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The 40 greatest synth sounds of all time, No 18: Talk Talk - It's My Life

Released in 1984, the title cut from Talk Talk’s second LP wasn’t a big hit… initially. Though it reached the Top 40 in the US, it stalled at number 46 in the UK.

A subsequent re-release fared even worse, barely entering the Top 100. However, after being re-reissued alongside an anthology LP in 1990, it reached number 13, the best the band ever managed at home.

A sublime slab of new wave, It’s My Life features a series of unusual sonic effects over chiming guitars, and shimmering pads over a throbbing bassline, all in service to Mark Hollis’ Roy Orbison-meets-Bryan Ferry vocals. 

Buoyed by the success of their new wave and synthpop records, Talk Talk would eventually shift toward a more experimental, arty sound, exemplified by their critically-lauded and influential fourth LP, Spirit of Eden.

It’s My Life would once again enter the charts (and win a Grammy) when covered by American group No Doubt, as sung by Gwen Stefani.

Talk Talk Synth Sound

(Image credit: Future)

Step 1: It’s the chiming Jupiter-8 pad in the chorus that stands out. We can create a similar sound with Dune CM, starting with an Init Patch. Choose square waves for all three oscillators. Set Osc 1’s Semi to +24, and Osc 2’s to +36. Set Osc 1’s Fine to -20 and Osc 2’s to 20. Osc Mix should be 48%.

Talk Talk Synth Sound

(Image credit: Future)

Step 2: Set the Osc 1’s Fat knob to 14% and Osc 2’s to 30%. Bring Osc 3 up to 64%. Set the Filter’s Cutoff to 55%, and Reso to 17%. Env should be 40% and Key Track 60%. Change the Filter mode to LP Ladder 24dB. Our sound is rich but static. We need to shape it.

Talk Talk Synth Sound

(Image credit: Future)

Step 3: In the amp envelope, the Decay should be 66%, and the Sustain 59%. The Release should be 62%. On the filter envelope, Decay should be set to 69% and Sustain to 63%. The Release will need to be lengthy, so set it to around 62%. This gives us the sort of bell-like fade out.

Talk Talk Synth Sound

(Image credit: Future)

Step 4: Sounds good but it’s missing that most 80s element, the reverb! Use Acon Digital CM Verb and its Medium chamber program. We’ll nudge the Dry level down and increase Reverb time for a lovely, thick pad. We’ve been heavy-handed with the ‘verb. Tweak yours as you like.

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