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Let's talk about Chemical Brothers sounds Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 31st January 2019
  #1
Gear Nut
Let's talk about Chemical Brothers sounds

In particular, some of the mind bending long synth fx. For example:

@ 1:50


@ 0:00


I'm pretty certain these come from EMS Synthi AKS / VCS3. Is each one like one long distinct sound? Or are they built from multiple different sounds that fade into one another? It seems insane to be able to get that full range of sound out of 1 patch like that. But then again, they're the Chemical Brothers

As far as not owning a Synthi (who does :D) what could get close to the full spectrum of these? Even just those screaming high resonance bits at the end of the sound in Sunshine Underground seem unobtainable. How does it sound that massive and full of character? Would this come from the Synthi alone (distorting internally) or some incredible distortion pedal I've never heard of?

Similarly the siren-like part of the synth effect in Out of Control. Not sure where to start with that, to have the same intensity and fully defined character.
Old 31st January 2019
  #2
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drockfresh's Avatar
Yes let’s talk about them, and thank them for saving the world from the digital winter of the 90s by bringing back everything good about synths and sampling and then running it all through 600 Sherman filterbanks.

The mixes are so so good. Their mix engineer (Steve dub Jones?) was a genius.
Old 31st January 2019
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfc83 View Post
In particular, some of the mind bending long synth fx. For example:

@ 1:50


[...]
They reused that sample at the start of We Are The Night, where it can be heard in greater isolation @0:00 :




Anyway, as far as I can tell they really are just long drawn out sounds, the trick is in tweaking the right controls. These live Octave Kitten examples don't match the albums but they give an idea of the style of playing involved, @1:27:40 :



@1:06:34 :


As for the overall production, they do love to excite sounds using all manner of distortions, but the polished end result is likely more complex than that. Steve Dub has appeared on GS a few times, here's a comment he made on producing Big Beat:
A lot of compression - true but often layered with various other versions of the same beat or sound . On a track like "It doesn't matter" the kick drum was across 5 or 6 channels on a Neve VR - 1 really subby and heavily compressed/limited(dbx 160x) , 1 distorted through a sans amp , 1 eq'd to be punchy on the low mids and gated fairly short and a fairly straight version of the Sound - then all those would go to a couple of groups and be sent off to some more compression an 1176 and an SSL one extreme and one subtle and finally it would all come up one master Channel.
When you have all that in place and get all the filtering and phase right you have a fairly awesome way of controlling and shaping every element of that sound , we often use a similar technique on bass sounds .
Old 31st January 2019
  #4
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the donal's Avatar
Bloody good thread! Love the Chemical Brothers. No one else like them.

edit- On the topic of the Chemical Bros, is this bass on some sort of ARP? I'm guessing 2600 or an Oddy

Old 31st January 2019
  #5
Deleted 46dc28f
Guest
Saw these guys back in 2000. Their live setup had lots of analog gear porn on display. Sounded fantastic.
Old 31st January 2019
  #6
Gear Nut
I have tickets to see them in San Francisco in May. Very stoked for that.

Here's their midi setup:
Matt Cox: MIDI Tech For The Chemical Brothers |
Old 31st January 2019
  #7
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Praxisaxis's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mfc83 View Post
Or are they built from multiple different sounds that fade into one another?
I don't know about the Chemical Brothers but I have no problem with this technique. It's not that hard. . . just match the direction of the pitch or filter (etc), and morph from one thing to the next. Lots of digital synths have built-in functionality which allows something comparable.
Old 31st January 2019
  #8
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BassX's Avatar
Their first 3 albums were great and innovative, after that they went 4 to the floor and more generic.
Old 31st January 2019
  #9
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old ibanez jet plane flanger
Old 31st January 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the donal View Post
Bloody good thread! Love the Chemical Brothers. No one else like them.

edit- On the topic of the Chemical Bros, is this bass on some sort of ARP? I'm guessing 2600 or an Oddy

I think that's a Minimoog, from NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM interview (full of gear talk):
MOOG MINIMOOG
“The Minimoog conjures a period of time — early house music,” Simons says. “It's warm sounding.”

“It's easy to get something you can play around with on the Minimoog,” Rowlands adds. “On ‘Surrender,'' we had it in the studio, and we hit upon a classic house bass sound; that led to writing the pattern for that song. It's an inspirational machine that makes you want to play it. Some instruments are not as inviting to play, but [with] that one, you just sit in front of it and mess around, and you'll find something and record it.”
The way it's worded makes it sound like he's talking about the Surrender track but it's really Got Glint that has that classic House bass sound.
Old 31st January 2019
  #11
I always hear that ms20 filter scream in their sound. Usually sampled and manipulated.
Old 31st January 2019
  #12
Ksp
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Ksp's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mfc83 View Post
In particular, some of the mind bending long synth fx. For example:

I'm pretty certain these come from EMS Synthi AKS / VCS3. Is each one like one long distinct sound? Or are they built from multiple different sounds that fade into one another? It seems insane to be able to get that full range of sound out of 1 patch like that. But then again, they're the Chemical Brothers

As far as not owning a Synthi (who does :D) what could get close to the full spectrum of these? Even just those screaming high resonance bits at the end of the sound in Sunshine Underground seem unobtainable. How does it sound that massive and full of character? Would this come from the Synthi alone (distorting internally) or some incredible distortion pedal I've never heard of?

Similarly the siren-like part of the synth effect in Out of Control. Not sure where to start with that, to have the same intensity and fully defined character.
do not forget its probably being processed with £10,000 of outboard , the Synthi does do insane distortion , it has multiple areas where that can happen , the filter stage and the reverb stage both over drive as do the Osc sections though i was never sure if that was whats coming after them , the thing screams and you can expand on that by patching audio feedback loops into the matrix via various ways, thats why the Ems is so amazing as it has infinite colour and you can patch it up so that it can be feeding reverb back into filter and back into some other **** and you find these sweet spots of over drive where you start to find resonant oscillator tones with no Oscillators even switched in.Mad ****ing noise machine that one

You will find the same characteristics in some other analogues , good analogue circuits do really nice overdrive into roaring distortion.

The Oxford Oscar was good for this also and yeah Ms20 all the way....those things can Howl
Old 31st January 2019
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by BassX View Post
Their first 3 albums were great and innovative, after that they went 4 to the floor and more generic.
Very true; I have some of the later stuff on vinyl and it plays nicely. Definitely more pure acid to start:

...but a double vinyl album makes the later stuff more tweakable.
Old 31st January 2019
  #14
Deleted d9d8020
Guest
Old 31st January 2019
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BassX View Post
Their first 3 albums were great and innovative, after that they went 4 to the floor and more generic.
Agree. I particularly like the first two but the third (Surrender) is excellent as well.
Old 31st January 2019
  #16
They've always had a focus on live performance too...reproducing the studio on stage.
Old 31st January 2019
  #17
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the donal's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ToyBox View Post
I think that's a Minimoog, from NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM interview (full of gear talk):
MOOG MINIMOOG
“The Minimoog conjures a period of time — early house music,” Simons says. “It's warm sounding.”

“It's easy to get something you can play around with on the Minimoog,” Rowlands adds. “On ‘Surrender,'' we had it in the studio, and we hit upon a classic house bass sound; that led to writing the pattern for that song. It's an inspirational machine that makes you want to play it. Some instruments are not as inviting to play, but [with] that one, you just sit in front of it and mess around, and you'll find something and record it.”
The way it's worded makes it sound like he's talking about the Surrender track but it's really Got Glint that has that classic House bass sound.
Yeah- absolutely. The bass on the title track is very subdued but Got Glint? is a full on sound. I guess it had to be either Moog or Arp.

It was Chemical Beats (on the Wipeout soundtrack) that first got me into them- that's a STUNNING tune. Though big, big squelches. Love it!
Old 31st January 2019
  #18
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BTByrd's Avatar
As a long-time admirer of their timbres, if not always their music, I've found a few tricks that work well. There's the obvious overdrive and distortion, of which there are many flavors and magic boxes and plugins and whatnots. But for the real psychedelic freakout ****, audio-rate modulation of some sort is the key. Run samples through filters and then FM the filters with an oscillator, for example. The Sherman Filterbank's LFO range is gigantic, and goes well into the audio FM range.

But filters and distortion aside, there are effects like ring modulation, phasers, and frequency shifters that are all ways to go nuts. The MoogerFooger ringmod and phaser are great for such play, and both have nice preamp overdrive built in. Most phaser LFOs don't go very fast, but the one on the Fooger will really rip. If you combine that at high frequencies with heavy feedback, you can get all kinds of weirdo pseudo-FM/ringmod style sounds just coming from modulating the phaser.

The same thing is true of the Modcan Dual Frequency Shifter, which is kind of the ultimate freak machine in this regard. It's also apparently one of Tom Rowland's favorite modules. It's full stereo and does quality ring mod, phasing, and frequency shifting; it can really scream and get weird when you wiggle it. All these units have are copious voltage control opportunities... tempo-synced modulation of key parameters will get things moving with the beat. Use attenuators to control modulation depth. These basic patch ideas can be used on other similar effects units or modules, but I can personally vouch for the Sherman, Moog, and Modcan units.

Last edited by BTByrd; 31st January 2019 at 10:10 PM..
Old 31st January 2019
  #19
Gear Addict
 
ltjohnrambo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by boloid View Post
I have tickets to see them in San Francisco in May. Very stoked for that.

Here's their midi setup:
Matt Cox: MIDI Tech For The Chemical Brothers |
Debating whether to buy tix for the same show
Old 31st January 2019
  #20
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by ToyBox View Post
I think that's a Minimoog, from NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM interview (full of gear talk):
MOOG MINIMOOG
“The Minimoog conjures a period of time — early house music,” Simons says. “It's warm sounding.”

“It's easy to get something you can play around with on the Minimoog,” Rowlands adds. “On ‘Surrender,'' we had it in the studio, and we hit upon a classic house bass sound; that led to writing the pattern for that song. It's an inspirational machine that makes you want to play it. Some instruments are not as inviting to play, but [with] that one, you just sit in front of it and mess around, and you'll find something and record it.”
The way it's worded makes it sound like he's talking about the Surrender track but it's really Got Glint that has that classic House bass sound.
Ahhh, nice. Another reason to get a Boog :D

Like the donal I thought it was an ARP of some kind. I have read they used their 2600 a hell of a lot. It wouldn't surprise me if it's the 2600 doing those r2d2 like bleeps during the intro to Got Glint.

I hear a hell of a lot of Chems vibe in the Korg Odyssey plugin, but what I'm really curious about is their more out there effect sounds.
Old 31st January 2019
  #21
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ksp View Post
do not forget its probably being processed with £10,000 of outboard , the Synthi does do insane distortion , it has multiple areas where that can happen , the filter stage and the reverb stage both over drive as do the Osc sections though i was never sure if that was whats coming after them , the thing screams and you can expand on that by patching audio feedback loops into the matrix via various ways, thats why the Ems is so amazing as it has infinite colour and you can patch it up so that it can be feeding reverb back into filter and back into some other **** and you find these sweet spots of over drive where you start to find resonant oscillator tones with no Oscillators even switched in.Mad ****ing noise machine that one
Ah that sounds like heaven. The iVCS3 iPad app is fully endorsed by Peter Zinovieff, but it doesn't seem to model any of that saturation in each stage, so to me it isn't what I'd expect a synthi to be. Really do have to get a real one to get that sound.

Definitely can get some great screaming timbres out of the MS-20! Use my mini a lot and love it for that. I'm almost certain the MS-20 is behind the rising bassline in Electronic Battle Weapon 6 (you can hear it in full swing around 3 mins in). I can get pretty close to it with my mini, but theirs sounds a bit thicker. Probably that £10,000 of outboard sweetening the deal :D
Old 1st February 2019
  #22
Classic act although I dont tend to listen to their recent output...but they can get some seriously awesome sounds...I think they use a lot of modular synths and resample them adding FX...they are a great example of an artist who can properly use analogue gear to create really awesome sounds and excellent music...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthur Stone View Post
Very true; I have some of the later stuff on vinyl and it plays nicely. Definitely more pure acid to start:

...but a double vinyl album makes the later stuff more tweakable.
I think this is one of their best ever tracks - so ****ing dope...
Old 1st February 2019
  #23
Gear Nut
Ah well it looks like the interview posted by ToyBox answers half my questions:

Quote:
“The sound that starts ‘We Are the Night,'' that is a classic EMS. It's on all our records really, from the beginning. Even if we are not using the synthesis bit of it, we always use it to put sounds through. It has such a good filter, nice reverb. And on that track and other tracks, we always play the Fender Telecaster through it. Probably the sound of our records is an EMS and an Eventide Harmonizer.”
Old 1st February 2019
  #24
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 View Post
Classic act although I dont tend to listen to their recent output...but they can get some seriously awesome sounds...I think they use a lot of modular synths and resample them adding FX...they are a great example of an artist who can properly use analogue gear to create really awesome sounds and excellent music...



I think this is one of their best ever tracks - so ****ing dope...
I know for a fact that this is Juno 106 into a distortion pedal. I can get pretty much the exact same sound out of the 106 Roland Cloud VST going into one my my distortion pedals
Attached Files

106-chem-beats-moen.mp3 (1.74 MB, 1986 views)

Old 1st February 2019
  #25
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the donal's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mfc83 View Post
I know for a fact that this is Juno 106 into a distortion pedal. I can get pretty much the exact same sound out of the 106 Roland Cloud VST going into one my my distortion pedals
Bloody 'ell!
Old 1st February 2019
  #26
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by the donal View Post
Bloody 'ell!


Seconded! That’s bloody impressive!

What sort of patch setup is that? I’m hearing something maybe similar to Daft Punk’s Rollin’ and Scratching on the same synth?
Old 1st February 2019
  #27
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When I was djaying I would play stuff from Come With Us ( in 2002) and it killed. There are some gems from after big beat died.
Old 1st February 2019
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mfc83 View Post
I know for a fact that this is Juno 106 into a distortion pedal. I can get pretty much the exact same sound out of the 106 Roland Cloud VST going into one my my distortion pedals
YES!



is this filter cutoff tweaking with high resonance?
Old 1st February 2019
  #29
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 View Post
YES!



is this filter cutoff tweaking with high resonance?
Yep, exactly that. LFO driving cutoff at a relatively slow speed (~2Hz) and if I recall correctly it's just a plain saw as well. I'll screenshot the patch when I'm in front of the studio laptop again. The real magic happens in the distortion though. This was using a cheap Moen Blues Drive pedal. But I'd guess a ton of other overdrive pedals would do the trick.

It's crazy because other synths (SH-101 etc) just don't sound the same doing the exact same patch into the same pedal.
Old 1st February 2019
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mfc83 View Post
Yep, exactly that. LFO driving cutoff at a relatively slow speed (~2Hz) and if I recall correctly it's just a plain saw as well. I'll screenshot the patch when I'm in front of the studio laptop again. The real magic happens in the distortion though. This was using a cheap Moen Blues Drive pedal. But I'd guess a ton of other overdrive pedals would do the trick.

It's crazy because other synths (SH-101 etc) just don't sound the same doing the exact same patch into the same pedal.
cool...so you press a key to the rhythm and modulate the cutoff by hand, whilst it is also modulated by the LFO? Yes overdrive is a under-rated adjunct to analogue synths...
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