Drexciyan Electro sound design

Hi all! I was wondering if anyone might have some sound design tips for some of the classic sounds you come across in electro acts(drexciya, djedjotronic, stuff from CPU records).

As far as specifics mostly thinking of things like juno pads/strings, 101/303 bass and lead slides, those odd “telephone ringing” sounds etc. I’ve already got the drums down but really struggling with the funky atmospheres.

And before the “sToP CoPyinG!!!” guy comes through just know this is mostly about trying to wrap my head around the sounds for my own productions.

I’ve had this machine for the better part of the year and I know it can do sooooo much but I’ve had a lot of trouble getting my foot in the door and given it’s age and the niche sound I’m going for I haven’t found as much documentation on this. I hope it’s not too much to ask and I greatly appreciate any help!


It all really depends on the kind of sounds you are trying to duplicate. Stinson and Donald used quite a few digital synths (Roland D-110, Kawai K1) the sounds of which are difficult to reproduce without sampling. For example, the sound at the start of Hydro Theory is based on one of the spectrum loops in the D-110. The only thing I can tell you is that you can get close with additive synthesis, but the actual sound relies also a lot on what the guys at Roland did to store the sound in the D-110 :slight_smile: The human voice ah sound that you can hear on some tracks is a preset sound of the K1, etc… You can find info about this on Gearspace for example.

Keep in mind also that they relied a lot on the Alpha Juno, the MKS-80 and the Pro-One. The Alpha Juno is simple but it has features that make it quite peculiar soundwise in my opinion. First, the oscs in the Alpha Juno can produce a saw ring modded by a a square wave one and three octaves higher. The same circuit is used to perform pulse width modulation on the saw. If you can do this kind of thing on the MnM (I do not have one), then you may get close to the Alpha Juno sound. It is quite easy to dial in many of the basses Drexciya played with this synth. The Juno chorus has a sound of its own. Finally, the sub osc is quite rich in terms of waveforms, with square waves at different pitches and with different widths.

The MKS 80 is a Jupiter 6 in a box if I am correct, with a boost in the bass department. Have a look at what a Jupiter 6 can do soundwise, and it will probably give you some ideas regarding sound design.

Finally there is the Pro-One. Modulation in this synth is quite wild (I remember reading someone, I think it was Urs Heckmann from U-He, stating that mods can cover a 12-octave (!) range for filter cutoff). Also, you can both sync and FM the oscillators. Again if you can achieve this on the Mnm that may help.

Of course, I cannot guarantee everything I have just said is 100% accurate, it comes mostly from my experience trying to do the same thing as you are trying to do. Go for it, I have learnt a lot myself doing this! Keep in mind also that Drexciya’s sound relies a lot on the fact that they would play the tracks live in the studio (at least part of them), giving them a rough edge, and that there is quite a bit of saturation and distortion going on too!


I really appreciate the in-depth reply! I’ll definitely do more research on the stuff you noted, thank you

The Roland D-05 is worth checking out for some of those digital textures as it has those interesting “spectrum” waves available as partials, plus the option to switch on and off the emulation of the original D/A converter (which makes a surprisingly big difference and can lend a lot of additional character to the sound).

Having said that… they’re discontinued and going up in price so a D-110 is probably a lot cheaper.

The Monomachine does nice VA mono stuff IMO, with the superwave engine, you can absolutely get 303/101-ish stuff. Pads, less so, they don’t really sound Juno-y. I think it would need a filter option with a shallower slope like the DN has.

FWIW I’m a big fan of Drexciya and one of the things I really like about their music is that they really came up with new sounds all the time. They were really inventive with what they synthesised and how they combined sounds. I think the main goal is just keep it raw. Use processing and make it leap out. They used a lot of drive, distortion and filtering.


I remember reading a post 10 years ago from someone very close to them and he said they were using KORG monopoly and Alpha Junos together with Akai MPC3000.

You can do the component parts of this on the MnM, but not in quite the same way or as easily. But importantly you can do some weird/interesting stuff in that ballpark. Just messing with a ring mod FX machine, where you can sequence the mod frequency independently, is really interesting. It’s a bit like having a ring modulator module in a modular system.

Could not agree more! I have an Alpha-Juno-on-steroids synth in Bitwig with the Grid, and it is a lot of fun.

If you want to push the enveloppe even more, check out eurorack oscs such as cwejman’s VCO-6 or intellijel’s Rubicon 2. I took inspiration from these oscs to add different pulse width modulation to the positive and negative parts of the ring-modding square wave. The synth growls then!

I had forgotten to mention the monopoly indeed. Having played with one quickly, the weird bit here is how the four oscs can interact with each other combined with the way you can arpeggiate them. For example, some notes will play on hard-sync oscs, while others won’t. This is also a signature sound in Drexciya’s tracks. I know this brand is not really popular in the music community now, but during Behringer’s presentation of their monopoly clone, you could hear such a sound. Check this for example:


Maybe check out Conforce’s sound packs for inspiration and patch deconstruction as well: https://gumroad.com/conforce

Now lets discuss how Arpanet’s Quantum Transposition was put together… listened again last week and it blew my mind like it did the first time.


Took a stab at it. Bass you can get pretty close with the swave saw

Lead arps the swave ensemble machine without using chords (just a shifting wave shape va synth) put a ring mod neighbor on that bad boy for more clink clanks under the arp.

Didn’t mess with any of those pad sounds they got into but I imagine just doing planes of minor or major 7 chords with the ensemble machine and heavy chorus and some filter modulation would be half the battle.

I was thiking harnessed the storm era stuff. :man_shrugging:t2:




Very nice! This sounds very much like Digital Tsunami indeed :slight_smile:

So good.

Yes, this album is a mystery to me. I love it, as I love Der Zyklus’ Biometry. These two sound somehow different in terms of design compared to both what came before and after. I always wondered whether Gerald Donald had tried to play with computer music software such as Max, Super Collider, etc. Both the sound and the sequencing suggest this use to me.

Some of the tracks sound like he had read some of Bill Sethares’s papers on adaptive tuning. Listen to this for example:

I might be completely off my mind, but I find resemblance. Donald’s interviews are always pointing to the relation between music and science, and I wonder how much of these claims transfer into actual sound in his music.

But yes, if anyone has knowledge on how Quantum Transposition and Biometry were done, that would be cool!

Lots of KORG Triton sounds in Der Zyklus.

I am not sure he has used computer software for sequencing.

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Yes, I do not know. Might as well be the Triton all along :slight_smile: I have no experience with it.

Actually discovered them few weeks ago…
Listening to Harnessed the storm ever since

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To go on with this sound design bit, @darenager made a Model-cycles only track in the Cycles music thread where the bass sound reminded me a lot of the sound on Species of the pod on Neptune’s Lair: Model:Cycles only music

so I guess we could state that they also resorted to FM, a statement that is helpful/not helpful :smiley:


For the telephone sound - you can use a saw/square wave oscillator with the pitch modulated by a square LFO - different LFO rates will get you different pitch intervals.

I found out that the U-HE Repro-1 has a wicked preset that sounds so characteristically ‘electro’ - it’s called Cybotron Bass I believe :slight_smile: maybe you could reverse engineer that and apply principles to the Monomachine? I had some success taking this approach using my Novation Peak.


Always keep in mind that it all needs to sound like the water level in video games, but with more adrenaline! :alien: