog despite it’s package… it’s all pretty antiquated tech and need to be “massaged” into place. In use? Flick the toggle switch to play… the sequencer steps through whatever notes you have activate… adjust pitch and tweak the synth. Done. Super easy and a lot of fun. Chain some FX behind it and yer cooking with some fun tones.

Extra goodies…
The Mochika XL also has CV and Gate outputs on 1/8 inch jacks allowing you to use the sequencer with external CV equipped gear. I’m not sure what voltages it is using but I tapped the sequencer into the CV in on my Moog LP and rocked out a cool filter sequence so at the very least it works with that. The Mochika XL comes with no documentation so feel free to experiment!

Almost cool but not quite cool goodies…
MIDI CLOCK!! Wahoo!!! Oh… wait… ALMOST cool. KINDA fucking irritating actually. A BIG selling point for me was the fact that the Mochika XL can supposedly sync to MIDI which is great because I have a ton of gear I want to use with it. Well, the good news is, it DOES sync to MIDI clock… the BAD news is that is doesn’t respond to START or STOP signals. What this means is the second your drum machine or sequencer is turned on while your Mochika XL sits waiting in MIDI mode, the Mochika just starts playing. How is this a problem you ask? Most devices, when MIDI clock is enabled, transmit that clock continuously. Devices receiving that clock see the signal but don’t react to it until they receive a START or STOP command. This allows multiple devices to.. well, start and stop at the same damn time. The Mochika however, just starts… and keeps on going regardless of what all the other gear happens to be doing. That my friends is a giant suck. Work arounds? You can leave the Mochika in STOP mode, start your sequencer and then manually toss the MIDI switch on the Mochika at the top of the measure and hope your timing was spot on. That doesn’t work so well for me. My current solution involves the DAW “Reaper” by Cuckos. Unlike every other sequencer on the market, Reaper doesn’t transmit clock continuously when idle. This is a frustrating behavior BUT in this particular instance a real attribute. When starting playback on Reaper, MIDI clock starts along with previously mentioned START commands and in effect, allows me to synchronize the sequencer, drum machines and whatever else along with the Mochika XL. Using a laptop and a DAW and an extra MIDI interface to resolve shitty MIDI implementation sucks though. To advertise MIDI sync this broken is, in my opinion, practically lying to the consumer and is intensely frustrating. Which brings me to one other bit of negativity…

The slightly nasty aftertaste…
I don’t like saying negative things about people or companies or gear but in this case I feel like I need to. Atomosynth is HORRIBLE with communication and did not deliver the unit anywhere NEAR the advertised time frame (7 to 10 days). As a matter of fact from order date to receiving the Mochika XL I waited 70 days exactly. That’s a hell of a long time. I received no order confirmation and when emailing to inquire if payment went through I had to wait two weeks just for a response that told me there was a slight delay with orders. I followed up again two weeks later and received no response. I wrote again ANOTHER 2 weeks later and was told I’d receive a tracking number in the next few days. Three weeks later I still had no Mochika XL or a response from Atomosynth. Knowing that the company also sells on Ebay I decided to see if anyone had reported similar issues. What I discovered was that bids for Mochika XL units had been purchased AFTER my order AND fulfilled weeks before mine. I purchased directly from Atomosynth which in retrospect seems to be a mistake. After writing one last email threatening to retract payment via PayPal for non-delivered goods I magically received a tracking number for a shipped package. I’m an easy going guy but dealing with Atomosynth was horrible. I finally received my Mochika XL and it’s a fun instrument but I really have to warn anyone considering a purchase to do so at your own risk. I was convinced my money was lost. I’m glad I have the synth but if I had to do it again, I’d buy from a company that cared a little more about the consumer. I’m fully aware Atomosynth is small and boutique but this isn’t the first small company I’ve purchased from and hands down, Atomosynth has been the worst to deal with.

So now what?
So what to do? I’ve managed a work around for the bogus MIDI sync, despite delays and bad communication I DID receive The Mochika XL and in the end I’ve had a great time playing with it and will continue to do so. Should you do the same? Ultimately I’d feel bad recommending anyone to go through what I did so probably not… but if yer still drooling at the cool glowy green translucent goodness… well, maybe you already have your answer. The Mochika XL is far more about “feeling” out cool sounds, rhythms and textures than presenting things in a “tidy ready to sound perfect” package. So it’s an instrument you’ll have to play with your instincts and unfortunately one you will also have to purchase with your instincts. I really hope Atomosynth get their act straightened out because they make cool stuff.


-Chvad SB

Akai MPK mini

The Akai MPK mini is a sub-$100.00 two octave USB controller with 24 mini keys, eight assignable knobs, 8 assignable MPC style pads, a fairly flexible arpeggiator and four program locations for saving your setups. It is powered via USB and that is the controllers sole means of power and connectivity so if you need a MIDI out port you will need to look elsewhere.

I was looking for a controller to toss into a backpack along with a laptop for mobile creativity. A couple of years ago I attempted to get my mobile vibe in gear with the Edirol PCR-M1 that featured their S.L.I.M. keyboard with low profile knobs. That lasted about a week before the board failed and when I tried to get it replaced I’d found out that in that week it had also been discontinued. At that point the PCR-M1 was really the only super small controller in the game and with that leaving the building so did my mobile setup. Years passed and now we have multitudes of small backpack oriented MIDI control devices so I decided once again to peak into the options available. After spending some time looking at various options, I settled with the Akai MPK mini. I’d played around with some of Akai’s other controllers and was impressed with the build quality so I felt pretty comfortable that the build would be decent and after opening the box I was correct. The pads feel solid and the knobs have a nice tactile feel to them… smooth turning but with a proper amount of resistance. The keys feel solid and aren’t so small that playability becomes an issue but they are definitely very springy/spongy/sprongy. They feel VERY much like a Korg Microkorg. That isn’t my preference really but as this isn’t my primary controller I can deal with it.

The software that comes with the controller allows you to assign control change numbers (CC#) to the knobs, make various arpeggiator settings and pad settings. One nice feature is that the pads can be set to be momentary or latching and they can also be configured to send note numbers OR CC#’s. This function is switchable via a “CC” button on the face of the MPK mini so swapping pad functions is simple. Two banks are available for the pads per setup so in effect you have an available 16 pads and with each pad serving as a note or CC# you have a fairly broad array of 32 possible controls with just the 8 pads. The included software is available for both Mac and PC and during testing it ran fine on both platforms.

The arpeggiator is, well, an arpeggiator. Not something I would have specifically asked for but it has been fun to play with. You can choose anywhere from 1/4 notes to 1/32 notes including triplets. You can have up to 4 octave stepping and can choose between a variety of note orders. All of the arpeggiator functions are accessible via secondary functions on the key bed except 2 dedicated switches for turning the arpeggiator on and off and tap tempo button. The on/off button serves as a SHIFT button for selecting key bed options. It’s fun and all of the options are very simple to access.

From the photo you may have noticed the lack of a pitch or mod wheel. Personally I would have preferred two less pads and no arpeggiator in order for two wheels to be stuck somewhere on the board but I can deal and you can always map those functions to a knob. It isn’t really the same but every player has different needs. For scratch work I can do without. For recording or live performance? This will NEVER be used.

In the end the Akai MPK mini is a well built little tool for tossing in a bag and hooking up to your computer. It has a fairly low profile and the knobs are also shallow enough not to get caught on too much while entering or exiting your backpack. The lack of mod or pitch wheels and small key size may be a deal killer as a performance instrument for some but with the arpeggiator and knob combo all of you manly knob tweakers* out there will probably be more than happy with this.

More info on the Akai MPK mini can be found on Akai’s website HERE.
-Chvad SB