2021 – A Year for Vintage Experiments

If the pandemic has taught me one thing, being in lock down has had me thinking more and more about our experiences and lives outside of the virtual digital realm. For most of us, stuck in the house all day in one form or another, it has forced us to live, work and amuse ourselves virtually online. It’s not a tough ask, we’ve been doing so for many years, and the dirt path of the interweb in the late 90’s early 00’s has now evolved into the instant gratification and capability all of the dot-com bubble companies had promised. But with everything else limited, I might argue that we are hugely missing the tactile touch of our regular lives, the smell of coffee at a cafe, chatter of a pub, hugs with friends, opening the door for strangers to an office tower…these things Zoom just can’t replace. Let alone concerts and movie going, the experience just isn’t the same.

I speak about the obvious, you all have experienced the same thing as me, but one way for my emotional well being to cope has been to start building a retro-lab for music making. I know many would think I’m crazy, but finding some old retro recording gear with buttons that use tape instead of hard drives, has found some new appeal. ADATs (and the 16bit, original black units!), old outboard compressors and gate / limiters, and on the hunt for some weird outboard effects stuff, married to my clunky, problematic (thank you ribbon cable issues…), mostly used as a literal desk Mackie 24-8 mixer…one thing that became clear was my need need for cables (and lots of them) as well as some DeOxit to clean these neglected game changers from the 90s. I’ve subscribed to the Roland Cloud, and have slowly amassed a lot of VSTi / virtual instruments, which sound way too clean and neat through my Apogee or Digidesign / Avid digital boxes. That said, I felt being able to run channels of an 808 through 90s 16 bit glory would give me exactly that creamy / crunchy difference that would more closely emulate the limitations of the original hardware. Unbalanced outputs even!

Though I’m sure for the moment it’s just a phase, it’s certainly been giving me something to look forward to, and go on the hunt for information on Qwant (sorry Google) or for gems on eBay and Kijiji, finding sellers who are happy to see the gear go to a good home, but with a raised eyebrow in suspicion. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up and it will find a new lease on life” I reassure the masked person I’ve met in the parking lot for the exchange, while passing dollar bills still tacky from being wiped down in the all too familiar hand sanitizer.

Who knows, either I’ve discovered a new toy hobby to tinker with and find some groovy vibe for…or else, watch for my yard sale in 2022!