What's That Noise? 5 Songs That Feature Unusual Technology


It's National Techies Day: ever been stopped in your tracks while listening to a tune and thought to yourself: What the hell's making that strange sound? Wonder no more.

1. Supergrass - Richard III 

What's that wobbly, high pitched sound that you hear whenever anything scary happens in a 1950s sci-fi movie? Why, that's the Theremin, invented by Léon Theremin in 1920 and an early electronic instrument that's actually playable without touching the two antenna that power its weird sound.

Its most famous appearance is on Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys, but we like its unexpected solo in this Supergrass song.

2. Editors - Papillon

By 1970, synthesisers were starting to catch on, but inventor Robert Moog (rhymes with vogue) found that while prog rock keyboard players loved his original Moog Modular synth, the huge piece of kit was a tad unwieldy to take on tour. The answer? The MiniMoog!

One of the first portable synthesisers, the MiniMoog still remains a favourite with musicians, particularly Editors, who used one to power most of their album In This Light And On This Evenings. It's very prominent on the single Papillon.

3. Radiohead - Pyramid Song

Frenchman Maurice Martenot was so impressed by the Theremin, that he decided to make his own, in 1928, title the Ondes Martenot.

The keyboard's eerie vibes were used to impressive effect by Jonny Greenwood on Pyramid Song, where it forms the an unsettling counterpoint to Thom Yorke's vocal.


4. A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray 

Gerald Simpson was one of the first "bedroom producers" to come out of Manchester and emulate the Chicago House scene. 

When the soulful sounds of House met the squiggly sequences of the Roland TB 303 bass machine, Acid was born.

5. Oasis - Wonderwall 

The Mellotron has a long and distinguished history in rock music. It was an early sampler that used tapes to re-create sounds and was used by The Beatles (the intro to Strawberry Fields Forever), The Rolling Stones, The Kinks… here's a demo:

 …all the way through to Noel Gallagher's solo LP and Oasis. The strings at the end of Wonderwall are pure Mellotron action.