Adam Ring Modulator programmes & sequences a five track theme, driven by the Roland Eight oh Eight...

Roland 808

5:5:5: III. 808

3 Numbers: 808………..

Specifically the Roland Transistorised Rhythm TR808.


by Ring Modulator.


“Do I make Your Heart Beat Like An 808 Drum?” Kei$ha

Probably the most famous drum machine of all time..much is written, you won’t have to look far…….infact you won’t have to listen too far either.  

The 808 was first introduced by Roland Corp in 1980……initially it was a flop.  There seemed to be a yearning for realistic drum sounds and the Linn LM1 catered for that, but the LM1 cost $5000 and only 500 were made.  Over the space of 4 years about 12000 808 units were manufactured and they cost $1200 when whey first came out.

Roland 808

“The unit is a big improvement over electronic-sounding drum machines that only do 4/4 time and sound like marching anteaters (unless of course you prefer marching anteaters and being locked into 4/4 time).”
Dominic Milano 11/82

However….it is the rhythm programmers delight…..those analogue sounds, tune, level, overlap……the fact it’s not digital, there is a warmth and depending on how you use the sounds…people are gonna dance……

And they did, according to Roland, the TR808 has been used on more records than any other drum machine.  Electro…yeah ofcourse electro..I don’t need to say do I …Hip Hop…, Soul, Miami Bass, Pop, Urban.   If want to check out some massive 808 workouts……it’s the Arthur Baker or Mantronix 12’s you need to check out……New Order’s Confused Beats or Freeze I.O.U. extended dub….those toms, that clave…love it or hate it….that cowbell.

It doesn’t matter if it’s solo or as adjunct with either a real drummer or another drum machine.

To the uninitiated, that instant sound and groove can be identified on Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing and at the beginning of Whitney’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

My 808 5:5:5 takes a slightly more esoteric, because Ring Modulator is Esoteric… that’s because Kanye will break your heart, is that Clear?, is that the big pow wow, you know there's no way back….. you know it’ll be nothing but trouble.


1. Pink Industry - Pain of Pride (1985 - Zulu Records - New Beginnings)


Pink Industry - Pain of Pride

Ambrose Reynolds and Jayne Casey create a lofi sparce bedroom ambience and it is the space that does it……..this is immersive 808 love… every sound on the 808 seems to make an appearance……three albums between 81 and 85, all pretty difficult to get your hands on.  This track is from New Beginnings.  If you see a Pink Industry record…..don’t hesitate in buying it. (Pink Industry were Pink Military who were Big in Japan)... Leading onto...





2. Logic System - Clash (Chinjyu of Sun) (1981 - EMI - Logic)

Logic System - Talkback

Yellow Magic Orchestra’s programmer Hideki Matsutake aka Logic System, from the stunning album Logic….also a bit tricky to get hold of these days…apparently YMO were the first band to be given a TR808 prototype and use it live (I suppose it helps living in Japan). You’ll hear it used on their BGM and Technodelic albums.





3. Hashim - Al-Naafayish (1983 - Cutting Records)


Hashim - Al-Naafayish

Ok….Old Skool Electro…that which pre-dated Hip Hop (yeah there was a time)…I had to include one track as a pivot…I wanted to Planet Rock…but thats too predictable…so you get this….It’s Time…..…that bass, those beats…dystopian Kraftwerkian synths….it was and still is the future…….boogie down…






4. Section 25 - Inspiration (1984 - Factory Records - From the Hip)

Section 25 - Inspiration

From The Hip..1984…programming by New Order’s Bernard Sumner…..the album was as far away as anything they had ever done…..the whole album is a Roland Fest…I saw them play twice in 84 and it was stunning…….and the single Looking From A Hilltop is an Electro classic……Infact, around about 84 Factory Records were using members of New Order for remixing and production duties…a BeMusic production…….check them all out where you can.





5. Junior Boys - You Say That (2016 - City Slang - Big Black Coat)

Junior Boys - You Say That

Jeremy Greenspan has a knack…..complex rhythms, yet space…..ok, triggered 808 sounds or even a TR8…does it matter, it’s unmistakable…you’ve got to have some Junior Boys in your life and just to prove that I’m not stuck in the 80’s…..amazing that 36 years later and the 808 is still as relevant today.

Explore more esoteric electronic postings and plenty more besides over at Ring Modulator's blog.

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