I stumbled across this YouTube video of a Doepfer Dark Energy. Honestly I have never paid any attention to this instrument at all. What a doozie! Big, brash and sounds like Larry Fast (or a host of other Moog poking Prog soloers). I had to have one surely – come hither youngest daughter I need to sell you into sexual slavery. It won’t hurt a bit, honestly, and daddy will have a toy he sorely needs*.
Again hubbabe-dubbadie! Of course I soon discover that the Dark Energy was discontinued and been replaced with a Dark Energy II – Curtises seem to have a habit of leaving you hanging (eek for the second tasteless joke).
So seeing as I am not actually going to get one of these and I have committed myself to Propellerheads Reason then how would I go getting the now apparently less than almighty Thor to get even onto the same mountain as this god?
Well, one has to start somewhere so I launched a Thor and watched the video quite a few times. What I learned was that instead of using a Saw wave he was using a Pulse and modulating the Pulse Width. Oddly something that I have not done much of and never thought to do in emulating a Moog type sound. I always put the slight tubeiness down to clipping that turns any wave shape into a Square given enough drive.
I know that Dark Energy has only 1 Oscillator so to not be cheating off the bat I used 1 Analog Osc using a Pulse wave set to a Square shape. I then set LFO 1 to modulate PWM. I used a Sine wave on LFO 1 as that makes a bolder modulation. PWM is a bit of a balancing act as it sounds more pronounced on lower notes so easy to crank right up for high notes but then C1 sounds like a sick monster. The speed and depth also have a great effect on each other. Given a bit of learning a nice balance is found.
That Dark Energy is, in fact, noisy and spitting off all over the place which is not natural for Thor at all. However, he can get unruly if things are pushed. I set all OSC Mixer Levels to full to load the front of the Filter. I also routed sounds past Filter 1 (bypassed) to the Shaper for more Drive options, which in the end I didn’t keep but nice to have as they can change the timbre, into Filter 2. You could choose to simply use the Drive amount on the Filter plate.
Now sadly the filter models in Thor aren’t quite the same as those in Dark Energy so we aren’t going to get exactly that same sound so the aim is to get to into the same territory. The obvious choice is the Analog 24db. Because of all the noises Dark Energy is making I have chosen the 24 Type I because I know that one puts Drive after the filter instead of before (like Type II) so it is rather non-linear (or unruly). For a smoother sound just swap types.
Reason, in fact has several filter models in other units that are accessible with a bit of wiring up and Thor is happy enough to allow sending the OSC to an external unit and fly it back in via the Mod Matrix (try that with a workstation). I am experimenting with this a bit at the moment and results are generally nice. Anyway onward…
A fair amount of the feel of the leads in the video are in how they are performed with Filter setting changes so I just set somewhere in the middle and left it to the performance. Envelopes are allowable but as I wanted to capture that cool OSC + Filter Self-Oscillation “duet” thing I left things pretty well alone. Well, you will note I did some Filter Env programming including a little Velocity to Env Amount just for Analoginess at the fingertips.
Again the Dark Energy is really Loud and fills the space so I sent Thor to a Pulveriser with a bit of Squash (compression) and Dirt. I also left the Low Pass 24 Filter on and set the cutoff to 8kHz and a smidge of Resonance just to create a bit more dirty retro vibe in the sound.
Initially, I had the Delay line in Thor adding the space to the sound. Works just fine but putting a Delay into a Compressor doesn’t always get the best results so I used The Echo which has a few advantages in the Filter (EQ) and Wobble (tape type wander). Bit of that and Bob is indeed your Auntie.
In the final wash I haven’t exactly ruled out the advantages of the Dark Energy or a similar analog monster but I have brought Thor into the big fat ballpark, saving me a lot of coin, not to mention the hassle of waiting 30 mins for old DE to warm up and start playing in tune.
Here is the final Dark Energy Thor Combinator Patch for Reason for you to play with.
* thankfully I don’t have any children because to take this action would of course not only be supremely illegal but utterly deplorable. You get my point though.