Perhaps the introduction and influence of the synthesizer is most eloquently described by Giorgio Moroder himself on Daft Punk’s homage to the disco master, Giorgio by Moroder. The track starts with an interview with Moroder where he shares a bite-sized history of his life as a musician, and recounting how the sequenced Moog synthesizer represented the “sound of the future”.
Robert Moog introduced one of the first modular voltage-controlled music synthesizers in 1964, which birthed “synthpop”, a subgenre of new wave music that grew rampant in the 1970s. In the decades since, electronic music continued its rise to fame to span across the aforementioned synthpop, down to EDM, and then to much of the pop music we hear today.
Today, we pay tribute to the pioneers of the modular synthesizers who created a new, different sound each time to keep us on our toes on the dancefloor.
Giorgio by Moroder – Daft Punk
From the Grammy Award winning album, Random Access Memories, the track Giorgio by Moroder starts off with the snippet of a Giorgio Moroder interview, before the Daft Punk pair take in the reins for a 9 minute electronic masterclass. From an easy-listening beat and enthralling synth line, to a groovy, goofy drum and guitar solo, with orchestral crashes peppered in between – there will not be a more fitting tribute to Moroder’s legacy.
Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode thrive on their knack of dictating your emotions with their choice of synths. Take a listen to Just Can’t Get Enough and its brightness radiates right from the off, with bouncing synths and electronic bass inviting you to the dancefloor. The band were constantly pushing ahead to develop their own sound – arguably one that never sat well with British critics, but nonetheless soared with worldwide fame and inspired techno producers to reinvent.
Blue Monday – New Order
“How does it feel?” You’d hear lead singer Bernard Sumner ask, amidst the contrast of heartbreaking lyrics and upbeat rhythm. Blue Monday’s rampant bass and rhythm programming has to go down as one of the best in synthpop folklore. Pushing and pulling its synthetic bassline against the beat brings an otherwise static rhythm to life, and when you further sprinkle cold lyrics and provocative drum fills over them, you get an instant classic.
Don’t Go – Yazoo
It was impossible choosing just the one Yazoo track – maybe all of us needed their best-of album 15 years after Yazoo’s split to really put their craft into perspective. All 11 tracks, all landmarks of pop songwriting, displayed the range and power of Alison Moyet’s enchanting voice. Don’t Go was no exception; a bona fide dance anthem from a duo that looked to have a gift of producing one after another.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – Eurythmics
Along with Yazoo’s Alison Moyet, Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox did well to give the synthpop genre a distinctly feminine voice. And on Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), Lennox blends the artificial and robotic elements of the synthesizers with the organic details of her soothing, soulful voice. The song remains a triumph of computer programming and a tremendous piece of 80s music with a delicious synth line proving impossible to replicate.
The Man Machine – Kraftwerk
Before any of the musicians mentioned above scored recognition for their brilliance on the synthesizers, there was Kraftwerk, undoubtedly the most influential electronica based band in history. When they first performed in Britain over 40 years, they were only greeted by a handful in the crowd, and an NME headline that boomed “This Is What Your Fathers Fought to Save You From”. Such was the failure of journalists from that time to have understood the need for Kraftwerk to be “different”, when it’s hard to imagine any pop music of today without the electronic influence.
Their signature use of use of vocoders, dreamy synths, and stuttering electronics creates an enigmatic detachment from a song’s typical arrangement. That is their brilliance – to marry the elements of human and robot to the point where it’s almost impossible to describe just what Kraftwerk are, and it is equally difficult to point a new Kraftwerk listener to a track that best summarises them.
The pleasure is in the prospect – the synthesizer lets you create and discover a sound. Head on down to Swee Lee’s flagship store at The Star Vista to have a go on our selection of modular synths and keys, and we’ll see just what you come up with!