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Kraftwerk - An appreciation


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I've only just found out that Florian Schneider has left Kraftwerk.

Pretty momentous news IMO

Kraftwerk always gets namechecked over and over again as one of those groups that had massive influence on a whole host of electronic musicians, and even lauded with creating the techno & electro genres.

Often these sorts of things can go too far, but I feel their adoration and reverence is rightly deserved.

So what now for the great band? Florian was a founding member and really I can't see them being the same without him (with Ralf being only member left from the "classic" days) perhaps they should call it a day? They'd still leave behind a canon of incredible albums without limping along embarrassingly in a Rolling Stones sort of way.

So some classic Kraftwerk to get your juices flowing:

- It's More Fun To Compute - Sounds like it's from 3000 years in the future and is being beamed to us from Saturn. Amazing considering it was recorded in 1981

- The Model - Just a perfect pop song, the melody, the slightly awkward lyrics all perfect!

- Trans-Europe Express - Despite the fast tempo, completely relaxing to listen to, so many layers.

The sweet spot for me was the Computer World album, not a single weak track on it.

There's gotta be some Kraftwerk love on here?! :wub:

What do you think the future holds for them?

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So what now for the great band? Florian was a founding member and really I can't see them being the same without him (with Ralf being only member left from the "classic" days) perhaps they should call it a day? They'd still leave behind a canon of incredible albums without limping along embarrassingly in a Rolling Stones sort of way.

Not sure it's the same, really. People put too much emphasis on the genuine article, or on 'real' musicianship, and I think Kraftwerk did a lot to combat that, sending out animatronic dummies to perform concerts and the like. I think it'd be pretty amazing if they just hired in some young blood and continued for another generation, like replacing obsolete robots.

Electric Cafe is a much underrated Kraftwerk album in my opinion. It's maybe not as ahead of its time or whatever, but there are still moments of brilliance. The Telephone Call is a beautiful Pop song.

Oh and Tanzmusik is just perfect. I've been listening to Ralf & Florian a lot lately. It's so amazing to see how they developed over the course of a single decade.

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Oh yeah, and when I saw them a few years back it was like rockets bursting overhead, such was the power of the rhythms. Those cascading drums on 'Numbers' pummeled my brain into mush. They're surprisingly heavy, that Kraftwerk.

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Florian seems to have left, but as usual with Kraftwerk there are absolutely no details regarding what happened. Dirk Matten (who was involved with providing Kraftwerk with some of their kit in the 70s and is friends with the band) occasionally posts on the Kraftwerk mailing list and he says it was amicable and they are still friends. Who knows if this is for good, or if Florian is just having a detour. Ralf said in his most recent interview that Florian was involved with university studies and other projects. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that Florian would be involved in any new Kraftwerk material in the future. It is well known that Florian hated touring, and with the band being more mobile these days that may have been the straw that broke the donkeys back.

It's fairly well established (mostly from Wolfgang Flurs autobiography) that Ralf is the one who makes the music and the lyrics, and Florian made the sounds and did the vocoder work. That being the case, I think there will be more material from the band with or without Florian in the future. Ralf has recently purchased a new property which is where Kling Klang will be relocated to. Looking at the credits on Tour de France Soundtracks you can see that most of the work was done by Ralf and Fritz Hilpert (the guy who stood next to Florian at the concerts and has been a technician for the band for approx. 20 years now).

Electric Cafe is a much underrated Kraftwerk album in my opinion. It's maybe not as ahead of its time or whatever, but there are still moments of brilliance.

Side A of that album has some of the tightest sequencing I've ever heard. The detail in the sound is phenomenal. You can tell it took 5 years to make.

I'm just glad I've seen them live a couple of times, like at Tribal Gathering '97 when the Detroit tent shut down for 2 hours during the Kraftwerk performance.

Best concert I've ever been to that one. The atmosphere in the tent that night was electric (if you'll excuse the pun). The tent was positively bulging at the seems with people. I remember that I'd sat in that tent all afternoon to guarantee a position right at the front. That was also one of the last times they took the full studio onto the stage.

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I'm just glad I've seen them live a couple of times, like at Tribal Gathering '97 when the Detroit tent shut down for 2 hours during the Kraftwerk performance.

I was there too - absolutely stunning. I saw them a few years back at the Brixton Academy too, another brilliant gig. I've only ever owned The Mix and Minimum Maximum, I really have to get some of their 'proper' albums.

I totally forgot - I've got the Tour de France Soundtracks album too...Must get it onto my iPod.

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It's fairly well established (mostly from Wolfgang Flurs autobiography) that Ralf is the one who makes the music and the lyrics, and Florian made the sounds and did the vocoder work.

I love Kraftwerk but that autobiography is so painfully dull, as though he got his calculator to write it.

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They're actually touring again this year in Germany and South America. This is the venue for the German dates (Wolfsburg, an old Volkswagen factory):

wolfsburg.jpg

Sadly all tickets are now sold out. All the tickets are personalised too so no chance of ebay either.

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Kraftwerk were the first band I ever consciously loved. I remember the first CD I ever got, about 13 years ago, was The Mix, for christmas. This was after i'd played my dad's records to death, it was him who got me into them. I think he has the German and English versions of most albums. One day, maybe they'll be mine. My favourite album is probably Autobahn, with Die Menshe Maschine coming a close second. Aw heck, its all good.

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The German lyrics are much more rich and less child-like than the simplistic English translations. Often whole verses would be omitted from the English versions. The German version of Sex Object, for example, is much more stark and cutting than the English iteration.

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Obviously it's all opinion and that, but if you are getting started with Kraftewerk this is the order I'd tackle them in

- Computer World

- Trans Europe Express

- The Man-Machine

- Autobahn

And then pick the rest up

And then when you've heard the others, give this a whirl:

Tone_Float_RCA-SF8111.jpg

Organisation was Ralf and Florian's first band (formed in the late 60s). The lineage is fascinating, although expect something more akin to the earlier albums (Kraftwerk 1 & 2) than the later stuff.

Anyone who is well-versed in all the albums should also seek out the various remixes and alternate versions that the band made themselves (starting with the 1973 German Kohoutek Kometenmelodie 7" that has pre-Autobahn renditions of those tracks). Sadly, most of these alternate versions were only ever released on vinyl and have never since been rereleased. Then of course you have the Techno Pop album demos that appeared on a couple of bootleg CDs in the 90s. The origins of which remain a mystery to this day, although the demos themselves are recognisably Kraftwerk, yet substantialy different from what appeared on Electric Cafe. The demo (edit) of the Techno Pop track (which was originally meant to fill the entire of side a of the record) is completely different and much softer and melodic than the Techno Pop track that eventually surfaced on the Electric Cafe album.

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Here's a list of those alternate versions (all of these are long out of print but you can probably find most of them on SoulSeek):

Kohoutek - Kometenmelodie (Version 1)

Kohoutek - Kometenmelodie (Version 2)

Showroom Dummies (7" Mix)

Trans Europe Express (Instrumental)

Neon Lights (Alternate Mix) [this appeared only on the Canadian Man Machine promo LP]

Computerwelt (12" Maxi-Single Special Mix)

Numbers (7" Re-Mix)

Tour de France (version allemande)

Tour de France 2e Étape

Tour de France (Kling Klang Analog Mix)

Tour de France (Remix François K)

The Telephone Call (12" Remix)

House Phone

Robotronik

Robotnik

Radioactivity (Francois Kevorkian 12" Remix)

Radioactivity (William Orbit Remix)

Radioactivity (William Orbit Hardcore Mix)

Expo 2000 [Kling Klang Mix 2000]

Expo 2000 [Kling Klang Mix 2001]

Expo 2000 [Kling Klang Mix 2002]

Tour De France 03 (Version 1)

Tour De France 03 (Version 2)

Tour De France 03 (Version 3)

Tour De France 03 (Long Distance Version 2)

Aerodynamik (Kling Klang Dynamix)

Elektro Kardiogramm (Radio Mix)

The Man Machine (myspace version - listen to/download it from their myspace page)

I've also included the more notable remixes that were done in conjunction with Francois Kevorkian and William Orbit. Also, if you go to their official website, and go to the Foto section, you can hear a piece of unreleased music.

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Organisation was Ralf and Florian's first band (formed in the late 60s). The lineage is fascinating, although expect something more akin to the earlier albums (Kraftwerk 1 & 2) than the later stuff.

I love tracing the lineages of the various Krautrock bands. That Organisation record alone has the input of Konny Plank, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger (if not on the recording itself), and it seems almost every band is connected in some way. I was reading about Ibliss a few days ago and discovered their drummer played on Tone Float.

I love this:

kraftwerk00.jpg

It's a bit like seeing a photo of your parents when they were young.

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I know the later stuff was way more influential and seminal, but I prefer the earlier, more straight krautrock (if you can say such a thing) things like Ralf & Florian and Kraftwerk 1 & 2. I think maybe the later stuff is a little too played out, for me at any rate.

As for Florian leaving, does it really matter now? Their time has been and gone. I don't think it matters if he doesn't go to gigs. To be honest, I saw them a few years ago and I thought it was really dull. Just note-perfect rendtions of the big hits. Nice light show and all, but still really boring. Contrast that with Faust who I saw last year, they gave a balls-out, intense riot of a live performance. They were 50 billion times better. Approximately.

It sounds like i'm dissing them, but i'm not really. I wouldn't have them any other way, they were proper visionaries of course, and music would be totally different without them.

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Contrast that with Faust who I saw last year, they gave a balls-out, intense riot of a live performance. They were 50 billion times better. Approximately.

The whole package is meant to be as reductionist as possible. The perfect antithesis to the self-indulgency exhibited by almost all other live acts.

There's been a lot of talk over the years about exactly how much is live, and how much is sequenced. Listening to 70s/80s concert recordings, you can clearly hear that it is very much live. With the 90s/2000s the sequencing is more prominent and the live performance seems to be more about the manipulation of the sound, rather than strictly playing it live (although Ralf still sings and plays many of the melodies live). Fans can be quite possessive about collecting recordings from every concert, exactly because of the variations between each performance. They're no strangers to premiering new (not yet released) tracks live either. They did it in the 70s and again in the 90s. In fact, three new tracks they performed in the 90s have still not yet been released on an album. The pre-album live versions of Showroom Dummies, Trans Europe Express and Europe Endless are completely different from the eventual album versions that surfaced when the Trans Europe Express album was released.

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The whole package is meant to be as reductionist as possible. The perfect antithesis to the self-indulgency exhibited by almost all other live acts.

I know, that's why I said I wouldn't have them any other way. I was still bored out of my face though.

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I have no interest in seeing Kraftwerk perform nowadays, but I'll always stop and devote my full attention to Neon Lights whenever I hear it. My favourite Kraftwerk fact, and I've no idea if it's true or false or true and false, is that the accent they employ is the German equivalent of a Birmingham accent, which whichever disreputable publication I read it in emphasised by printing a Brummie transcription of Pocket Calculator. I think it may have been one of those little booklets you used to get free with Melody Maker from time to time, so draw your own conclusions and send them in to Kraftwerk Konklusions, PO BOX 200, London NW1 8TQ.

I also like the story about them keeping the phone in their studio silenced, and if you had to contact them they'd tell you to ring on Friday at 12noon and Florian would answer the phone right on the hour, but I bet it's bollocks and they turned the ringer on if they were expecting a call and then said they didn't to look tough.

I also like the story of how they insisted that the black keys on all their keyboards be painted white, but I accept that I just made that up. It's plausible, though, you can't deny it.

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Damn, me too. I was saving that one for later.

There's mention of something similar in that Swedish documentary I linked to. A woman from their managements insists that they don't actually have a phone or doorbell at Kling Klang anymore, and if they want to contact Ralf or Florian they have to drive a couple of hours down the autobahn and wait outside in the hope that one of them turns up for work that day.

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