Demo:listen: Obscure Transmissions

On this week’s Demo:listen, we venture far beyond our purview to observe and document the arrival of New Jersey’s Obscure Transmissions.

Besides projecting subtly glimmering, slightly out-of-focus galaxies onto the tapestry of our imaginations with synths under the project name Obscure Transmissions, TG also runs the tape label, Nihil Verum Nisi Mors, and plays in numerous killer bands like Death Fortress, Damnation Lust, Massive Retaliation—the list goes on until we slip up and reveal that, oops, yeah, he’s in that band, too. 

It’s one thing to have a slew of violent underground metal bands, but as of March 14th, TG can claim synthist among his already impressive list of credentials.  

“I was trying to record an intro for the first Damnation Lust demo,” TG says, relating how he first started exploring synths. “I originally planned to use some crappy old Casio, but my brother offered to let me use his Waldorf Streichfett (a digital string synth meant to emulate vintage tones) instead. Playing around with that led me to research analog synthesis, something that was and is very intriguing to me. I loved the idea of pure sound being generated, sculpted, and affected in an insane variety of ways. A friend offered to sell me my first analog unit, an Arturia Microbrute, and it’s been downhill ever since.”

TG goes on to explain how he first came to appreciate electronic music.

“I owe my electronic music education to working at a record store,” he says. “We can’t play extreme metal on the sales floor, so I’ve had to explore a lot of different stuff out of necessity. I like earlier electronic music, from stuff like musique concrete to Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk. This is still a new world for me, so I try to expand my knowledge every day. All this being said, I think the biggest influence on Obscure Transmissions overall would have to be Dughpa. Hearing his stuff for the first time was an enthralling experience… That was definitely the spark that set the tinder ablaze.”

TG explains what it’s like shifting from writing and executing skull-bashing death metal and excoriating black metal to composing synth music for lonely ghosts marooned on cold planets.

“The biggest challenge has been learning an entirely different approach to making music. Part of what drew me into this was how deep and involved synthesis is. I truly never realized the myriad different stuff that goes into it… I always thought it was picking a preset and having at it, you know? It’s a whole new system of sound and music creation for me . . .

“Compositionally speaking, a lot of it is trying to create interesting harmonies, counterpoint, etc. I have some music theory background, and it’s been interesting to apply in a very different way than I do with metal. It’s also satisfying to create sounds that complement the melodies and the overall vibe of the piece.”

 A peek at TG’s set up…

Left to right, bottom row: Arturia Microbrute, Arturia Keystep MIDI controller, Tascam MF-P01 4 track cassette recorder, Mackie Mixing board. Left to right, top row: Yamaha PSS-30, Waldorf Streichfett, Korg MS-20 Mini, Korg ARP Odyssey

“The rack contains a few multi-fx units, a few compressors, and a power conditioner,” TG points out. “On top of the rack is a TEAC 2 track reel-to-reel tape recorder, used for recording or tape delay.

“It is worth noting that my setup has expanded considerably since I recorded the first demo. Volume 1 was created with the Microbrute and the ARP Odyssey module. Both were recorded onto a cassette 4 track and used an old Peavey multi-fx box for reverb. Since then I’ve acquired a Korg MS-20 mini, which I am only now starting to really delve into. Those three synths are the main components of Obscure Transmissions as of now.”

Only last week, TG dubbed copies of Volume 1 and sold them through the NVNM online store, but on the NVNM “imprint” Antignosis. The tapes didn’t last the night.

“There were 25 copies made in all,” TG says. “I may repress it, but I am not 100% sure yet. Time will tell.

“Antignosis is my attempt to disseminate other kinds of music than what I do with NVNM. I must make it abundantly clear that Antignosis will be a wholly distinct entity. Of course, Antignosis titles will be distributed through NVNM because I don’t feel like opening another storefront. The project is still very nascent, but more will be revealed in time. I can assure you that there is more OT on the way.”