Robert Fox ‘Asfafa’ – An instrumental music classic – the remaster – the story!

Set for release during 2013 is the re-recorded masterpiece from 1991 ‘Asfafa’. This album was considered a classic by many em aficionados, with many a myth surrounding the enigmatic album title. The remastered album was originally intended for a 2012 ’21st anniversary’ release, but for reasons beyond the artists control, that didn’t happen. Robert is currently finishing recording bonus material for the album, so with some stunning new artwork the new ‘Asfafa’ will be released sometime during the latter part of 2013. In the meantime, to wet your appetite so to speak, here is the story about the reworked ‘Asfafa’ in the words of the maestro himself.

For some time now, my original instrumental music journey ‘Asfafa’ had haunted me! I kept coming back to the original cd……thinking what it might have sounded like if it had been done today…..and was it worth a second go?? Sitting rather forlornly in my studio was my old Atari mega 2….with the odd cable missing and no mouse…..but other than that it was all there. And so too was that huge 80mb hard drive!! None of which had been fired up for nearly 15 years. Well…..all the original midi files were still there….all I need to do, surely, was to get them out of the Atari and into my PC!! Easier said than done!! So……a phone call to Atari man Barrie in Warrington…..the first step in a second Asfafa instrumental music journey!

To cut a long story short the Atari mega 2 had died…..so an ancient ST was bought to replace it……oh…..and a Cubase dongle. The hard drive still worked…..and all of the files were still there…..along with some very interesting other stuff. All the early collaborative Fox/Wright electronic music stuff was there too….a real trip down memory lane. The old Atari, with 2mb of ram sat next to studio pc with 8gb of ram, twin 19″ monitors etc etc, looked really quite cute….if not incongruous! The keyboards (Korg M1 and Roland D50) still had the Asfafa sound banks in them so, in theory, everything was set to go……the first time those original Asfafa files would be played back in nearly 20 years. About half an hour then spent in connecting up…….and…….here goes…..Asfafa side one loaded…..and hit play. And it did……play back…..complete with all the programme changes synth settings etc etc !! Astonishing. Quite astonishing.

So, the first thing I had to do was to listen all the way through. Everything seemed fine for the first couple of tracks and then came the first problem.  There seem to be a problem with the percussion tracks, and they weren’t playing back exactly as they should have been. Why this was I couldn’t figure out at all. It was almost as if some of the drum settings had been altered in the original M1 drum kit settings. The midi information was there but was playing back different drum sounds! Hmmmmm!! Ok, the next stage was to see if I can transfer the files from the Atari to the PC. Answer?  Yes. So what was needed now was a work around the drum problem.

To cut a long story short (once again!!) and four months of work later, a complete rebuild had now taken place on the PC. Everything was in its place, everything was working, everything was playing back!! But, it wasn’t quite as straightforward as I originally anticipated or hoped. It became very clear early on in the process that I could not construct the PC files in exactly the same way as I had constructed the Atari files, and what was needed here was that each instrumental music track would have to be recorded totally separately rather than record a whole side of an album as was done on the original files on the Atari. But even that wasn’t straightforward. What was becoming more and more obvious was that the PC and the Atari were actually recording and playing back in different timings.  A midi merge box confirmed that the Atari was in fact drifting out time with the PC…….in itself not a difficult problem to solve once the problem had been identified!

But eventually a complete rebuild of all those files had been done on the PC, and all that remained was now to track the midi to audio, a process that simply wasn’t available 20 years ago! Unless, of course, one had access to multi track tape and the facility to process each track…..and that was simply out of the question! So the final cut of the original Asfafa was not so much a mix as a “blend” to stereo……and that’s the way things were to remain until Cubase and computer processing power could process audio……a quantum leap in itself!

In the end there was little interference with the electronic music itself……..that, in my opinion, always stood up, and any changes that have been made have been very subtle…….and mostly changes of instrumentation in the main. The M1 piano has been replaced by the Karma piano for example…..the sax for the X5 sax……and some very subtle vocal additions that are the only concessions to modernity. Slight timing changes and phrase repeats are also there, but I would hope not that you would notice!! And finally the 2012 rebuild is now one compete entity with no break between the two album sides. This is how it should have sounded twenty years ago and, indeed, would have sounded had the technology been available”.

Robert Fox, 2012

~ by admusic on February 24, 2013.

One Response to “Robert Fox ‘Asfafa’ – An instrumental music classic – the remaster – the story!”

  1. Reblogged this on AD Music.

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