Buchla & Singing, by Reed & Caroline, is the second release on Vince Clarke’s new record label, Very Records.
Buchla & Singing is just that – vocals and nothing but a vintage synth. The album was created by New York electronic musician Reed Hays, using only a Buchla modular system, and vocalist Caroline Schutz.
For readers used to hearing Buchla synths used for more avant garde music, the album’s Buchla synth pop may come as a surprise. Hays is a nonconformist who doesn’t conform to the prevailing standards of nonconformity, using the Buchla to create classic analog electro and synth pop arpeggios.
“I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, which is where they put German rocket scientists after World War II to work on the space programme,” Hays explains. “When I was growing up there in the 1970s and 80s, there was nothing there but scientists and engineers. Space and science were just what I grew up with, so they’re natural things for me to write about. I like those early OMD songs that sounded like love songs but were actually about science. Our stuff is pretty obviously just about washing machines and electrons!”
Here’s Singularity, from Buchla & Singing:
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Here’s what Hays and Clarke have to say about Buchla synths:
Reed Hays on the Buchla
Most people pronounce it wrong. It’s pronounced Boo-cla. It’s a Dutch name.
Don Buchla was out in Berkeley, California in the sixties, designing synthesizers at the same time that Bob Moog was over on the East Coast, but they never spoke to one another. Buchla worked for NASA in the sixties and he developed technology for fuel sensors on rocket tanks. He put those on the synth he developed. They respond to how your fingers touch them. There’s no keyboard, just these touch pads. For me, being a string player, it’s something I can really relate to, but it’s a really difficult piece of kit to use. Nothing’s labelled like any other synthesizer. Making this album just with that synth was a real challenge.
Buchla came from a crazy background. Some of the first modules he designed were for Ken Kesey’s Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. Those were all red modules. The rumour was that if you licked the red module you’d get high. I have some of those original modules. Did I lick it? I don’t know what you’re talking about.
On this album, I set up a lot of arpeggios, dialling them up on little sliders and having them addressed randomly. I was letting the Buchla do the work for me in writing some of those arpeggios and chords. It really is like having another collaborator.
Even though I’d set myself the challenge of making the album on the Buchla, I wanted to cheat. I wanted to use a Moog for the bass, which is what you’re supposed to do, but actually in the end I got a great bass sound on the Buchla. ‘Washing Machine’ has a Sennheiser vocoder, but the vocoding on all the other songs is done on the Buchla, so in the end I didn’t cheat really.
Vince Clarke on the Buchla
I had one once but I sold it. It’s way too difficult to use.
Buchla & Singing will be released as a digital download and on CD from October 14 2016 on Very Records.