Back in the early 80's, a new wave of affordable electronic instruments became available, but no one in their right mind would use them too extensively because they sounded to synthetic. But now, after digital technology has made it possible to recreate sounds so realistically that you'd swear you were hearing real instruments, many people are going back to using that old analog gear. New York's Prototype 909 are part of a new generation of electronic bands that are using only that old, non-MIDI equipment, and listening to their music makes one wonder why nobody thought to create this stuff a decade ago.
Prototype 909 is comprised of Taylor 808 (who runs mail order label Havoc Music and has numerous other projects), Dietrich Schoenenamn (also of X-Out) and Jason Szosteck (also of BPMF and Decamron). The trio recently put out their debut CD on Instinct Records, "Acid Technology." The album was done with a pretty minimal set of instruments - the SH-101, TB-303, TR 606, TR-808 and Jupiter-6 - without the use of computers and MIDI.
"P-909 wouldnÕt exist without that gear, " explains Taylor. "Our music consists of 1 or 2 bar phrases repeating while we twist knobs, re-patch cables and create a flowing, ever changing sound. People have just seen that the old gear offers something that the new digital stuff doesn't. itÕs not better... no.. just different."
Analog technology provided the backbone of acid house when it his in the mid to late 80's, and is also one of the driving forces behind techno and rave music. The Roland TB-303 is the source of that ever-changing synth bass sound that can be heard in practically all of the music, and the TR-808 is the machine of choice for percussion sounds. But more often than not, this aging technology is sampled or synched to MIDI so it can be sequenced and arranged with the newer gear on computers. The beauty of the older gear is the abundance of knobs and sliders that can be manipulated live to alter the sound being played.
"Acid Technology" is comprised of 8 tracks which are referred to "patterns" rather than "songs." Taylor describes the music as "dripping with acid," and that's just what it does. The short, repeating rhythms and melodies are treated with constant tweakings to create ever changing timbres and a web of addictive electronic noise. Most of the tracks follow even less of a traditional song structure than normal techno music, as they start at one point, mutate into something new and never look back.
For the members of Prototype 909, doing MIDI-less electronic dance music is just an experimental side project. They're not anti-MIDI, as the other projects combine both old analog gear with new digital equipment and samplers. By running Havoc Music (on which Taylor also released the music of his bandmate's other projects), Taylor has had the opportunity to experiment with a wide variety of electronic styles. This past summer, the formerly cassette-only company put out it's first CD, the "Galaxies:An Excursion Into Technospace" compilation (which included the other projects of both his P909 bandmates.)
Taylor has one other project out on Instinct, the ambient Human Mesh Dance. Human Mesh Dance is a solo project, and on the debut CD ("Hyaline") he creates dreamy synthetic sound scapes that place a heavy emphasis on melody rather than just sound experimentation. Listening to the CD provides a good example of how the analog gear differs from the newer equipment in terms of sound.
"ItÕs good to have a balance of new and old in your system," says Taylor. "You need the new stuff for the smooth, crisp ambient textures, those digital pads and soundtrack sounds, and you need the old analog gear for itÕs knobs, warmth and fatness. Every synth is different, has a different feel and does different things. So, my idea is just to get it all!"
Copyright 1993 Bob Gourley