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In The Studio With Light Conductor
7 Aug 2019

In The Studio With Light Conductor

The long-form modular synth/drone duo take us on a tour of their studio and show us some of their favourite pieces of gear.

Light Conductor, the synth-based and spaced-out ambient project of Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes) and Stephen Ramsey (Young Galaxy), released their debut LP Sequence One in March. Exclaim observed the duo “offers up five songs in tectonic waves, their instrumentation carefully modulating into a slow-burn intensity,” while The 405 called it “simple and seductively soothing music which ambles, oscillates and centres itself within the liminal space between silence and structure.”

With keen ears for audio fidelity and a love of vintage equipment, the duo build buoyant, immersive soundworlds with a calm and confident hand, gently guiding the listener over warm dunes of lightly psychedelic shimmer. We wanted to give listeners a glimpse into how the duo created some of the sounds on the album, so they kindly invited us to take a quick tour of their studio to show off some gear and tell us about their favourite pieces. We’ve written up the results below.

 

Jace: This is my Therevox. When I wanted a theremin I first contacted Tom Polk, who built the electro-theremin that Brian Wilson used on the Smile tours. He said he wasn’t going to make another one, but I found the website of another guy – this one from Windsor, Ontario – who used to build them and was thinking about starting to do it again. He asked me to help him develop it, make sure it would sound okay in the studio, make sure the outputs would be okay, etc. So he ended up giving me the prototype, which I have in the studio, and I bought this one, which he made left-handed for me. Good dude.

So there are those theremins out there with antennas, but I hate those things because you need to be a virtuoso to tune in thin air. You really have to know where your hand is, it’s all relative distance, and I don’t have time for that. So this is a flat theremin. The notes are all on this fake keyboard here, and instead of using your hand, you have a little ribbon here that changes the oscillator. The keyboard has these little indentations, so you can actually play the notes, and make a melody. It’s got two oscillators, and there’s a volume pedal, so you can swell in with volume, or you can go to a note and then turn it on. There’s a lot of different timbres of sound you can make with it using these. I use it quite a bit on Besnard Lakes records, and other people’s records too.

 
Oberheim

Stephen: This is an Oberheim SEM Pro, made by Tom Oberheim, a very famous synth maker. It’s a dual oscillator monosynth, and it’s got a really amazing filter, so you can do these really intense pans of filtering sounds. It’s got great low-frequency oscillation in it, and you can run other instruments through it, which is what I do live: I’ll take another synth and run it through this one and combine the sounds of both of them.

 
SH-101

In this case I’m using the SH-101. The Oberheim and the SH-101 work together, though they’re not dissimilar in their profile or what they do: they’re both well-known for making really deep bass sounds. The SH-101 is one of the famous bass synths, a monosynth as well.

The SH-101 we use at the studio and on the records, and for touring we’ve got the SH-01a, which is basically a boutique copy that we can take on the road. It makes an almost exact replica of the sound, which is very bright and resonant, slightly harsher, so it cuts through nicely.

 
SH-010

Stephen: There’s a lot of drone on the record, a lot of harmonic drone. Most of the bass stuff comes from the Oberheim and the SH-101 or SH-1000, while most of the melodic stuff, anything that sounds like chords or polyphonic melodies, comes from the Therevox or the Juno-60.

 
JUNO 60

The Juno-60 is a classic 80’s synth. We’ve both got one in our studios. It’s a very standard polyphonic synth, it has a beautiful chorus, and beautiful filters. So we use a combination of the drones of the bass synths and the polyphonic stuff, all the melodic stuff you hear on the record, comes from the Juno. Any sequencing we do, any of the looping sounds you might hear on the record, they come from the Juno as well.

The JU-06 is sort of a travel version of the Juno, a scaled-down model version that we use to take out on tour.

 
JU-06

So there’s all those different sounds coming from the synths and the Therevox, and then of course there’s guitar:

 
Tesico guitar

Stephen: This is a Japanese-made, vintage left-handed guitar. It doesn’t say on it, but we think it’s probably a Teisco or a Kay; they were these fairly low-budget, good quality guitar makers from the late 1960’s. This one is probably from 1969 or 1970, and the crazy thing is it’s left-handed. I’ve seen maybe four or five of them in my life. So when I found it on Kijiji I jumped on it right away. I love it.

We’re both left-handed guitarists, and you really never see vintage guitars made left-handed like that, they’re pretty rare. You don’t really start seeing those until the 1980’s. In the 1960’s they just didn’t make them. At that point they were still smacking your knuckles with a ruler, trying to force the left-handedness out of people.

 
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Click here for more info about Sequence One, or dive right in to the record’s A-side via the video link below.
 

 
 

7 Aug 2019

In The Studio With Light Conductor

The long-form modular synth/drone duo take us on a tour of their studio and show us some of their favourite pieces of gear.

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