For ages, a sound I've been trying to recreate is the bass line from Nine Inch Nails' hit "Closer" off of the album The Downward Spiral. Its combination of growling lows, subtle portamento, just the right amount of filter modulation, and what sounds like a tiny bit of chorus effect, always captivated me. It's engaging on a stand-alone sonic level, but also the perfect underpinning for the carnality expressed by the lyrics.
This seemingly simple sound has proven very evasive. I once asked Trent Reznor himself how he got it, and he replied that it would be difficult to recall exactly as he did it on a modular synth. Backstage at an NIN show, I asked keyboardist Alessandro Cortini if he was doing it live, an it turned out it was one of a tiny number of things for which they were using the audio track from the original recording.
When my Novation Peak synthesizer arrived for review (look for a full review in multi-part installments soon), I plugged it in, hooked up my Infinite Response Vax-77 MIDI controller, and did the music-store routine of "one hand on middle C and the other on the program dial." I hadn't thought about the "Closer" bass sound in ages, but then I came upon patch number 26 in the first bank: "Thick Polysaw." This is not a bass sound exclusively; as-is it has some wonderful comping abilities in the mid and upper registers. You could use it for big brass stabs on tunes like "Uptown Funk," for example.
But shift down a couple of octaves and you begin to realize that this patch can funk you like an animal.
In the YouTube comments, I had folks ask me for more details. Honestly, I didn't have to do much to the factory patch. I added some glide (portamento), with the knob at about ten o'clock. I brought the filter cutoff down a bit and the resonance up a bit, with the filter in 24dB-per-octave (a.k.a. four-pole) mode. I put just a tiny bit of chorus and reverb on in Peak's effects section. I suppose I could have shifted the whole thing into monophonic mode but I didn't bother.
The results are what you see in the following video. The key here is to hit that balance between cutoff and resonance: Too open a cutoff, and you get a "squirty" disco sound that has more in common with Parliament than NIN. And the resonance is really key to getting just the right amount of throaty growl.
But the point here is that very slight modifications to a factory patch got me, um, "Closer" to a difficult-to-duplicate sound from a record than anything I'd tried previously. That speaks to Novation Peak's sonic gravitas and flexibility, which I'm going to be raving about a great deal more very soon.