Tame Impala Synth Sounds | Part Three
Welcome back to more Tame Impala synths. In this part I'll mostly tackle the synths sounds found on Lonerism. I've already looked at Mind Mischief and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards in previous parts, so if you haven't already then check them out. I'll also look at the elusive Roland JV-1080 that was used to create the track Gossip from of the latest album, Currents.
“And messing with sounds is easily my biggest hobby, so that makes it pretty fun… not having to think artistically and just being the guy with the hands on the knobs and switches.” - Kevin Parker
Endors Toi opens with a phased guitar, gliding lead synth and some wild sounding arpeggio runs I'll show you how to create the latter two. The important elements of the lead sound involve using monophonic glide, unison detune and a wide open filter/envelope. Although I've seen some suggestions that this part was recorded with the Juno-106, I personally think it was actually recorded on the Sequential Pro-One, for it's better detuning capabilities.
To set up the patch, use 2 sawtooth waves slightly detuned (or if your synth has it, use unison mode), set envelope sustain to max, put your synth in mono/legato mode and raise the glide parameter until the note slides sound at about the speed you hear in the track. Lower the filter cutoff just a little so to slightly darken the sound, otherwise it'll sound a little too harsh. I used Arturia Prophet V, which is based on a similar synth to the Pro-One, the Sequential Prophet-5. Here are my settings:
The arpeggio sound is a lot easier to create than it sounds, it has more to do with the arpeggio setting than it does the synth settings. This was no doubt recorded with Kevin's Sequential Pro-One, which has a very basic inbuilt arpeggiator function. Although the Pro-One can be synced via CV, in Endors Toi it's running in free mode, so if you're trying to get a similar sound in a DAW make sure to turn off the Sync option on your arpeggiator and experiment with the Rate setting to get the speed you want. Here I found that 72ms sounds close to the original. I used Arturia Prophet V again, I set it to one of the basic template presets and used Ableton Live's Arpeggiator to arpeggiate the chords I played in.
Note that all Arpeggiator's function a little differently, especially when it comes to retriggering the arpeggio when you add and remove notes from the chord. In Endors Toi there are a lot of notes that drop out and back in and Live's arpeggiator couldn't do this without restarting the pattern. Generally, I find that synths with built-in arpeggiators work best.
Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control
The longest song on Lonerism has the longest title, and it's full of some pretty wacky synth sounds. The Juno that opens up this song is similar to the one in Mind Mischief that I wrote about in Part 2 of this series. The synth chords have a touch of vibrato created by the LFO, which gives it a seasick, out-of-tune feeling. We'll try running a Juno patch through a guitar amp emulation to make it sound a little dirtier.
The basic patch consists of a square-wave with a little pulse-width modulation and an envelope with no sustain and decay set high enough for the chord to trail out in time for the next chord. For the vibrato; the original Juno-106's LFO has only one wave shape, which is triangle, so set the LFO to triangle and raise the LFO-Oscillator setting to the point where the vibrato is noticeable but it's not overpowering. The sound is quite filtered so raise the HPF to about halfway and lower the LPF until the high notes just begin to get cut off.
For effects I used an amp simulator (just like in Mind Mischief), I used a Roland JC-120 emulation from Guitar Rig 5. Lastly I used Soundtoys EchoBoy for a subtle tape effect, and Decapitator and Valhalla VintageVerb for saturation and reverb.
Keep On Lying
The synth key patch that starts off Keep On Lying is very similar to the one we just created, again we have a pulse-wave but this time the filters are opened up a little more. I don't think this synth track was run through an amp emulation and it sounds pretty close with just the sound from just the Juno. The chords are quite short so the envelope isn't too important here. You can use this patch as a starting point for a whole variety of other sounds by adding various effects to it.
The organ lead introduced in the middle of the song is a pretty basic organ patch, I've used Arturia Farfisa V because it's my go-to, but any B3 or Vox emulation would also work great. I've used Soundtoys Decapitator to liven up the sound a lot, it's a great tool for make tracks sound more analogue and for tone shaping; I've got the drive knob up to around 5 and the tone knob most of the way up to bright. If you don't have Decapitator then explore the distortion/saturation units in your DAW and remember that subtle often works best!
Clocking in at less than a minute, Gossip is a synth/guitar duet that serves as a prelude to The Less I Know The Better. Featuring a pulsating, hypnotising synth line, Gossip is an instrumental track; maybe the lack of lyrics represent the triviality of gossip. The synths were recorded from a Roland JV-1080, a discontinued digital synth introduced in 1994. Roland's website claims that it has been used on more recordings than any other module in history. They're widely available second-hand and sell pretty cheap on eBay.
UPDATE: Roland have since released a software version of the JV-1080 synth, which I look at in this article on Gossip.
Gossip is based on a JV-1080 patch called Flying Waltz, which just needs two quick modifications to get the sound we want. Here's the sound directly from the box with no alterations:
To get it to sound closer to Gossip, a couple of adjustments are needed. The most important thing is that you have to speed it up to 118/119bpm, and then change the effect to Quadruple-Tap-Delay. Here's what we get with that:
Sounds very close! I imagine Gossip started with Kevin going through the patches on the JV-1080 and experimenting with different chords and settings until he stumbled across this. Musically what's happening is that the patch is a sequence going from the note played and up a 5th. For example, if you play E on a MIDI keyboard you'll hear back E and B. What's going on in Gossip is that we have a chromatic descending sequence of E - Eb - D and a static F# note on top. These with the 5th's being added by the patch sequence create the following chords:
Thanks to Javier for the information, pictures and audio on this one!
If you've gotten this far then thanks for reading! This will probably be the last Tame Impala article I write but keep checking back as there's a couple of other similar pieces I've got planned. Have fun experimenting with your own synths and remember to constantly try new things and use these ideas as a starting point for your own sounds.