Tame Impala - 'Cause I'm a Man Synth Sounds

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'Cause I’m a Man was the lead single and second song released from Currents, Tame Impala’s 3rd offering. The songs lyrics deal with masculinity, and musically it adds an unmistakable soft rock, r’n’b flavour to the Tame Impala sound spectrum. Lots of different elements are used to accompany Kevin Parker’s vocal performance, with the majority of them coming from Parker's Roland Juno-106 and JV-1080 synths, the latter of which he coaxes several almost orchestral sounds from. The cover's two chrome spheres may refer to the 'greater force [man] answers to', and the song's press release alludes to the songs conception on road:

Sketched out in planes, cars, hotels and homes since the completion of Tame Impala’s Lonerism in 2012, ‘Cause I’m A Man’ and ‘Let It Happen’ were written, performed, recorded, produced and mixed by Kevin Parker in Fremantle, Western Australia.

'Cause I'm a Pad

The main synth pad heard in the intro and verses is from Kevin’s trusty Roland Juno-106, a vintage synth responsible for most of Tame Impala’s synth tones. He acquired it before the recording of Lonerism and has used it frequently since. On Cause I’m a Man it is used for a subdued but rich sound that fills out the production without overpowering it. TAL U-NO-LX is my go-to plugin for Juno vibes in-the-box, and the patch can be created with a square wave with no sub oscillator. Take the frequency fader down to the 2 mark, add some resonance and then raise the env fader to 4 to create some filter movement. Set the ADSR envelope with a medium attack of 4 and a long decay of 8, leaving sustain at almost maximum. Turn on the chorus II effect to add that lush Juno sound. The patch opens up at several key points in the song, such as the end of the intro, and this effect is achieved by simply raising the freq fader. Recording from a Juno-106 you have to sit and manually raise the fader in time with the music while recording, however with TAL U-NO-LX you can simply automate the frequency parameter. 

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'Cause I'm a Lead

The lead synth during the intro is also from the Juno-106, and employs portamento glide for the smooth transition between notes. Start with a sawtooth wave with a small amount of sub oscillator mixed in, with the fader around 3. Mellow out the sound by bringing the cutoff frequency down to 5 and the resonance up to 4. In the portamento section at the bottom of the interface, set the mode to I and raise the glide time to 6. When you you record or program the part, let certain notes overlap to trigger the gliding effect.

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JV-Bells

The majestic hits introduced in the 2nd half of the first verse are layered choir & bell parts. The choir part is the classic ARR patch from the Fairlight CMI, the same patch used in Tears for Fears' classic, Shout. The sound is so popular that it pops up on several other more modern synths, such as the Roland JV-1080, a rack mounted synth that Kevin used heavily on Currents. The JV-1080 uses samples with synthesis to create a huge variety of sounds; it also provided the main synth in Gossip. The choir patch is 021: Arasian Morn from bank C, though you need to open up the edit panel and fully decrease the attack time to disable the slow pad effect that the patch loads with by default.

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The bell patch is also from the JV-1080, this time the patch is 071: D-50 Stack from bank A. Here is what the patch sounds like in Roland Cloud’s software JV-1080, followed by the two patches played together. Note that the bell patch is played an octave higher than the choir part.

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JV-Strings

The second and third chorus are beefed up with a string part, that serves to brighten the sections up, and add extra momentum coming from the first chorus. The song’s structure is unusual, with the first two chorus’s coming back-to-back, as a double-chorus, then the final chorus is not a double-chorus, and serves as the abrupt end to the song. The string patch itself comes from the JV-1080, specifically the patch 041: Tremolo Strng from bank C. It is a sweet string patch, with the tremolo effect coming from the JV-1080’s four LFO’s. The tremolo effect makes it suitable for layering on full productions, and the JV-1080 also features plenty of other great string patches.

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Full Track

Finally, here is the full track with all of the patches in action. The crunchy guitars in the chorus get away with sounding so huge because it's a doubled part, with the two recordings panned hard left & right. The bass guitar is a Fender P-Bass DI with minimal processing and the guitar on the recording is a Gibson Les Paul processed with Soundtoys distortion and the Ableton Amp plugin.

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