Recent Praise for Isikles

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I am very excited about praise we have received for Isikles, a recent album I produced with Chilean producer Lister Rossel. Ironically yesterday was the Summer Solstice, but Lister has returned to Chile in the Southern Hemisphere where the climate is in the midst of winter. Everyone who has taken the time to listen to Isikles has appreciated the mystery and depth of this work. For example artist, musicians, and educator, Piotr Szyhalski said this after listening:

It’s interesting how it seems to transport my mind in both directions on the timeline. Certain elements send me back, sometimes way back, while others have a future oriented thrust. There is a sense of silent disaster unfolding. I imagine that this is what dying might feel like: when your mind brings you a sense of comfort, which masks the finality of the event…
Piotr Szyhalski

Richard Devine, whom I had the pleasure of performing with recently at the Dakota in Minneapolis, shared these thoughts:

Isikles puts the listener on a beautiful elegant journey of ambient, soundscapes, pulses and textures. One of the best chill out albums to come out in a long time.
Richard Devine

If you haven’t had a chance to listen, try the track Corvus in the player below. It’s one of my favorites. This album filled with analog synthesis, sound design experiments, and field recordings of ice and other things, was a joy to produce. Lister’s talent, work ethic, and conceptual clarity made it a very special collaboration. The full album is available for listening or download on our BandCamp page. Thank you for listening!

john_and_lister

New Album:Isikles with Lister Rossel

Isikles Artwork by Forrest Wasko

I am very excited to announce the release of the album Isikles! This is the third album released this month that I have been a part of. This one in particular is a collaboration between myself and Chilean producer, Lister Rossel. The two of us spent countless hours during the 2014–2015 winter in Minnesota composing and producing eleven movements that portray the fragility and magnificence of frigid environments. The liner notes for the album describe the concept:

Geologists propose that Earth has entered the Anthropocene. This epoch is marked by human activities that significantly impact the planet’s ecosystems. Markers include mass-extinctions that have led to a reduction in biodiversity, industrial and agricultural impacts on geology, radioactive fallout, and the most obvious marker — climate change.

As the planet warms polar regions teeter from stoic landscapes of frigid ice to rapidly evolving environments as they shed their ancient layers. Isikles is a portrait of nature and its transitions. It is a soundscape — a window to the coldest environments on earth; from the microscopic (Ice Mutation) to the macroscopic (Scattered Disk). Isikles reflects the undergoing global transitions of which we are all participants.

This album, produced by John Keston and Lister Rossel, combines composition with sound design techniques to present soundscapes inspired by these transitions. The sound sources include their own field recordings from frigid environments mixed with sonic interpretations uncovered through sound synthesis and processing during the brittle Minnesota winter.

Please have a listen to the album and consider purchasing the lossless download for the ultimate listening experience. The album was produced by John Keston and Lister Rossel, mastered by Tom Garneau, art direction by Luisa Rivera, and cover art by Forrest Wasko. Aside from a smattering of Rhodes playing, everything I produced on the record was designed using the Elektron Analog 4 and the Moog Sub 37.

Moog Sub 37 1.10 Firmware Demo Part 2

Now that I have had some more time to experiment with the new Moog Sub 37 1.10 firmware I made a new video that is more in-depth than the last one. In this video demo I show seven new features within the sequencer and arpeggiator sections of the instrument. Although I did edit the video for length, each feature was demonstrated without having to stop the sequence at any point.

First I review how to turn steps on and off while in step edit mode. This is simply done by pressing the step buttons (patch button 1 through 16) while in step edit mode (bank + latch).

Secondly I show how to set the start and end positions of the sequence while it continues to run. This is really great for repeating any number of consecutive steps in the sequence.

Thirdly I show how to create or disable ties between two or more notes on the fly. This is much faster and accurate than the original way of apply ties while the sequencer continues to run.

Fourth I demonstrate how to turn on/off step ratcheting and how to modify the number of ratchets. Ratcheting is an interesting new feature that repeats a step from 1 to 8 times.

For the fifth feature I adjust the swing amount. Having swing as a feature for the sequencer is fantastic, but it can also be applied to the arpeggiator and the LFOs when they are synched to the clock! I haven’t tried this yet, but I love the idea of manipulating the LFO waveshapes this way.

The sixth feature is modulation sequencing that I applied to the filter envelope amount. The mod sequencing can be applied to a huge list of parameters. Unfortunately is it one destination per patch/sequence, but never-the-less a welcome and useful addition.

Finally for the seventh feature I demonstrate how to shift the sequence back or ahead of the first step using bank + arp range (+ or -).

There’s a lot more still in this release that I have yet to explore. A huge THANK YOU goes out to Moog Music and especially Amos Gaynes for making an already great synth greater!

Moog Sub 37 1.10 Firmware Demo

Yesterday I got a note from Moog that the long anticipated 1.10 firmware for the Moog Sub 37, announced in January at NAMM, was now available. Today I scheduled time in my studio to install it and test out some of the new features. This release is significant because the bulk of the updates are new features! In this video I demonstrate step edit mode and quick mapping of modulation destinations.

Each of the sixteen preset buttons can now be used to turn on and off steps while playing a sequence. One problem I found is that you can only turn on or off one step at a time. I imagine this is something that they’ll fix because we do have ten fingers after all. [UPDATE: Pressing two steps at a time is for turning on/off ties.] Other than that it works beautifully! If your sequence is longer than 16 steps the buttons jump to the second, third, and fourth pages automatically as the sequence is playing.

The quick mapping of modulation destinations is a treat. Simply hold down the MOD 1 or MOD 2 DEST button while turning a parameter. I do this in the video at 0:47 applying MOD 1 to OSC 2 frequency. You can also press a button. For example to modulate the filter slope setting press SLOPE while holding one of the MOD buttons. This works for the octave switch knob, pattern switch, pattern range buttons, and so on. Here’s a list of all the new features:

  • Step Edit Mode – Allows visual display and editing of individual sequence steps on preset buttons 1-16, with easy real-time control over rests, ties, and more.
  • Quick Mapping of Programmable Mod Destinations – Simply hold the Mod (1/2) Dest button and turn a parameter knob to assign modulation to that parameter.
  • Skip and Ratchet Steps – Sequences can now include Skipped steps (which can be toggled On and Off on-the-fly) and Ratchet steps (1 to 8 repeats per step).
  • Arpeggiator and Sequencer Swing Control – Adjust the ratio of on-beat vs. off-beat duration from 0% to 100%. Swing can also apply to Synced LFOs.
  • Sequencer Mod Destination – Sequence any one parameter directly, using the per-step Sequence Mod Value (mod wheel position is recorded per-step).
  • Sequencer Mod Only – Use the sequencer purely as a sequenced modulation-generator, without playing a sequence of notes (the keyboard plays normally).
  • CV Mapping – Use the external Pitch CV, Volume CV, and KB Gate inputs to control almost any parameter on the Sub 37. Step Advance and Step1 Reset functions allow you to clock the Sub 37 sequencer using analog gate/trigger signals, and the Gate input can now function as a Sustain pedal input.
  • Variance – Use this parameter to specify a subtle amount of random detuning to the oscillators. (For when perfect tuning is too perfect)

Richard Devine Presentation and Performances

Left to right John Keston, Jon Davis, James Patrick, and Richard Devine (not shown Graham O'Brien) Photo by Dave Eckblad

Last weekend I performed with and attended a workshop from the extraordinary electronic musician and sound designer Richard Devine. His presentation was at Slam Academy (a Minneapolis based school for electronic music and arts where I am also on the faculty roster). Later that same evening Jon Davis, Richard Devine, Graham O’Brien, James Patrick, and I performed a couple of sets at the Dakota Jazz Club (photo by Dave Eckblad). This was quite different from previous performances. Richard brought in eerie ambient textures while I played Rhodes and Moog Sub 37 along with Patrick’s deep house rhythms, O’Briens acoustic drum-n-bass fills, and a solid foundation of bass grooves from Jon Davis. Finally Richard played a solo set at an afterparty back at the Slam Academy.

Richard Devine at the Slam Factory. Photo by John Keston.

It was a pleasure performing with Richard and his presentation beforehand shed light on his detailed knowledge of the history of electronic music. He brought up electronic music pioneers like Morton Subotnick, Tod Dockstader, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. He discussed equipment from the legendary ARP 2500 (only one hundred ever made) to the EMS Synthi, and followed it up with modern softsynths of note like the Madrona Labs AALTO. After all that he graciously exposed the contents of his “Current Live Setup” Eurorack in great detail. Thanks to the Slam Academy, the Dakota, James Patrick, Jade Patrick, Richard Devine, Jon Davis, Graham O’Brien, Gregory Taylor, and everyone else involved for a memorable day of learning, playing, and performances.