The Imperfect Yet Inspiring Sound Of The Eighties – Bastl Instruments Rediscovers The Distortotron

Why some of us like ‘the Eighties sound’ so much? Sure, some of those synths and effects were very innovative, but at the same time they had to face relevant technical limitations: bit-depth, sample-rates, etc. Well, it turns out that those limitations, the DACs and antialiasing filters imparted a certain sound that we many musicians and producers now crave.

Bastl Instruments in cooperation with Mental Overdrive (one of the most influential electronic musicians in Norway and according to some, ‘the Godfather of Norwegian Techno’) made a documentation of a unique piece of electronic music equipment from 1993 called Distortotron.

The short film traces the origins of the instrument and provides sound demos.

Distortotron is an effects processor: downsampler, bit reducer and clipping overdrive. It was made in 1993 in Norway by Svein Berge (not the guy from Röyksopp, FYI) and Henrik Sundt a.k.a. PSYBE for a Tromsø based musician Per Martinsen a.k.a. Mental Overdrive.

The concept for such instrument came from the need to bring back the aliasing and noise of early 80s samplers and it heavily formed the sound of Mental Overdrive’s debut album Plugged released in 1995 which became the landmark of the so-called Tromsø sound.

The album got re‐relased in 2016 on Prins Thomas’ label Rett I Fletta (also available on Bandcamp).

The Distortotron inspired Václav Peloušek of Bastl Instruments to design their Eurorack module called Tromsø.

Read more about Distortotron here.

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