by Larry Kerr
September 1, 2000 - With tracks from Dhyan Moller, DJ Spun, and Mark J. Bradlyn, the Drone Muzic Promo features the lush sounds of the Serge modular and other analog-based synths. As the sonic textures ebb and flow, this music soaks you in a swirling bath of analog warmth, propelled by an insistent, throbbing bass. Blending sustained, dynamic sounds with understated rhythmic intensity, the Drone Muzic Promo is music for a futurist's hang pad.
In fact, the five-track Promo CD is two records on one CD. The first three pieces, available on vinyl as Drone Muzic #2, are written and produced by Dhyan Moller, with the third track remixed by DJ Spun. The final two tracks, due out soon on vinyl as Drone Muzic #3, are written and produced by Mark J. Bradlyn.
"Frequency Interference" starts off with a bare riff from a mischievous metallic synth. Suddenly, the bumping four to the floor beat kicks in, flipping the time and exposing the clangy synth's deception. Once established, the groove cruises along, while grinding leads clamor over undulating, glowing pads. In "Crowd Moving", another thumping bass drum anchors hyper ostinatos, jumpy leads, and syncopated synth percussion. Midway through, an ambient breakdown showcases the dark backgrounds that drift in and out like vague forms in an uneasy dream. "Feedback" opens with the drama of a slow, layered build. Once complete, the groove reveals itself as a quirky combination of swirling sounds, grumbling synths, computer game noises, deep bass, and the sound of a drawer closing, all stitched together by an industrial backbeat.
"Trance for Dhyan", Mark J. Bradlyn's first track on the disc, is a noticeable departure from the first three tracks. Sinewy, ethnic leads scream through outer space as they wind and weave over sparse clacking percussion. Meanwhile, a slurping, guttural bass boils and bubbles along the bottom. "A Place I Never Really Was (analog delay mix)" begins like the pale sky before dawn and gradually warms to a full glory. Beatless tides of ringing, soaring resonance surge and swell before fading out.
The diverse spectrum of texture and sound on the Drone Muzic Promo is a testament to the versatility of analog synthesizers and to the creativity of the artists using them.
Dhyan's studio includes a Serge Modular, a
Fenix Modular, a
Clavia Nord Lead 2, and a Waldorf Pulse.
Dhyan is very enthusiastic about his Serge modular, calling it the "mothership" of all analog synths. He describes the Serge as if it were a living creature, responding to the energy of his touch and perhaps even having a mind of its own. At any rate, he says is it magical and mesmerizing to play and says it can make "the most bizarre, weird, twisted, intense sounds imaginable."
Dhyan's Serge is a three-panel system with the following modules:
- timbral oscillator
- 2 precision voltage controlled oscillators
- dual transient generator
- wave multiplier
- ring modulator
- 2 three-stage mixers
- CV mixer
- dual voltage controlled clock
- analog shift register
- universal audio processor
- stereo mixer
- pink & white noise source
- TKB (Touch Activated Keyboard) sequencer
- TKB quantizer
Dhyan also uses a dedicated MIDI to CV converter made by Encore Electronics. With this converter, he can control the Serge as a MIDI instrument, but he testifies that using the TKB with no MIDI is a totally different experience.
The Serge modular is even responsible for his relationship with Mark J. Bradlyn. The two first met online after Mark posted a message inquiring if there was anyone who could fix his Serge modular. After an unsuccessful attempt to buy the broken system, Dhyan referred Mark to Sound Transform Systems. They were able to repair his system, and Mark was so grateful that he wrote a track for him (now fourth on the CD: Trance for Dhyan).
Dhyan also uses a Fenix modular, which he acquired only after serving time on a 6 to 8 month waiting list. A limited run of Fenix systems was manufactured for a short time in Holland by the same people who made the Synton modulars. Using the same banana patch cables as the Serge, the two systems can be patched together to make a huge modular synth.
Dhyan had his first encounter with a synthesizer at the age of six, when his father gave him a Casio keyboard styled after a 303. After working as a DJ and listening to the music at various underground parties, he became fascinated with the electronic sounds he was hearing. Wanting to create his own, Dhyan learned the basics by working with a group of artists from San Jose, CA, who call themselves the Electronic Artists Collective.
Dhyan says he has too many influences to list completely. Besides Mark J. Bradlyn, he specifically named DJ Spun (his collaborator on "Feedback") and Twerk (a.k.a. Shawn Hatfield). Dhyan would also like to pay his respects to "any musician or artist that has pushed the limits of what the current state of technology has to offer."
Although his methods vary from project to project, Dhyan was kind enough to provide some details about his creative approach. First, he often begins by making and experimenting with new sounds. After recording this output to DAT, he dumps the audio into his computer. Once inside, he often uses the computer to chop, sample, and loop the audio. For example, Dhyan might start with a looped bass line, and work around that sound, adding, subtracting, and arranging as he goes. Also, Dhyan says,"I usually try and get as much done as possible, then take a break. I come back and really take a listen to see what it needs." However, Dhyan refers to his analog synths when he says, "I am very heavy into computers and digital audio, but that's only half the fun in my world."
The DJ Spun remix ("Feedback") was a collaborative effort between Dhyan and DJ Spun. Dhyan gave DJ Spun some samples of his Serge and jammed with him to lay down some more ideas. Then, DJ Spun completed the track.
Dhyan also described the way Mark J. Bradlyn works. Mark, who resides in Aptos, California, created Drone Muzic #3 ("Trance for Dhyan" and "A Place I Never Really Was") with no computer--only a vintage Serge modular and an effects processor. All the music was sequenced from the system's TKB sequencer. Mark's system, according to Dhyan, consists of "five panels of pure madness". Mark, who in the 70's taught analog synthesis at a local community center for free, also taught Dhyan many things about analog synthesis and the Serge.
Recently, Dhyan has been doing live P.A. of his music with Cycling 74's MAX/MSP software and a Macintosh G3 laptop. He uses this setup to mix his songs like a DJ, but with "more control over the sound than a DJ could ever imagine." He would like to push the limits of his live show, and eventually make it an "audio visual extravaganzasbourg."
Dhyan started his record label, Drone Muzic, in December 1999. The label, based outside of San Francisco in Silicon Valley, put out its first record in March 2000. Drone Muzic is dedicated to releasing cutting edge techno and experimental music for DJ's and listeners of fine electronic music.
The Drone Muzic Promo CD is available for only $6.00 from Colabs Distribution in San Jose, CA. Drone Muzic #2 and Drone Muzic #3 are also available on vinyl for $5.00 each. Drone Muzic #1 and #2 are also available as a package. Contact Colabs at [email protected], (408) 993-1258.
On the Internet, Dhyan Moller's Tonal Warfare is available on vinyl from Sonic Groove Records in New York, (212) 675-5284.
The Drone Muzic web site will be up by early October.