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Kraftwerk - Autobahn CD (album) cover

AUTOBAHN

Kraftwerk

 

Progressive Electronic

3.49 | 194 ratings

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Fitzcarraldo
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If ever there was an album that proves that complexity is not essential for quality in music then "Autobahn" is it in my opinion. This is a minimalist gem. Every time I listen to it I marvel at how clever it is. For 1974 KRAFTWERK were way ahead of their time (a decade ahead?). Loads of synthesizer but with a totally different approach to that of TANGERINE DREAM (or other synthesizer-centric contemporaries such as TRIUMVIRAT, ELP and WAKEMAN, for that matter).

The nearly 23-minute track 'Autobahn' is a work of electronic art. It's just so German, so Bauhaus, it's unbelievable. The use of synthesizers to evoke the feeling of travelling along an autobahn is perfect: the boom of the road; the Doppler 'neeeeeaahhh' of cars whizzing past in the other direction; the throbbing beat of passing pylons, bridges and lampposts; the sound of the wipers; the hiss of water on the asphalt; horns blaring; the mesmerising pulse; the chant - at one point made to sound like it's coming from the twiddling of the tuning knob on an analogue car radio - and the shear monotony of it, pounding into your brain. And yet I find myself humming or tapping my foot to much of this. The synthesizer is not trying to duplicate the sounds of the autobahn; it's evoking them musically in a catchy and hypnotic fashion. What's more hypnotic than a long car journey on an autobahn?

'Kometenmelodie 1' is dark and moody, and could be the background music to a spacewalk (not surprising, given the track name) - I find it very atmospheric. 'Kometentmelodie 2' lifts the gloom and quickly breaks into a catchy piece of electronica that the jerky dance style of the 1980s would suit. 'Mitternacht' sounds, as the name suggests, spooky. The night sounds from the synthesizer, the plinking, the hooting, the baying, and the hissing. 'Morgenspaziergang' uses synthesizer like the morning calls and noises of a whole host of birds. It really is the dawn chorus. Then the repetitive, simple flute (almost cuckoo-like), acoustic guitar and piano continue to evoke the feeling of the early morning. I can almost see the mist lying on the fields as I walk along the path. This is an excellent and relaxing ending to the album.

I realise that this stuff is not for everybody. If you want ornate Progressive Rock or 'space music' à la TANGERINE DREAM then look elsewhere. If you want an oeuvre of mesmerising analogue electronic music from a bygone era that is superficially accessible yet clever then check it out. It doesn't sound dated to me and I believe it to be something special, avant-garde at the time of release and - to me at least - very pleasing. You have to crank the sound up on a good sound system when you know you won't be disturbed. Listen. Sometimes less is more. I'm sorely tempted to award 5 stars to this album but there are other albums that I would take first to that desert island, so I'll settle for 4 stars (excellent addition to any progressive music collection). Nevertheless, it's a classic.

Fitzcarraldo | 4/5 |

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