A recent issue of Keyboard Magazine contained a letter to the editor which pointed out that the haunting vocal choir sounds on the early Kraftwerk albums Radioactivity and Trans-Europe Express did not emanate from a Mellotron but from a Vako Orchestron. I had never really thought about it much, but it instantly made sense to me- those Kraftwerk choirs looped around much longer than the 8-second limit on the Mellotron. So recently when I borrowed an Orchestron from Zac Rae, I put the sounds to the test.
Sure enough, there’s absolutely no doubt that Kraftwerk used an Orchestron. This is pretty amazing considering that Radioactivity was released in 1975. The Orchestron was barely on its feet in 1975! But Dave VanKoevering confirmed to me that he personally sold an early Orchestron to Kraftwerk while they were on tour in the USA that year. Coincidentally, just when I was finding out about all this, Future Music Magazine published an article about Kraftwerk’s Wolfgang Flur. The article contained a rare photo of Kraftwerk playing live during that period, and right there in their keyboard racks is an Orchestron Model A!
Apart from the very obvious Vocal Choir disc, Kraftwerk seemed to have mostly used the Violins disc. This can be heard most prominently as the lead line on the song Trans-Europe Express. Elsewhere they used small amounts of the French Horn and Flute discs, but they tend to be buried in the background.
Another related tidbit to add to the Kraftwerk connection is that if you look on the inside sleeve of the Computer World album, Ralf Hutter can be seen holding a little keyboard. They’ve painted it black to look all tech, but in actuality this little keyboard is a Mattel Bee-Gees Rhythm Machine from 1978!!! That’s right!! Kraftwerk, Mattel, the Bee-Gees… there has to be some kind of higher significance here…