In my architecture days I used to draw little people around my buildings. We would make the renderings of the buildings real and lush and put these sharp little silhouette people on top of them for context.
For me, making tracks with analogue instruments can be a similar process. I make a big wash of real stuff, old oscillators and broken things. Then I’ll poke little bits of digital over the top for detail and context.
Sometimes I’ll have a finished sound in my head before I begin. I'll go to work with the software instruments and make it happen. Just type in the necessary numbers.
But that’s not exactly exciting for me, it’s just work.
More fun is to take an electrical thing, a wonderful gadget covered in knobs and sliders that is buzzing and breathing with electrons. It feels like painting. I have the feeling that I’m sliding light and colours about.
Sunsets are a great example of analogue in action, I’m watching a nice one right now. As the sun tries to creep around the extremities of the earth, it softly brushes colours over a perfect arc. It’s been doing this for as long as the Earth has been spinning and there has never been a moment that is the same.
Most old synths are a little like this. They are a blazing source of white noise, as opposed to the sun’s white light. This noise is filtered by the environment of the synth to create a thing of beauty. The noise is random, a jumble of electrons crazily smashing their way through the circuits to reach the earth. While the sun interacts with fluctuations of the horizon such as clouds, mountain ranges and flamingos, the electrons in the synth are shaped by their tortuous journey through transistors, resistors and capacitors, with all of their beautiful irregularities and shifting temperatures.
Though it can be hard these days to spot a software clone in a finished track, the initial emotional experience of playing with analogue instruments is, for me, what it’s all about.
You can almost feel the earth turning, it’s a living experience.