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The 40 greatest synth sounds of all time, No 32: Underworld - Born Slippy

Originally a B-side to a markedly different instrumental track of the same name, Top UK dance act Underworld’s Born Slippy (NUXX Mix) shot to prominence in 1995 as part of the soundtrack for cult British film Trainspotting, and helped the band become one of the biggest acts of that decade.

Year: 1995
Original Synth:
Possibly Waldorf Microwave
CM Plugin:
ThornCM, HY-FX CM

Combining lush pads, stomping techno-inspired 909 drums and a distorted, almost nonsensical one-take vocal by Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde (struggling with alcoholism at the time), Born Slippy was called the “heartbeat” of Trainspotting by director Danny Boyle and is undoubtedly one of the most iconic dance records of the '90s.

The 18 best synthesizers: top keyboards, modules and semi-modular synths

While there’s no clear info about which synth made the trademark delay-soaked main riff, the Waldorf Microwave resident in Underworld’s studio seems a likely culprit. 

Let’s make our own version using ThornCM, plus processing from other plugin favourites, all included free with every issue of Computer Music.

Born Slippy synth sound

(Image credit: Future)

Step 1: Start by setting both Osc 1 and 2 to a sawtooth wave, for plenty of harmonics. Next, set Osc 2’s Detuning to 30 to make the sound richer still. Mix in some white noise; turn on the Noise Generator, and adjust the Volume to 50% so the noise doesn’t dominate the sound entirely.

Born Slippy synth sound

(Image credit: Future)

Step 2: Use ThornCM’s filter to make the sound more recognisable. Select the CleanLP filter, and set the Cutoff and Res to their lowest. Push the Env 1 Amount to 100%, so that the filter’s cutoff and res are modulated entirely by the envelope. Increase the filter’s Drive to 9dB to add extra gain.

Born Slippy synth sound

(Image credit: Future)

Step 3: Use the amp and filter envelopes to tighten dynamics, while opening and closing the filter. Set both envs to fast Attack, with Decay at 50% and Sustain at 40%. Set the Amp Env’s Release to 50%, with the Filter Env’s at 60%, for a resonant tail as the filter is modulated.

Born Slippy synth sound

(Image credit: Future)

Step 4: A big part of the track is the delay between each note, so enable ThornCM’s Delay module, then set the Delay Time for both left and right to 1/8th dotted notes. Pushing the Mix up to 50% gives us what we want. Then add HY-FX CM onto the synth channel, and select Chorus.

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