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—POSITIF SYNTH SCHOOL VOL.6: Re-creating Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express"


Re-creating: Kraftwerk’s “TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS”

This time we tried to recreate Kraftwerk’s super-classic “Trans Europe Express” from their album of the same name. Most of the stuff in this track comes from a Mellotron, so that’s the easy part (just fire up M-TRON or a similar Mellotron library and play some chords). But the “train” sound is particularly special on this track.

The main things you need are white noise and a flanger. But it’s in fact through zero style flanging that you hear on the track, not your run-of-the-mill regular flanging pedal. I’m not sure if this was made with tape, it’s tough to tell. Some people say Krafwerk used an Eventide Clockworks Instant Flanger (a rare 70’s rack device).


We dont have two tape decks nor the old Eventide rack, but we managed to get a similar sound via an Electro-Harmonix Flanger Hoax pedal, wich has a very similar working principle to the Eventide. If you dont have this kind of kit just search for a through zero flange plugin. Results will be similar, may be a bit more metallic sounding -not as sweet but cleaner-.


The synth used is an MS10, we patched white noise in to the filter and adjusted the filter+vca envelope for a short attack, and short decay/release kind of sound, so its sort of percussive. Then we just put it in to the flanger and rocked the knobs for some variety.

The original also has a bit of tape delay thrown there so if you want to make it more authentic add echo to taste -we didn’t-.

Hope you like it!


Simian Mobile Disco’s “ARE YOU IN THE PICTURE” on an Oberheim SEM


If you have heard Simian Mobile Disco’s track “Are you in the picture” from the “Extra Temporary EP” you might have noticed some synthetic liquid drops at the end of the track (5:40 or so).

I recently got myself a new TomOberheim SEM, and this sound seemed like a good candidate to push the limits of the synth.

To get this liquid drop sound you have to:
0 - Send CV to VCO1 and gate to ENV2 GATE
1 - Hard sync VCO2 to VCO1.
2 - Tune VCO2 to it’s lowest possible pitch and VCO1 to it’s highest pitch.
3 - Modulate VCO2’s pulse wave (PWM set to 90%) with ENV2 (settings : Fastest attack & decay. Mid sustain). (ENV2 should also affect VCA, so make sure vca switch i NOT on “EXT” -aka:open- setting)
4 - Send VCO2’s pwmed wave to the filter (vco1 should be muted)
5 - Set filter to BANDPASS. Frequency at max and cutoff close to max.
6 - Send ENV1 out (Fastest attack. Medium decay & sustain) to filter modulation EXT MOD IN. Set filter mod to EXT and set it on inverted (aka minus/negative) setting.

7: ENJOY! Now you can play with filter freq, env1’s decay and the filter modulation controls to create variations on the sound. Also a little reverb can do wonders (I used ableton’s stock plug, nothing fancy).


Radiohead’s “NATIONAL ANTHEM” on a Doepfer R2M ribbon controller.

Positif Synth School is back! Today we’re gonna re-create a sound in one of the best engineered albums of all time: KID A.

In the live and album versions of the “national anthem” there’s a very nice theremin-like sound (see 1:33 in this video). The way mr Greenwood achieves it is by using an $3200 Analogue Systems “French connection” controller like this one wich then controlls another really expensive -could be worth another $2K or $3k- modular system.

The bad news: we don’t have $6k to spend on this sound.

The good news: we don’t need $6k. Enter the doepfer R2M!

We’ll be using this thing wich is about $350 quid new (NICE!). You could also make your own ribbon controller for a LOT less with a ribbon strip and some electronics knowledge.

The R2M converts your finger movements over a ribbon strip into CV voltage control and MIDI CC signals. This way you can get a smooth pitch transition similar to a theremin, but MUCH easier to control.

These CV messages go into a synth with an EXTREMELY simple patch. It’s a pulse waveform VCO, into a filter with medium cutoff ,medium resonance, into an VCA with slow attack on it’s ADSR. I achieved it with an SH-101. I then applied a little bit of delay via a BBD pedal (MXR carbon copy) and voilá: instant $6K RADIOHEAD SOUND for a lot less!

For educational purposes we’ve now decided to make patch diagrams, in order to make our explanations easier to understand.

The modules are scanned from Roland’s “Practical Synthesis for Electronic Music”, a promotional 70’s vintage book on modular synthesis that uses the company’s old SYSTEM 100M for examples. We thought it gave the section a nice touch!

(To correctly view the image above at the original size you have to press “right click + view image”)


—POSITIF SYNTH SCHOOL VOL.3: Simulating vinyl scratches on a FutureRetro XS analog synthesizer.


Simulating vinyl scratches on a Future Retro XS analog synthesizer.

This is a special Synth School class, because it’s not about a particular song, but a homage to the art of scratching: from Grand Master Flash to Qbert.


So, how is it made?:
Well it’s a very simple patch believe it ir not!, pulse width modulated VCO (sync’d to another vco, wich wont sound at all), medium-high resonance, low cutoff and an ADSR routed to VCO pitch. Make sure attack is not too low, and set a high decay, and pretty much zero sustain and release.

Playing with the adsr will give you longer or shorter scratches.



Breakwater’s “Release The Beast” -or DAFT PUNK’s “ROBOT ROCK”- on an 1978 Octave Cat SRM.

The second “Positif Synth School” chapter is HERE!

This second volume keeps it on the funky side, it explains the synthesis theory behind Breakwater’s “Release The Beast” synth lead sound -also sampled by Daft Punk on “Robot Rock”-. We’ve recreated it once again on our beloved Octave Cat.

It’s pretty obvious that the patch is a classic VCO sync. sound, but it has more to it to make it perfect. Both vco’s should have pulse waves selected. First route the adsr to the filter AND VCO 1, then put the resonance a bit on the high side, and set the envelope for fast attack (but not zero) and no release. VCA should have a gate type of envelope (zero attack, zero release). The important thing here is tweaking the adsr and percentage of modulation going to vco and vcf.

Last, but not least, send a bit of LFO frequency modulation to VCO 2. If you have an “LFO delay” slider like on my Cat, you can make the modulation take action slowly, just like on the original. If you don’t, like on most Moogs for example, just make use of the modulation wheel and call it a day :O).

Add a li’l bit of tape echo and the “french touch” is done!

Bon appetit!!


Daft Punk’s “Human After All” on an Octave Cat SRM vintage synthesizer.

This is the first of a bunch of synth “how to’s” recreating famous sounds with our gear, we’re gonna call it “POSITIF SYNTH SCHOOL”!

First on this series is the main “ay” or “yeah” synth sound on Daft Punk’s “Human after all” track. We recreated it on an Octave Cat synth from 1977-79 approx.

This baby is capable of so much crazy stuff!

The “Daft Patch” is made cross modulating one or both vcos (vco 1 to vco 2 and/ or viceversa) while they’re sync’d, plus putting the filter on the verge of self oscillation while it’s being modulated by one vco (filter FM). The “ay and “ya” vocal sounds are made manually tweaking the PWM (pulse width modulation) knob of the square wave. Moving the filter frequency knob also yields interesting “vocal” results.

There’s no need to have an Octave Cat though. If you have a synth with similar characteristics (cross modulation, sync, self oscillating filter with fm, and pwm on one oscillator) you might be able to achieve similar results.

You had the pleasure to see Florian’s (Zombie Nation) studio a few days ago.

Well, this is what he achieves with the gear: here’s some extremely fresh stuff from his project with Tiga Sontag: ZZT.

Best single of the season by far. Justice should start listening to some Turbo releases before it’s too late.



Ahead of their time. That’s the most accurate thing you could say about these guys. Not only were they the belgian equivalents of Kraftwerk, but they were the ones that gave electronic music less of that cold “German” touch, aswell as ironicly smart lyrics that even James Murphy would’ve killed to sign. And all within a elegant mixture of french and english.

Here you can see & hear one of the masterpieces of Moulin, Lacksman & Moers: MOSCOW DISCOW

Marc Moulin

This guy was GOOD. Marc Moulin was a belgian keyboardist that pioneered the mix of jazz and electricity, aswell as electronic music. After leading Placebo -no, not “THAT” Placebo-, one of the coolest Electro-Jazz Bands in the 70’s,  he formed the best “Belgie” electronic act ever: TELEX.

(ok, maybe Soulwax should hold that candle with them-)

In this video you can see him playing his trusty Wurlitzer electric piano, and doing a pretty good job at it, if you ask me.

Sounds TOO OLD TO BE NEW, doesn’t it?

This Tyson won’t bite your ears. Instead… he’ll blow the hell out of them!

Tyson - Die On The Dancefloor