CZ cover art 1. Mystery From Space (Part 1)
2. Servo Robot
3. Circuit Zero
4. Spinner
5. Radiance Room
6. Freaked Out Kitty
7. The Clockwork Man
8. Folding The Fifth Dimension
9. Golden Age Of Automation
10. Tunnelrunner
11. Love Will Blind You
12. Mister 10
13. Intergalactic Girlfriend
14. Robotnot
15. Mystery From Space (Part 2)

The Manitou's second official release, completed December 2007.

This album has been in the works since 2003, and some of the songs since 2002. In fact my previous album "Silence On The Airwaves" was pulled together when I realised I was nowhere near having Circuit Zero finished by the end of 2005. The tracklist's gone through many changes, but I'm more than pleased with the final result. There were originally to be 11 tracks; then it was 13 for a while, and finally 15 when I realised just how many unfinished songs I'd amassed over the years.

Another factor that shaped what I included is the overall theme. It's always been something of a concept album, albeit a loose one. I've written a narrative to accompany the lyrics, but at the same time there's room for the listener's own interpretation.

Download lyrics & story (.rtf format)

Liner Notes

Mystery From Space (Part 1) - This track began as a sketch using a custom sound on the K-Station set to a processed mambo beat from the Whippany RM-20. I called upon the Univox SR-95, circuit-bent Speak & Spell, and even some synthesized K-Station wind sounds to make it as "spacey" as possible. I've beefed the track up considerably since it appeared on the Robot Music e.p. in 2003. The obvious inspiration here is Jean-Michel Jarre, specifically "Oxygene" which is an all-time favourite of mine. Also Arthur C. Clarke's book "Rendezvous With Rama."

Servo Robot - Written after Freaked Out Kitty blew my ideas about how my music should sound out of the water. At the risk of being formulaic, many of the same sounds were used. The Robot Music version was quite minimal and just a little bleak. I've injected a little enthusiasm, and a touch more menace here. Lyrically this is about a spaceship maintenance robot that, being programmed for efficiency, finds the crew inefficient and kills them.

Circuit Zero - The demo was recorded about the same time as Freaked Out Kitty, and a demo it stayed until very recently. Much K-Station at work here, including my custom "suprstring" patch, which is all over this album. My concept for Circuit Zero was always an ancient computer that's drifted through space for millenia, encountering beings from time to time and collecting experiences. When it reaches Earth, it finds out about something called "love," which it finds very puzzling indeed...

Spinner - A song born in Fruityloops, using various samples I'd recorded round and about; notably some music box tines and wind-chimes. My Yamaha analogues provide most of the synthesized sounds, and the vocals were created with my circuit-bent Speak & Spell.

Radiance Room - I was playing Diablo II with some friends one night, and for some reason or other there was a delay so I was messing about with my Boss DR-220e drum machine. Somehow the game affected the input from the soundcard, making the drum loop sound simply incredible. I quickly recorded a couple of variations and set about building a song around them. At the time I'd decided to finish Circuit Zero, so it was a conscious decision to use many sounds I'd already used on other songs for the album. The title Radiance Room was a word-pairing made by randomizing software. The bizarre electronic squeak noises on the outro are courtesy of the Alien First Words Plus (see "Studio"), and were done in one take. At some point during the recording the machine switched modes, but rather than stop the performance I kept going until it crashed.

Freaked Out Kitty - About the time I was bidding on some vintage rhythm machines on ebay, I tracked down some samples from the Korg Minipops 7, otherwise known as the Univox SR-95 (which I now own). Armed with these, I put together a funky rhythm and set about adding the most retro-sounding patches I could find on the K-Station, and came up with some "new" ones like the cool square wave sound (think "close encounters of the third kind"). The words "freaked out kitty" came to mind, and initially referred to my cat Lemur who literally freaks out sometimes. Eventually the concept of a computer who falls in love with a human came about. Kraftwerk's song "Pocket Calculator" is an all-time favourite of mine, and I like to think that this is my answer to that. It's a humble homage if nothing else. Writing this song reminded me why I wanted to make music with synthesizers in the first place.

The Clockwork Man - There was a clavinet sample from Rick Wakeman's album "Journey To The Centre of The Earth" on the original demo of this, but it was abandoned early on. At that time it was called "Bolero," because of a rhythm on my Optimus keyboard, which I approximated using CR-78 samples. It was only when the clock/crank sounds were added that I wrote the lyrics, which I feel are some of my best. While on the surface it's quite an upbeat, funky sort of track, what makes me proud is its haunting qualities.

Folding The Fifth Dimension - One of the more recent tracks. This marks the debut of the Roland Alpha Juno-1 on the album (I think). It was also the quickest track to write, a mere two days from start to finish. That doesn't count final mixing, but when the time came very little had to be done. An Arthur C. Clarke story about a man who is "reversed" on an atomic level inspired the title.

Golden Age Of Automation - Testing a newly circuit-bent toy, the "Micro C.O.S.M.", gave birth to this track. Both Boss DR-220's were used on the percussion side, and the ailing Yamaha CS-5 was also used to build the basic demo. Finishing the track was something of a struggle... it was added to the playlist late in the game, for a start. The intro was built of metallic objects sampled into the Akai S-1000, and a piano outro was another late addition. The toughest part was fleshing it out without obliterating the minimal charm of the original. I think in the end I found a good balance. The Cybermen's return to Doctor Who inspired the lyrics.

Tunnelrunner - This was the first song made with my Yamaha CS-5. The poor dear never worked 100% since I got her, and is now away being repaired. This, then, is the vintage analogue's shining moment; sounds from its failing circuitry comprise about 90% of the track. I had an idea for a sci-fi story years ago which was going to be called Tunnelrunner. It was to be about a girl who, in an alternate universe, was the last person alive. Her only companion was a clunky robot on wheels, which would bring meals and care for her, and fanatically protect her from danger. Even if that "danger" happened to be an unsuspecting dimension-shifting scientist...

Love Will Blind You - Something a little different here. Almost hip-hop in style, but most-definitely not a rap song. The basic premise is that someone who knows no love, or thinks themselves immune, will eventually have their world turned upside down by it. The lyrics are fairly metaphoric though, so you can read into them what you wish.

Mister 10 - The explanation behind this one is quite simple really: the drums are from a rhythm machine called a Yamaha MR10. It also owes a little to early Ultravox and John Foxx. Alpha Juno is featured heavily, there are some sampled sounds, a hint of K-Station, and some soaring Yamaha CS01 on the outro.

Intergalactic Girlfriend - I'm immensely proud of this song, but can't quite put my finger on why. Perhaps because of its simple synth-pop style. This is the last song to heavily feature the Yamaha CS-5. The title is self-explanatory ;)

Robotnot - "Robotnot" was what I called the Krafwerkian rhythm loop on the intro when I sequenced it in Fruityloops. Since then the name stuck. This is the earliest track to be included on the album; the original demo was a fairly dire dance song written in 2002. 90% of it was scrapped in favour of reworking it as a synth-pop tune, and it was in that form that it appeared on Robot Music in 2003. This version has been only slightly reworked; beefier levels, an extra refrain, and a new vocal track to replace the original computer-speak. The lyrics again reflect my fascination with robots, this time drawing parallels with abusive relationships.

Mystery From Space (Part 2) - Like Part 1, this began as a largely improvised sketch, and the more interesting elements were translated into a proper song. Unlike Part 1, however, it bears little resemblence to the sketch that spawned it.

Kit List

Synthesizers: Novation K-Station, Roland Alpha Juno-1, Yamaha CS-5, Yamaha CS01.
Keyboards: Optimus MD-1200, Casio MT-100.
Samplers: Akai S1000, Roland SP-404.
Drum & Rhythm Machines: Boss DR-220a & 220e, Univox SR-95, Whippany RM-20.
Toy Instruments: Stylophone, Major Morgan, Speak & Spell/Math; Various circuit-bent toys (see "Studio").
Software: Sonar 2 XL, Fruityloops 3, Sound Forge, Gmedia M-Tron, Arptone, Crow Vintage Strings, EastWest Orchestra Silver, Mr. Tramp, Cheeze Machine, Analogx SayIt, Korg Legacy Polysix, VSampler, RingMod.

All art, text, music is copyright (c) 2007/2008 Joshua M. Blanc.