Advertisement
Tech by VICE

There is a Synthesiser Smaller Than a Ryvita Cracker and it Sounds Huge | US | Translation

Last night Thump made the sound of the summer on a souped up calculator.

by Angus Harrison
Jun 5 2015, 2:50pm

I depress myself with how much I feel the need to look at my phone. I'll check it in the gaps between mouthfuls, the breaks between hymns at a funeral, the seconds before falling asleep. Push me over and I'll have slid into your DMs before my body hits the floor. The long-term upshot of this is probably that my psychological mechanisms have been permanently altered by the internet and I'm now re-calibrated to crave to contact at all times. Yet, it also means, on a more basic level, I spend a lot of time pulling a rectangular bit of metal in and out of my pocket. Now, imagine if that time could be put to something productive. If instead of reading barely topical jokes written by comedians-turned-newspaper-columnists on Twitter, you were instead composing legit handheld bangers on your morning commute.

The dream is a reality people. THUMP got a phone call a couple of days ago inviting us to play with a new kind of electronic instrument. The Pocket Operator might look like a post-strip-search calculator, but it is in fact a micro-synthesiser. There are three models, the Rhythm (a drum machine), the Sub (a bass synth), and the Factory (a lead synth). With an insatiable curiosity when it comes to all things electronic and musical, we had to find out exactly what a pocket-sized synth looked and, crucially, sounded like.

Micro-instruments are the sort of thing you would probably associate with being stacked between a mug shaped like a skull and a book of polaroids of dogs near the checkout in an Urban Outfitters. Now, the Pocket Operator may well find its way to that setting at some point, but it is no gimmick. It is an actual synth. On arrival we were each given a different model, given a tutorial by the project's creators, and then set loose on the sequencers. Quickly we realised that the potential for the device went a lot further than being 2015's hottest stocking filler.

The whole thing has come about thanks to a collaboration between Stockholm based electronics company Teenage Engineering, and denim makers Cheap Monday, the essential goal being a powerful synth that could fit in the pocket of your tightest jeans. Initially it was a struggle getting to grips with exactly how the device worked. Far from being a mini-keyboard, the Pocket Operator works with sequencing, meaning you have to build a track up over a 16 step loop. At first I was a little disappointed, realising this probably meant I wouldn't be able to lead with the jazz-improv-synth vibe I had hoped to bring to the table. This soon passed however, as we got lost in a spiral of trippy beats, sizzling bass and some truly melodic hooks. It was cool shit.

We started from the bottom, and using three devices which are literally thinner than Ryvita crackers, built a track that is honestly, probably the future of techno. Or grime. Or footwork maybe? Whatever, I definitely made the sound of the summer last night. You can listen to an exclusive snippet below.

You can find out some more about the Pocket Operator here.

Follow Angus on Twitter.

Tagged:
Thump
cool shit
sound of the summer
synthesiser