Expect there are quite a few blue Blue Mondays in the house, so this is topical – our friend Alex Theakston dives down a rabbit hole straight to Kraftwerk’s very own Vako Orchestron.
And sure, we need something like the Vako Orchestron right now, mostly to take my mind off IBM Dictaphone envy.
It all starts with New Order’s “Blue Monday,” which in turn samples Kraftwerk. The Internet and glossy UK mags have taken on many a “how to sound exactly like xx” topic. But this line from Alex hooks me:
If only I had a ghost producer, I’d feed them that prompt and go kick back with a Gin & Tonic and wait. Blues – gone!
But Matryoshka style, this isn’t really a story about New Order – it’s a story about Kraftwerk, but really a story of the Vako Orchestron, and inside that who made this sound, and inside that how to land that sound.
Reference songs – 1983:
And “Uranium,” which is maybe even a bit underrated as a track, I think, even if admittedly it does sound a bit like it is actually a sample library (so who can blame New Order, really?) 1975:
(The lovely vocoder is apparently a Sennheiser VSM 201? See Synthtopia. That could get its own story.)
There’s a lot here, though. Alex tells us, “I think have been the first person to establish who made the actual sounds that are on the Orchestron.” That’s an interesting question – so I’m digging around here in Germany.
So what does the Orchestron and its optical discs look and sound like? Here you are:
But I really like that Alex goes the extra mile and recreates the whole workflow – as it might then inspire you to go beyond New Order (New New Order?) and try some similar hardware-ish mangling of sounds when you’re stuck for an idea.
Maybe you’re wondering why there’s the M-Tron Pro to start, given it’s a Mellotron recreation. That’s because the GForce Software rig is peerless in all the other instruments it can produce with its expansion packs, including the OrchesTron, ChamberTron, and OptiTron.
The New Order twist is adding the excellent Arturia recreation of E-mu’s original sampler – a technique you could well apply to other sounds:
You probably imagine I’ve spoiled the video at this point, but you’d be wrong. Watch and find out how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Just be careful, because a quick glance reveals what seems to be an entire YouTube sub-genre of this stuff, and your friends / family / employer might actually want to see you someday again.