Synthesis

Columbus, Ohio

Records with Sonobeat in 1971
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
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Synthesis: from left, Scott Steelman, Thom Blum, Dan Warner; photo taken at a park surrounding Jeffrey Mansion in Columbus, Ohio, suburb Bexley
courtesy Thom Blum and Scott Steelman

It's July 1971, a sweltering summer in Austin, Texas, as Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. begins working with Columbus, Ohio-based progressive rock trio Synthesis. Bill is hoping to glean one more 45 RPM stereo single release on Sonobeat Records in an already-marginal year. Synthesis consists of Daniel Warner, Thom Blum, and Scott Steelman. When the band forms in 1971, Scott is 19, Thom is 16, and Dan is 15. A year earlier, Scott records with Sonobeat as a member of a reconstituted version of nationally-known bubblegum band Ohio Express, but when this incarnation of Ohio Express starts to fall apart, Scott exits the band and returns to his hometown of Columbus. There he's approached by Dan and Thom to join their new band. They borrow money to buy a Hammond organ that their high school is retiring, practice in Dan's basement, and play around Columbus for a few months. But the band is considered too avant-garde. Feeling the band is unappreciated, Scott contacts Bill, who invites the trio down to Austin to record demo material. The band makes the 1,250 mile trek from Columbus to take Bill up on the offer.

Synthesis is the second group Bill records at his new Sonobeat Studios in the KVET Building on North Lamar in Austin. The four songs the trio records, all originals, include vocals Parliamentary Magistrates and Hocus Pocus and instrumentals Paroxysm and Horrible Adventures of a Man From Nell (that's right, "Nell", not "Hell"). Bill records the basic instrumental beds onto four tracks on Sonobeat's Scully 280 half-inch machine, which he then mixes down to two tracks on Sonobeat's second half-inch machine, a Stemco. This leaves two available tracks for overdubs, and the resulting 4-track master is then mixed down to the final stereo master on an Ampex AG350 quarter-inch 2-track deck.

Bill notes on the mix-down demo master tape box that Hocus Pocus and Paroxysm are candidates for a 45 RPM stereo single release, but the Sonobeat archives don't indicate why one is never released. We believe it may be because the band returns to Ohio shortly after recording with Sonobeat, and, since it isn't performing in Central Texas, it isn't on the Central Texas record-buyer's radar, making a regional release on the Sonobeat label hard to promote and financially impractical.

Synthesis' recordings engagingly demonstrate how a leading-edge, jazz-rock fusion movement – à la Yes, King Crimson, and the Mothers of Invention – is advancing in Austin during the early '70s. But the boys in the band – Blum, Steelman, and Warner – have thoughtfully crafted their own unique style and sound. Daniel Warner goes on to get his doctorate in music from Princeton and presently is Professor of Music at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, author (co-editor of Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music), and composer and performer of electronic music.

Thank you!

Our thanks to Synthesis band members Daniel Warner for letting us know the names of the band's personnel (that information wasn't in the Sonobeat archives) and Scott Steelman for additional background information and for the band photo, taken in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Bexley.

Synthesis personnel

Thom Blum: bass and vocals
Scott Steelman: keyboards
Daniel Warner: percussion

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

Hocus Pocus
Horrible Adventures of a Man from Nell
Parliamentary Magistrates
Paroxysm

Produced and engineered by Bill Josey Sr.
Recorded at Sonobeat Studios, 705 North Lamar, Austin, Texas, on July 17, 18, and 19, 1971
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, AKG D707E dynamic microphone, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Stemco half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex AG350 tape deck, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band stereo graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock
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The Synthesis demo master tape