Studio Time: ALTA give us a look at their vintage set-up!
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Studio Time: ALTA give us a look at their vintage set-up!

As one of the most exciting groups coming up in Australia right now, we jumped at the chance to take a sticky-beak at ALTA’s home studio for the latest instalment of Studio Time.

The Melbourne duo – made up of Hannah Lesser and Julius Dowson – have been turning heads for the past few years with their brooding, technical tracks that blend experimental instrumental work with soothing yet quite unique vocals.

With a Sydney show lined up this weekend to celebrate their new release ">Sentiment‘, we caught up with ALTA to suss out what they use to bring their music to life. Check it out below!

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet08

This is our main synthy sounding synth and use it on basically everything. It’s one of the most beautiful sounding instruments and has a great workflow because the number of pots gives you the ability to shape sounds on the fly without diving through menus. Brassy sounds for chords are a real stand out and is kind of the unofficial signature sound famously used on James Blake’s – Retrograde.

Roland S330

This is a sampler from the 80s I picked up. The main draw for me was it came with a few boxes of floppy disks filled with samples and the orange CRT monitor. The samples on the disks are weird, I have no idea who the previous owner was. It was a strange thing to go through the floppy disks recorded by some person like 20 years ago, has been a goldmine for samples though! It only has memory for about 8 seconds of samples at a time and the only way to use it is to click buttons on the front panel so it has an unusual workflow but is surprisingly a very complete unit with lots of ways to manipulate samples and has a real nice sound to it!

Roland SH1000

This is a mono synth from the 70s. It’s actually Roland’s first instrument which is crazy to think about given the history of the company. It kind of looks like a cross between a synth and an organ, but all the organ-looking stuff is actually synth stuff like envelopes, modulation etc. The way it combines VCOs is very unusual and has a really unique sound to me. The filter is killer too. It does sound very classic though which doesn’t always suit the music we make in ALTA so we use it mainly for droney basses when we want an uncomfortable bed for the track to sit on.

Ibanez AD202

This is an analog delay from the early 80s. We use outboard effects units fairly often and this delay is used a lot because it just sounds stunning. I love to run softsynths through it and play with phasing using the delay time. Super warm and beautiful sound with the pitch modulation.

Drum Machines

We are mainly in-the- box now for drum sounds but use drum machines sometimes and the ones I tend to use are the Yamaha RX7, Korg Beats, Roland TR8 and MC505 (which is a workstation). The RX7 is a very cool digital drum machine that does totally cooked stretching sounds when pushed to its limits which we tend to use as additive tops. The MC505 is one of the most underrated bits of gear in my opinion, it does every drum machine, it does synths, it does effects, it came out into market at a weird time and has negative reviews online but is so much fun.

Tape Stuff

We track stuff to tape when we want to transform a sound into something lo-fi or want to saturate it. This is some Sharp reel to reel (nothing special) and a microcassette Pearlcorder SD2 I bought off a retired journalist on gumtree. When I met him he assumed I was a journalism student and I went along with it which I thought would make things easier but in retrospect was totally unnecessary and added a layer of complication to the transaction.

Yamaha PSS470

I really like this toy synth for a couple of reasons. It uses the Soundblaster sound chip from the 80s/90s which is the classic sound of early video games and for some bizarre reason it has these sliders on the top that gives you access to the chip that it really shouldn’t. It allows you to change things like wave types, modulation, envelopes etc. I have no idea who the target market was for this toy keyboard. It is one of the oddest sounding keyboards I’ve ever heard and love it.

Yamaha PSS-30

Staying on the toy synth train, this little synth is absolute trash but we had the idea of running the sound through some filters we made and now it makes the fattest basses on earth. We must have fucked up the circuit cos it has crazy resonance, I mean it, like filter sweeps will actually destroy your ears. But tuning that to the right spot fattens it up to ungodly levels. The top end doesn’t roll off very well either which gave us the opportunity to add a second filter (the pile of crap on the right) so we could use multiple peaks. It’s a bit smashed at the moment cos the shelf fell down but still works ok!

Catch ALTA live this Saturday at The Chippo Hotel. Learn more here.

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