I was prompted to start thinking about musical fandom of the Eureka Seven creators when vuc linked me to the episode guide for Astral Ocean, which lists “Call It What You Want” by New Kids On The Block (technically a collab with C&C Music Factory lol) as the title reference for episode two.
That was a tough pill to swallow for me; I’m no fan of Oasis but in their heyday you have to admit they were at least a hell of a lot cooler than the uh… New Kids on the Block. And where is the evidence in 50 episodes of the original that a track like that would provide a title? There are other somewhat suspect portions of the Wikipedia episode listing for the original, including some metal that just doesn’t seem to fit, but this was the most egregious. A quick flip through discogs.com revealed that there is in fact another track named “Call It What You Want!” — a 1995 12″ by the inimitable Richie Hawtin.
Hawtin is known in electronic circles by a lot of different names, including his own, but more often his minimal techno alias Plastikman. Episode 22 of the original series, “Crackpot,” is likely named after a Plastikman song as well. “Call It What You Want!” got me on a bit of a tangent.
The track falls pretty neatly into the late 80s-early 90s genre known as Acid (the distinction between Acid Techno and the earlier Acid House is probably lost on me). One of the hallmarks of Acid, pioneered by groups like Phuture in Chicago (“Acid Tracks”), is the Roland TB–303 Bassline synth, one of Japan’s most iconic musical creations. It’s a synth that produces a switchable square or sawtooth wave and uses its own 16-step sequencer rather than a keyboard. The sequencer is simple but can produce some pretty funky lines. It has a low-pass filter with a super wide sweep and adjustable “resonance” control. You can hear the 303 enter at about 1:20 on the Phuture track or through the whole thing on the Hawtin track. The reason it was sequenceable on its own rather than keyboard-based was because it was marketed to guitarists as an accompaniment device (at less than $400, it was relatively cheap at the time for electronic musical equipment), but its unrealistic sound didn’t sit well. As electro and techno started to take off, producers started using 303s to make their electronic tunes.
By now if you remember the mecha names in E7, you remember T(ype)B–303 aka “Devilfish,” Holland’s LFO. The rest of the named LFOs take their monikers from Roland devices as well. Click a thumb to see the whole thing.
The TR–606 is one of Roland’s earlier drum machines, and one of the earliest to catch on in a huge way. It used synthesis to generate its tones, and contained a few basic knobs to tweak the sounds. Its internal sequencer could be synced to the TB–303, and a whole tune could be produced with the two little boxes. It could also “swing” its beats, adding a little extra funk.
The truly iconic drum machine of all time, this was an update to the 606 that featured more controls, separate outputs for each drum sound (something exploited by early Aphex Twin), and two levels of volume per beat for more expressive programming. The kick sound of the 808 is still used in techno, house, electro, and hip hop. The popular British electronic group 808 State, who you may remember from their song/episode title “Pacific State,” is named after this machine, and the number of MCs who’ve named-checked it in their songs is too huge to count here.
The 909 continued the lineage of the X0X machines with more realistic sounds and hi-hats that were 6-bit samples, although the Roland machines were starting to be bypassed by more realistic, fully sample-based machines. This also included MIDI in addition to the old Roland DINsync. Some acid producers used it in conjunction with the 808 to make bigger beats. Pretty sure this is the machine on the Richie Hawtin track, judging by the hi-hats.
TR–505 (from the TR1: New Wave game)
The 505 is the last of the true TR range, and you could argue that it doesn’t really belong. DIN sync was dropped, the drums no longer came from multiple outputs, and every sound was sample-based. But it was cheaper, and it did do the job of putting drum sequencing in the hands of more people due to its price and ease of use. It had more velocity levels and a very complete MIDI implementation. It was also white, which makes any that you find nowadays a nice shade of old-cum yellow.
While Eureka Seven calls its mecha “Light Finding Operations,” meaning they search for Trapars and then surf them, the name likely comes from “Low Frequency Oscillator,” a synthesis term. Every subtractive synthesizer has at least one oscillator — it’s the generator of the wave that makes the base tone. The wave could be in the shape of a sine, a square, a sawtooth, or something more specialized, and that alters the tone. All but the most basic synths also have an LFO, a sub-oscillator that creates huge waves. The LFO doesn’t necessarily make tones; the wave can be “sent” to various other parts of the synth to modify them, including the filter, the volume, or the pitch. The LFO can take a simple one-oscillator synth from basic to complex and interesting.
It’s also possible that LFO comes from the techno/electronica group of the same name, who I’m sure named themselves after the oscillator. After all, you have the mecha called KLFs which are definitely named after The KLF, best known for “3am Eternal”, the Timelords’ “Doctorin’ the Tardis,” and for joining crust-punks Extreme Noise Terror to shoot blanks from a machine gun at the Brit Awards audience. Oh, and for inventing Pete Doherty.
Hope you learned something, and I look forward to seeing what fun references show up in Astral Ocean.
- Drum machine pics from Wikipedia, E7 LFOs with MSPaint bits from this guy