In these trying times… well, we definitely need to hear rare 80s synths with some friendly, fuzzy VHS deck warble, right? Wish granted!
This saga starts with SampleScience’s Vaporwaves, which was a grab-bag rompler/multi-sampled instrument full of 80s sounds – FM mallets, glass pianos, Rhodes, onboard VHS effects. And yes, of course it also came with a triangle and a classical statue and some pink and purple vaporwave graphics.
But Vaporwaves 2 is really more than a sequel. This entire multi-sampled instrument focuses on one fairly obscure 80s FM synth. (I actually now know what it is, because I bugged Pierre until he told me. But I’m sworn to secrecy.)
$30, Mac + Windows.
There are 45 FM sounds recorded into there, with a full 1.04GB of sound. And whereas this could have just been a sample player with an amplitude envelope, call it a day, there’s more. So you get a preamp processor, multiple voice modes, multiple filter modes, and an LFO with both configurable target and source.
I’ve been playing around with it, and it’s really beautiful. So in addition to being able to get wonderfully retro sounds, I already can imagine it being bent into some other ambient and experimental contexts. Sometimes you just need a simple instrument for some added inspiration – and since we can’t get to flea markets for the moment, this downloadable instant gratification can fill in.
This being CDM, of course we need to know more. And – oh God, I’ve used this VCR. (It’s rare now? I hope I didn’t miss my chance.)
The VCR I used is the Panasonic PV-S4670, it’s an S-VHS compatible VCR which is rare. The sounds have been recorded on very bad tapes though because I wasn’t getting the effect I wanted with good tapes. I remember that in the 90s broke musicians were using VHS as a way to get “high” quality recordings for cheap. With good tapes and recording in SP mode, the sound is actually quite good.
For Vaporwaves 2, I artificially degraded the tapes by putting them in the freezer. I took the idea from Brian Grainger, a dub techno/idm artist mostly known for his work as Milieu/Coppice Halifax. In his case, he would burry his tapes in his yard for a day to see what would happen. I really like the sound he got by using this technique.
We have some behind-the-scenes photos, taken on a suitably grungy 2000s-era digital camera.
The freezer trick was never necessary before; we were able to just keep re-taping Fraggle Rock and Doctor Who over tapes again and again, so I’m glad to know this new technique.
- 45 FM synth sounds recorded on VHS
- 1.04 GB of sounds
- Lowpass/Highpass filter
- Multi-voice mode and glide control
- Amplitude range controls
- Available as a VST/VST3/AU plugin for Windows and macOS (High Sierra and Mojave, Catalina via the Maize Sampler Player)
Oh yeah, and for more inspiration – Brian Grainger has a YouTube channel. I don’t know how I missed that.