The New Member of the Band

The Volca Nubass (new member of the band) is on the far left and the old member, the Minilogue XD, is on the far right.

I’m listening to “Someone” off of El Debarges’ 1986 album El Debarge. It is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard and I have always thought El Debarge was more powerful than a Michael Jackson although the family Debarge act closely monitored the Jackson family. 

I listened to this song over and over in 1986 after she broke up with me. I had moved out of my home in Piedmont and a 15-year marriage that produced two amazing boys. I was living in an apartment right off of University Avenue in Berkeley. There was a decent taco stand on the corner and the apartment was just across University from the Santa Fe Bar & Grill in the old railroad station for Berkeley. It was definitely the first in a long genre of follow-ups. Like one of those types of super films they refer to “tent” films supporting so many imitations after the original. This is what I see a place like the Santa Fe Grill in Berkeley as breeding a number of similar brands of upscale bar & grills in California of the mid-80s. In a way it was an update on the San Francisco fern bar concept developed originally by Henry Africas on Van Ness. The Santa Fe seemed a form of Henry Africa’s on Van Ness in San Francisco transplanted across the bay to University Avenue in Berkeley.

Original Santa Fe Station in Berkeley

Like the “tent” films showing the way forward for so many others, the Santa Fe was ahead of its time. A bold vision that there might exist a few baby-boomer capitalists living in Berkeley and that they might want a nice place to mix with others where you didn’t have to drive over the bridge.

Anyway, the apartment I moved into in Berkeley after moving out of my home in Piedmont left much to be desired. It was temporary as I was in transition and the apartment was close to my office in Saul Zaentzs’ Fantasy Building in West Berkeley. And, right across University from the Santa Fe Bar & Grill where I spent many nights after moving out of my home. There was a look of Rick’s Bar in the film Casablanca. The Morrocan architecture of the old railroad station in Berkeley.

The Santa Fe Bar & Grill (circa 1986)

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The music of El Debarge and this particular song takes me back to the Berkeley of 1986 and my separation. And maybe, in some way, this new slice of music above. Using two digital music instruments pretty much at odds with the music philosophy of the other. The hard resonance of the Nubass creates a sound that grinds through almost anything it seems. This is the acid base sound created first by Phuture. The small little Korg Volca Nubass captures this classic sound and expands on it in an incredible small musical instrument with such an earth shattering sound.

* * *

I bought a Korg Nubass on Amazon and got the power adopter as part of the deal. Hard to beat Amazon of musical and film and photograpy gear. Maybe BH or Sweetwater sometimes but Amazon always has the goods at the price.

So, the first performance from the new member of the Midnight Oil band. Heard on track one is a pattern I created on the Korg Nubass without knowing much about how I created it. (But I do plan on reading up on how to program the Nubass as everyone says its an amazing instrument and I’m starting to see this myself.)

So, the gathering of the keyboards and Tascam Studio and the other instruments on this desk behind my computer desk. The Midnight Oil Studio and Band I suppose. Just got a new member to this gathering of electronic music-making technology. The new member is the Korg Volca Nubass unit which is the successor in many ways to the legendary Roland 303 bass machine. A small musical piece, about the size of a paperback book. Creating incredible sounds. Acid sounds of dance music of the 80s and 90s.

John Coltrane (The sounds from the Korg Minilogue XD)

Here the acid bass sound of a loop we’ve created on the Korg Nubass begins the piece in an environment where we can hear a door squeak open and other local live sounds. This is so because we’re recording from one of the KRK speakers using a Zoom H6 live recording.

Against this acid bass sound is totally another genre of music. Nothing from acid music or music associated with the Korg Nubass era. Rather, a type of spiritual piece recorded in real time on the Korg Minilogue XD Analogue Synthesizer at Program 38.

So, just the two instruments in this piece. Not two themes of music in one piece. But rather, two distinct genres of music in one piece. The acid base sound and period in popular music. And, a type of spiritual piano playing influenced by the music of McCoy Tyner played on the Minilogue.

The two forms of music crash up against each other in the short piece.

Is a new genre of music being created?

Or just stupid stuff no one will ever listen to?

Except me. But even me, maybe not.

* * *

Just playing around with the Volca Nubass for the first time after plugging it onto the Tascam PortaStudio board. Not knowing much about it except for a few short videos I’ve watched. As usual, the instructions on how to use the Nubass are minimal and one needs to look to the Internet for education, community and instruction. As usual.

Such a unique situation, this position in this music I’m making with the various instruments.

Everyone always focuses on the content of creations.

Few consider the context of creations.

For instance, one might observe that there are musician composers using one main instrument to convey their musical themes and messages. Coltrane’s saxophone. Tyner’s piano. You can do this when you create a powerful spiritual music of the times like Coltrane and Tyner did. Alice Coltrane included also.

The Korg Volca Nubass (Acid Head!)

Here, the hard, acid bass line put down by the Korg Nubass against the soft piano sounds from the Minilogue XD on Program 38. A soft piano sound little manipulated before recording. I play it in real time without any fooling around with the nobs on the Minilouge. A rarity somewhat. Someone actually playing the keys on the Minilogue.

The feeling I was attempting to give was something like acid house music of Phuture meets spiritual jazz of Trane and Tyner. I’ve read a lot about acid jazz and listened to a good amount of it in the past few days.

In the end, we hear the acid bass sound of the Korg Nubass ending the music after the piano piece from the Korg Minilogue XD becomes silent. The relentless, hard bitinng sound of the bass continues when all other sound is gone.

Yet the images of Trane and the Nubass linger in my mind. The piece is a tribute to both of them. Creating a new and interesting form of media ecology perhaps. The clash of musical genres within one piece of music like the above.

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