Christian Hornbostel has released his fifth album ‚Annus Alchemicus‘ (from the lat. ‚Alchemical Year‘), sticking to his ‘Latin titles’ concept. Recorded as usual at the foot of the Upper-Bavarian alps, the new twelve tracks, without any names and numbered with Roman numerals, ideally represent the months of a year-long journey through transformation and experimentation.
This time, in addition to his typical techno style, Hornbostel delivers impressive prog stuff with extremely different BPM, where instrumentation and compositional techniques could even be associated with jazz or fusion music. An ambitious state-of-the-art project, a sign of bravery and self-confidence in this era characterized by uncertainty. We checked out the recording studio, switching between modern digital hardware and traditional acoustic instruments.
Words and photos by Christian Hornbostel
Gretsch Drum Set
There is to say that I played with my first band at the age of 14, later becoming a professional recording studio session drummer. During my college years, I lost my mind for bands like Genesis, Weather Report, Brand-X, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Santana (Lotus/Caravanserai Tour). So, at this point in my artistic journey, I thought that it is probably the right time to try to realise my ambitious dream of incorporating a warm, acoustic drum sound into a modern, digital techno sound. In some tracks (V. – IX. – XII.) I even did the opposite: adding modern sound design tools to acoustic, prog stuff. Regarding the drum set, after much deliberation, my choice fell on a minimalistic Gretsch model.
Moog 37 Subsequent
I was looking for a synth, which can be very bright and punch through, deep and warm or distorted. For this reason, I decided to try the Moog 37 and I was very happy with this choice as it offers a highly expressive and musical playing experience. The Casio CZ (on the pic below) was perfect for vintage solos with a retro classic touch.
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For this project I grabbed a real relic from my studio storage room: the iconic Akai S1000 I bought in 1992.
I used some floppy disks I found lurking around – it was a miracle that they still worked – which delivered sounds and effects for the background vibes.
Korg Kaoss Pad
I must admit, I had a lot of fun using this old multi-effects processor. My aim was to be intuitive and extremely efficient at the same time, applying various effects using an X-Y touchscreen. Kaos was extremely helpful in producing what I call background layers, a set of sounds, and secondary effects which are crucial for the final blend.
Deelay was “the perfect side dish”. This multifunctional plugin (I use the paid Platinum Edition but there is also a free version), created by SixthSample in collaboration with Integraudio, offered me an astounding number of features and an infinite range of delay options. I loved experimenting, jumping between the reverse & forward mode and the chaos mode. In some situations I increased the diffusion of the delay-feedback massively in order to make the cascading effect more immediate and longer-lasting.
With the NI Reaktor I had the opportunity to build custom synths, sequencers, and sound design tools. This toolkit was the cornerstone of my musical experimentation not only because it guaranteed regularity and synchronization (which are very helpful for the drum kit recording) but also for the implementation of my personal concept of groove. The search for the perfect balance of the rhythm section accompanied me intensively throughout the composition, production and mixing work of the entire album.