Liner notes for:
PG-66: OCCASIONAL TUNES (VOLS. 1–4)
Valimo Productions 2017.
This compilation of instrumental pieces was born out of love for the functional simplicity and nostalgic sounds and rhythms of the first Casio keyboards. They proved their serviceability already in the early 1980s when I started my adventures in electronic music, despite their obvious sonic and technical limitations. In 1982–1989, Casiotone MT-40 was the main polyphonic instrument at my home studio. Besides its 9-voice polyphony, it had a nice variety of analogue sounds, 22 altogether, cleverly created from square waveforms with a set of simple filters and envelopes. In addition, its rhythm section produced basic popular beats with decent analogue percussion sounds. On top of that MT-40 had a surprisingly fat sounding bass accompaniment section with its own separate mini-sized keys.
In those days, I made music mainly for myself and my friends and the portability of the instrument was important. With only a pair of monophonic synths, a simple rhythm machine and a Casiotone, enhanced with a couple of delay and chorus units, I kept a musical diary on tapes and learned to create ambient and experimental tracks, simple melodic pieces and to play very modest cover versions of famous synth pop songs. In the early 1990s when I could finally afford computers, digital synthesizers and samplers, my Casiotone started to feel outdated and obsolete. I gave it away, only to find myself missing it. Fortunately, in the mid 2000s when I really didn’t have much time for music, I came across a couple of old but cheap Casiotones. Soon I found myself collecting these keyboards which seemed to possess only nostalgic value for most of their sellers and buyers. Neither I can deny the wave of nostalgic sentiments inside me, but in the end I was happy to rediscover a series of surprisingly well-built and fun instruments which kept me inspired and pushed me forward to create these tunes.
The main idea was to limit myself to the sounds and functions of the Casiotones of the years 1981–1983. Therefore the instruments used in this compilation only include Casiotones MT-45, MT-65, PT-30 and the Casio VL-Tone, a famous novelty gimmick of the time. I played all the music with these keyboards only; no loops, samples or outboard sequencers were used. However, I coloured the sound by using analogue and digital effect units of which many date back to the 1980s. A digital multitrack recorder was used to capture individual tracks which were then edited in software environment before the final digital mixing and analogue mastering.
The pieces on this compilation were recorded during 2015–2017 but some of the melodies and other musical ideas have haunted me for years. I didn’t want to limit myself with the musical styles and genres. In a musical sense, I found it liberating to start playing with Casio rhythms and sounds, letting the instruments lead me to structures, scales and chords. Not surprisingly, many of the final tracks reminded me of the music I used to listen in the early 1980s. It was a combination of new wave and synth pop, movie soundtracks, ambient, industrial and experimental music, Berlin school electronic music and krautrock of the 1970s, and even funk, reggae and disco of the late 1970s.
Once these keyboards were produced and sold in masses but they were never considered real musical instruments. Therefore, even the best models of the brand fell into oblivion quite soon after their release. I believe there were thousands of young bedroom musicians like me, enjoying the versatility and portability of Casiotones. That’s one reason for me in bringing back the sounds of these instruments. I hope you like them too.