A couple of months ago I became a little bit obsessed with drum synths – it started off after I randomly bought a TAMA Techstar TS602 drum synth and 2 drum pads off TradeMe, I posted this snapshot at the time:
I bought it on a whim but really love jamming with it, and I was also really surprised at the range of very useable sounds I could get from it – useable & interesting, boooom, sctk etc etc. But two drums does not a kit make, so I kept an eye on TradeMe for any other such elements and a while back another TS206 came up for sale, and separately a set of 3 hex shaped drum pads. Now I was starting to get somewhere! But seeing how the analog drum synth units were not really sought after (the first one didn’t sell at all & I bought it after it was relisted a couple of times) I started to wonder if there were any other analog drum synth units that might be equally as rewarding AND under appreciated… Plus I was really interested in another drum synth brain for more variety, so after spending a few hours on youtube I found what I was looking for! If the Tama TS206 units are interesting & a bit idiosyncratic, my discovery was totally anachronistic – I had never heard anything like it! Next stop eBay!!
So I found one in ‘as new’ condition bought it & waited… and waited… and waited. It was shipping from Ukraine and I started to wonder if it had been lost amongst the turmoil that country is going through, but just as I was starting to give up hope, my patience was rewarded:
Fantastic! Old school shipping, in a sack, with a lead seal no less!!
Huzzah! Behold my new/old FORMANTA UDS VINTAGE ANALOG SOVIET USSR 7-CHANNEL DRUM MACHINE SYNTHESIZER!
I haven’t fired it up yet but lucky for me it is 240V, all I need to do is swap the plug to the local variety & look out!
So what was it that made me take a punt on such an obscure device? Well, while everyone else seems to be pursuing new boxes from either Roland or Elektron, I watched this video & I was sold on it surpassing either of those options when focused primarily on the idiosyncratic quirk factor!
Now I know people who own Elektron boxes etc will say ‘oh of course my ABCDEF box could do all that’ but heres the thing: ‘could’ vs ‘would’ – lets face it, in this day & age, anything ‘could’ do anything. Any number of plugins ‘could’ do a version of what the Formata does, but there is a world of difference between the possibility of something & the reality. Listen to that video, it sounds completely bonkers at times! And its bonkers I can plug my drum pads into & ah… go even more bonkers!
See heres the setup – still in pieces, but pending some free time & finding a drum rack to mount it all on, look out!
So I have four channels of the Tama Techstar TS206 drum synths, seven channels of the Formanta drum synths, the HumDrum, a Boss Dr PAD DRPIII, an Amdeck PCK-100, 5 drum pads (+ 2 more on the way), some drum sticks & the motivation to combine it all into one fiendishly mutant franken kit!!
I didn’t make the connection at the time, but Formanta are the same Soviet analog synth company who made the Polivoks synth, which I own the r1982 VCF filter module cloned by Harvestman (he has also created eurorack versions of the Polivoks VCOs and the Modulation generators)
More info on Russian Synths at RussKeys site