Audio: Frivolous Gear Guide + Live Set
It's hard to mistake the sonic fingerprint of Frivolous for anyone else. His music defines a new era of electronic music that is ambitious, reflective and startlingly original. Enhancing your dancing experience so you literally burst off the dancefloor- the Canadian Cadenza mainstay is devoted to a style of DIY music making that is based on vocals, loops and some fascinating home-grown machinery.
Leaning in with anticipation for his live set this Saturday alongside Sammy Dee and Masomenos, we asked Daniel Gardner to talks us through the twisted mix of equipment that he uses in the studio - and in his live show - to create the Frivolous experience. The list includes his most ambitious project so far - the ‘Delphine’, a home-made ‘Robotic Glockenspiel’ and the ‘Alesis Performance Pad & EZ Drummer Software’ which programmed the jazz tracks on his new album, the rhythmatic masterpiece 'Meteorology.’ Bringing us a piece of the Miami heat, we also have a demonstration of the gear in action in the recording from his live show at Sunday School, WMC last month, shifting us into gear for Saturday night.
Clavia Nord Lead 2
I guess this synth has somehow become the quintessential 'Frivolous' sounding synth. I actually have the Nord Lead 2 which is the earlier version of the 2 X but they are both the same. It was bought about 10 years ago as one of the first real pieces of gear after i got sick of stupid groove-box products, and although it was pretty pricey, I'd say it was worth every cent. A totally powerful poly-phonic synth with a distinctively glassy, melodic sound. It can also be quirky and silly as well as take on more traditional tasks. A super power!
Delphine (Home Made Robotic Glockenspiel)
Definately the most ambitious of all my DIY projects so far. With every peice designed and built by hand, except for the primary circuit board design which was contributed by Georg Werner, an experimental electronics nerd in Berlin, Delphine has successfully consumed almost 6 months of my life and we are STILL working out the bugs. I used Delphine to re-create the lead line in 'Ostalgia', which is an appropriation of the famous Russian Griboedov Waltz.
FMR Audio RNP 8380 (Really Nice Preamp)
I never really understood the impact that a good pre-amp would make until i got this one in the studio. I mean, I tried one of these Tube-MP type consumer level pre-amps, which turned out to be completely gimmicky and bullshit. The 'Really Nice Preamp', makes no promises that it doesn't deliver, it's just a solid simple unit with quality components that makes recording with a microphone sound AMAZING! So much presence and beautiful airy sibilance, perfect for vocals, piano, drums... anything!
Alesis Performance Pad & EZ Drummer Software
Ok my secrets out with this one. This is how all the jazz tracks were programed on the new album; 'Meteorology'. Despite the off-putting name of this software (EZ Drummer), this thing is bloody awesome! There are different kit plugins that you can get like for rock and country and stuff, but the jazz kit is the one for me. You can change EVERYTHING on this to customize your sound. Select skins, sticks, brushes, size of the drums, what they are made from AND after all that you can then mix your room mics. Overhead, room-mic, individual mics etc. It is, of course, a multi-sampler, so there are completely different sounds when you hit a drum with different velocity. Just AMAZING! You need a soundcard with super low latency though if you plan on using the drum-pads to play it. I highly recommend that cuz what's the point of using a jazz kit if it doesn't sound like some real dude is playing it in a smokey Brooklyn club.
Kemble Mini Acoustic Upright Piano
I love my little upright piano. I got it in Berlin from an add i found on craig's list. They actually advertised it as a child's paino, but i guess it was just sold as a compact piano because the keys are totally the normal size it's just an octave smaller with the bottom octave omitted. Sounds great, and it's so nice to get ideas and work out chord arrangements on a real piano. There is NO software or controller that gives the same feeling and inspiration as real keys! Recorded with 2 mics on the back through the pre-amp, it's what I used for the 'Wasting Time' solo which i recorded the same afternoon I brought it home.
Smart Electronix Buffer Override Plugin
Lastly, one of my favorite plugins for giving that sense of glitchy surrealism which is great for messing with peoples heads a bit is this 'Buffer Override' plugin by Smart Electronix. I feel that using this plugin tastefully in a few key spots in a track can really embrace the volatile aesthetic of digital production which makes modern music fun to me. I like things to be what they are, and I've done my share of battling with computers when I'm just trying make music. So let's not try and bury the facts, we live in a digital world and this effect is one of life's modern simple pleasure. It always makes me laugh when I break it out.