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KRAFTWERK

Kraftwerk

 

Progressive Electronic

3.33 | 100 ratings

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4 stars The frequent comparisons to Can are about the closest you're going to get to any similar sounding music. Kraftwerk define their own space with every album - and yet, with the debut, there is something deeply rooted in 1970s rock, despite the apparent synth overload.

This is not full-blown electronica, as in actual fact, there are no synths - but the mix of organ and electronically effected acoustic/electric instruments makes for a very pleasing and retrospective texture.

"Ruckzuck" takes a minimalistic approach, and grows small textural ideas - this is not the type of Progressive Rock that blares "I'm Brilliant - Stand In AWE", but the type that draws you into a very intimate zone - a personal, unfolding voyage into inner and outer space simultaneously.

The trick is to try to follow all of the individual lines at once - it's nearly impossible. Following individual lines defeats the objectives of the music, and would fool the casual listener into believing that this is somehow simple or even nonsensical. It is actually a band that is tightly integrated with a common vision of the direction of the music - bordering slightly on the insane.

This is clearly evidenced in "Stratovarius", which begins with a sequence of ever- straining dischords, reminiscent of an orchestra tuning up. Eastern flavours creep in, and then someone walks off... once that oddity has passed, pizzicato madness starts to set in, but settles into a groove quite quickly, underpinned by detuned bass and a really cool drum beat that twists and turns, assisting the music in its build-up in a section that clearly has its roots in Krautrock/psychedelia.

The pizzicato returns around 7:30, marking out what appears to be a 3rd section to the piece. Indeed, this feels more like a new piece in the same style rather than the continuation of the existing piece - but that doesn't matter too much, as the style is given some continuity with violin flavours in the texture - I'm assuming that this is what "Stratovarius" is referring to; the use of violin and doctored violin sounds as textural leitmotif that goes beyond the original sound of the instrument.

A 4th section begins unmistakably with the use of a mournful bowed violin sound - whether it's acoustic or electronic is somewhat obfuscated by the clever overlays, but it's a great build-up that superficially may seem repetitive, but Kraftwerk have a great handle on minimalism and understand where to tweak the sounds to provide maximum dramatic growth.

"Megaherz" follows, and again, the dry Kraftwerk humour shows through, beginning with deep, throbbing bass sounds (in the herz arena, but lots in terms of ambient quantity...). This is gradually layered with dissonant washes of what appear to be synth in a wonderfully atmospheric way, that makes me feel as if I'm staring down some kind of electronic hole in the space-time continuum... This drops away to a gentle and pastoral flavoured section, beautifully floaty, with the occasional dischord to counterbalance any saccharine in the sweetness of the surrounding textures. Shimmering metallic sounds indicate the gentle growth of the piece, providing a kind of alarm to new possibilities. Time seems to stand still.

This piece is a perfect example of how ambient music can be written, with attention paid to the character of the music, and instrumental decoration kept to a minimum - virtuosity is provided in the treatment of the instrumental textures, some of which are processed through various effects, others of which are effects produced by different methods of playing the instruments.

"Vom Himmel Hoch" rounds off the album nicely - another near-perfect composition for what it is. There are moments in here that remind me very strongly of the more "floaty" parts of "Dark Side of the Moon" - almost as if Pink Floyd lifted the sections from around 3:00...

The Krautrock "freakout" that follows shows a fabulously creative set of imaginations at work, with sounds that are disturbing and edgy, and reminiscent of the tape collages of Karlheinz Stockhausen, and the easy yet disturbed groove that brings the piece to a close is strongly predictive of the Ozric Tentacles.

It's quite apparent that the engineering and effects processing is just as important to the success of this album as a coherent and very progressive work of art as the playing of the band itself, which is another thing that this album has in common with "DSOTM".

As a summary, an absolutely fabulous work of art - I would say stunning for a debut, but that wouldn't be strictly true, as Hutter and Schnieder released an album called "Tone Float" under the name of Organisation. This is a decidedly more exploratory affair, with none of the hallmarks of a band having mastered its sound that "Kraftwerk" shows. A real Power Station of ideas and highly recommended.

I'd like to say that it's a masterpiece, because it is.

I think the thing that stops me from saying that it's a masterpiece of Prog Rock is because the Rock aspects are often incidental - although on this album they are natually stronger than on any other that Kraftwerk ever produced thanks to the presence of instruments that are largely acoustic, 2 real drummers and a drum-machine builder (Schnieder).

However, the thrust is towards electronic music and bears many similarities with the ways in which the electronic composers of the 1940s built their music... which is an extraodinarily progressive way of thinking - although understandable, given that both Florian and Schnieder were classical music students at Dusseldof university and would have been given maximum exposure to this radical form of music - hence the natural comparisons with Can.

None of which is a convincing argument as to why this album should not be considered a masterpiece of Prog Rock.

So I'll just have to fall back to that old chestnut, opinion.

"Kraftwerk" is an absolute masterpiece - a fantastic album of brilliantly concieved, flawlessly executed and perfectly produced progressive music which, if it's not there already, is seriously missing from your prog collection. But it's not a masterpiece of Prog rock because I say so.

And I'm sure your ears will agree. :o)

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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