Words by: Natalie /

The 10 best synthesisers, according to LV

Spending the best past of the last decade releasing material across esteemed labels such as Hyperdub, Keysound, Soul Jazz and 2nd Drop amongst others; LV return with 'Ancient Mechanisms on experimental hothouse, Brownswood Recordings. Over two years in the making, it put the duo back on our radar in a big way. We hosted a premiere of LV's enigmatic and infectious Transition alongside the album announcement last month, which set a precedent for what's to come. In whole a certified crowd mover, the steadfast duo haven't shied away from experimenting with various sounds on the album, employing the talents of virtuoso pianist Tigran Hamasyan to marry circling keys with stabbing bass, with time spared for jazz-licked interludes. We won't give too much away but a bit like a tube of Pringles, once ya pop that 'Ancient Mechanisms' flavour ya won't stop.

Working with pianist Tigran Hamasyan, keys play a crucial part in the album's make-up, cosying up perfectly with LV's desire for a bit of synth-action. Whether you borrow, buy, or beg (and maybe steal); here's a rundown of LV's all-time favourite synthesisers. Some have the charm of being made in a garage, some have their own suitcase (that can also be used to carry slacks, if you so desire), and some are the musical equivalent of basla wood. Some even share the same howl as a wounded ostrich.

In the words of LV: "I’m not ranking these since they all have their time and place when they are the perfect instrument. What’s important is having a good range of sound machines and, since they’re nearly all very pricey, it’s key to know lots of people who will let you borrow or steal them."

01. Korg MS-10

LV: "10 thousand years ago, before the release of the MS-20 Mini, Jack Untold brought a Korg MS-10 round to the studio while we were writing Beacon. He left it with us and it became a solid fixture in a lot of our music (it’s all over 'Routes'). To be honest, at the time we had no idea what we were doing with it and it took ages before we worked out how to turn the white noise off, but it was a great intro to the power of analogue mono synths. Then Jack asked for it back and we haven’t spoken since. Fuck that guy."

02. Roland SH-101

LV: "Speaking of synths we’ve loved and lost, Charlie Dark left a Roland SH-101 with us for a couple of years. And Charlie, for the record it was like that when we found it. We loved this synth but it was absolutely completely impossible to get it in tune with anything else in the world. Which is sort of charming but also quite annoying. We used to play it through autotune which led to some weird noises, some of which were cool."

03. Korg Mono/Poly

LV: "While we’re on the subject of synths that we haven’t owned, we had a lot of fun playing with a Korg Mono/Poly while waiting for LITERALLY HOURS for a major label vocalist to turn up to her own very expensive day rate recording session. We passed the LITERALLY HOURS that we had to wait by digging out their old synths and trying to break them. We recorded quite a long ‘performance’ by both of us mangling the Mono/Poly, then we took the recording away and peppered it across our 'Sebenza' album. So, time not actually wasted. Unless you hate that album, in which case why are you even reading this?"

04. Roland Juno 106

LV: "So the only remaining synth on my list that we no longer see everyday is Okzharp’s Roland Juno 106 which has moved in with him in round the corner and which we have every legal right to visit every other weekend. Sometimes we go to the park with it and have an awkward chat while the 106 feeds the ducks or whatever lives in that pond. Purists prefer the Juno 60 but it hasn’t got midi so you actually have to play it and who has time for that these days? Which brings us neatly up to ‘these days’. These days what we have (and like!) is a pretty small pool of boxes…"

05. MFB Microzwerg / Nanozwerg


LV: "…two of which are made by MFB who don’t seem to get much hype which is weird as the ‘B’ stands for Berlin and obviously Berlin is the centre of the world. They have the vibe of having been made in a garage but ooze charm and unpredictability, two of the best characteristics a synth can have. They are all over our last three albums – we have a Microzwerg and a Nanozwerg which are different but also quite similar. Look em up if you’re interested. I really want the new one they’ve made with a keyboard called the Dominion but it’s quite expensive and, amazingly, Dummy aren’t paying me for these pearls of wisdom. Hey ho." 

06. Moog Minitaur

LV: "Moving swiftly on to another small box with a key role in the studio, Moog’s Minitaur does pretty much one thing but it does it well. If, like us, you can only afford two octaves of a Moog then it makes sense to opt for the bass end, which is what this one does. Not much to add. It’s got a filter and apparently sounds ‘creamy’ although to be honest I’ve never understood how that applies to electronically produced sounds but what do I know? One thing I do know is that sometimes just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s shit."

07. Korg Volca Keys

LV: "Enter the Korg Volca Keys. Which, to be fair, is made of whatever the plastic equivalent of balsa wood is, and does seem to have developed a pretty significant hum. But it does a really entertaining reese bass and is also capable of playing three different notes simultaneously which is pretty jazzy."

08. Yamaha CP-25

LV: "Speaking of jazzy, we’ve got this weird sort of electric piano called a Yamaha CP-25. It’s pretty much a rudimentary analogue synth with some pretty baffling controls and no filter. The only tune I can think of that we’ve used it for is a tune called Primus Stove on 'Sebenza', so go seek that out and listen carefully for some shonky noises. While it may lack in the phonics department, it more than makes up for it by being an excellent table. It’s our only synth with legs and 70’s wood veneer so it makes the list, despite being on its side in a corner of the studio 'cos we don’t have the space for it. One day though it’s gonna make a big comeback, if only as a table. So we’re int the final two synths, can you feel the excitement?"

09. Korg Delta

LV: "If you can’t then you’re dead inside, much like our undead synth the Korg Delta. It has a string section and a synth section. The string section is rock solid, the synth section vacillates between purring like a kitten, howling like a wounded ostrich and making no noise at all, like a dead synth. If anyone knows how to fix this get in touch. You’ll also need to stick the little joystick back together since Si kicked it to bits the other day [Note from Si – It’s my synth and I’ll do what I want to it, even if that is inadvertently breaking the joystick-sheath, thank you very much]."

10. Arp Odyssey

LV: "And so here we are, at the last one which is, by coincidence, the last to be added to the studio. The Arp Odyssey release is awesome and beautiful and even comes with its own suitcase which I plan on using for my slacks next time I go away for the weekend. It’s my favourite synth at the moment since it still has its new synth smell. Also 'cos it sounds amazing and is ridiculously fun to play with, it’s going to be a big part of our new live show. "

LV's album 'Ancient Mechanisms' is out on October 9th via Brownswood Recordings (pre-order).

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