10
Jul
09

open call for robot vocals (music post)

Robot-pinkI guess it should come as no surprise that a sci-fi nerd has a secret fetish for pop songs with robot vocals.  From ELO to Daft Punk, I’m a sucker for music that features a Cylon-esque crooner!  Heavy vocoder and other vocal processing fell out of favor for quite a while, but Cher (with “Life After Love”) and the aforementioned cyberpunk techno duo Daft Punk paved the way for a new generation of post-modern lead singers on a microchip tip.   The only trouble is finding them!  That’s where all of you can help…

 

Earlier tonight I was listening to one of my favorite examples of this sub-genre, a track called “Ralph & Cathy” by French House/Downtempo electronic artist extraordinaire Alex Gopher; it’s a sublime, atmospheric track about a helpless traveler, lost amongst the stars with his computer – or is he?  I figure readers of this blog might dig it:

Alex_gopher_-_ralph_&_cathy 

In any case, I’d love to make a mix tape of tracks featuring songs like this, but much to my chagrin, the local record shop doesn’t have a “robot vocals” section!  So I am calling on all of you, loyal Darth Mojo readers, to make suggestions.  Anything from classic vocoder hits to modern techno with actual computers doing the singing, please bring it on – the more spacey sounding, the better!  When I’ve made my final selection, I promise to share the playlist with y’all.

I look forward to hearing what everyone comes up with!

[NOTE: If you like the track I posted above, check out more of Alex Gopher’s music]


44 Responses to “open call for robot vocals (music post)”


  1. 1 Daft Punk
    July 10, 2009 at 3:36 am

    Daft Punk: they’re french ! ;-)

    Doesn’t Neil Young made an album with heavy use of vocoder in the early eighties ?

  2. 2 laura
    July 10, 2009 at 6:17 am

    given that you never know how long mp3 blogs are going to have something up, and the ones i found these on no longer do, you tube can be your friend:

    adventure kid-(robots singing) we’re from barcelona:

    also, ruby isle has done several covers somewhat like robots singing-my favorites are white winter hymnal & the rake’s song:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/rubyisle

  3. July 10, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Domo Arigato, Mister Roboto

  4. 4 Buckaroohawk
    July 10, 2009 at 7:37 am

    “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO and “Mr. Roboto” by Styx are the first two that leap to mind. In fact, a number of songs from both of those groups had heavy vocoder back vocals. Also, would Peter Frampton and his “talking guitar” count?

    You might also want to look into the music of a German band from the 1980s known as Kraftwerk. They were all over the electronic music craze back then and took it farther than any other artist or group I can think of.

    Gary Newman and Thomas Dolby might work for you, too. Even though I don’t recall them using vocoder voices their music was heavy into the use of electronic sounds and had a mechanical precision that implied robotic influence.

    Geez, I’m really showing my age here, aren’t I? Uh-oh. The life crystal in the palm of my hand just started blinking red.

  5. July 10, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Beastie Boys – Intergalactic

  6. 6 Ben
    July 10, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Carpenters’ Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft has an alien voice talking to a DJ at the beginning. It sounds slightly robot-esque. I’m not sure if the original Klaatu version of it has the voice.

    And there’s always Kraftwerk.

  7. 7 Rattrap
    July 10, 2009 at 11:42 am

    If you like Daft Punk, look for the DVD “Interstella 5555: Story of the Secret Star System”. The guys teamed up with Leiji Matsumoto, the creator of Space Cruiser Yamato, Galaxy Express and Captain Harlock to produce what is billed as “The First Animated House Musical”. Considering that the Yamato and Arcadia are as iconic (and in some parts of the world, better known) as Enterprise and Galactica, this films a joy for SF fans as well as music lovers.

    The most amazing thing about the project is that neither of the guys in Daft Punk speak a word of Japanese, and Matsumoto doesn’t speak a word of French. Didn’t stop them from doing a great film, though.

  8. 8 Shaf
    July 10, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    What about early Alan Parsons Project Albums – Specifically Eve & I Robot.

  9. July 10, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Ditto on Daft Punk (Better, Faster, Stronger, etc. – those French boys love their vocoder vocals).

    Bt – Love, Peace, and Grease

    Ferry Corsten – Watch Out (and) Rock Your Body, Rock

    Rokksop feat. Robyyn – The Girl and the Robot.

    Kraftwerk (pretty much anything, but especially) – (We Are) The Robots.

    Benassi Brothers – Satisfaction

    Combichrist – This S*it Will Fcuk You Up

    S.P.O.C.K. – Android’s Dilemma (not robot vocals, but android thinking)

    The Phenomenauts – I Am Robot (not robotic vocals either, but fun as hell. Rockabilly android rampage).

  10. July 10, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Awesome!

    Here’s a few. Song titles are in quotes, albums are not:

    Beck – Gameboy Variations
    Wendy Carlos – A Clockwork Orange
    Does It Offend You Yeah? – “We Are Rockstars”
    Polysics
    Imogen Heap – “Hide and Seek”
    Kanye West – 808s and Heartbreak
    Radiohead – “Fitter Happier”

  11. 11 Bob
    July 10, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Can’t believe you didn’t mention these ones:

    Rockets- Galactica:

    Rockets- On The Road Again:

    Rockets- Future Game:

    Also check out some of my faves:

    Zapp- Computer Love:

    Zapp and Roger- I Wanna Be Your Man:

    Kraftwerk- Computer Love:

    Kraftwerk- Trans Europe Express:

    Kraftwerk- The Robots:

    Neil Young- Sample and Hold:

    Neil Young- Computer Age:

    Neil Young- Transformer Man:

    Dayton- The Sound of Music:

    Demarco- Fallen Soldiers:

    There’s a definitely million more. Happy hunting!

  12. 12 Bob
    July 10, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Oh and I forgot about AIR:

    Air- Kelly Watch The Stars:

    Air- Cherry Blossom Girl:

    And Kanye West’s entire new album:

    Kanye West- Love Lockdown:

    Kanye West- Heartless

    Then there’s T-Pain’s entire career:

    T-Pain- I’m Sprung

    T-Pain- I’m In Luv (With a Stripper)

    and the INCRDEDIBLE-

    T-Pain vs VOCODER:

  13. 13 Jarno
    July 11, 2009 at 12:19 am

    Ooh, a chance to plug some Kiwi music. North Shore Pony Club, “Computer Games”:
    http://www.filmarchive.org.nz/readytoroll/view.php?id=84

  14. 14 FurrySaint
    July 11, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I WISH I could find some of the songs Nellie and the Drummers ( http://www.macrocks.com/macrockers/archive/othernellie/nellie.html ) did back in the late 90’s. It was an all-computer-created band that had a very cool sound. Shame the creator’s interest seems to have waned. :/

  15. July 11, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    There’s two categories that these songs come under. Strictly speaking Vocoder only applies to a specific method of amplitude modulation of a synth sound with a voice. The modern sound popularised by Cher is using Auto-tune to pitch the vocals up and down rigidly to specific pitches. I’m going to stick to proper vocoder in my suggestions rather than the modern Auto-tune alternative.

    Emerson Lake & Palmer – Karn Evil 9 (3rd Impression)
    [Note: this is on most CDs the last part of a 35 minute track, but it’s worth it because it’s sci-fi-tastic.]

    Sunn O))) & Boris – Akuma No Kuma
    [This isn’t robot-themed, but it is experimental vocoder, and features some old skool synths – but, it is on the extreme edge of experimental, so beware]

    Fatboy Slim – Kalifornia

  16. 16 Shaf
    July 11, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Art of Noise – Paranomia (Max headroom Voice)

  17. July 12, 2009 at 4:37 am

    I would add Dee D. Jackson’s “Automatic lover”
    Her records have a kind of campy sci-fi feel, and I seem to remember reading somewhere that she was (is) either a Sci-Fi fan or worked on some projects related to it….

  18. July 12, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    ey up

    something i made a few years back – isnt exactly vocoder music – but i think its sci fi enough to qualify, well its a remix of the music from the dance scene in buck rogers when he shows the princess how everyone used to boogie in the 20th century! :)

    http://www.mediafire.com/?sharekey=732ac57a24bb0a70d2db6fb9a8902bda

    i was trying to make it sound sorta retro futuristic – squelchy acid doesnt really sound like the future no more – but it did once :)
    sorry it just suddenly stops i never finished it – but well – ya get the idea

    expect loads of new robot music soon as one of the most popular sequencers – ableton live has a built in vocoder in the latest version – and very good it is too..

    very good blog by the way – i’ve lurked for a year or so and find it all fascinating – cheers! :)

  19. July 12, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    sorry this is the correct url i think!

    http://www.mediafire.com/?m1yyqmjocue

    shiny metal shagmeister is what ya want :)

  20. 20 darthmojo
    July 13, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Hey everyone, thanks so much for the great suggestions!

    LAURA: “We’re From Barcelona” is really fun, I’m listening to it as I type this. I also love that it’s 8-bit music, I really have a soft spot for low-fi computer pop. Maybe I’ll have to do another post looking for 8-bit inspired music (stuff like No Doubt’s “Running” comes to mind).

    BUCKAROO: Yup, ELO was the first band that came to mind. Frampton’s guitar work is certainly in the same ballpark, but I think I’m looking mostly for robot vocals in techno-ish music (I refuse to use the term “electronica” it’s just so… naff). Techno, house, downtempo, no-wave (which I think is the term for the current crop of 80s synth-inspired techno) is the sort of stuff I live for.

    RATTRAP: I think we owe it to both Cher and Daft Punk for the current craze in robot vocals! And yes I’m seen Interstella 5555 and it’s really a very cool piece of work. I highly recommend it to all sci-fi/anime/music fans.

    WILL: Some great suggestions, I especially liked “Satisfaction” (Corsten and the rest of his played out, overhyped commercial trance buddies can suck it).

    CHAD: Very nice variety, you certainly know your music! I really like the scratch, low-fi sound of “We Are Rockstars.”

    ROB: Those “Rockets” videos could be used to blackmail those guys! And I had forgotten about AIR and ZAPP, thanks for the reminder.

    SHAF: Paranomia, yes!! For years I’ve been trying to find a 12″ version that had a LOT of extra Max-speak, but still no luck. If anyone has it, lemme know.

    ANDY: Cool stuff, you’ve got talent! I’m going to send your track to Stu Philips :-)

  21. July 13, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Woah, loads to check out here.

    Well, I don’t know what you might think of my addition to the list. I like it, but a connoisseur of singing robots might not, I dunno.

    Microsize Boy by Tweaker.

  22. 22 Bronson BeerBelly
    July 13, 2009 at 6:42 am

    Pink Floyd – The Division Bell – Keep Talking.

    I have the same soft spot for robot vocals and can’t believe THIS one hasn’t been mentioned yet. It stays with me for days every time I hear it.

  23. July 13, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Probably too late to matter, but this Morning on the “Rob Da Bank” show on BBC Radio 1, Rex The Dog did a one-hour mix entirely themed about robots. Quite fun.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/robdabank/ (click the “Rob Da Bank & Friends” button)

  24. July 13, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Check out Kate Bush’s “Waking the Witch”. Be patient, there’s a lot going on in that tune, but it’ll come around eventually. I’m not sure if it’s exactly what you’re looking for, tho.

  25. 25 Anonymous
    July 13, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Here is one from a group that came out many many years ago called Klaatu ( I really enjoy all of their music. )

    This one is called “Lil Neutrino” and the melodic tones with the vocorder effects are very very well done. You can find more of their music on Youtube just search for Klaatu. They also were the original group to come up with “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” Which in turn was then done by The Carpenters later on ( wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calling_Occupants_of_Interplanetary_Craft)

    Looking forward to your final picks of the above suggestions from the rest of your bloggers I’l checking them all out now. ( While I finally have some time to enjoy them for a change heh)

  26. 26 Anonymous
    July 13, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Well how about the group that origanally came out with the song “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”? They are called Klaatu and they have one selection called “Lil Neutrino”

    You can find it on Youtube here..

    Very melodic and the use of the vocorder made it even more cool sounding. Then again I loved all of Klaatu’s music. Now granted this is not a fast paced piece as many of the others suggested above are by any stretch of the imagination nor is it robot based etc. Yet it’s really entrancing to listen to.

  27. 27 Colonial Warrior
    July 13, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    How about this one from Klaatu ( the group that originally did “Calling Occupants” )
    This is called Lil Neutrino and it’s not a fast paced piece as most of the others are but it’s still enthralling to listen to nonetheless.

    Lil Neutrino By Klaatu

    Colonial Warrior

  28. 28 Gep Malakai
    July 13, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    This song’s not performed in robo-voice, but Matthew Ebel’s “Everybody Needs a Robot” has a robotic character assisting him in performing the song, with comments scattered throughout. You can listen to it here: http://matthewebel.com/main/music/gpe/

  29. July 13, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Kylie Minogue sampled the Cybermen from Doctor Who in her Showgirl tour, and it’s on the live tour CD titled “Space-Prequel”.

  30. 30 MIGUEL
    July 14, 2009 at 4:28 am

    BUTTMACHINE by “THAT 1 GUY”

    Yeah, I know not really robot but it sounds robot-like.

  31. July 14, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    One that immediately springs to mind is Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’, and another is Sparks’ album ‘No 1 in Heaven’ produced by Giorgio Moroder, both from around 1980 or so as far as I recall.

  32. July 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Plus…. Radiohead’s ‘Fitter, happier’ from ‘OK Computer’ (appropriately enough) and a more obscure one would be the band Fashion who went through various lineups in the early to mid 80’s. The track ‘Streetplayer’ from the album ‘Fabrique’ is full of vocoder : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3HLh5MW1mQ

  33. July 14, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Sorry – at a risk of monopolising and getting boring, John Foxx (founder, first and best singer with Ultravox) has used the vocoder throughout his solo career. From ‘Metamatic’ try ‘Underpass’, pretty much all of ‘Cathedral Oceans 3’ (very beautiful soundscape album), or finally title track from ‘Mirrorball’ which he recorded with the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie.
    I’ll leave you alone now…

  34. July 20, 2009 at 12:03 am

    As an electronic musician and someone else who is heavily influenced by vocoders, I tend to meet alot of other musicians who feel the same way.

    So, here are a few to add to the list:

    The Mannequin Depressives cover of Kraftwerk’s “The Model” and the original songs “Zero Tolerance” and “Autofire (remix)”
    http://www.myspace.com/MannequinDepressives
    http://www.mannequindepressives.com/~mannequin/cgi-bin/MDindex.cgi?topic=Listen

    Jon Ryman’s (absolutley wicked) album 1984. I highly recommend this.
    Check out songs: “Autocue” and “Rhythm Machine”.
    http://www.myspace.com/jonrymanmusic

    And — of course — Bony M gets super creds for the song “Nightflight to Venus” which I’m pretty certain uses the same model of Roland vocoder that was used for the 1970s Battlestar Galactica centurions.

    Ciao!

    — Jared (Nebulous) Brookes.

    P.S. Is this is the blog of Adam Lebowitz, by chance? Drop me a line at my email sometime.

  35. July 20, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Just to clarify my previous comment, the Kylie album is “Showgirl Live” and the track is titled “Space – Prequel”

  36. July 20, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    I’m surprised no one has suggested any and all “MC Hawking” songs!

  37. 37 Ant
    July 22, 2009 at 3:08 am

    ELO have been mentioned, the Prologue from Time is Cylon through and through!

    Few others that come to mind..

    Daydream in Blue by I monster http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6_hzqae2tw

    Flight of the Conchords – Robots (ok, so only pretending to be a vocoder :-) ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvrva8NoMLM

    Judie Tzuke – That’s Where My Heart Used To Be

  38. 38 weekendpyro
    July 29, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    3 Tage Wach by Lützenkirchen I’m just like you man robotic vocals are a huge obsession with me.

    Please get back to me if you like it!

  39. August 20, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I did not take the time to read any of the posts above so my apologies if these have already been mentioned

    Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cpSv2mNhhc

    The Guild – Do You Want to Date my Avatar (chorus is not quite a classic vocoder but close enough I’d say and it is just a fun little song. Video ain’t too shabby either.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cpSv2mNhhc

    Kraftwerk – Die Stimme Der Energie – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZtWvmbKepg

    and of course the classic

    Laurie Anderson – O Superman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzYu88jIDYs

    Can’t wait to see your playlist. Fun!

  40. 40 ThP
    August 26, 2009 at 10:30 am

    The above Neil Young songs are from his album Trans. Never reissued in the US after the LP, the import CD remains expensive.

    Also on Trans is the grungy catchy “Computer Cowboy (AKA Syscrusher)” with all vocoder vocals much like the catchy riffed Sample and Hold. I think this might be the first cyberpunk song on a major label. Neil wrote Computer Cowboy less than a year after William Gibson’s Burning Chrome appeared in Omni magazine as a short story. There are very few other sources of inspiration in 1984 to read (or know at all) about hackers anonymously infiltrating other computers in cyberspace. Evidently Neil coined the word Syscrusher, I’ve never seen an earlier reference. “Fork in the Road” can be considered a follow up, themed around today’s heavy dependence on battery powered consumer electronics and electric cars, but alas no vocoder. :)

  41. August 28, 2009 at 3:20 am

    don’t the quirky chillout group “bent” do some tracks with sexy vocoder vocals

  42. 42 VoiceEncoder
    December 15, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    The Cylon Centurions voicing was done using the beta-version of the EMS Vocoder 2000, it was NOT a Roland Vocoder…NOR the Sennheiser.

  43. March 30, 2012 at 11:24 am

    “Hide & Seek” by Imogen Heap is nothing but pure acapella vocoder. “Speed of Pain” by Marilyn Manson also has a solid vocoder chorus.

  44. March 30, 2012 at 11:37 am

    The very end of “It’s Amazing” by Jem comes to mind also.


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