The Illusion of an Alternative Choice is the latest offering from Stockholm-born producer Simon Haydo. This full-length LP, comprising ten tracks spread over two sides, was put together using sound patches from the Korg MS-20 synthesiser to form a series of minimalist techno excursions on Peder Mannerfelt Produktion.
For the uninformed, the MS-20 is a semi-modular synth, which means that unlike a fully modular synth, it does not need to be patched to produce sound; however, like a modular synth, the patch-bay allows for the re-routing of certain signal paths within the default circuitry to create an almost endless range of sonic possibilities. Although Simon may have simply wanted to set himself a new challenge, this new LP can be viewed as a domestication of what can be achieved with Korg's signature monophonic synth, first released in 1978.
The title of the LP, The Illusion of an Alternative Choice, could be a subtle reference to the flexibility of one of Korg’s most versatile innovations, creating the illusion of multiple sound sources or choices when, in reality, there is only one; however, when placed out of context, the title could also nod towards to the concept of free will (i.e. ‘the ability to choose otherwise’).
In the world of electronic music, although the mass availability of gear and plugins serves to make music making a more inclusive pursuit, an unfortunate side effect is the saturation of the sounds we hear in the music, which can be very dull. Haydo’s LP overcomes this and is a refreshing listen that harks back to the era where synth programming was considered a somewhat ‘dark art’. In this way, the EP reminds me of the 1978 experimental electronic band 'The Normal' whose forcibly minimal aesthetic made use of one synthesiser in their debut EP - a KORG 700.
The opening track to the LP sets the atmosphere through a demonstration of recurrent themes. In so doing, 'Let Know' showcases the scale and range of the MS-20 through round, thick, percussive bass - its snappy attack pulsing under the juxtaposition of harsh, gnarly resonance in the sweeping lead lines. The MS-20 is infamous for a resonance that quite literally shrieks.
Moving on through the release, 'Epicentre of Cool' stood out due to its particularly metallic flavour. The Kick Drum pattern sounds like a kick-bass hybrid that shows itself every other hit. This provides the traditional techno vibe - Kick-bass-Kick-Bass* - that get's people dancing, but the tune has an extra layer of interest due to the bass being moulded out of the same patch as the kick.
I must also draw focus to 'ph<7' due to its wackiness and creative use of envelopes. It's a perfect interval in a DJ set, warming up for something more explicitly spectacular (that's a complement!). It feels like the whole track has been set with a high attack, when everything swells in at different times; however, still keeping a trippy rhythm.
This whole LP is full of examples of expert programming. Simon clearly knows the MS20 inside-out!