I would highly recommend Robert Fantinatto's documentary film not only to anyone interested in modular analog synthesizers, but to anybody interested in sound and the electronic reproduction of audio in general. This film is so well made it should appeal to anyone curious about people who are obsessed with minutiae, weird sounds, and music that 97 percent of the planet would find annoying. The first half of the film held my attention the most, reviewing the entire history of synthesizers and electronic sound up to the era of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's final LP (whenever that record was made and whatever it was called). The pivotal point in time shown in this film was the day in 1983 when the Yamaha DX7 digital synthesizer was released. Before the DX7 synthesis was awesome and cool - afterwards it all started to suck. The second half of the film focuses on the post DX7 years, back when you could buy a modular Moog or a Buchla for a few hundred dollars, or maybe get it for free because it was destined for landfill. Luckily a few die hard folks have kept the analog dream alive, and over the last decade Synthesis Technology's MOTM, ModCan, the folks on synthesizers.com, and the Eurorack format popularized by Doepfer have proliferated. It's pretty awesome and amazing to see all the guys and girls making small production runs of synth modules for the love of the sound and the format. One of my fave segments in the film was Lori Napoleon (aka Meridian7), who built a modular synth from old telephone switchboards. Another aspect of this film I really like is that big rock stars and totally obscure synths nerds are given equal screen time and importance. In fact, while Trent Reznor, Vince Clarke, and a few other well known synth pioneers are featured in the film and come off as very geeky, enthusiastic, and down to earth, the unknown obscure synth nerds dominate the film.

If I had one small complaint about this film, it's not really about the film itself, but about the culture of modular analog synthesis in general, of which I am a fan. My beef is this: Everyone in the film talks about the unlimited sonic possibilities of modular analog synths, but most of the music sounds the same. Why is there so little innovation or musicality in this potentially unlimited music? At times the whole scene feels like a lot of fairly entitled hipsters noodling around with very pricey electronics. I really did love this film and I'm a big fan of the modular synth explosion and subculture, but I wish more of the music created caught my ears in the same way that some of the really great electronic music has/did, such as TONTO, NIN's Ghosts, Morton Subotnick, Wendy Carlos, Juana Molina, and many others.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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