Wednesday, October 06, 2010

vox electronix

I was playing some Boards of Canada recently & came across the song "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country." I love the use of the vocoder in that tune. Being a sci-fi geek & an electronic music dork, it makes sense that I would like songs with vocoders. So I set out to find enough vocoder tunes for a mix. The result is "Vox Electronix".

The vocoder is is an analysis/synthesis system, developed in the 1930's, that dramatically reduces the amount of information needed to store speech, from a complete recording to a series of numbers. Because much info was lost in the encoding & decoding process, the voice ended up sounding "dehumanized" or robot-like. Eventually changes were made by people like Wendy Carlos & Robert Moog, that made the vocoder a musical device, used most prominently by artists like Kraftwerk.

The vocoder is used in many of the tracks in this mix, but I'm not exactly sure which ones are vocoder & which ones are auto-tune and which ones are just clever vocal manipulation. So don't everyone go crazy saying "hey that's not a flippin' vocoder!", I was just going for a certain sound, a certain feel.

It was cool discovering tunes I'd either never heard of or forgotten about. Thanks to Judd at the
Hypnos forum for recommending the tune by Tonto's Expanding Head Band & for reminding me about the track from the U2/Eno collaboration, Passengers. Also thanks to Tobias(False Mirror) on the Hypnos forum for the heads up on the Robert Rich song. That's one of those that I think is some form of auto-tune versus a vocoder, but a great song. The mix opens with a cool bit of audio which was recorded at Bell Labs in 1936.

This was a fun mix to put together, discovering new tunes & revisiting old favorites(O Superman). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Download (right click/save as) : 86mb, 63min

vox electronix

T R A C K L I S T :
  • 00:00 Bell Labs 1936 - Voice of Power
  • 00:23 Tonto's Expanding Head Band - Riversong
  • 03:33 Brian Eno - And then so clear
  • 08:15 Boards of Canada - In a beautiful place out in the country
  • 12:30 Air - le soleil est pres de moi
  • 16:30 Apples in Stereo - Vocoder ba ba
  • 16:45 Bjork - Possible Maybe(Lucy mix)
  • 19:30 Passengers - A different kind of blue
  • 21:10 Robert Rich - Premonition of circular clouds
  • 28:25 Laurie Anderson - O Superman
  • 35:40 Ricardo Villalobos - Easy Lee
  • 39:45 Trans Am - Futureworld
  • 42:33 Air - Sexy Boy
  • 47:30 Peter Baumann - This This Day
  • 51:54 Apples in Stereo - Hello Lola
  • 52:10 Black Moth Super Rainbow - Twins of Myself
  • 55:15 Holger Czukay - Ode to Perfume
  • 59:15 Brian Eno - Bottomliners
  • 03:04 end


Steven said...

"How to wreck a nice beach" by Dave Tompkins is a book that covers the history of the vocoder. Still haven't read this yet but it seems interesting for electronic music fans (and pertinent to your podcast theme).

sircamels said...

I've been reading your blog for awhile now, and this is my first comment. I LOVE THIS MIX. All I have listened to have been really good but this one is awesome!!! Thanks for all the work!

PvC said...

O man this brings back sweet memories...
I used to have the TONTO album but sold it in the pre-ripping era, so that I regret now, hearing this track again is like a time-warp...
Thanks for this beautiful mix, once again

Low Light Mixes said...


I came across that same book when researching tunes for this mix. It looks very interesting. I think I may have to pick it up before I do a sequel to this mix.

Thanks for listening.

Thanks also for other comments!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, awesome! If you don't already know it, you might want to check out the album Englabörn by the Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. It's hauntingly beautiful and makes use of vocoder voices in an otherwise modern classical composition. Cheers from Germany!

Low Light Mixes said...

Wow! I completely forgot about Jóhann Jóhannsson, some his stuff would be great in a vocoder mix. Guess I'll have to save it for next time. Thanks!

Andi Chapple said...

hi -

nice mix, and my wife didn't ask me to turn it down which is a positive vote as she really dislikes vocoders. strange choice of something to hate, but there you go.

interesting and wide choice of material, and I loved how you got from 'Easy Lee' to the Trans Am.

I didn't realise 'The Voice of Energy' existed, or was the source for Kraftwerk's 'Die Stimme Der Energie' (from 'Radioactivity'), which I always thought they'd come up with by themselves. another illusion shattered.

thanks again,


Unknown said...