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The 40 greatest synth sounds of all time, No 14: Visage - Fade to Grey

Visage was formed by Midge Ure and Rusty Egan in 1978. Egan gigged as a DJ, spinning Bowie and Roxy Music discs, and wanted something original to play that would fit in with his sets.

The pair recruited vocalist Steve Strange, as well as ex-Magazine members Barry Adamson, John McGeoch, and Dave Formula. Billy Currie (Ultravox, Gary Numan), was brought in as well, who remembered an unfinished tune from Numan bandmate Chris Payne.

They’d decided to record their unfinished jam with fellow Numanite Cedric Sharpley as a sort of keepsake after a tour. Chris Payne had jammed out the song’s signature riff with a Minimoog supplying the bass sound, and the infamous Polymoog ‘Vox Humana’ preset for the pad.

As luck would have it, the Minimoog failed to turn up for the recording, so Payne recreated the bass pattern using a Polymoog brass patch. Check out our recreation, using the BazilleCM plugin, below.

Once it was turned over to Visage, Midge Ure composed the lyrics for Strange. The French passages were delivered by Egan’s girlfriend, Brigitte Arens.

Visage Synth Sounds

(Image credit: Future)

Step 1: We don’t need a synth as flexible as BazilleCM to recreate Chris Payne’s famous buzzsaw sound, but his Polymoog was probably overqualified, too! First switch off the delay, disconnect the cable from Osc 1 to Out 1, connecting Osc 1 instead to the Filter section’s top-left jack.

Visage Synth Sounds

(Image credit: Future)

Step 2: Connect Osc 2’s Output to the jack below the one in which we patched Osc 1. We’ll patch the Filter’s LP24 jack to an Out 1 jack. Next, find Osc 2’s PD Value knob (just above ‘Saw’) and crank it full. Use Osc 2’s Fine Tune knob (under ‘Modify’) and set it to 7. Set Osc 1’s Fine Tuning to -7.

Visage Synth Sounds

(Image credit: Future)

Step 3: That’s already close! However, Mr Payne has stated that he believes the original sound was a brass patch so connect Env 2’s 

Output up to the Filter’s lower-left jack. Turn the knob above that jack up to about 104. Bring the Cutoff down to 56. Set Env 2’s Attack slider to 15.

Visage Synth Sounds

(Image credit: Future)

Step 4: Set Env 2’s Decay to 25 and its Sustain to 82. Now, set the Release to 20. Go to Env 1, and crank up both Decay and Sustain. The Release should be 13. These shapes give our sound some hint of brassiness. Now it’s just a matter of minor tweaks, but be sure to experiment further!

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