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Kraftwerk - Autobahn CD (album) cover

AUTOBAHN

Kraftwerk

 

Progressive Electronic

3.50 | 212 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This was the breakthrough album for Kraftwerk, who had been struggling for years (and through several line-up changes) in order to make a difference in the music scene: the krautrock mark was still evidently born on their sleeves in "Autobahn", while they were decided to turn their road toward the trends of electronic avant-garde experimentation. Lifelong artistic partners Hutter and Schneider had by then invented a type of electronic percussion, and along came Wofgang Flür, an academically trained percussionist who was pretty much in tune with all this experimental stuff, focused on minimalism and electronic sources. A second newcomer, Klaus Roeder, played guitar and violin as a vehicle of additional textures to complement those sonic layers and basic harmonies provided by both Hutter and Schneider on synths and organs. The namesake 22-minute epic occupied the whole A-side of the vinyl, and to this day it's still one of the legendary anthems of Kraftwerk's entire career. This track is more epic in length than in structure, since there are no symphonic-oriented variations nor there is any pyrotechnical show-off: the main idea here is to provide a musical landscape of a highway, full of mechanical frenzy, urgency and sense of adventure than are inherent to any car travel in the high road. Music is for this Kraftwerk a document that "portrays" the usual situations and sensations that take place in our contemporary urban environment on a daily basis (or, eventually, a future environment that doesn't seem too far from today). This track alone serves as a manifestation of what is soon to become the band's main recurrent motif in both the musical and the ideological aspects. There are also some touches of flute (oh, an acoustic instrument in a Kraftwerk album. there were lots of them in the band's earlier albums, indeed), which, in my opinion, deliver the image of a human individual driving the car, a human heart that beats surrounded by the artificial environment built on plastic stuff, mechanical resources and electronic devices. The last 6 minutes of 'Autobahn' keep a slower pace, as if showing a relaxing moment - perhaps the relief of having reached the intended arriving point. This track is a gem in itself, and makes more than 50 % of the album's overall artistic value. but still there's more to enjoy here. The 2 part 'Kommetenmelodie' starts as a dense, somber minimalistic play of layers, until a more festive sequence comes to the fore, as if alluding the ritualistic meanings of the passing of a comet. This stuff reminds me a lot of Schulze, but again, the krautrock scene was so mutually integrated, that it was not odd that all bands would interact and influence each other. The most obscure track in the album is 'Mitternacht', enigmatic as a being from limbo who displays its shadow over the shades of twilight: very similar in spirit to TD's "Phaedra". Finally, the segued album's closure 'Morgenspaziergang' emerges with its lyrical evocations properly conveyed by soft synth layers and bucolic flute lines, over a background of birds singing at dawn. The last four tracks are definitely related to Kraftwerk's earlier album, so "Autobahn", as a whole, can be seen as a combination of "farewell to the good old keyboard-centered krautrock days" and "welcome to a brand new world of musical electronics all of our own".
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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