All things String (Synth) Ensemble...
No.1 - The Logan String Melody II
Go and listen to the two Oxygene albums or Equinoxe - the lush, phasy string sound you can hear liberally plastered throughout is almost certain to be Jean Michel's Eminent 310 Unique or his Theatre Grand. Most times he passed it through a modified Small Stone phaser and reverb was added, in the early days using modified Revox tape machines, but there is precious little else applied in the way of external effects. I think it likely that Jean Michel used a Solina String Ensemble too... this is an analogue string synthesiser practically identical to those which were built in to the Eminent organs by the manufacturers. ARP got involved in the Solina project and there were several string synths built in Holland by Eminent but badged ARP.
With the knowledge of where the Jarre string synth sound comes from formost in our minds we decided we had to have an Eminent and eventually after some months wait we were pointed at one all the way down in Newport by a kind gentleman who creates his own music under the name of "Issi Noho"... thanks Nick! Tracy drove down and collected the beast... it's interesting to note that it will just go into the boot of a VW Golf with about a centimetre to spare each side! But the trouble with it was the weight... a hernia and a half at least! I thought Mellotrons and Moog Libs were bad until I tried to lift an Eminent!!! I have to wonder at Jean Michel's concert in Athens when his crew lifted an Emi on and off the stage just for one song... supremely decadent?
So... as a practical source of analogue strings I'm afraid that an Eminent was just never going to be a viable option and reluctantly we sold it again quite quickly...
|Of course, sampling the Eminent was an option open to us and indeed, for a time we actually did use a sample set on our ESI 4000 which we had created from our late, dearly departed Emi. But what we also did was source a Logan String Melody II from Gordon Reid, a gentleman who reviews for the audio and recording magazine Sound On Sound. After a long drive to the other side of Cambridge and an interesting chat with the gentleman, who owns one of very few remaining Yamaha GX 1 monster analogue synths of Emmo fame... oops! I digress... we bought the Logan having been sufficiently impressed with it's retro write up. It transpires that this instrument is very versatile indeed despite being another late seventies dinosaur. Utilising an envelope generator for each note means that it is a truly polyphonic string synthesiser unlike several of it's contemporaries including unfortunately the Solina. A variety of faders allows some degree of variation of the sound and a series of preset "memories" will instantly recall other timbres as well. The organ sound is very effective (apparently The Enid used their Logan for that alone) and I can see that timbre may be useful if we ever do "Chronologie Part 2".|
It is possible to make this instrument sound
very similar to the Eminent which Jarre used on "Oxygene Part 13", but it
is very much warmer and fuller. In fact, I have to say that I prefer the
sound of the Logan almost as much as I love it's size and "Eminent"
|No. 2 - The Solina String Ensemble|
Every now and then you get lucky... figure this - whenever I browse the classified ads it seems to me that everyone wants to sell everything for the max. And yet if I advertise something then potential buyers make me silly, bargain basement offers. So on the rare occasions that one does manage to find something cheap doesn't the deal always seem so deliciously sweet!?! It's happened twice now... a Mellotron M400 for less than 350 quid a few years ago and then this... I spotted the Solina you see above in an auction and placed an optimistic, no-hopers bid on it... imagine my surprise when I got it and for just £205!!! Solinas often sell for twice that amount and in far worse condition too. So bargain of the millenium aside we were excited when the instrument arrived. It was wrapped in a duvet and miles of bubble warp - sadly that hadn't protected it from the evil god's of abuse and negligence themselves - the carriers - and it failed to make a sound other than key clicks when we plugged it in. A swift trip up north to Oakley Sound saw it working again... our fans will have seen it for the first time on the July 3rd. 2004 show in Preston. Luckily instruments like this can almost always be maintained as there are very few irreplaceable components to fail, unlike in say a MemoryMoog or a Mark II Prophet. The one exception is the top octave generator chip which is now rapidly gaining hen's teeth status so if anyone out there has a few spare ones they should hang on to them then make a killing on EBay in a few years time.
However, following a size-crisis provoked re-think this year we decided to thin out our keyboard rig slightly and inevitably one of the first casualties was the Solina... in a way it's a bit like the last in, first out redundancy policy. So in view of the fact that the Solina was as yet very under used we decided we could do without it, using our Access Virus kB, our Vintage Instruments board in the Virtuoso or our Logan whenever string synth fills are needed. The Solina was duly advertised on EBay and a bidder eventually secured it for a not unreasonable price. It turns out that he was alledgedly bidding on behalf of his employer, a certain Noel Gallagher from Oasis, so hopefully the general public has not yet heard the last of the Jarrelook Solina!