Portishead is one of the bands I really love because they sound like Portishead. Nothing else really sounds like they do and to top it off they sound great. Dark, romantic and painful. Right up my alley. The cherry on top is they use a lot of real analog synths. Band member Adrian Utley shows us some of what they have in the video above.
“Portishead are a band formed in 1991 in Bristol, England. The band is named after the nearby town of the same name, 13 km (8 mi) west of Bristol. Portishead consists of Geoff Barrow, Beth Gibbons, and Adrian Utley, while sometimes citing a fourth member, Dave McDonald, an engineer on Dummy and Portishead.” – Wikipedia
If you can’t afford a pretty Moog Etherwave Plus ($519) and you still want to sound like Portishead (I know it wasn’t a real Theramin) maybe Thereminator (iTunes link) for the iPhone will do the trick for you. It’s $3 and has over 200 five star ratings.
“The theremin, originally known as the aetherphone / etherophone or termenvox / thereminvox is an early electronic musical instrument controlled without contact from the player. It is named after its Russian inventor, Professor Léon Theremin, who patented the device in 1928. The controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas which sense the position of the player’s hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.” – Wikipedia.org
What is the worst piece of studio gear you ever bought? Something you thought, “I can put this to great use!”. However, in reality it never helped you create a single song. For me this is an easy choice: The Alesis Airsynth.
Many times when songwriting after I finish the arrangement I will use an analog synth to add a wash or layer of sound behind the entire song. I thought a Theremin could also be useful in a similar way to me. There was a cool looking new orange gadget showing up in the pro-audio catalogs I received in the mail called the Airsynth. It was supposed to be similar to a Theremin or Roland D-beam controller with a mini synthesizer inside producing 50 sounds. You hold and wave your hand over the unit and the sound changes. After reading this review in Sound on Sound Magazine I bought the dam thing for about $250.
I was disappointed immediately. As soon as I hooked it up I got that sad weird feeling I was taken advantage of. You know the feeling where you feel sorry for yourself. You have been scammed by marketing and advertising. First off, the Airsynth felt so light as if there was nothing inside it’s plastic box. Of course if the unit sounded great or something that wouldn’t matter but the Airsynth sounded lame. Lame sounds with very little control. As much as I waved my freakin hands all over the place the Airsynth did not react in anyway fun or musical. It was so lame I hid it in my studio when people came over. I was afraid they would want to try it out and then if they did they would call me a sucker for buying it!
With the wonderful magic known as eBay I reduced my chances of getting into heaven by putting the dam thing up for auction. Some poor soul bought it and I was free of my burden. Why the Airsynth scarred me so bad only a therapist can say.
I never replaced the Airsynth but lately I have been eyeing the Moog Etherwave Theremin. Another option would be the Eowave Persephone or maybe adding a Doepfer RM2 ribbon controller to my set up will do the trick. I made a post about the latter two already: click here. My guess is when the new Portishead album “Third” comes out in April I will be inspired to go shopping!