Synths of the father: Making some noise at NAMM 2015

You don't know what it was like, man, you weren't there

The Instrument of Linn

For those who hanker after the perfect Jean-Michel Jarre sound to play with their Laser Harp, KromaLaser is finally offering a new hardware solution. Until now if you wanted that authentic Rendezvous II sound, you needed to either find an old Elka Synthex on eBay (and probably get it repaired), or run a virtual synth called Synth’x, aka Synthix from Xils Labs on a laptop live.

Laser Harp gets stuck, has problems, goes crazy!! Jean Michel Jarre unique footage!

Jean-Michel Jarre in 2009: the pleasure and pain of the laser harp in live performance

Neither is ideal for live performance, so KromaLaser has announced a 2U rack called KromaSynth which recreates the sound architecture of the Elka Synthex for those sync-sweep sounds that so many people are convinced actually come from the LaserHarp instead of the Elka being triggered by MIDI.

The architecture of the KromaLaser is much cleverer than the original Elka Synthex though. Each voice is entirely contained on an independent card and anywhere between one and 16 cards can be installed in the individual slots. This means if you only want to trigger from the monophonic laser harp, you can save money by only buying one card in the rack. If you want a 16-part multi-timbral system which allows you to set up drones or trigger/sequenced lines to back your performances, you can also do this. The KromaSynth will be fully demoed in the UK next month.

Roger Linn plays his latest musical innovation, the LinnStrument

It was actually pretty tough to find groundbreaking technology at NAMM this year. The only truly unique thing I saw was a new product from Roger Linn, founding father and patron saint of drum machines. Now that beatboxes have been fully absorbed into workstations and computer sequencers, Roger has come up with a new MIDI controller. Called the LinnStrument, it doesn’t require previous keyboard training to play, yet permits a level of individual expression which few keyboard players ever achieve.

It is kind of tricky to explain in words, so take a look at the video above where Roger shows you how it works.

The final electronic musical instrument which caught my eye was a modern update on the great grand-daddy of them all, the Theremin. Virtuoso Theremin player Masami Takeuchi was showing another revamp of an old synth design which first appeared in 2000, the Matryomin, hidden inside an unassuming Russian doll.

Theremin duet on the Matryomin

Using the same proximity motion gesture as the original Theremin but without the antennas sticking out, the Matriomym costs around £250 and is a much more portable and transportable version of Leon Theremin’s 1929 classic – but with the same expressiveness which some purists claim has never been superseded. ®

Our thanks to Michael A. Pliskin for being on hand with his video camera to take the clips used in this article.

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