Popping into mainstream consciousness with her feature on Gotye’s world conquering track 'Somebody That I Used To Know' back in 2011, New Zealand born artist Kimbra is a studio wunderkind worthy of the recognition. Her debut single 'Settle Down' is such an intricate, meticulously layered collage of vocals that it’s hard to believe she released the track at the age of 20 - and even harder to believe she wrote it four years prior. While she tends to cycle through a star-studded selection of guest musicians on her studio albums such as Muse’s Matt Bellamy and bass hero Thundercat, the core of Kimbra’s sound revolves around vocal looping and experimenting with DAW’s, utilising a select range of sophisticated sonic software and hardware throughout her music. With the recent release of her latest single ‘Everybody Knows’ and the announcement of her third LP Primal Heart set to be released next year, we take a look at Kimbra’s laborious set up.
DAVE SMITH PROPHET 6
With a new album on the way, it’d seem like Kimbra’s been laying down tracks with a whole bunch of new synths that she’s been showing off on her Instagram. The versatile Dave Smith Prophet 6 is a powerful, analogue synth adored by musicians around the world for its advanced sequencing abilities, lush pad sounds and studio quality inbuilt effects.
The cheap '80s Casio SK-1 sampling keyboard was used extensively in the writing process for Kimbra’s 2014 album The Golden Echo, with its tinny digital chimes audible on certain tracks. The synth can be seen above next to a vintage Japanese auto-harp.
TEENAGE ENGINEERING OP-1
While performing a residency for EXO-TECH last year, Kimbra utilised the pocket sized Teenage Engineering OP-1 as a core part of her rig, utilising the advanced interface and unlimited tweakability provided by the synth.
You can also see that Kimbra endorses synths made by the Brooklyn-based boutique company Critter and Guitari, with the distinct buttons and colour schemes of the Pocket Piano, Organelle and Septavox also visible in the above image.
Kimbra has been a heavy user of the Korg KAOSSilator, an extremely versatile phrase sampler and looper controlled by a touch screen interface, allowing users to create expressive pulses throughout their mix. You can see Kimbra mess around with her own KAOSSilator in the above video of her performing an alternate version of 'As You Are'.
TC HELICON VOICE LIVE TOUCH
The core of Kimbra’s live set up, the TC Helicon Voice Live Touch is a super advanced vocal effects unit and looper that acts as one of the best possible performance tools available. Used in conjunction with her KAOSSilator and synced to a click track via Ableton Live, Kimbra expressed her heavy use of the TC Helicon in an interview with Live Looping, claiming, “This current set up allows me to add enough colours to my live performance without having to look down at what I’m doing and lose connection with the audience.”
Kimbra also owns a TC Helicon VoiceLive 3 Multi Effects Pedal, which can be seen in the above photo along with an Akai MPD32 MIDI Controller for triggering samples with Ableton.
Specifically designed to seamlessly integrate with Ableton Live’s interface, Kimbra has recently utilised the Ableton Push in her live rig, particularly featuring the software controller in live renditions of her track ‘Sweet Relief’.
NATIVE INSTRUMENTS MASCHINE STUDIO
Kimbra often uses various models from Native Instruments Maschine series both live and in the studio to control software instruments and trigger samples with Ableton, extensively discussing her use of the Studio in this video with Native Instruments.
ROLAND SP-404SX SAMPLER
A core part of her studio and live set up since bouncing onto the scene in 2010, the Roland SP-404SX is used by Kimbra to trigger samples throughout her set, and can be seen in the above image of her performing in Moscow this year.