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If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right

 

By Craig Anderton

 

I’ve written a lot of reviews in my life, so I appreciate the conciseness and accuracy of a comment that appeared from someone called “sbj” in a thread about the Thales Model I: “Sounds great in a bad way which is good.”

 

 

According to designer Pierre Parenteau the 27 preset sounds are mostly from 1960s Bell Labs documentaries about computer sound design, computer-generated visuals, and voice synthesis. Regardless, they have a lot in common with the hissy, grainy timbres of early Mellotrons and Fairlights. Some of the samples are pretty short, so you can hear the sample loops’ rapid periodicity at higher notes…but that’s part of “great in a bad way,” particularly if you were a fan of the Ensoniq Mirage (if you don’t understand that reference…don’t ask).

 

If you’re intrigued at this point, check out these three audio demos  so you can hear what I’m talking about.

 

INSTALLATION AND USE

 

Options are Windows VST (32- or 64-bit), and Mac OS X VST and AU. I installed the 64-bit Windows version and when it loaded properly in Cakewalk SONAR Platinum, Ableton Live, and Studio One Pro, I figured I didn’t need to go any further—it works.

 

The interface is simple: If you can’t figure out how to use it, you probably can’t figure out how to use the internet so you’re not reading this anyway. As to applications, if you need to score a moody French 60s flick—particularly one involving vampires, outer space, or insanity induced by unrequited love—you’re good to go. And it’s a shame this instrument wasn’t around during the B-52’s heyday; I’m sure they could have made good use of it. But those are just “at first blush” applications. Dig deeper, and you’ll realize that you can put a ton of processing on these sounds and end up with something very different than your usual pad. To me, the Thales Model I is more about being a twisted sound source for creative minds than anything else—those looking for French horns, pianos, and string pads should run away as fast as possible.

 

So is it insanely great? Well, no. The tuning is iffy—on several presets you’ll need to apply a “perma-bend” if you want to be in tune with the rest of the world. There was obvious effort put into the looping, but any instrument that pulls one sample from a documentary will not provide glorious multisampling. Also, there’s no learn function for the Spartan control set. I did send in a bunch of controllers to hear what happened, and found that MIDI controllers 8 and 10 control panning, 7 volume, 1 modulation, 91 reverb, 64 sustain, and 11 expression.

 

But so what? You won’t get these sounds anywhere else, and their weirdness is their charm. The price of $14.75 isn’t going to lead to bankruptcy, and you can download a free demo version with four sounds to check out its gestalt (and to make sure it works with your host).

 

I must admit that I keep getting drawn back to Thales Model I just to mess around with it because it’s so, well, off-the-wall. If you’ve heard way too many sawtooth waves going through 24 dB/octave lowpass filters, this is the antidote. It indeed sounds great in a bad way…which is good.

 

Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

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