Lightening up the Subway

In the Stockholm subway it’s common to see older men stepping on to the train playing instruments and sometimes even singing. It’s like a street musician on board. Usually they get on at one stop, play a song and then step off at the next station either to move to another train or another wagon.

It looks like they have a rather short repertoire but the level of expertise with which they deliver the songs they know is pretty impressive. Usually they are completely ignored by the passengers but the other day I saw a fantastic little scene play out.

This older guy with a harmonica got on at Fridhelmsplan and performed the usual ninja routine of walking down the moving coach while at the same time masterfully improvising and never loosing a beat or his balance.

At first the passengers played their role perfectly and treated him as pure air, but then an old man suddenly got up to give the musician some cash. Nothing too far from the ordinary, but the donor whispered something and they suddenly burst out in laughter. The notes that started flowing out of the harmonica next were easily recognised as the old russian tune ‘Kalinka’. On top of this the man that gave the cash started singing the words in russian with a clear and strong voice.

By now the other passengers looked pretty uncomfortable, but staying true to Swedish nature no one pretended to notice the scene taking place in front of them. It was clear though that the two older guys were having an awesome time, lost in the music and totally ignorant of the stiff looks from the people around them.

Another thing these walking musicians are really good at is wrapping up just in time to get of the train as it pulls into a station, so as the we started slowing down for the stop at Odenplan the song came to a stop. Laughing loudly the two said goodbye and the musician stepped off.

Awesome way to to start an afternoon at the town :).

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I’m not making music…

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I’m not making music right now.

In fact, it’s been almost 6 months since I packed up all my gear in San Francisco, put it into a container and sent it off across the ocean.

While my gear has been on board some big ass freighter defying storms, pirates and other dangers of the high seas, I’ve been traveling back to Japan, then onwards to Sweden. (You can read about my move north here). I took a pelican case full of gear with me, also known as my portable studio but alas I have not used it as much as I expected. Not that there’s anything wrong with the gear but I’ve realized that it’s really hard for me to be productive when I’m not in the right environment. I miss my synths, my modular and just sitting down in a space that’s made for music-making.

Good news is that I’ll be moving to a more permanent place in Sweden in just a couple of days. There I’ll finally be able to set up the gear again.

While I’ve been unable to make much music on my own I have been inspired to listen to a lot of new and old stuff. Using Spotify and other online services I’ve dug up some of my old favorite artists and genres and from there branched back up in time to discover a lot of new and interesting stuff. I’m really eager to put these new impressions to use and get cranking on some new songs.

Stay tuned…

Keyboard Abstinence…

It’s now been almost 3 months since I packed up all my gear and left San Francisco. Since then my entire studio has been placed in custom wooden boxes, stuffed in a container, placed on a ship, crossed the atlantic and is now sitting in a harbor somewhere along the Swedish coast.

I knew I would be away from my gear for a long time which is why I put together my portable little setup (more here), but I did not foresee how much I would miss having access to my modular and my keyboards.

I packed an LPK25 but I just don’t gel with it, also the build quality is poor and the thing is already starting to fail on me. To replace it I’ve been fiddling with the laptop keyboard and the built in Analog Four keys, but It’s going to be at least another 45 days before my studio is back up, and as a result I’ve started to long for a good key bed.

I’m really tempted to grab one of the new, interesting ‘mini-synths’ like a BassStation 2, a MiniBrute or an MS-20 Mini, and with Arturia announcing the MicroBrute the availability of portable, analog, mono synths have never been better! While not the cheapest option it would add a lot of extra value over a Midi controller.

On the other had I’m also curious about the new KeyLab series from Arturia. While dependent on a computer to run the KeyLab software, the quality of the Arturia emulations are just killer.

What’s your portable keyboard solution? Computer and MIDI controller or an actual synth?

Glitzerstrahl is Moving to Stockholm

I was based in Tokyo but relocated to San Francisco by my Japanese employer when I started this blog. San Francisco having such an incredibly creative atmosphere and an abundance of great music spots was a fantastic place to be for synth-head / electronic music producer. But in July 2013 my employer decided to transfer me back to Tokyo.

Tokyo is an awesome place, probably my favorite city on this planet, but for various personal reasons me and the family decided that the best thing for us to do next was probably to move to Stockholm and try our luck in my home country for a while.

I won’t go into the details, but the result is that we are moving to Sweden and will set up base in Stockholm. At the moment the rest of the family is still in Japan, waiting for visas and other technicalities, but I have gone ahead to try and set up a home and other preparations for us.

At the moment I’m living in a temporary, corporate housing solution, looking for an apartment in the Stockholm area (if you have any leads leave a comment!), while all the gear is somewhere on the Atlantic heading north (or west, or possibly east depending on how you look at it).

Therefor there won’t be that many updates for a while as I’m trying to acclimatize myself to this new environment and so forth.

In the meantime, here’s a shot of the portable studio set up in my temporary (very cold) apartment.

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Looking forward to exploring the Scandinavian electronica scene, so if you have any tips or just want to hang out and talk synths and music let me know!

The Instrument Village of Tokyo

The sprawling district of Shibuya in Tokyo is home to some of the most interesting vintage synthesizer stores in the country (if not the world) and a Mecca for music lovers and up and coming artists.

Walking around its streets and alleys on any given day at any time (even the wee small hours of the morning) I guarantee you wont have to go far before you stumble on a bar or club that invites you with music you’ve never heard before. Shibuya is known for being one of the most important testing grounds for new genres and artists in Japan.

IkebeGakkiMura14I’ve written before about some of the off-the-track stores in the area (here and here), but today I’m going to show you some pictures of the largest and perhaps most mainstream or commercial collection of instrument stores in this part of Tokyo.

If you are looking for a new Tuba or Trumpet, a built to order exclusive guitar, a gold-plated Moog or simple new strings for your Bass, this is where you’ll want to go, but make sure you bring a map or otherwise orient yourself before heading out, the area is a bit chaotic.

Exit the Shibuya train station on the western side towards the bus terminals and you’ll soon find yourself facing a large network of pedestrian overpasses (the purple / grey parts in the picture below). Cross over this overpass and you will soon arrive at the ‘entrance the the Ikebe Gakki Mura (イケベ楽器村). The ‘instrument village’ is really a collection of stores situated close to each other making up a complex neighborhood of specialty shops.

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Here’s a stylized map showing the locations of some of the major stores in the area.

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When you see these signs you are on the right way.

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Inside some of the shops in the ‘DJ’ tower (Power Rec is a great one).

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One of the keyboard / synthesizer specialty stores.

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Lots of Nord gear.

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A golden Moog (17/30 if I remember right).

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And a signed one.

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Yep I miss my Prophet 12…

IkebeGakkiMura13Check out these links to the official Ikebe page where you can find detailed information on the various stores, the opening hours and locations.

http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/

http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/realshop/

http://www.ikebe-gakki.com/web-ikebe/shibuya-ikebe_gakkimura/