Quasimidi 309 Review

This "review in action" was written in 1999 and originally appeared on a site devoted to Quasimidi equipment. Unfortunately, Quasimidi has gone out of business, and the 309 is no longer available.

Here's a little synopsis of the 309 in action during a recording project. I record under the name Synthetic Block, and my first CD was released in May 1998 on Mindspore Records. I'm probably not a typical user of the 309 because my music is more ambient in nature than the driving rhythms that the silver box pumps out. Regardless, four of the five tracks on the disc used the 309 to one extent or another, without any of the expansions. The disc consists of material from two writing/recording sessions: one in late 1996/early 1997, and the other in August 1997. Both sessions produced a CD's worth of music and Mindspore basically picked the tracks they liked best.

I bought the 309 in June 1997, one month before the original master for the disc was due. I immediately set about replacing the drums I had used with the 309's sounds, and in some cases used the bass/lead section. I was amazed at how well the 309 drums fit, and after a couple of weeks the integration with the rest of the equipment for that session (Roland XP50 and Nord Lead) was complete and recorded. Of course, typical record company delays meant that the disc was not going to be released for some months, and in the meantime (Aug. 1997) I had completed a slew of new recordings. The difference with this session was that the 309 was not used as an afterthought, but rather as an integral part of my setup. By this time, Mindspore was interested in the new material as well, and we decided to integrate the material into what became the CD. Below is a brief explanation of how I used the 309 on four tracks from the debut Synthetic Block CD.

"Silver Sky." This track was from the Aug. 1997 session and was completed rather quickly; definitely one of those rare inspired moments when everything flows and fits together. The main melody line is from the 309, and the piece relies on the more atmospheric drum sounds from Quasimidi's wonder box. The 309 helped capture the mood of an ambient western. In hindsight, the piece is probably a little too long, although it's gotten the most radio play of any track off the disc, including airplay on Echoes.

"Eardrum." This longer piece was completed in June 1997, and features very little 309. Actually, there's only a short section with drums toward the end, but the 309 meshed well with the percussion from the XP50. Because of the addition of the 309 drums, the piece contains multiple time signatures that worked better than I thought they would.

"The Empire of Lights." The longest track on the disc, this is from the Aug. 1997 session and relied heavily on the 309. The first section is a mellotron introduction, which gives way to echoed XP50 percussion and complex 309 percussion. I made the 309 part using the drum grid and it went fairly quick. From there, two leads share the space: the one from the 309 is a typical sweep that I constructed to emulate the warm sweeps from an EMS VCS3. The final section of the piece kicks into more typical 309 drum territory and uses a 309 lead as a counterpoint to the XP50.

"Ping." The final track on the disc is the most dance oriented, thanks to the addition of the 309 drums, and a 309 lead in the middle of the tune. This piece was actually finished in 1996, but the addition of the 309 really kicked it into overdrive. I have to admit that I used some of the preset rhythms on this one because they fit well. I was surprised I didn't have to tweak the existing piece at all to accommodate the 309.

For all the above pieces, the drums were triggered using the 309's sequencer, while most of the bass/leads were triggered by the XP50's internal sequencer. No computer-based sequencing was used to produce the disc. I was really impressed with how easy it was to construct songs on the 309, leaving empty measures where there were no drums needed. In this way, I was able to slave the 309 to the XP50 and have both sequencers start at the same time.