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HIRONDELLE STUDIO : STEVE KEELER & TIM WEBSTER
Photo courtesy of Hirondelle Studioo
Various S-CAT machines at Hirondelle
Hirondelle Studio has a collection of S-CAT modified machines including a Casio PT-80, Casio MT-400v and a circuit bent Rhythm Multiphase effect. Tim Webster has very kindly written some in-depth reviews of two of their units. Here they are in full.
The circuit bendyness has given controls on the rhythm section for: kick pitch; kick decay; snare 'trash'; filters on the hi & lo hats; decay controls for the hi & lo congas, as well as independent mutes for each element. This allows the basic Casio rhythms to become something else entirely, creating sparse house beats to frantic drum'n'bass, to very usable and lush trip-hop. The bass section has a mute, variable controls for fuzz, drive and resonance (also switchable in and out), with repeated controls for the chord section. Similarly to the rhythm section, these controls make for unusual but distinctly usable sounds, that you'd otherwise have to use very long plug-in chains to achieve. In addition the chord section has momentary buttons for high/low/mid tone, which allow for improvised accenting of the part. Lastly, there are also switch in/out-able controls for the effects section, labelled 'hi fb filter'; a 'sub fb filter'; 'distorted sub fb' and 'lo-fi filter', which effect the overall sound.

Whilst most of the controls seem relatively straightforward, it is the way that they interact that makes this a slightly unpredictable but incredibly inspirational machine. It is possible to go from the classic and familiar (and dare I say it… cheesy) Casiotone sound to a very contemporary-sounding, complex sound very quickly, with controls influencing each other in strange but very musical ways. Like all circuit bent gear, it is easy to go too far and make odd, squealing howls, but used carefully this is a very musical bit of kit indeed. In fact, I have already taken several photographs of settings in order to be able to recall them later, they're that fun!

When the band Archive were in the studio last, an entire song was written using solely the S-Cat MT-400v, and a smattering of effects. An entire song (that is rhythm section, bass, chords and melody) from one machine? There's not many that do that in a manner that is this fun, lo-tech and immediate. To quote Darius from the band: "That is an incredible little machine!"
S-Cat "37-mod Casio MT-400v"
By Tim Webster @Hirondelle Studio, Bishop's Stortford, Herts.

The original Casiotone MT-400v was a mildly interesting little preset synth to begin with, given that along with the usual Casio bass & chord accompaniments and rhythm section we all remember from school, it had a patchable, fully analogue filter section. S-Cat have taken this and given it a circuit-bent upgrade. As well as now having separate outputs for left and right sides of the stereo signal, it also has direct outputs for all the sound elements, i.e. kick; snare; open & closed hats; hi & lo congas; the bass and the chord accompaniment.
Modified Casio MT-400v
S-Cat "Rhythm Multiphaze Percussion Multi-Effects Filter"
By Tim Webster @Hirondelle Studio, Bishop's Stortford, Herts.

The S-Cat Rhythm Multiphaze Percussion Multi-Effects Filter (the Multiphaze) is a unique little box; the relatively simple controls hide a snarling beast. It is recommended by the manufacturers as not being suitable for guitars, but it works magic on drum loops either from machines or on the drum-buss during a more traditional session. Even without engaging any of the switches (Lo-Tech, Drive or the oddly-named "Squanker"), once you press the bypass button and the red 'active' LED lights up, the sound is instantly brighter, deeper and punchier. The 'rate', 'depth' and 'resonance' controls then work on the signal, and give sounds from a slow, subtle phaser all the way to the kind of wibbly-wobbly, swirly dub sound that King Tubby himself would have been proud of, all whilst remaining tasteful and not becoming an over-the-top, whooshing, 'aeroplane passing by' mess.
The 'Lo-fi' section dials in some fizzy top-end to the signal, with the Mode I/II switch adding even more brightness if required. The 'Drive' section does what it says on the tin, adding not only a decent amount of bite, but also some very deep bass to the signal. The combination of the 'drive' and 'lo-fi' sections alone is a great tool for fattening and brightening even the dullest of loops, and can even be used on an entire mix to give anything from a subtle 60's Garage-type rawness, to glitchy and menacing filth.

The 'Squanker' control is where the chaos lies: as soon as the switch is engaged your drum sound turns into a shouting and almost unrecognisable warbling tone, it's like an angry phaser on steroids. The phaser controls give you some degree of manipulation over the chaos: after some experimentation it is possible to take a drum loop and turn it into something resembling an odd and broken synth part. It sounds like what you imagine when you think of circuit-bent machines, but very usable and malleable. (The output level jumps up by quite a large amount though, so discretion on your gain pots is advised!)

Engaging all three modes at once gives very usable results indeed, seemingly reining in the chaos of the Squanker and creating heavy, dirty, dance floor destroying sounds from even the most genteel of rhythms. The ability to switch from a completely effected stereo signal to split wet/dry mono signals is a nice touch too, allowing for blends when the effect needs to be more subtle.

The build quality is solid: Handcrafted oak side panels; large, easily grabbable knobs with some very clear labelling; the one-piece, bent aluminium chassis is very strong… There's a lot crammed into this one 10"x10" unit!

Modified Effect "Rhythm Multiphase"
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