Every so often a guitar or bass sound can be so stand out that it grabs your attention immediately upon hearing the recording. Whether it be the guitar solo from “Hotel California”, or the bass tone on Tool’s “Schism”, it immediately sets itself apart from other bands doing similar things.
In just the last era of music though, we now can be impressed by a whole new array of musical instruments, so here’s my top 8 array of unique and bold synthesizers that grab my attention every time I listen (in no specific order).
Each song has a video included. I thought hard about whether I would only include the synth part, or whether I would play the whole song. I decided upon the whole song so that you might be able to hear these synth lines in the context of the track.
The screeching bass synth that defines “Come to Daddy” also defines Aphex Twin for me. I was late to the game when it comes to the Aphex Twin situation, and my first real introduction to them was a cover of “Come to Daddy” that the Dillinger escape plan did with Mike Patton.
The original is definitely better in a variety of ways, and the biggest way is that bass synth. CTD could really go nowhere in the whole song as long as this line was still playing, and it would be quite alright.
The video for the track describes the sound in it’s entirety, complete with little girls who have Richard D James face superimposed on their faces (his trademark move) and a disturbing monster creation having a temper tantrum on an old lady.
Not to be missed.
You’ll have to wait until 1:15 until the song actually starts.
The dark triplet synth blends in Affection help to showcase Crystal Castles’ unique punk-electronic sound. It’s both soothing and disconcerting, but all loveable.
Alice Glass’s vocals are always a perfect compliment to Crystal Castles’ sound; she’s a shadow in the background of the mix, yet at the forefront of your mind. Combine that with the slow-release synth stabs in Affection, and it’s not a forgettable track.
Giorgio starts off with a minute long monologue by the 70’s italian music icon of a similar name (Giovanni Giorgio Moroder). He recounts stories of the difficulties of doing music in his youth, and then moves off with one of the more powerful arpeggiated riffs that I've ever heard.
This continues throughout most of the song, and just bleeds strength and musical maturity, although that’s probably to be expected from a guy who worked with Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.
The main synth that Kavinsky uses is certainly not limited to this song. He’s an artist who has a very particular sound, and decided to explore it very deeply (rather than quickly moving on to another style).
Whether or not Kavinsky is a one trick pony, we’ll only find out as he makes more releases. What we do know at the moment, is that the dirty & fiery synthesizer seen throughout his work is as nostalgic as his album covers.
It’s iconically known for being something you should drive 100mph at night. There’s probably a reason that his most famous song is called “Nightcall”, and was part of the "Drive" movie soundtrack (for which Kavinsky was hired to write).
Machine gun has minimalism written all over it, and without the right mindset you might find yourself skipping over it entirely if you were to turn it on in the midst of your regular listening.
This is a song best listened to with headphones, or a loud encapsulating stereo.
Starting with the synth created drums, Machine Gun already has some iconic sounds playing throughout it’s entirety. Things really heat up though when the solo synth comes in at 4:01, which takes up the final 30 seconds of the song.
Upon first hearing it, it grabbed me, and like Godspeed You Black Emperor! says, I “ fell into it, like a daydream of a fever”.
The drum beat was also ripped off by The Weeknd in “Belong to the world”. It works well in that song (it’s sped up, but it’s very clearly the same beat), but they were denied permission in using it. That's been a bit of controversy (as you'll see if you visit the YouTube comments section of this song).
As a quick warning, I found the music video below somewhat disturbing, but it goes along with it well. It includes scenes from an ultra-mechanical underground horror movie from the 80’s called “Tetsuo: The Iron Man”.
At 3:35 of Surgeon, from the damp jazz features out comes a squealing electro synth reminiscent of a distorted guitar. Only once you start hearing the warbling of a mod wheel do you realize that it couldn’t be a guitar that’s playing, but instead a wild keyboard player.
Out of an album (Strange Mercy) that offers some of the most rich and soothing guitar, vocal, and synth parts, it’s not lacking in intensity and boldness. The synth solo featured on Surgeon is a testament to St. Vincent’s maturity as a musician.
On what I would consider Outkast’s most commercially successful album, there are a ton of hits. If you’ve ever heard Heya!, or Roses, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Apart from the singles though, there are a ton of more “underground” hits. Songs like Spread, Love Hater, and Prototype are all tracks that I consider big hits.
Another great track is Dracula’s Wedding, that consists of Andre 3000 talking about how he’s afraid of love. He compares himself to Dracula, and how even though Dracula has tricked “millions” with his illusions, he’s still “terrified” of a woman who could break his heart.
It's the type of track that grows on you though, so don't necessarily expect to fall in love with it immediately.
The entire song has just the most wonderful funk-driven synth line, which turns into a pinching monosynth solo line at 1:17-1:26 and 1:44-1:54.
Take a listen:
The entire Sufjan Stevens album, Age of Adz, is full of some of the most free-spirited electronic parts that I would daresay even exist in an album to date. I know that’s a bold claim to make, but I hope you won’t mistake it for hyperbole; it really is that prolific.
When I started writing this article, I knew I needed to include a song from this album, but upon careful review, I can’t fully decide that any particular synth part really overtakes any other in a profound way. What I did find though, is that ingesting this entire album is what’s necessary.
It’s a rich jazz-jam driven album that includes pop songs, electronic folk chants, and wild guitar solos. Most of the textures and many of the drums are driven by complex layered synth parts, and if you don’t already know why this album is on the list, then I implore you to listen to it a dozen times or so.
“Only when one listens to Age of Adz 12 times can he understand the meaning of life” - Tonto
My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.
If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.
Among my friends, it's a "Muller Classic Move" to eat Mcdonald's at 2am because it's cheap and open 24/7. The joke here is that I'm an idiot.
I play drums, guitar, piano, and I write & perform music for My Goal Is Telepathy. Take a listen to the latest sound here.