2018 marks an important year for Korg. It is the 50th anniversary of their first synthesiser; the Prototype 1. Over the past half-century Korg have established themselves within the industry of synthesis as innovative creators, becoming a household name synonymous with exciting sounds, professional gear and usability. In our previously published retrospective on the brand, we explored their extensive development of monophonic and polyphonic synthesisers in addition to their expansion into electronic workstations, DJ products, tuners and more. It is no wonder that so many contemporary artists continue to incorporate Korg into their creative processes; looking both forward to futuristic innovation, and back to the warmth of that vintage Korg sound.
Read on as we explore how these six Australian artists are using Korg in their live and recording set ups:
SAATSUMA is the electronic collaboration between Melbourne-based producers and musicians Memphis LK and Cesar Rodrigues. The group make gentle electronic dance music that sounds both effortless and elaborate. LK’s pure voice is nestled amongst a lush synthetic environment of beats, airy pads and keyboard melodies. The group use a vintage Korg MS20, a monophonic synthesiser. SAATSUMA told Noisegate ‘The MS20 is such a classic sounding analogue synth. Despite being a mono synth, the two oscillators allow you to create such complex harmonies. We love how it produces such a warm, gritty bottom end which often pulls an entire track together – it has clarity, character and strength without being too overbearing or muddying up the bottom end.’ In addition to the MS20 the group also use a Korg SQ1 for sequencing, loving the versatility and variance that it provides for their production.
Sui Zhen is an electronic superstar; a producer, a songwriter and a DJ. Under the stage name Sui Zhen, Becky Freeman has evolved her production over many releases shifting from a sweet acoustic sound to a more expansive production style that includes intricate beats and synthesized sounds. This has seen her travel to South by Southwest, collaborate with producers such as Tornado Wallace and HTML Flowers, and create live synthesised film soundtracks. Sui Zhen uses a blend of electronic and acoustic instruments in her live set including an array of synthesizers like the Korg M1. In addition to this she incorporates live instrumentation such as saxophone, guitar and bass as well as interesting vocal procession and drum loops.
Feature image of Sui Zhen: Photo Credit Rebecca Houlden
The legendary Australian electro-pop group Cut Copy have made synthesisers an integral element of their expansive pop production. Whilst they use a lot of vintage analogue synths such as the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 on their recorded albums, they choose to tour with more the lightweight, easily programmable digital synths such as the microKORG XL. Speaking to ReverbLP, the group’s bass and keyboard player Ben Browning speaks to this, stating ‘Mainly we added (the microKORG XL) after the Free Your Mind album to use the Korg M1 piano sounds… It’s got really awesome onboard sounds, including a nice mellotron kind of thing. It sort of does everything. We’re always drawn to more immediate, tactile synths live. They’re robust and reliable and they stand alone, they’re not a part of some CPU that could crash. That’s why we like to use the real thing live.’
Geryon is a multi-instrumentalist and producer based in Melbourne. They currently perform using loops and samples to create dynamic beat-based soundscapes that interact seamlessly with their processed vocal sound. Their music is both emotional and detached in nature, revealing inner emotions whilst masking them with interesting production techniques. In their live and production set up Geryon uses a Korg Micro X, a tiny digital synthesiser that packs an extensive punch with hundreds of patches and many combinations for it’s lightweight size. The expansive potential of the Micro X combined with its compact nature is what attracted them to the synth. Speaking to Noisegate, Geryon states that they ‘mostly use (the Micro X) for a lot of weird spacey pads, bass, bell sounds and strings but it has a lot of depth in terms of its many patches and the ability to edit them.’ They go on to praise the synth for it’s sprawling possibilities, stating ‘I do feel like our relationship has just started… there’s much more to discover’.
GL are a glowing synth-pop duo from Melbourne, making music that is a ‘cosmic dream-sequence not unlike a lost reel from the mid-80s’. A collaboration between vocalist Ella Thompson (also of Dorsal Fins and her own solo project) and drummer Graeme Pogson (The Bamboos), the group uses a monophonic Korg MS2000 in their live set up, in combination with the polyphonic Roland June-6 to create a reverb-soaked synthscape. In this live video of their 2014 single ‘What Happened To Us’ Thompson provides the lush pads to support the chordal structure of the song on the Juno-6, while Pogson adds melodic interest on the MS2000.
Hextape is the solo project of Melbourne-based producer Bridget Chappell. The founder of the Melbourne Sound School, a free school encouraging people of all intersections to access ‘high quality accessible electronic music education’. Hextape is introspective electronic music that moves through techno and ambient landscapes, crafted by Chappell using a blend of electronic software, synthesisers and a cello. Chappell tells Noisegate ‘I use a microKORG, a Korg MS20 with an SQ1 sequencer, Arturia Microbrute, BOSS RC300 loop station, a 10-channel Behringer mixer, a BOSS VE20 vocal processer with a SM57 mic and my PC laptop running Ableton 10.’ For Chappell, the choice of what gear to use in her production setup has been less of a conscious decision and more of a happening across what is available. Chappell states ‘Mostly I use gear that people lend or show me. I am a gear nerd but also get bored by it easily and think choice of equipment is kind of immaterial’. For Chappell it is the usable flexibility of her gear that is important for a piece to make it’s way into her setup. ‘I think if you’re good at synthesis you can get a lot of sounds you might want out of a lot of different machines. Gear fetishism irritates me… Mostly I like using the MS20 and microKORG as teaching tools – they’re both pretty good in their own way for showing how synthesis works and what it can do.’