On June 29th, 2023, Jeremiah Chiu walked into the Vintage Synthesizer Museum (VSM) in Highland Park, Los Angeles, with no plan more specific than “let’s fire this stuff up and see what happens.” Exploring the VSM’s vast collection of classic, rare and staple synthesizers, he would sequence, trigger, and layer the machines together with help from VSM founder/curator Lance Hill.
Hill recalls: "Jeremiah arrived before the engineer showed up. We talked for maybe 5 minutes before he started programming a sound and sequence into the Gleeman Pentaphonic. By the time the engineer showed up, Jeremiah had built several other parts around the Gleeman that weren't synced by any control method but sounded like they were just calling and responding to each other. They plugged the Tascam 388 into the patch bay, and hit record. Jeremiah played with it, and that was it. First piece written and recorded in under an hour. It felt natural, fun and free. And that's pretty much how the rest of the session went. Constant ecstatic motion. It was the funnest non-HipHop session I've ever worked on."
The resulting album – In Electric Time - was recorded in just two days, and edited to completion in the two days following. It was captured fully analog by engineer Ben Lumsdaine, who contributes performances on a few tracks himself. Cooper Crain (of Bitchin Bajas) makes an appearance as well; but ultimately the collection is an intuitive expression of organic electronic music conceptualized and created in-context by Chiu alone, as he calls on a lifetime of work in sound synthesis to paint a fulgent, refreshingly undercut sequence of cinematic sketches and in-process themes. In some ways, In Electric Time reflects the directness of Raymond Scott’s electronic studio recordings — with sharp cuts and room chatter — and, in others, it conjures the in-the-moment magic of Harmonia.
About the work, Chiu says: “The approach to the improvisations was to embrace the mixer setups at VSM — where a section of synthesizers are all routed to a single mixer/patchbay — and to start at one end of the studio and work our way around the six different sections. I began with the synths I was most familiar with — or had spent years researching — and was fairly certain I could reign in quickly. When working with vintage gear, there's always a sweet spot where the instrument sings in a unique way. This may be the idiosyncrasies of its filter and how it resonates, the action of the keys, the ability to trigger and use control voltage to sequence, or the unique onboard features. I love finding the moments where a melody or rhythm appears in an unexpected way — at times feeling more like archaeology than sculpture. I was quite improvisatory with the editing as well, often pulling bits from distinctly different sections in dialogue with each other, in order to maintain the raw, spontaneous feeling. I loved hearing moments in the recordings when Ben started or stopped tape, so a take that was running long and beyond its moment would hit directly against a fresh idea.”
released September 29, 2023
Improvised & recorded direct to Tascam 388, without use of MIDI, at the Vintage Synthesizer Museum, Los Angeles, June 29th & 30th, 2023. Edited July 1st & 2nd, 2023.
Instruments used: Elka Synthex, EML Electrocomp 101, EMS Vocoder 2000, Gleeman Pentaphonic, Oberheim 4-Voice, Korg [Mono/Poly, MS10, MS20, MS50, PS3100, Trident MKII], Maestro Rhythm King, Roland [CR-8000, Juno– 60, Jupiter–6, Jupiter–8, JX–3P, RE–301 Space Echo, RS–505, SH–101, TR–606 (trigs only), TR–808 (trigs only)], Serge Modular I & II, Synthesizers.com
Modular, and Yamaha [CS01, CS30, CS70M, CS80].
All compositions by Jeremiah Chiu;
except “Rococco Rondo” by Jeff Cain and Charles Cohen.
Performed & Edited by Jeremiah Chiu;
with additional performances by Ben Lumsdaine (Tracks 2, 4, 10, 11, 12) and Cooper Crain (Track 1).
Patch assistance & additional engineering by Lance Hill.
Recorded by Ben Lumsdaine.
Mixed by Jeremiah Chiu & Dave Vettraino.
Mastered by David Allen.
Photography by Scott McNiece.
Design & Layout by Jeremiah Chiu.
Produced by Scott McNiece.
Thank you Scottie, Lance, Marta, Chicago synth family.