by Soul Surplus Staff
April 09, 2018
With the changes and new ventures that our company has embarked upon recently I wanted to take a moment to look at some of the things that we pride ourselves in: musicianship from real musicians with a bunch of real instruments and real analog gear. Since we’ve come on the scene the market has responded so well but we also have seen the impact we have made on the sound design landscape, specifically with sample packs. Our goal from the moment we started this company was to inspire producers and content creators. It was hard for me personally to even imagine that we would grow to have such an influence just in our biggest supplier’s store. From aesthetic, to the feel and sound of textures right now the name of the game is lo-fi and vintage, something that we feel we do well, but like I insinuated above everyone is taking their chance with it, for better or for worse. So with that being said I want to talk about how even though lo-fi and vintage is seemingly easily replicated right now we seek to continue to be leaders in the field by supplying our customers with authentic quality sounds that are achieved by no corner cutting musician labor.
A little over a week ago we released Port Rich Volume 5, as the newest edition to our flagship Port Rich sample pack collection, and it is filled with lush vintage compositions that feel like striking gold after a good crate digging session. Each track is filled with multiple moments that give producers endless possibilities. Within this pack our lead producer/engineer brought out all the gear to give you all what we think is our best pack yet. On this pack you can hear our 1975 Fender Rhodes as a crucial centerpiece. We run it through a Universal Audio 710 Preamp settings varying by song; sometimes a solid state gritty sound or a warm tube sound and most of our guitars are played through this preamp as well. On this particular pack we had our Fender Precision Bass laying down some of the low end in the spirit of the 70’s. We also had our prized Moog Opus synthesizer make some statements on these compositions with tasty lead lines straight from outer space. The Opus is one of Moog’s iconic classic instruments, possibly making a debut around 1980. What better way to create and capture old school time period music than to use instruments actually from that era?!!
Another integral piece to the creation of PRv5 is the Mellotron M4000D. Having this instrument in the arsenal was a must as it has stood through the history of the synthesizer in a unique fashion. The earliest models of this instrument contained actual tape reels inside sequenced with every key on the board to play actual pieces of the tape sampled. The newer models emulate this function quite closely, and we used ours to get all kinds of tape sampled instrument sounds on our tracks. From horns, to strings, to organs you hear the Mellotron being put to use on our compositions. One thing that can always tell duplications of 70’s compositions a part from authentic ones usually can be heard in the strings. The time period was abundant with record labels fronting the bill to get whole string sections recorded for songs really adding to the feel of the era. Now a days so many VST’s seek to make this type of recording few and far in between. In the right hands these VST’s are quite authentic sounding not allowing listener’s to really know the difference, but one thing that is often neglected is the processing and the tape sound which adds to that character and sound that is hard to duplicate. Here at the company we take those sound differences very seriously and though we haven’t used live string players yet (though we plan on doing so very soon!) we want the most authentic sounding ones for the time being. We choose the Mellotron strings for this because they approach the sound from the two angles that we care about mentioned earlier: being sampled from real players with tape processing that gives old school character.
A couple other synths made some noise on our PRV5 pack. One that I would like to highlight is the Korg MS-20 mini monophonic synth. Though it is the smallest of our keyboards the tones that can be achieved are mean and powerful! This synthesizer was released by Moog to mimic it’s 1978 predecessor with exact circuitry just shrunk down in size for convenience. The classic sounds of the MS-20 added great feel and texture to our compositions almost immediately taking us back in time with its use. The MS-20 first released in the 70’s was the original semi-modular synthesizer; we are so grateful to Moog for allowing music creators like us the chance to relive the feel of patch baying and routing sound like the good old days!
Next up is the infamous Moog Minitaur a descendent of the Moog Taurus lineage. Again Moog is able to compact the big huge sound that the original instrument produced. Though the Minitaur does not have organ pedals like the Taurus the sound is quite similar and it’s extremely user friendly. One knob per function set up always allows us to make small tweaks to our tone every time. And I can’t forget the beautiful wave it produces, so smooth and controlled yet wide and full! There’s so much versatility with this module for us because many times we do use it for low bass tones but it can easily be tweaked to make interesting lead sounds as well.
The Roland JU-06 Sound Module has been an integral piece to our compositions as well. Roland authentically recreated the iconic JUNO-106 synthesizer with this module. We love the edgy sounds produced with this piece and usually we use it to add chordal accompaniment to the songs creating an instant solid foundation of vintage soul sound. Again we love tweaking sounds and with the 23 control parameters offered with this module we get to stretch out and be creative!
Last but not least is many times what we regard as our exotic vehicle, the Access Virus Ti Polar. This analog synthesizer has never ceased to amaze us as it continuously can achieve new sounds with any small tweak of any knob. This board is an endless rabbit hole of sound. Just one patch or preset can be shaped into thousands and thousands of sounds. In the hands of creative musicians this is a dangerous instrument, and we believe our lead producer and engineer has spent so much time with this synth, that it many times seems like a pure extension of his mind. You can hear the Virus on PRV5 and all over most of our compositions with sweeping melodies and spacey lines that float throughout the soul grooves we create. A modern synthesizer, yet one that surely is in the spirit of classic analog goodness.
As you can see we are very serious about composing with analog gear and our process and final products wouldn’t be the same without all of it! No knock to the other guys creating solely on VST’s, we really appreciate all the progressive production by our contemporaries to keep soul alive, but let us not forget that the final composition is hugely a result of the ingredients. Why not have great musicians play great gear?
- John McNeill
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