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Early 80's Compass Point/Sly Dunbar Snare Sound Multi-Ef­fects Plugins
Old 27th July 2014
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Early 80's Compass Point/Sly Dunbar Snare Sound

I've always love the early 80's Compass Point recordings (Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, etc.) Trying to figure out what makes the snare so unique on a lot of it. Grace Jones "Pull Up to The Bumper" is a good example. I've done quite a bit of googling. Sly Dunbar was the drummer on the sessions. Alex Sadkin the enginner. There was some talk of Sly using a Syndrum on that songs (and he had Simmons drums but not until later according to an RBMA interview).

From the liner notes of the Compass Point comp:
"“I think Alex really brought a lot to the plate,” says Mikey Chung. “He is one of the best engineers I have worked with, because of his ideas and concepts, and how meticulous he was with getting Sly’s drum sound—he’d work for hours getting that snare drum to sound that crisp. He’d be very experimental too. And I think the outcome, when you hear Grace Jones, you can hear it.”"

From an interview with Sly

"SD : I was looking at the whole electronics thing and I bought the Syn-drum which became the Taxi main tool.

HC : What are the first songs you used it on?

SD : A instrumental version of Queen Of The Minstrel. Then I start use it as a organ shuffle on songs like Love and Devotion and Unmetred Taxi (makes electro-type sounds) and wi use it on Pull Up To The Bumper."

My gut tells me that the snare is not what's electronic though, just heavily effected. Or maybe it's layered.... with the Syndrum?

This, from another Sly interview is interesting...
"The first song that was cut on the session was ‘Warm Leatherette’ and the second one was ‘Private Life.’ I think its one of the best tunes. When I sat and listened to it, I couldn’t believe how it all sounded. Alex Sadkin, the engineer got this sound which was incredible. A lot of people think that was electronic drums, but its acoustic."

... but the Private Life doesn't really have the snare I'm talking about - it's mostly used for fills anyway as the sidestick carries the beat.

This is more like it
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tc1IphRx1pk

Maybe it's a little more naked in this dub of My Jamaican Guy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCelD9MjiaE

Some gate? Maybe some kind of pitch and/or filter? Anyone out there knows or cares to speculate, please do!
Old 9th August 2014
  #2
Lives for gear
 

the syndrum...

in 'pull up to my bumper' is obvious.
It's playing 16th notes with a kind of bossanova accent.
That's the syndrum in that tune.
Same as Black Uhurus 'guess who's coming to dinner'
ROman.
Old 10th August 2014
  #3
Gear Nut
 

ah ok, i guess that's not the sound i'm looking for then. more the squishy snare it its typical spot on the 2 and the 4.
Old 10th August 2014
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Difficult to say if there was layering without hearing a first hand account. But you could certainly get a close-miked snare to sound like that by itself. Probably gated with a short-slap back delay. The rest is in the EQ: hi-passed maybe, possible boost at 200, cut at 500, boost at 3k and maybe 10k.
Old 10th August 2014
  #5
Gear Nut
 

ok yeah, the slapback makes sense now that you mention it. almost seems like the feedback is turned up, but gate cuts it off or something - giving it a sort of abbreviated roll effect.
Old 14th August 2014
  #6
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Funny Cat's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by captainjc View Post
ah ok, i guess that's not the sound i'm looking for then. more the squishy snare it its typical spot on the 2 and the 4.

Yes, I know exactly what you are referring to. In reggae circles it's known as the "Roots Radics" sound. They were the first band to have that sound. They had a few engineers who helped pioneer this type of drum sound. Henry "Junjo" Laws, Scientist and Flabba Holt are the three (legendary) reggae engineers I believe were primary in developing the "Roots Radics" Sound. Flabba was the bass player for the Radics and still produces and mixes records which have a similar sound. I am infatuated by this sound as well. Probably the most famous example is the song by Gregory Isaacs Night Nurse which was backed by the Radics and mixed by Flabba. It's one of the most recognizable and successful reggae albums of all time.

I was recently introduced to an engineer in Hawaii who has mastered this sound. His name is Wendell Ching and he runs Studio One in Hawaii - coincidentally named after Studio One in Jamaica which was started by Alex Sadkin. By the way, Alex Sadkin mixed Leatherette and Bumper for Grace Jones and many of Black Uhuru's albums, which Sly was the drummer for. But he's most famous for the Marley albums Rastaman Vibration, Kaya, Survival and Legend which he won the Grammy for. So you can see where Wendell gets some of his influence from.

Wendell works with some of the most successful Hawaiian Reggae bands like Fiji and J-Boog to name a few. I spoke with him just the other day trying to figure out how he got "that" sound. He told me that he didn't believe the sound can be accredited to engineering alone. He said he spends hours fine tuning the snare drum so that it sounds that way before he hits record. He said he uses all the usual gear. Didn't mention anything special. He did say that he works completely analog. He used to track to DAT or was it DA-88? Can't remember off hand. Anyway, he just recently switched to Apogee. Here is a tune that he mixed by the successful Hawaiian band The Green:



Old 15th August 2014
  #7
Gear Nut
 

Brushing up on my Roots Radics ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dfs1y1pMW8 ). Definitely hear some similarity in there, but also quite a bit of variety in the sounds - than even Night Nurse or The Green's track - a lot of those seem to have full-tail reverb going on. I do get the impression that there's something more/different going on with effects in those Grace Jones cuts. It may be the slapback with a gate or maybe something else, but I think what I need to do is get off my ass and actually try a few things and report back. The actual character of the snare minus the effects does sound very similar though for sure.
Old 15th August 2014
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Ok, now I've found I think a better/more extreme version of the sound on this track Nipple to the Bottle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkL8slW6bdQ (the first 10 seconds is all you need to listen to)

The thing that's a bit crazy to me is that it varies widely from hit to hit. That kind of rules out the gated slapback thing I think - unless someone's manually tweaking the gate threshold. Sometimes you get almost a standard bare snare sound, then sometimes you get this tail on it that almost sounds like a short roll, but it really sounds like there's something going on with the pitch in there too somehow. Maybe a pitched slapback? Or maybe it's an electronic snare that's deeper pitch and layered underneath, and he's just letting the stick roll more on some hits than others?
Old 15th August 2014
  #9
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Funny Cat's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by captainjc View Post
Ok, now I've found I think a better/more extreme version of the sound on this track Nipple to the Bottle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkL8slW6bdQ (the first 10 seconds is all you need to listen to)

The thing that's a bit crazy to me is that it varies widely from hit to hit. That kind of rules out the gated slapback thing I think - unless someone's manually tweaking the gate threshold. Sometimes you get almost a standard bare snare sound, then sometimes you get this tail on it that almost sounds like a short roll, but it really sounds like there's something going on with the pitch in there too somehow. Maybe a pitched slapback? Or maybe it's an electronic snare that's deeper pitch and layered underneath, and he's just letting the stick roll more on some hits than others?
There is definitely a synth layered under this snare. Might even be "just" a synth snare. That effect you're hearing is typical in dub music.

Scientist is the guy from that Radics crew most famous for his innovative dub work. Look him up and you'll hear sounds like these quite a bit on his records. Most times they are taking the FX and twisting knobs on the fly to alter the sound.

Sly Dunbar on the other hand is probably the drummer most famous for incorporating these types of electronic snare drums in Reggae. Him and his production partner (bass player Robbie Shakespeare) practically ushered in the dancehall error in Reggae music which was defined by a moving away from the organic elements into the more experimental electronic elements being introduced in the 80's.

Many of the successful artists in the 80's like Grace Jones and The Police were really into Reggae and wanted to incorporate elements into their sound. Dancehall evolved out of it as well as punk in the U.K. And later hip hop in the U.S. Early rap was primarily New Yorkers of Jamaican origin "toasting" over stripped down dancehall beats.

Hope I'm not boring you guys with this history. I just think it's fascinating and worthy of acknowledgement and due respect. Good luck on your quest!
Old 15th August 2014
  #10
Gear Nut
 

Fascinating indeed. This is a great read for anyone interested specifically in the Island/Compass Point era (I believe it's copied from the liner notes to the Compass Point comp from a few years ago).
Compass Point Story - Robert Palmer : Music & Style

I guess it could be the Syndrum layered underneath after all. While I haven't heard the exact sound in it, this Syndrum demo makes it seem like it wouldn't be too hard to achieve. It really does sound like there is some mic'd snare layered in there too though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgwisvcKqzg
Old 17th August 2014
  #11
Definitely sounds like white noise, filtered.
May even be layered syndrum.
I know at one point Sly used a triggered clap on a lot of cuts. Maybe Claptrap (Simmons).
I've heard some snares that pitch down, using Eventide harmoniser I would think.
I think you'll get there layering in analog synth triggered from the snare.
Old 18th August 2014
  #12
Gear Nut
 

Yeah definitely plenty of clap in there too. No problem approximating that sound I thought about a harmoniser or some kind of pitching delay, but then with a synth drum, I'm assuming you could just tune the oscillator.

Went through a bunch of synare demos on youtube just now and 2m30s in this one is sounding pretty close. Might have to spring for one of the Czech clones that are up on ebay now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNzo2Jk77eU&t=150
Old 14th November 2015
  #13
Gear Nut
 

ok this pretty much nails it for me. H910
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewZcUDQa8tc
Old 10th January 2016
  #14
Here for the gear
 

It's the eventide harmonizer.. Possibly most famously deployed on bowies low album.
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