In the 1990s, Austrian electronic duo, Kruder & Dorfmeister developed a reputation for their eclectic DJ-sets and soulful downtempo production style. With origins in Jazz, Trip-Hop, Soul, and Breakbeat they have influenced bands like The Thievery Corporation and many others.
Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister made an immediate impact with their first release which featured the iconic satirical recreation of the Simon & Garfunkel Bookends album cover with the duo hilariously depicted in identical poses.
On the first EP, tracks like High Noon and Original Bedroom Rockers were well received, with the latter being featured in the cult classic cyberpunk film Hackers (which even had a cameo by Dave Stewert from Eurythmics).
The Kruder & Dorfmeister sound
The signature K&D sound is predominantly sample-based, made up of Latin percussion loops, Rhodes piano melodic lines, and organic breakbeat drum patterns. This definitive production style was firmly established on their revered remix compilation album The K&D Sessions (1998).
To learn a bit more about the construction of their music, let’s take a closer look at some of the duo’s favourite gear choices over the years.
Arguably the main component of the K&D sound is samples recorded from vinyl records. They site Brian Eno and Massive Attack as influences, but being avid music fans, vinyl collectors, and internationally renowned DJs certainly helps.
Traveling around the world in multiple music scenes exposes you to a wide range of music. This not only expands the scope of your music taste, but you also begin to develop a first-hand idea of which sounds are moving crowds at venues around the world.
We’ve previously discussed the process of sampling vinyl and the importance of using DJ turntables and cartridges for the flexibility of multiple playback speeds.
The Audio Technica LP140XP is a great place to start if you’re getting into sampling vinyl.
ATARI Mega ST2
Imagine sequencing your tracks with a monochrome 640 x 400 ATARI SM124 monitor. To run MIDI into the AKAI sampler, K&D used a Mega ST2 running Cubase on an 8 MHz processor with 2 MB RAM. Luckily the software was predominantly MIDI-focused back then.
The timing and feel of vintage computer sequencers are distinctly different compared to modern DAWs. Overall, it’s more comparable to music from the 1980s than anything produced in the last 20 years.
Although it’s difficult to replicate, you can still produce interesting results with dedicated hardware sequencers that won’t give you a stereotypical DAW feel.
The Sharp Instruments Hapax is a 16-track workstation performance sequencer with plenty of creative power.
The S1100 was sonically superior to the earlier S1000, as AKAI moved away from Burr-Brown converters and now offered 24-bit DSP effects processing. Another fundamental difference is that each output channel is driven by an individual 20-bit DA converter, as opposed to the S1000 which had a single converter across all channels.
K&D described the S1100 comparatively as a “camera with built-in photoshop for sounds” and used the tried and tested method of sampling 33 RPM records at 45 RPM before pitching the samples down for added grit and texture. The S1100 sounds so good, you’ll want all your sounds running through it, which is exactly what K&D did on their album 1995 (2020).
It might not have vintage converters or the same channel count, but the Elektron Octatrack is ideal for producing and performing K&D-style breakbeat electronica.
The use of delay is such a crucial aspect of the K&D production style, with the effect being used both as a groove instrument and sound design tool. The SDE-1000 is one of Roland’s early digital delay processors from 1983.
The unit’s converters provide 12-bit delay sampling, at a lower rate than CD quality. This makes the sound ideal for the lo-fi character of K&D productions, especially for creating warbled modulated delays that we can hear throughout the K&D Sessions.
The SDE-1000 is affordable, simple to operate, and can create a range of effects from wide choruses to more spatially orientated sounds.
Suppose you’re looking to create similar creative delay effects. In that case, the Echosystem from Empress Effects provides a wide range of different delay types with plenty of ways to tweak the timing and tonality.
Another often-overlooked gem, used by K&D throughout their career is the Lexicon Alex digital reverb unit. The Alex provides the sought-after Lexicon sound in an affordable package and it’s dead simple to use.
It’s equipped with 16 effects algorithms including gate, inverse, rooms, chamber, halls, plates, chorus, flange, echo, and delay. Although the number of editable parameters is limited, this is often what you want in a reverb unit.
If there’s one thing to take away, it’s never to judge gear by the look of the front panel. Budget vintage gear can still produce amazing results in the right context, and K&D certainly knew all about that.
The Flamma FS-02 is a decent-sounding pedal with 7 classic reverb settings and it doesn’t set you back too much either.
Which artists would you like to see in this sound-alike series? Please let us know in the comments below!
More about Kruder & Dorfmeister:
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- Time to start digging.: Mick Haupt / Unsplash
- ATARI Mega ST2: eBay
- AKAI S1100: Kruder & Dorfmeister
- Roland SDE-1000: Matrix Synth
- Lexicon Alex: Electronio