Hope

::: Sequential Circuits Pro One CPU Upgrade :::

This is part one of a two part series on the Sequential Circuits Pro One.  The Pro One is a classy sounding and nicely laid out mono synth from the same lineage as the SCI Prophet 5.  It was released during the era of Big Expensive poly synths and their more compact Mono brethren of the late 70's and early 80's.  Its sound is versatile and can cover any ground between Lead and Bass and all the way to great drums and percussion. :::

There's a limited CPU on board that can record basic, i mean BASIC, sequences and a decent Up/Up Down arpeggiator that is fun to use.  I happened upon a site for MTG, Music Technologies Group, that offered a replacement CPU that adds MIDI note in out plus other controller input to this classic synth.  This is the first part of the process.  I plan to complete the MIDI in outs and other CPU routings later but i found that i wanted to get some extra parts first.  The MTG kit includes the CPU, MIDI in out jacks, a MIDI daughter board, and some connecting wires.  I felt that i wanted to have connectors to and from the jacks and MIDI board so that the Pro One would remain easy to service and modular in layout.  I decided to get some RC servo extensions as they are 12" long and have 3 conductors in a nice small package with male and female receptacles.  I will complete this project as soon as I have all the parts from Amazon!

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While i had the machine apart i found that there was a broken pot that had been carefully repaired.  I re-repaired the shaft of this pot and cleaned the others to help improve the function and performance of the face plate controls.  It looked like someone had used superglue the first time.  I used epoxy this time so it will last longer!  I also noted that this unit has the power transformer mounted to the chassis and not the board.  In early versions the board mounted transformer tended to snap off and destroy the inside of the synth!

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Many people lament the construction of the Pro One and accuse it of being flimsy and shoddily made.  I think it could be better as well, but i have seen worse too!  The pots are all plastic shaft and are prone to breaking off if you abuse the instrument.  Especially because they are not secured to the faceplate.  I think that the faceplate is a cool design, but it is plastic and tends to flex more than it should considering it is the support for the board that is underneath it.  I have considered attaching a bar of some kind under the front lip of the top plate to strengthen it for the future but i don;t have a clear idea as of yet on how to make that happen.  Maybe for a future post!

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The CPU just pops in and it's ready to go.   Here's a list of features from the site: Features:

  • Plug-n-Play! No soldering required!
  • Supports the original functionality including the sequencer and arpeggiator.
  • Each sequence can be up to 256 steps (compared to total of 40 steps on the original).
  • Sequences are retained in memory even after power-down. The CPU module does not use a battery.
  • Power-on settable parameters for clock start mode, arpeggio up/down end notes, arpeggio down mode and arpeggio gate time.
  • Sequence Tie mode allows for a variety of note lengths.
  • Sequence End mode lets you chain the two sequences.
  • Optional: If you want to make your own MIDI interface, instructions are in the manual. If you want MIDI hardware included, see CPU+MIDI.

::: IF :::

::: Oberheim DMX auxiliary parts :::

Many days I find that it's the little things.  I've been meaning to do this for a while and as i was at the hardware store today i happened to remember this plan so i finally got it enacted. The Oberheim DMX and DX have hinged lids for adjusting certain sound parameters,  In the case of the DX you can lift the lid to change eproms to achieve different drum kits and percussion.  In the case of the DMX you can change the pitch of each voice under the hood and also interchange voice cards as seen here to achieve different sounds with different sized eprom samples.  Every time i am under the hood on either of these i find myself wishing that the thumb screws used to secure the lids had gaskets to keep them from damaging the paint on the lid.

So i got some rubber washers at the hardware store to put in between the screws and lids to protect them better.

It's the simple fixes!

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::: IF :::

::: Boris Blank Rules :::

This is going to be a large quote of a post.  I love the band Yello.  So much so as to have all of their records on vinyl! Apparently Boris Blank's Fairlight III is for sale.

Totally refurbished to boot!

Here you go:

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"Every Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument has a story behind it. Hugely expensive when new, their unique sounds and legendary user interface were used by music pioneers who changed the sound of music forever.

At a cost around $65,000 in 1985 (which could have bought you a very nice house) the list of Fairlight III owners reads like a who’s who of musical innovation of the time. Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, Kate Bush, Thomas Dolby, Hans Zimmer and Pet Shop Boys were owners in the UK, with many studios catering for those who didn’t own one. For a complete list take a look at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairlight_CMI

The particular system being offered here belongs to Boris Blank, the musical part of Swiss band Yello. One could argue that during the 1980’s Yello used the Fairlight more, and more interestingly than virtually anyone else. Every hit single they had (and there were quite a few) used the Fairlight CMI extensively..

So, if you ever lusted after one of these legendary instruments, here’s a chance to acquire one with some serious street cred!

Yello Fairlight III. Signed front panel. There will be Boris's sounds included, as well as all the libraries listed below, in 4 x hard drives. Boris is on holiday at the moment, however his assistant has promised some more photos and goodies when he returns!

Offered for sale is a very rare, vintage classic Fairlight CMI III computer musical instrument workstation in excellent condition. The system is a late model, in three rack units which are 8U, 8U and 5U for the hard drive enclosure. It has the latest and best in technical innovations, whilst still retaining the classic legendary sound of the CMI. The system is switchable for 110, 220 or 240V so will work ANYWHERE in the world.

The system has the latest 9.34 music software, has 16 voices, mono graphics card and monitor, and 24 output router.  Instead of the usual 14 Mbytes RAM memory fitted as standard from the factory, this unit has a brand new 32 Mbyte card, which is the maximum possible in these systems. It also has a digital sampler module and a Turbo-SCSI card: It is therefore fully optioned with the last and best revisions of both hardware and software. There is no music keyboard, however any MIDI keyboard or external computer/sequencer will work brilliantly. I can supply a colour graphics card at additional cost if desired, to enable the system to run with many flat LCD screens. If required, the original mono graphics can be re-installed in minutes..

There are four hard drives installed. Three are original, with Boris's sounds, and the forth is "My" collection of libraries I normally include with my systems for sale. These are as follows:
 Complete Fairlight library, Prosonus Strings, Brass, Percussion, Sound 
Genesis strings, plus many libraries collected over the last 25 years 
dealing with top producers and musicians. These include libraries from: Pet 
Shop Boys, Trevor Horn, Hans Zimmer, Frankie goes to Hollywood, Art of Noise and many, many others. The complete Fairlight IIX library is also included.

The floppy and WORM drive work intemittantly, however these were only used in the 1980's before more reliable and cost-effective storage emerged. Therefore there is no warranty on these parts. The only other points of note are that some of the keys on the alpha-numeric keyboard are beginning to lose their legends (see picture), and the graphics pad is worn in places. I have however adjusted the keyboard so that the worn spots on the pad doesn't cause problems.

The system has been serviced, will have a full set of manuals on CD, all leads, latest firmware, and come with 3 months warranty (apart from the two drives mentioned above).

Please note you’ll see other Fairlight systems advertised, and some might be less expensive. However, do some research before you buy. What may look like a bargain might not look so appealing when its obsolete parts finally give up. This applies specially to earlier systems.  This system is complete, fully functional, and will work straight out of the box. I worked as product specialist and studio manager at Fairlight in Sydney during most of the 1980s, and have been involved in re-building Fairlight CMIs for over 25 years. I have sold and supported well over 45 of these classic samplers. If you are in any doubt, please type “Peter Wielk Fairlight” into the worlds favourite search engine and see what comes out.

You might be apprehensive about owning a big piece of technology, however the Fairlight CMIs were designed to last – no new technology comes near it for build quality. All the cards and modules of a series III are plug-in which makes servicing a breeze (and also helped push the original price up). In the unlikely event of a board failure, this can simply be swapped out for a replacement from me, to either repair or replace. I have a huge amount of spares, since I bought most of the factories old stock and spare parts. I also do repairs at board level, and re-manufacture parts when unavailable. I have been supporting these incredible systems for many years, and hope to continue this for many more…

I have tried to describe this system as accurately as possible. However, please feel free to ask any questions, or if you’re passing through Sydney, you would be very welcome to have an extensive demonstration. Lastly, these systems were designed and built with no compromises, reflected by their US$75,000 price tag when new. The sound is completely awesome. You might buy a sample CD of the Fairlight sounds, it will sound NOTHING like the real thing.

Also, only about 200 systems were built, and they were sold to the most influental musicians and producers in the world. The sounds of the Fairlight CMI formed the soundtrack of the 1980s. So, if you’ve always lusted after one, here’s your chance to own a part of music history!

Please note price is in Australian dollars, and excludes freight. I have an account with TNT couriers here in Sydney and ship many systems every year. I will ship for my cost. Please mail for more exact figures to your location. All shipments can be tracked through TNTs own site. IGNORE EBAYS SHIPPING PRICE CALCULATORS: THEY ARE WORSE THAN USELESS !!!!!!!

There are many currency conversion sites online. Australian residents please add 10% GST.

Lastly, due to the number of frauds and scams on ebay, please contact me if you have less than 10 positive transactions. I won't even consider shipping until funds have cleared this end, so please don't ask. I am sure any honest bidder will not resent this precaution.

Extra information:

This system is multi-timbral, in that it can produce 16 different sounds at any given time. It also has dynamic voice allocation, meaning that although the device is 16 channels, one could play for example, 16 voices of piano in one bar of music, 16 voices of brass in the next, 16 of vibraphone in the next, and so on. Each sound is output through it's own dedicated router output, of which there are 24. A loom will be provided to interface the first 8 "routputs" with your mixer. This differs from the earlier CMI IIIs, as they had only one monophonic output per XLR. As producer and Fairlight programmer extrordinaire Andy Richards (look him up for credentials) once said: "Having a router is like having a Fairlight and a half

Horizontal Productions in sunny Sydney"

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:::IF:::

::: So this happened : The Fabled Simmons SDS 6 In the Wild :::

Today in the shop i have a Simmons SDS 6.  This one is serial number 105.  Seeing as there was only 109 of these ever made i'd say this is practically a Chupacabra! It was shipped to the US from Europe so the power supply had to be changed to see 110 volts.  The transformer has two primary coils that were hooked up in series for European voltage but once they are changed to a parallel configuration it should be fine!

The manual also says to use a 1A fuse in the US.

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There's not much info on these in the world ( google ).  I have the manual and schematic here with this one which is helpful.  The circuit boards are riddled with modifications that were probably done on the production line.  This one doesn't have MIDI but supposedly a few had been updated to support it.  There's a few videos on youtube that show off how utterly awesome this is to program and watch:

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I doubt i'll ever see another!

Here's an add for the Simmons SDS 6 ( thanks Simmons Museum! )

Other Resources:

Simmons.net

Simmons WIKI

::: IF :::

::: Sequential Circuits Max Firmware Upgrade :::

It's a tech kind of weekend! A while back I met a guy named Bob Grieb on the sequential circuits yahoo group who was working on a firmware and memory upgrade for the Sequential Circuits Max.  I am a huge fan of the SCI Multitrak as posted here and the Max is basically the same synth in a smaller package with less programming capability ( no editing grid on the faceplate ), performance features ( arpeggiator and wheels ), and an even less colorful color scheme! ( I'll have one totally 80's football font on grey sparkle please!!! )

As soon as Bob had kits available i had him ship me a set so i could do some tech work on the weekend.  It consisted of a PCB, a new larger ram chip, an eprom with updated OS features, some chip sockets, and a few diodes, resistors, caps, and wires to assemble.  He posted instructions on his site to assist in the process as well.  Its not too complicated but there's several steps that are pretty hard if you are not comfy soldering multi pin chips.

1, First i needed to remove the 2 old non writable ram chips from the mother board.  Thats right, the original OS didn't allow you to rewrite the basic patches, although they could be edited via midi and were remembered while the unit had power.  The same went for the sequence memory: lost at power down.  This was the hardest part of the process.  The memory chips are right next to the CPU and had a very tight space between them for desoldering.  I chose to use a liberal amount of solder wick to pull the solder from the joints.  it took a while but finally the two chips literally fell out without damaging the board!

2, I then assembled the new PCB.  Theres a socket for the new ram and the new OS eprom as well as a set of pins on the bottom that sit in the old eprom socket.  I then added the other components to the board and checked to see if it fit into the socket on the mother board without touching anything.  It looked good and i actually attached a small bit of foam to the bottom of the PCB to relieve the weight of the whole assembly resting on the eprom socket.

3, after attaching the 5 wires for os, ram addressing, and power to the new PCB i was ready to start the Max up!  That wasn't too bad once i got past the chip removal!

At startup the max loads it's basic patches and default sequences from the new ram location on the new chip. Then it goes through the voice tuning routine as it always would.  Pretty smooth actually!

I also did a few other maintenance things while i was inside the max:

1, I gave it a thorough cleaning.  30 years can leave a lot of dust!  I also noticed that the metal supports for the mother board were totally untreated metal and they were corroding.  They were covered in a fine dust of rust and it was gross.  So i scrubbed them in the sink and let the whole bottom plate dry in the sun for a while.  I then used a can of Rust-Oleum clear enamel to coat them.  This will hopefully help keep them from corroding more in the future.

2  I also removed and cleaned the small red window that covers the led display.  I re-taped it on all four sides so it will keep dust out more effectively and look better.

So, the Tauntek SCI Max firmware upgrade adds many features.  Here's a list of them:

1) 100 downloadable programs (Max had 20 that could be downloaded)

2) Storage for ~3200 notes in two songs (Max could store about 500)

3) Unison mode (Max did not support Unison mode)

4) Battery-backed storage of downloadable programs and songs

5) MIDI chan and a few other parameters are also non-volatile

6) Three sets of programs in EPROM, loadable on request:

a) Max orig 80 programs plus Six Trak Unison programs

b) Six Trak orig 100 programs

c) Multitrak orig 100 programs, without chorus and velocity sens parameters

7) Current voice parameters, including any CC changes, can be stored in program #99

8) Program #99 can be copied to any other program.

9) MIDI receive buffer increased from 64 bytes to 128 bytes

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Pretty RAD!

:::IF:::

::: Hit Designs Dynamic Equalizer :::

Today i have a tech post.  A special one at that! I found this piece of gear in a surplus sale a few years back and i have never seen another.  Its a really special device as few of these types of designs exist in the analog world.

The Hit Designs Dynamic Equalizer is a multi band dynamic equalizer and Limiter.  Each of the 10 bands has a VCA expander and limiter for the left and right channel.  The gain and limit threshold for each band is controlled on the front panel controls to the right.  On the left you can control the input / output gain and look at a real time analysis of the audio spectrum.  Pretty amazing really.

After using this unit for a while I felt like a recap could really help bring the noise floor down a bit and match the response of the left right channels better.  Since i was unable to find the original manufacturer or a schematic i took many pictures so i could double check my capacitor orientation and values.  One stop at Mouser got me the many caps i would need.

And it was a lot!

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::: IF :::

::: Roland Filter Comparisons :::

So, there's a lot of confusion around what classic Rolands sound like other Rolands.  And on keeping with my previous post on The History of Roland I figured i would put a concise thread together. First there is a master chart:

ROLAND FILTERS

There's also a short cheat sheet jpeg for the big boys of Roland fame borrowed from here::

roland-chips

So, in my experience the Jupiter 6 and MKS 80 are very similar in sound ( i've used an MKS80 rev 4 ).  not particularly 'deep' but capable and very useful.

But the Jupiter 8 sounds DEEP.  Like DISCRETE transistor DEEP.  It's beautiful sounding no matter how ugly a sound you make.

This is something the Juno 60 can do too in it's own way. Tight Big Clear Fast.  But it's oscillators aren't as big feeling and they are DCO so they don't drift in any real musical way.

The JX 8P / MKS 70 / JX 10 are in a separate category all together.  They are a bit grungier in sound and vibe and you sometimes have to work harder to get them to sing but it is in there.  It's just not obvious at first or easy to squeak out.

The Juno family is split into two groups.  The Juno 6 and 60 are almost identical.  The Juno 106 / Alpha / and MKS 50 are thinner and less deep than the jupiter 6 and 8.  The Juno 106 kicks ass above the others in this class though because it has all the tactile control and good MIDI implementation ( MKS70/MKS80 have decent implementation, the Jupiter 6 has barely any and the Jupiter 8 had none! )

So, you pick your battles with old hardware i guess.  I happen to love the JP6 Europa because it's more MIDI slick than a Juno 106 and sounds way better.  Plus you can do great interfacing with it!  For instance, you can trigger the arpeggiator from an external analog source and the Europa JP6 will transmit the arpeggios created via MIDI.  this is really fun for creating bass lines and other bouncy 80's bits on multiple instruments rhythmically generated from an 808 for instance...

food for thought...

::: IF :::

::: Synth kids in the 80's :::

There's a blog i love called internetkhole. They mostly post family photos from the 80's a la FFFound but with the added twist of generally focussing on music, partying, and all things earnest about cloths, cars, style in the 80's.

Imma post a few of my faves here because i just dug through a few pages and there was some good old synth band shots :

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Happy Summer!

I.F.

::: Simmons SDS-V of the Future :::

I've promised these and so fresh for 2013 here they are!  Extensive photos of the inner life and workings of a Simmons SDS-V with the MFB SEQ-01 sequencer built in. But first, a little background.

Simmons electronic drums were developed by Richard James Burgess and Dave Simmons.  Burgess' idea was to make a fully electronic drumset that could be played  by a real drummer or a sequencer.  He pioneered this idea while working on the first Landscape album From the Tea-Rooms of Mars... To the Hell-Holes of Uranus ( a great soundtrack styled listen BTW ).  In 1981 he produced the Spandau Ballet hit, "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)".  It was the first breakthrough hit with a real drummer playing the now famous hexagonal pads and the first production Simmons SDS-V brain.

They offered a Kick drum, Snare drum, Toms, and even High Hats and Cymbal modules although the Cymbal and HH ones are super rare.  Seven of any combination could be housed in one brain and triggered via octagonal pad, sequencer, and even acoustic triggers attached to drums.  There was even an open/closed HH pedal input to trigger 2 different variations from the HH module.  You could program your own sounds via the front panel of each module with full controls for 3 presets on the front and one 'factory' set inside that are all adjustable.  The Brain did double duty of allowing trigger inputs while offering basic mixing of the internal sounds via a stereo and mono output ( with individual out as well ).  These brains quickly became cult like in their status and were used in everything from jazz bands by Bill Bruford to rock groups like Def Leppard ( by the one armed Rick Allen ) and of course funk and dance groups like Prince.

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And i never get bored of this song:

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I had picked up an SDS-V brain with a Kick, Snare, and 3 Tom modules.  But there was those two empty slots at the end... hmmmm... Then it occurred to me, What if i turn this Brain into a full DRUM MACHINE!!! Lo an behold, a few Googles later yielded my plan of attack.  I could fit a modern modular sequencer into this old brain and make an instrument of the future past! There's some technical hurdles to surmount in adding a sequencer to the SDS-V brain.

1, The MFB SEQ-01 is designed to work in a modular synth case.  the SDS-V case is of equivalent hight but the mounting holes are not lined up. So, more accurately, the MFB fits vertically and horizontally but the mounting holes don't line up.  To avoid damaging the original mounting setup i opted to temporarily put  washers over the adjacent screws to hold the sequencer in.

2, The MFB SEQ-01 needs to be routed to the trigger or sequencer inputs on the SDS-V cards. I had a few options here.  One was to connect the sequencer outs to the Simmons' native sequencer inputs.  The other was to hook it up to the trigger or pad inputs.  I opted to use the trigger inputs ( counter intuitive, i know! ) because this gave me a gain adjustment on the face plate of the brain for each trigger from the sequencer to the drum module.  The SDS-V drum modules are very dynamic and it's useful to be able to hit them with sequencer trigger more or less to taste.

3, Lastly, The MFB SEQ-01 needs to be powered and it runs at a different voltage than the SDS-V. I had MFB modify the Seq-01 to run on 15 volts in the SDS.  Then i connected the power from the +/-15 volt rail in the Brain to the power input on the MFB edge connector.  Pretty straight forward!

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Photos by J-poo.

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Future plans for the SDS-V:

1, So, there's one quirk in the Simmons SDS-V design i'd like to point out.  The audio outs are wired pin 3 hot.  This is the XLR wiring convention used by many old British companies and it's the opposite of the US convention of pin 2 hot.  Reversing this would be great to more easily interface with other equipment.

2, I'd eventually like to disconnect the back panel sequencer jacks from the SDS-V modules and instead wire them to the MFB SEQ-01 outputs.  This way the sequencer outs  could be used to drive more than just the Simmons modules.  there's actually 12 sequencer slots and the Simmons SDSV can only hold 5 cards with the sequencer installed. Maybe someday!

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References:

Simmons SDSV with MFB SEQ-01

Simmons SDS-V - Wikipedia

Simmons Synth

::: IF :::

::: A LinnDrum of Distinction :::

The Linndrum we have has a long and illustrious lineage!  It was originally owned by a good friend of mine who is now a great painter ( Alvan Long )!  He is also a drummer and was in several boston bands long before my time!  Here's a Pure No Wave Gem from one of those bands called  The November Group: :::

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So, some of the people involved in that band started a studio called New Alliance Audio.  After several years the Linndrum was packed up in it's road case and put into storage.

And it sat there for almost 15 years.  Those years took a toll too.  The batteries leaked, the capacitors went bad, and the foam from the road case became a rubbery dust that permeated everything!

When we pulled it out of storage i decided to send it to Bruce at FORAT for a refurb. He's the Linndrum expert!  He fixed the batteries, power supply, sliders and pots, EVERYTHING!

I love this machine and use it all the time.  It's built like a tank, has the OG JL Cooper Midi interface installed ( so it can sync to anything ), and it sounds great!  The Linndrum also had a great 'pocket'.  The shuffle is sexy and if you tweak the hi hat decay while it's playing you can create a great human feel.  It's a great middle ground between the bright and open Roland 808 / 909 drum machines and the darker Oberheim DX / DMX 8 bit eprom machines.

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Linndrum VSE

Linndrum WIKI

::: IF :::

::: XBS - Don't Believe :::

Hello peeps! Here's a new song that is complete! Activities to be accompanied by this material include, but are not limited to: driving, fishing, grilling, sports, baggo, drugs etc.

We want to be on topping you.

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/48990208" iframe="true" /]

Nick Zampiello - Drums/Synth/Programmerification/Mixing/Additional Adding

James Towlson - Vocals/Keys/Guitar/Bridgerizer

Ed McNamara -Vocals/Lyrics/Bleep Bloops/His Guitar

Eddie Llerena - Engineer/General Helper/Clapper

Rob Gonnella - For being there...no matter when......what?

::: I Feel So Logical :::

Well, it's early but i may have found my personal fave ' album of the year ' already! and it's only february!

these guys are great ( the first album is anyway )...

They do for Doris Norton what Kraftwerk did for Germany.  taking all the robot angularity, quirk, and synth pomp and focusing it into a perfectly honed  soundtrack to my life.

Background:

This album was produced by Hideki Matsutake.  He was a computer programmer and considered the '4th Beatle' for YMO ( Yellow Magic Orchestra ) in the 70's - 80's.

Hideki Matsutake

Yellow Magic Orchestra

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http://youtu.be/yTpmSK_FPaI

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this track is another fine example of Kraftwerkian quirktopia

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http://youtu.be/vuLqhfFbyKI

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Alien space mouth says " OOOOOOHHHHHH   YEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! "

::: IF :::