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Universal Synthesizer Interface Vol II

by Kristen Roos

supported by
Alex Tripp
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Alex Tripp I'm susceptible to nostalgia for the time of these instruments, but I think the concern here is the underexplored capabilities of the software, long since buried under the rapid pace of technological advancement. There are many highlights, like the propulsive minimalist accumulation of Diablo III. It's majestic, and credit goes as much to the peak as it does to the road. I think this old software was needed to make this path, and Roos deserves major accolades for seeing that it was possible. Favorite track: Diablo III.
David James
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David James incredible followup, even better than part 1, richer and weirder and somehow more immediately endearing. or maybe I'm just primed to enjoy their sound at this point. always feels like living crystalline midi sculptures Favorite track: Diablo III.
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Diablo I 07:21
Diablo II 14:29
Diablo III 09:51
Diablo IV 10:26


Hotham Sound is pleased to announce the much-anticipated second volume of Kristen Roos’s 'Universal Synthesizer Interface' series; an ongoing audio exploration of early algorithmic MIDI sequencing programs for personal computers. Where Vol I showcased a wide variety of vintage programs, Vol II sees Roos narrowing his focus down to two of his personal favorites: Laurie Spiegel’s 'Music Mouse' and Frank Balde’s 'Diablo.'

One of the first ‘intelligent instruments’ ever created for the personal computer, Speigel’s 'Music Mouse' was, for many people in the 1980s, a remarkably intuitive introduction to the world of MIDI sequencing. Mouse position controls the placement and parameters of MIDI data, allowing the user to quickly select and alter the scale, chord voicing and volume of their work on the fly. The keyboard is used as a control panel, with various shortcuts outlined on a digital ‘cheat sheet’ provided with the software. While the program is limited to outputting four separate MIDI notes (which can then be ordered into short musical phrases or loops) within these constraints lies an enormous capacity for musical variation and complexity. Roos plays the software with a light touch, maintaining a delicate balance between playfulness and precision.

Frank Balde’s 'Diablo' allows for MIDI data to be literally ‘drawn’ into a window very similar to early digital paint programs like MacPaint. The user can then record the data into loops, alter the note parameters (tonality, duration, velocity, tempo, etc), and capture ‘snapshots’ of their settings that can then be clicked between in real time. The program is limited to three separate loops at a time, but like Music Mouse, its limitations conceal a surprisingly powerful tool for musical expression. In Roos’s hands, the repeating loops overlap and intertwine with one another like patterns on a digital loom, slowly forming themselves into enormous tapestries of sound.


released April 1, 2022

'Two of the most beguiling electronic albums of recent years.'

All tracks recorded and mixed by Kristen Roos in 2021.

Mastered by Corwin Fox at Hidden Well.


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HOTHAM SOUND RECORDINGS Vancouver, British Columbia

Experimental Electronic Recordings from the Pacific Northwest.

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