Red Means Recording
May 17, 2017 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Jeremy Blake makes music with an op-1 and records the process in a series of hypnotic videos.
posted by empath (25 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
These videos make me want the perpetually out of stock $900 OP-1, despite not having a lick of musical talent in me. Or maybe just not wanting to spend the hours involved in really polishing something off? I can't tell which it is.
posted by Kyol at 1:13 PM on May 17

Kyol, I feel you. I was seduced. I was entranced. I bought one. I have little or no discernible musical talent, though I am a huge music nerd. If you have absolutely no musical talent, and you buy this incredible device, you will have a heck of a good time. You will not, however, suddenly be able to make good music. YMMV. YM probably will not V.
posted by The Bellman at 1:21 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]

The Bellman did you have experience with other synths/MPCs?
posted by windbox at 1:25 PM on May 17

I've been sparing myself by buying Pocket Operators and Volcas - cheap musical hits for when I feel like doing something. The problem is the UI is so opaque with them that I always end up spending half my creative time going "wait, how do I do that again?"

But these videos are still super helpful to see how you can go from a blank slate to something fairly finished.
posted by Kyol at 1:25 PM on May 17

You can step a little more lightly into casual synth music with one of their $50 Pocket Operator variants. I'm partial the to PO-20 Arcade.
posted by CaseyB at 1:28 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]

windbox I have a bunch of experience with traditional syths, samplers and sequencers, but it's all 30 years out of date. I am old. The OP-1 was the first real music maker I had played with in decades.

Also, yeah, the POs are cheap and tons of fun, but you're right Kyol, I find it impossible to understand why they are making the sounds they make. I think that may actually be the point.
posted by The Bellman at 1:31 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Thanks - was curious. I get the very very very basic fundamentals of an 808 or something but was curious about the ease of use with these things.
posted by windbox at 1:35 PM on May 17

So the thing I didn't realize until I started poking around the related links on this guy's site was that the reason the PO-2x series sounds so right is that it was designed by a classic chiptune nerd. So it's not just chiptune like, it really does what you'd expect a chiptune sequencer to do.

A yeah, RMR does Pocket Operator tutorials, too. Super helpful if you're intimidated by the hardware.
posted by Kyol at 1:37 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Well, despite loving chiptunes (and never being able to afford one of those), I am afraid I would be unable to make anything but neat sounding garbage.
posted by Samizdata at 1:41 PM on May 17

I got an OP-1 recently (waited 4 months to get it due to being backordered) and it's really super fun to play with. Watching Red Means Recording's videos is both inspiring, because they're educational, and infuriating, because I just can't be as spontaneous as the videos seem to be. I've made a few nice sounding loops with it but just can't seem to get past that point into making songs. I may not be quite "getting it" yet, but the tape interface just seems too limiting.
posted by zsazsa at 3:57 PM on May 17

Uggghhhhhh I love these videos so much

Somehow the editing makes it incredibly compelling to watch someone basically just experiment with music and I wind up realizing fifteen minutes later that my intention to put a video on as background music while working instead led to me just watching the whole thing
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:32 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Damn I want an OP-1 SOOOO bad. I fell in love with after discovering what Alessandro Cortini can make with it.

I have a long flight coming up and I'm seriously considering picking up one of the Pocket Operators to play with. I guess that could possibly fill the hole the OP-1 should be filling.

I could always wait for the OP-Z I guess.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:44 PM on May 17

If someone needs pocket operator inspiration, here's the PO-2x designer (previously) performing Wintergatan's Marble Machine (previously).

(more PO music by LFT)
posted by effbot at 5:37 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]

I discovered both this channel and the Pocket Operators about ten days ago. What a pleasant rathole to have fallen into! Now own the PO-12 and PO-14.
posted by Slothrup at 8:45 PM on May 17

If you want some of the same kicks for quite a bit less money, ios has some ridiculously capable apps - nanostudio is where I'd start.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:31 PM on May 17

I've been sparing myself by buying Pocket Operators and Volcas - cheap musical hits for when I feel like doing something. The problem is the UI is so opaque with them that I always end up spending half my creative time going "wait, how do I do that again?"

I am a synth geek; I'm equally comfortable editing Yamaha DX series patches, building up stuff from scratch on modular synths, or occasionally writing my own VST plugins. But I find the Pocket Operators too annoying to use.
posted by Foosnark at 7:57 AM on May 18


But I couldn't, because Jeremy is a good friend of mine. (I begged the mods for an exception to the rule; they very correctly did not grant me one.)

We became friends around the time I bought my OP-1, way back in like 2011. I signed onto the now-defunct ohpeewon forums, and I saw a post from this guy who'd made an album nearly entirely with the device.

Now, I'd heard some of the OP-1-only stuff at that point, and it was mostly very minimal house music; I appreciate the work that goes into such music, but it's not my thing. Since I owned the synth, I knew what it was theoretically capable of, and when I played Jeremy's Pluralism album, I immediately thought: Yes. This.

I had that album on repeat for weeks before I thought, hell, I should email this guy and tell him how much I liked his music. So I did. We've been friends ever since.

When he put out Psychic Reality a couple years later, I had that bad boy on repeat for months as well. In contrast to the crystalline precision of his early OP-1 work on Pluralism, Psychic Reality is a full-blown pop album, vocals and all. Jeremy arranged, recorded, produced, and mastered the the entire thing himself, and it's lush and sincere and wonderful. I was taking an Ableton Live class when he released some of the stems for remixing, and I turned Realty's "Something We Can Stand" into something much weirder that Jeremy graciously included on that album's remix collection.

But my absolute favorite song he's ever done is the unabashedly sentimental My Heart as Your Home. I've listened to it a million times. I put it on a mix for the love of my life. It's a perfect love song, as far as I am concerned.

I'd always wanted to cover it, and when my brother (a much better musician than me) came to visit me last year, I sat him down with his ukelele and we made this.

Presenting one of my favorite musicians with a cover of his own song and having him be really sincerely excited about it remains one of the high points of my creative life. It's been incredibly vindicating to see Jeremy's Red Means Recording work go viral over the past year—he's a fantastic artist and entirely deserving of the attention, plus I get to feel VERY smug for having been into his stuff before it was cool.

In conclusion: If there's someone out there making stuff that you think is good, you should tell them you think it's good. Because sometimes you become friends and it's great.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:08 AM on May 18 [11 favorites]

Oh also: Barkos.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:09 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

And finally, this is my latest stab at an OP-1 only track, which I should probably post to Mefi Music already.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:17 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

I am a synth geek; I'm equally comfortable editing Yamaha DX series patches, building up stuff from scratch on modular synths, or occasionally writing my own VST plugins. But I find the Pocket Operators too annoying to use.

And worse, there are some functions that only exist on some operators, and not just the big obvious ones like chords or sidechaining, but even whether you can live play an instrument or not. I'll spend a few minutes going down a rabbit hole trying to play toms on my po-12 like a synth before realizing I have to do it via parameter automation. I can't imagine how people are managing with the Tonic and the million functions it has.

Still, it's fun, and for $50 it's hard to complain.
posted by Kyol at 8:29 AM on May 18

groovey. I was a singer in band for ten years. I couldn't play any instrument but I could harmonize and arrange.After the band dissolved I picked up Garageband and used what I'd learned from my buddy musicians to produce this. An ear, composition and harmony with a dash of courage and you're there.
posted by judson at 8:37 AM on May 18

Rad, rad stuff. I have had trouble getting into any sort of synth workflow over the years but I still think, basically every time I see someone digging in on an OP-1 or something similar, that I should lock myself in a cabin for a couple weeks with one and try to get over the hump with it.
posted by cortex at 8:42 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]

Hello friends. I am super touched you like the videos. :) If anyone has any questions about OP-1, Pocket Operator, or music stuff, I'm happy to answer. Love talking shop.
posted by jjbbllkk at 9:50 AM on May 18 [12 favorites]

@jjbbllkk, welcome to Metafilter!

Your videos are hypnotic. I've been enjoying them quite a bit since reading this post.

Do you know any artists who use Pocket Operators to compose vaporwave or synthwave?
posted by rebent at 5:28 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]

I just noticed that the MoMA store is having a sale for members. So if you pay $85 for a membership (of which $83 is tax deductible), you can get the OP-1 for $680 + $85 = $765. Backordered to early June, but it's probably hard to beat that price and supporting MoMA isn't a bad thing either.

They've also got a good price on the PO-16 Factory.

I'd order the OP-1, but am not willing to face the wrath of my wife.
posted by Slothrup at 6:23 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

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