I’ve been listening to a lot of music that might be termed “retro” lately, and my friends in Thee Rakevines (who also make some pretty cool retro-sounding music) recently recommended an artist named Tetley, who falls very neatly into that category. His latest release, Born in the TS6, draws on a classic garage-rock sound to delve into contemporary issues. The songs call to mind a range of bands of previous decades. For example, the opening track, “The Lake,” sounds like a combination of the Moody Blues (particularly their 1973 hit “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band”) and the Jam (especially “Thick as Thieves” from their 1979 Setting Sons album). Echoes of both bands — along with hints of the Stone Roses and (possibly?) Oasis –waft through the remainder of the six-song EP. Heavy doses of reverb and phasing effects give the tracks a swirling psychedelic feel, while a driving beat propels the proceedings forward at a steady pace that straddles the tenuous divide between anger and fun. Altogether, Born in the TS6 is a great collection of songs that has the feel of catching a really cool, hip, and groovy underground band at a seaside resort somewhere in time between 1965 and the present day. Pretty excellent organ-playing, too.
I’ve had my Alesis Nitro electronic drum kit for about a year now, and I recently discovered that it’s more than just a drum kit. It’s also a synth module with 125 different voices.
In case you’re wondering, here’s what the kit looks like:
It’s an entry-level kit without many bells and/or whistles (not even a samba whistle!), which is why I was so surprised to find out that it had so many sounds beyond the expected drum kit sounds. The funny thing is that Alesis makes no mention of these extra sounds in any of the documentation that came with the unit, and I haven’t seen anyone else mention them either. There’s only this slightly mysterious reference to “surprises” on the Alesis website:
What all of this means — and why I’m so excited — is that in addition to being a drum set, the unit also acts as something akin to a full orchestra. I can plug a keyboard into the module and play any one of the 125 instruments built into it.
Though I haven’t systematically explored all of the sounds the unit has to offer, my favorites so far are patches 4, 73, and 93 — an electric piano, a flute, and an organ, respectively. Also, perhaps as a subtle joke on the part of the manufacturer, the final patch sounds like applause. Maybe it’s their way of congratulating users for finding the secret orchestra built into their drum set.
One reason this discovery is a big deal for me is that I was in the market for a synth with a decent electric piano sound, so I’m very happy to find that one was hiding in my drum set all along. Another bonus is that the drums and the synth sounds can be played simultaneously, so I can teach my dog* to play the drums while I play the keyboard. Or vice-versa.
So if you’ve stumbled upon this post because you have an Alesis Nitro or are thinking of getting one, I can assure you that the drum set sounds great for an entry-level electronic drum set and that the synth patches are a pleasant addition to the entire package.
To access the additional sounds, all you have to do is plug your MIDI keyboard controller into the unit’s MIDI-in input. Accessing the various sounds will probably depend on your keyboard’s specifications.
I’m using an Alesis Q-49 (pictured below), which allows me to select different sounds by pressing the MIDI/Select button to the left of the keyboard and then using the numbered keys at the high end of keyboard to select which patch I want. High C is “Enter.”
What I do if I want to play the electric piano, for example, is press the MIDI/Select button, then tap the keys associated with 0 and 4 (C# and F), and the tape high C for “Enter.”
A pleasant discovery to say the least!
*PS: I got a dog last Monday. More on this development later.
Here’s my latest recording. This is the first time I’ve played drums on one of my recordings. In the past, I programmed a drum machine, but I’ve been taking drum lessons over the past few weeks and wanted to try something new. Here and there I’ve touched up a couple of drum fills with some computer trickery, but for the most part, the drums represent an actual performance.