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Review: New Kraftwerk Gear?

The Doepfer A-100 Modular System

Originally featured in the article 'Activity - In Depth' from Aktivität 8, August 1996

A German music-technology magazine called 'Keys' featured some Kraftwerk input for a review and sample of a new piece of musical kit recently (the April 96 issue), the Doepfer A-100 modular system. Kraftwerk have previously been associated with the Doepfer company; in addition to custom retro-fit work, the band have also been involved with two previous Doepfer products, further details of these can be found in Aktivität 6's 'Vorsprung durch Technik?' article.

Featured in the April 1996 edition is the company's latest product, the A-100 modular system. Amongst these modules is a vocoder capability and it is in this context that Florian Schneider's input is to be found; as well as a short review, Schneider has also contributed a recording made with the equipment which is featured on the CD that accompanies the magazine. Before you rush off to track down a copy, I'll point out now that the 'vocoder poem', for want of a better description, is all of 26 or so seconds long, although there is a second version too put through various filters and the like. The tone poem itself is rather lyrical and easily comparable to the style you would find on the 'Radio-Activity' LP. What the poem's vocoded tones actually consist of is thus;

'Analogsynthese mit System
klanglich, optisch angenehm
technisch, logisch, funktionell
prototypisch und speziell
modular und variabel
leicht, kompakt und transportabel
Für ein Musikabenteuer
A-100, nicht zu teuer
Midi-Kontrolle vom Computer
A-100 to the Future!

Systematical analogue synthesis
nice in sound and looks
technical, logical, functional
prototypical and specialised
modular and variable
light, compact and transportable
For a musical adventure
A-100, not expensive
Midi-controlled by the computer
A-100 to the future!

As my own German is very limited, one of our regular German contributers, Gunther Pöcker, is better placed to describe this piece to you;

'This 'poem' uses a vocabulary more typical for advertising text from the fifties, like 'angenehm', which is quite antiquated in this context. One would also not think of such a synth as necessarily 'pleasureable' to look at. The same applies to 'Musikabenteuer', which is quite a contrived word in this context, one would think more of an opera as a 'musical adventure'. In a modern ad., one would also not use the phrase 'nicht zu teuer', this does somehow sound cheap and is off the mark. One would either say 'billig' (cheap) or 'preiswert' (worth it's money). 'Nicht zu teuer' is more like 'just the right price'. The pronunciation is also just that little bit overdone, like a 50s advertising slogan. 'Speziell' is without meaning here, by the way. It's like 'especially' ... and then the object is missing.

All in all it uses just the sort of vocabulary that one does expect from Kraftwerk - decidely retro-futuristic with a funny twist. A female voice first introduces Florian Schneider almost like royalty, quite in keeping with the poem's vocabulary. Between the two versions, the change in the vocoder setting for the second version is explained.

On page 45 of the magazine, Schneider's review for the A-100 is very favourable;

"Up to now, I only had the chance to play around with the A-100 for one day, but I can already say that Doepfer has built something really special. The system does sound very good and does offer everything I do expect from a modular system - and that at a really reasonable price. For me it is also a plus that it has turned out smaller than other systems, like some may point out. But the adjustors on a mixing desk are even closer together. And you can also take it with you easily and leave the expensive rarities at home.

The vocoder has turned out really nice; it does really sound good in comparison to other vocoders. After building a multi-channel filter (a very important module, by the way), it was only a small step for Dieter Doepfer to combine this with VCA's and Hüllkurvenfolgern (something with envelope functions? - IC).

On a modular synth, you really learn how the sounds are made. I can advise everybody to buy a simple oscilloscope with the modular system. This was also my start, I was fascinated to see; "this is how the sound looks here and after the filter it looks like that...". You can really see principles here which you can also find in the whole world."

Author: IC

Other Aktivität Online articles about Kraftwerk's equipment;

  Updated: 16 : 5 : 2010