Unknown Mortal Orchestra is the project of Ruban Nielson, a New Zealand born musician who records and produces from his Portland basement studio. The band have a unique character, mixing 70s influences such as Bowie and Prince with a distinctly vintage processed sound to create a soulful lo-fi vibe. Nielson played everything on UMO’s debut album, but on subsequent releases he has collaborated with his brother Kody Nielson and longtime bassist Jacob Portrait.Read More
Blood Orange is the project of British musician Devonté Hynes, a fusion of 80s tinged electronica and R&B. Hynes sound is warm and full of nostalgia, and he has a talent for catchy hooks and grooves. With Blood Orange, Hynes sings, plays guitar, bass, synth, piano, saxophone and drums, as well as undertaking production duties. He contributed the score to the 2013 film Palo Alto, and also wrote Sky Ferreira’s mega-hit Everything Is Embarrassing. Hynes appears to use a variety of synths in his performances, including the Korg Minilogue seen in the music video for Saint, and a Roland Juno-106 in his NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert. For all of the patches in the article I’ll use the synth TAL U-NO-LX, a software emulation of the Roland Juno synths. As always, you can download all the patches for free at the end of the article.Read More
Tyler, the Creator, real name Tyler Gregory Okonma, is a rapper and producer with a unique, alternative take on hip-hop. Tyler produces all the music on his releases, and he has also co-produced on releases by Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt and Mac Miller. His style incorporates samples less than his peers, and he frequently uses synthesizers and electric pianos to accompany his unique, often aggressive vocal delivery. A photo of Tyler’s room posted on his Instagram page in 2015 shows a Roland Juno-6, JX-8P and Microkorg in his collection; he has also mentioned owning a Yamaha DX7 in a 2018 interview. He is a co-founder of the alternative hip-hop collective Odd Future, and he also creates album covers and merchandise designs.Read More
The Yamaha CS-80 is one of the most iconic and revered synths of all time. It was one of the first polyphonic synthesizers on the market, and it boasted an incredible sound, expressive controls and an early example of patch memory. Despite its now legendary status, it was released in 1976 to a pretty lukewarm reception, regarded by some as being too heavy and expensive, and the patch bay system was seen as clumsy. The Sequential Prophet-5 was released soon after, and being much lighter and sleeker, it soon overshadowed the CS-80. Despite the Prophet-5’s greater popularity, the CS-80 was arguably a more expressive performance synth than the Pro-5; it had a velocity sensitive semi-weighted keyboard that had aftertouch, and a ribbon controller, which is still a rarity on modern synths. It was a favourite of Greek composer Vangelis, whose use of it in his score for the 1981 movie Blade Runner cemented its status as a classic synthesizer. It was used on 80s pop hits by artists such as Michael Jackson, Toto and Paul McCartney, and now its rarity and legendary status make it popular amongst modern artists such as Phoenix, Empire of the Sun, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher.Read More
Whether it’s in his music as Nine Inch Nails, his soundtrack work in collaboration with Atticus Ross, or with How to Destroy Ghosts, Trent Reznors sound is always uniquely identifiable. Although part of this is due to his sound design, involving digital distortion and noise processing a variety of sound sources, his use of harmony also has a major impact on his sound. Reznors sound has a distinctly anxious tone, that sets the scene for his often bleak output. In the film Sound City, Reznor explains that he has a music theory foundation, and this subconciously affects his writing.Read More
Com Truise is the alias of Seth Haley, a synthwave musician and self-styled synth nerd. His unique brand of synthwave has been alternately labelled mid-fi synthwave, slow-motion funk, and chillwave. His sound is complex and synth heavy, with a focussed production bringing together layers of woozy synths, sharp rhythms and huge, snappy drums. He has released three albums, with the most recent being 2017’s Iteration. Seth has an enviable collection of synths, too many to accurately list. In interviews, he has expressed an affinity for Oberheim and Prophet synths, and he has toured with a Juno-106, DSI Mopho and most recently the DSI OB-6.
Although Haley’s music appears complicated upon first listen, and while some of his music does rely on complex patterns, the sound design element is quite simple. He favours detuned patches with a filter envelope, and tends to run his sounds though chorus and rhythmic delay effects to create his signature sound. In this article I’ll focus on some of his core sounds and production tricks. Although Haley is obviously passionate about hardware synths, he’s no stranger to using software. I’ll use the Arturia range of synths and Soundtoys effects plugins throughout the article. Haley has mentioned using both, and at the end of the article I’ll try to compile the interviews where he talks about gear. Enjoy the walkthroughs, and make sure to download the free patches at the end of the article!Read More