Founder of Roland Corporation, Ace Tone and Boss Corporation, Ikutaro Kakehashi‘s work could be heard and held as the backbone of electronic music from its very beginning up till now. Our very notion of the electronic scene could be attributed to his contribution; as that shaped the past 60 years of the polyvalent genre.
Kakehashi’s most renown and applied work up to date; are the TR series which were released under the Roland Corporation, and the most famous among the renown was the TR-808 drum machine. Although other TR’s such as the 909, 707 and 303 were all being used by artists, the 808 gave a very peculiar sound which none could resist even if listened a thousand times.
All despite the fact that, during its launch in 1980, the Roland drum machine fell flat on its face, business-wise; as it was perceived as nothing nearly comparable to an ‘actual musical instrument’ and categorised as a device that only generates mechanised sounds.
This led to its discontinuation in 1983, but the silver lining was the cheap price it reached at that time, which in turn led to be the prime choice of numerous underground producers; those who then translated that the drum machine was more than a robot joke.
And, actually, this led to some creation of many hit records and by the end of 1980’s, this could’ve been heard everywhere taking from classic soul to acid house.
Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing (1982)
How awesome was this song and how awesome it still is ! Gaye lets the 808 plainly exposed on the intro of Sexual Healing, up until the guitar work makes it call to exquisitely envelope the drum structure.
A Guy Called Gerald (1989)
With samples from Dudley Moore’s and Peter Cook’s comedy act, the phrase “Voodoo Rage” yet resounds in many those dedicated to the acid house era back then. Nonetheless, this is a stone cold classic and Voodoo Ray even falls in the textbook rules of any who should call thyself a ‘knower’ in electronic nowadays.
Gerald Simpson, a.k.a A Guy Called Gerald, still puts an immense emphasis on the Roland gear and makes godly use of those in his live performances. We got the chance to see him performing, with one hand on a TR-303 and another on TR-707; making his cuts right on the place with some crazy bpm’s, letting behind a soaked audience many muscles pulled.
Aphex Twin (1992)
Especially on their debut studio album, selected ambient works 85-92, which is practically one of the best ambient works out there; Aphex Twin really brings their own touch of the TR-808 and presented to the world another veil of opportunities that can be achieved through the drum set.
Kakehashi’s legacy only resounds more and more, with artists picking up those tools from the early 80’s even with the ever-evolving technologies. Even if the hardwares are really scarce, expensive and simply hard to get your hands on; literally any production software such as Logic Pro X and Ableton, among many, comes with the pre-included drum packs of the TRs.
Fast-forwarding to releases after 2005, there have been much hit records ranging from artists such as Beyoncé, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and more; all making use of Roland’s work.
If it was not for Kakehashi, electronic would have simply and blatantly sounded different.
KRTS- Close the Closet Door / Project Mooncircle (2012)
One of the early releases on the German label Project Mooncircle, KRTS came hard with The Dread of an Unknown Evil featuring tracks that are far from going easy. In terms of deepness, likely as the Bristol dubstep-producer Pinch was bringing forward, that is giving ‘space’ in music which could be heard through his track Qawwali; KRTS created that same space, but on a whole level, and marvelously using the TR-808 bass and percussion along.
Massive Attack (2016)
In a 2016 interview with Roland UK, the iconic band from Bristol mentioned that they’ve been making use of the TR-808s, 909s, 606s and 303s gear since the very beginning of their career. They also mention that they still got one in use, along with the recent model TR-8 for current use.
Jamie xx – GOSH (2014)
Taken from his album In Colour, Gosh is a full out heavy tune; featuring over 400 Chinese teenagers, as another striking factor in Romain Gavras’ video direction. This music, especially the bassline, could be attributed to the Roland sound.