LCD Soundsystem is a band led by vocalist, songwriter, instrumentalist, and engineer James Murphy. The band’s music is varied and made interesting by the use of many synthesizers ranging from cheap to some of the rarest ones found. So what synths do LCD Soundsystem use?
Here’s what they use the most:
LCD Soundsystem uses the EMS Synthi A extensively along with synthesizers such as the EMS VCS3 Putney, Korg Poly Ensemble, Moog Rogue, Yamaha CS 60, Casio MT 400V, Roland SH 101, System 100m, Korg Ms 20, Trident, ARP Odyssey, and Omi III.
But the list of synths that Murphy and the band uses is quite long.
The band’s key synthesizer player Nancy Whang has often been seen using Casio MT 400 V, Moog Rogue, and other analog sequencers.
Let us take a look at a few of LCD’s favorite and most used synths.
EMS VCS 3 Putney
James began working with EMS on the recommendation of Tim Goldsworthy (he talked about it in an interview with Synth History magazine).
EMS VCS 3 has an intuitive interface that makes it easier to create core musical elements and melodies. Additionally, the synth’s Q hi/lo tilt is critical to sounds which offer limitless potential making the synth more potent than any other hardware.
The band used EMS VCS 3 for their “This Is Happening” album. Matthew Cash handled the synth duty for songs: All I Want, You Wanted a Hit, Somebody’s Calling Me, and Home.
“The swooping chords in the LCD song ‘Someone Great’ are the EMS.
The ability to flux the notes into freeform chaos during the transitions and then snap them into the next chord was only possible with the EMS.” James Murphy.
Roland SH 101
James mentioned in the documentary: Shut Up and Play the hits that he loves working with Roland SH 101.
The synth allows creating soft and lush sounds with a wide variety of gentle harmonies. One of the band members recently discovered a way to control all synth parameters in great detail.
Roland SH 101 has been part of the album “American Dream” and can be heard in tracks: Oh baby, How do you sleep, American Dream and I can change in the next “This is happening” album.
Not only studios, but LCD Soundsystem also use the synth in their live setups as well.
Juan Maclean told Vice magazine that the band uses Roland SH 101 for “bass and lead sounds with CV, gate, and clock inputs.”
Casio MT 400V
The band is particularly fond of Casio MT 400V: observed a fan.
The singer used Casio MT 400V in his allegedly last 2010 album, “This Is Happening,” for the track Home. One can identify the synth almost as soon as the song begins.
Additionally, the group let the audience take a peek at all their equipment in the making video of the This Is Happening album.
Put two pedals (one new, one I haven’t really used since getting) in front of my microkorg and it feels like I have a whole new synth now pic.twitter.com/hOcYveP4tI
— Goth George Michael (@fallxchild) June 16, 2021
The band has been using the outlier Korg microKORG at almost every concert for programming tunes to recreate them and often experiment.
James describes Korg as the one instrument that he can use to produce nearly any sound out of it on the grip of powerful vintage synths in the studio then copy them live.
He has used it in tracks like: I can change, Somebody’s calling me, and You wanted a hit.
Murphy said in an interview given to Synth History: I’ve never generated a sound on Korg that I don’t like. I wish there were a 16 voice version of it.”
Yamaha CS 60
This particular synth has been a staple with early DFA records.
Murphy uses this synth prominently. The track ‘Get Innocuous’ of Sounds of Silver starts with the beat lent by Yamaha CS 60.
This is not a new addition to the band’s toolkit, but the band got it customized by Rayna Russom to take audio in the back and turn it into usable voltages.
Yamaha CS 60 has also been part of tracks like: One touch, I can change, and You wanted a hit.
— lcdsoundsystem (@lcdsoundsystem) April 8, 2016
What’s the difference between the recording process and playing live for LCD Soundsystem?
The significant difference between an LCD Soundsystem recording session in a studio and playing live is that the studio is more about continually trying new things until the right sound is created, whereas live performance is more about a conversation with the audience.
The music engineer believes there is an enormous difference between working in a studio and playing the songs live.
He responded to a Q&A with Gregory Crewdson where he mentions that recording in a studio involves going back and forth to synths while re-inventing tunes.
In contrast, live concerts are more about playing an album as a final product. Live concerts stress more on accomplishing the right emotions even if they are faulty.
Still, the studio allows the elimination of these errors through different equipment and consistently improves the faults.
— Metrum Entertainment (@MetrumEnt) August 10, 2020
What other gear does LCD Soundsystem use?
LCD Soundsystem also uses the ARP Omni II and other synthesizers like Oberheim SEM, Moog Voyager, Simmons SDS V in addition to acoustic drums from Gretsch and classic vintage microphones for the vocals.
Murphy is a strict no-no on sticking to any one particular gear.
He likes to “lose some gear and gain some gear each year,” he told synthhistory.com. He is fond of piano and keyboards.
Working on a particular synthesizer often bounds the musicians in their experiments with new tunes.
So, LCD Soundsystem recently welcomed new synths in their tool kit. However, some of the synthesizers remain constant.
Some of their widely used gear are mentioned below:
Powertran Polysynth: LCD used this synth on their last 2010 LP. It’s a 4 OSC synth with a simple interface and independent oscillator controls.
Keyboards: James Murphy’s gear and equipment also include the highly prized Baldwin Fun machine organ used in Sound of Silver for the track ‘Us V. Them.
Microphone: Classic, vintage, and rare microphones are almost emblematic of LCD’s style. The band vocalist uses a range of microphones: Manley reference cardioid, Sennheiser MD 409, Beyerdynamic M160, and M201, Coles 4033, Electro Voice RE2000, and an RCA BK5 to nail the aesthetics.
Gretsch Drums: The band had 1957 Gretsch drums in its studio kit when they started.
James talks about his Gretsch gear to mixdownmag.com, where he mentioned, “There’s just no way to tune them or mic them to make them sound bad, which makes drum recording much easier.”
— Tsugi Radio (@tsugiradio) June 14, 2021
What are some LCD Soundsystem recording techniques?
LCD Soundsystem has stated multiple times that “experimenting” is the band’s most valuable technique in the entire process of recording music.
Murphy recently spoke about his wishless projects in a Q&A session with Gregory Crewdson.
He mentions, during the global pandemic, he was quarantined with his friend.
During their stay together, both wondered what project to take up next. In the process, they went ahead and came across Murphy’s never-released digital audiotapes.
Most of these DATs were experiments with techniques based on synthesizers. James started experimenting again with these tapes, and he called the process a fun way to go about making music again.
He further explained how experimenting allowed him to learn that he “didn’t want success, but he has always yearned for communication.”
The band has been recreating dance-punk music built on a strong foundation of long adventurous dance tracks that remind people of the 70s.
This fantastic percussion created the beats of 70’s and 80’s music. It leaves out very nostalgic songs, motivational and believable vocals.
With his music, Murphy brings eccentric lyrics with the help of synthesizers such as Roland SH 101, Casio MT 400V, Korg microKORG, etc.
The songs and lyrics come as a surprise to the audience because there is no specificity to synthesizers or methods that LCD Soundsystem follow.
Each album brings subtle sounds, which are experiments that come from the band’s experience of having worked around music all their lives.
Frontman James started producing his music because he felt that most artists didn’t delve into deeper sections of human connections.
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