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KRAFTWERK

Progressive Electronic • Germany


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Kraftwerk biography
Remaining one of the most influential bands in the history of popular music, we mustn't forget that KRAFTWERK typical sound is the result of many years and decades of experimentations, continuous works and researches in the possibilities offered by the acoustic, electronic and rock instruments.

In 1968, the two original members (Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter, two longstanding friends) formed ORGANISATION. The famous German producer Conny Plank helped them to record their first album "Tone Float". Historically this album figures among the first albums released in the Krautrock genre, next to recordings from CAN, AMON DUUL, TANGERINE DREAM. The tone is floating but above all largely dominated by long, free improvisations, mixing organs, electronic experimentations with acoustic percussions.

During the year 1970, R. Hutter and F. Schneider dissolved the band to form KRAFTWERK whose name means power station (in German). Klaus Dinger and Andreas Hokman join the band and record an album called "Kraftwerk". Very minimalist, the record's cover is a perfect illustration of a repetitive music made of sound manipulations, punctuated by the flute and the electronic organ parts. The atmosphere is slightly "garage", a bit noisy, sometimes ethereal and spacey (Megahertz). At this time, the band's reputation remains discreet, despite a certain success. One year later in 1971, Klaus Dinger leaves the band to form NEU! with Michael Rother. "Kraftwerk 2" is released the same year and pursues on the way defined by the previous album (a lot of experimental guitar parts, distorted sounds, repetitive rhythms, gradual process.).

In 1973, Florian Schneider decides to put the stress on electronic percussions and contemporary sound researches. "Ralf & Florian" marks a turning point in the band's career. The melodies and the sound used begins more and more pop orientated despite that the recordings strive to bring to the fore the talent of Schneider and Hutter as musicians. In 1974, a new start announces the creation of the "Kling Klang" studio; a small laboratory entirely devoted to advanced electronic researches and investments in new synthesisers. In the album "Autobahn" the Mini Moog and others synthesisers supplant definitely the improvisations and the aleatoric experimentations.

With captivated and very efficient melodies this album is the first of a long commercial success for the band. The band's members settle down, Wolgang Flur, Karl Bart...
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Computer WorldComputer World
Import
Elektra 2006
Audio CD$4.58
$4.57 (used)
Man MachineMan Machine
Import
Imports 2009
Audio CD$8.61
$10.05 (used)
AutobahnAutobahn
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$10.54
$10.57 (used)
The MixThe Mix
Import
Elektra / Wea 1991
Audio CD$5.26
$0.01 (used)
Kraftwerk: The Man Machine (Booklet, 180g) Vinyl LPKraftwerk: The Man Machine (Booklet, 180g) Vinyl LP
Deluxe Edition
Kling Klang
Vinyl$28.95
Tour de France [VINYL]Tour de France [VINYL]
Limited Edition · Remastered
Wb / Parlophone 2009
Vinyl$22.36
$19.95 (used)
Kraftwerk: Autobahn (Booklet, 180g) Vinyl LPKraftwerk: Autobahn (Booklet, 180g) Vinyl LP
Deluxe Edition
Kling Klang
Vinyl$28.95
Electric CafeElectric Cafe
Import
Elektra / Wea 1990
Audio CD$9.64
$3.78 (used)
Kraftwerk 2Kraftwerk 2
Import
Phantom Sound & Vision 1999
Audio CD$21.99
$20.99 (used)
Radio-ActivityRadio-Activity
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$9.93
$13.12 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
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4h 26m
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Kraftwerk "Trans-Europe Express" Synth Electronic LP Capitol USD $8.49 [2 bids]
18h 17m
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23h 24m
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1 day
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USD $18.72 Buy It Now
1 day
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1 day
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1 day
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1 day
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2 days
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2 days
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LP 2
KRAFTWERK
~ USD $20.23


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KRAFTWERK shows & tickets


  • Kraftwerk at Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Edmonton on 16 Sep 2015
  • Kraftwerk -- 3-D Concert on 17 Sep 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Keller Auditorium, Portland on 19 Sep 2015
  • Kraftwerk 3-D Concert on 25 Sep 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Ryman Auditorium, Nashville on 27 Sep 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Gusman Center For the Performing Arts, Miami on 29 Sep 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Electric Factory, Philadelphia on 2 Oct 2015
  • Kraftwerk 3D Concert on 3 Oct 2015
  • Kraftwerk - 3-D Concert on 5 Oct 2015
  • Kraftwerk on 7 Oct 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, Kansas City, MO on 9 Oct 2015
  • Kraftwerk 3D Concert on 7 Nov 2015
  • KRAFTWERK 3D CONCERT on 7 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Cité des Congrès, Nantes on 9 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk 3-D on 13 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Cavea del Nuovo Teatro dell'Opera, Firenze on 16 Nov 2015
  • KRAFTWERK 3D KONZERT on 17 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Lichtburg, Essen on 20 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk - Spätshow on 20 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Lichtburg, Essen on 21 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk - Spätshow on 21 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Lichtburg, Essen on 22 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk - 3D-Konzert on 23 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Palladium, Cologne on 25 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk - 3D Konzert on 26 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Congress Centrum CCH, Hamburg on 27 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Beethovensaal, Stuttgart on 29 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Beethovensaal, Stuttgart on 30 Nov 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Jahrhunderthalle, Frankfurt on 1 Dec 2015
  • Kraftwerk at Forum Karlín, Prague on 3 Dec 2015

KRAFTWERK discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

KRAFTWERK top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.25 | 62 ratings
Tone Float (Organisation)
1969
3.35 | 111 ratings
Kraftwerk
1970
3.18 | 81 ratings
Kraftwerk 2
1971
3.44 | 76 ratings
Ralf & Florian
1973
3.51 | 230 ratings
Autobahn
1974
3.11 | 134 ratings
Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität)
1975
3.92 | 244 ratings
Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express)
1977
3.92 | 277 ratings
The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine)
1978
3.79 | 170 ratings
Computer World (Computerwelt)
1981
2.27 | 76 ratings
Electric Café (AKA "Techno Pop")
1986
2.76 | 51 ratings
The Mix
1991
3.28 | 73 ratings
Tour de France Soundtracks
2003

KRAFTWERK Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.90 | 15 ratings
Concert Classics
1998
3.29 | 41 ratings
Minimum Maximum
2005

KRAFTWERK Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.89 | 25 ratings
Minimum Maximum
2005
4.10 | 10 ratings
Kraftwerk And The Electronic Revolution
2008

KRAFTWERK Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.17 | 9 ratings
Kraftwerk (1 and 2)
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Kraftwerk 2
1975
1.39 | 10 ratings
Exceller 8
1975
3.00 | 6 ratings
Doppelalbum
1976
0.00 | 0 ratings
Kometenmelodie 2 (Compilation)
1976
3.67 | 3 ratings
Pop Lions - Autobahn
1976
0.00 | 0 ratings
Kraftwerk 1
1977
3.33 | 3 ratings
Highrail
1979
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Capitol Years: Three Originals
1994
3.50 | 2 ratings
The Model
1994
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of Kraftwerk
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Kraftwerk (Box Set)
1997
4.84 | 10 ratings
The Catalogue
2009

KRAFTWERK Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Ruckzack
1970
3.71 | 6 ratings
Kohoutek - Kometenmelodie
1973
4.20 | 5 ratings
Kometenmelodie 2
1974
0.00 | 0 ratings
Mitternacht / Morgenspaziergang
1974
3.00 | 1 ratings
Trans Europa Express
1977
4.00 | 1 ratings
Showroom Dummies
1977
5.00 | 1 ratings
Les Mannequins
1977
4.00 | 1 ratings
Das Model
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Die Roboter
1978
4.15 | 8 ratings
Neon Lights
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Computerwelt
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
Numbers
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
Taschenrechner
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
Computer Love
1981
4.27 | 15 ratings
Tour De France
1983
4.00 | 1 ratings
Musique Non Stop
1986
0.00 | 0 ratings
Der Telefon Anruf
1987
4.13 | 8 ratings
Die Roboter
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Robotnik
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Showroom Dummies (1992 Single)
1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
Homecomputer
1997
1.56 | 7 ratings
Expo 2000
1999
4.17 | 6 ratings
Expo 2000 (Remix)
2000
3.57 | 7 ratings
Expo Remix
2001
3.71 | 7 ratings
Tour De France 2003
2003
3.00 | 1 ratings
Elektro Kardiogramm
2003
2.35 | 7 ratings
Aerodynamik
2007

KRAFTWERK Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Computer World (Computerwelt) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.79 | 170 ratings

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Computer World (Computerwelt)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by HolyMoly
Forum & Site Admin Group Forum & Site Admin

4 stars Several weeks ago, I had an epiphany of sorts with respect to this album, and that is the inspiration for this review.

First, a little background: I remember becoming aware of this album way back in 1981 - the pop radio station where I lived played the track "Numbers" several times, probably for its novelty value: a song that counted a bunch of numbers in a robotic voice set to a sequenced synthetic melody eerily similar to that heard the prior year on Paul McCartney's synth fiasco "Temporary Secretary" (which I loved). But the seed was planted. The next time I went to a record store, I saw Kraftwerk's album "Computer World" and almost decided to buy it. Eventually, I did buy it.

Back then, I was in junior high school. Computers were new, a little bit alien, and kind of fascinating. Kraftwerk latched on to our collective curiosity about a world with computers. Today their involvement in our life seems obvious, even inevitable, but back then it was a big question mark. Isaac Asimov and Alan Parsons were wondering if the man/machine relationship would really yield the utopian life the optimists anticipated. I myself composed an admittedly naive but nonetheless sincere collage piece where I questioned the wisdom of letting computers take too much time out of our lives. Kraftwerk, meanwhile, seemed to tell us, hey, don't worry, be happy.

That is the vibe I get from Computer World. It presents man and machine working together in harmony, with the most relaxed and playful melodies you'd ever expect coming out of what sounds like a vintage 1980s Nintendo system.

My epiphany came when I was driving with my family in the car. We'd had a fun day, and we went out after dinner to get some frozen yogurt. I was driving, my wife was on her iPhone, my daughter was in the back seat on her Kindle, and Kraftwerk was on the stereo. As the music played, I heard the blips and beeps from my family's electronic devices, and rather than feel the Techno-Fear that so many of my contemporaries feel upon realizing that their families are spending way too much time staring at computer screens, I felt an odd sort of Harmony going on. The music on the stereo and the incidental sounds coming out of their devices were almost "jamming" with each other! Our lives and the machinery that kept us entertained blipped and beeped in the same kind of rhythmic harmony as the music I was hearing. It all seemed to fit together, and it reinforced an idea I've held for a while: Technology is not our enemy. Technology is as beautiful as a painting - or a piece of music. It's all part of the same wellspring of human ideas.

Ok, Ok, not very politically correct but I'm just relating what I felt. This album really just reinforced some ideas I had first encountered in my favorite tome Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig, that the relationship between man and machine need not be any different from the relationship between man and "nature", because "nature" also encompasses "machines". It's all just different manifestations of the same "stuff". And I will always remember this, and will always associate that discovery with this album.

In a historical context, Kraftwerk, who had pretty much invented synth-pop during the preceding 5 years, presented this album almost as a "hey, remember us?" kind of gesture. The music they had pioneered had influenced bands that were all over the radio by then. Although this album really broke no new ground like Trans Europe Express had, it gave the Kraftwerk guys a well-deserved opportunity to do a "victory lap". It's ironic in this light that I first perceived them as a novelty band in 1981 - they were probably the pioneers of half the styles I was hearing on the radio from my favorite pop stars at the time.

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 The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.92 | 277 ratings

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The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Dobermensch

4 stars As soon as I see the iconic sleeve, my mind relays the past 28 years since first hearing 'Die Mensch Maschine'. So many faded memories... but as far as the recording goes, it's razor sharp in my mind. Every note, lyric and fragmentary silence between sounds are permanently etched in my brain.

From the striking red, white and black colours displayed on the cover - used elsewhere in German history to great effect - to the purely functional, without fuss approach, I'll always be a huge fan of this album. While American artists like Springsteen were chest beating and crotch thrusting, Kraftwerk displayed a purely synthetic, non human, non sexual mechanical approach which went on to influence more bands than I've had hot dinners. From post punk, new romantics (with their white faces and red lipstick), to techno and hip-hop. Whew! that's one hell of a legacy they hold.

'Robots' is as far away from their origins as you could imagine. Flutes and drums are now the arch enemy, to be eschewed at all costs. The Vocoder vocals over this entirely electronic track sets the scene. Plinky-plonky keyboards rigidly patter out the melody of this Tuetonic pop tune as Ralf Hütter's sexless vocals recites the the hilarious lyrics (in my mind only) 'We're filthy Roboters'. Springy, bouncing synths and playful percussion only add to my amusement.

You'll pretty much get from the above as to what follows - and it does. There are some straight vocals but they still sound like a more tuneful 'HAL' from '2001- Space Odyssey' during it's malfunction phase. The best is left till last with the title track - with its primitive sequencer sound and highly manipulated vocals saturated beneath a pulsing clockwork bass throb. Fragments of which you'll hear in such bands such as New Order, Ultravox, OMD, John Foxx, Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, Aphex Twin, Autechre... the list goes on and on...

Sensibly they put a lid on things during 1981, after Computer World, realising that there really wasn't that much more they could contribute that was ground-breaking or cutting edge. What we're left with is some of the best electronic albums ever put to vinyl - which sounds twice as good on CD format.

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 Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.92 | 244 ratings

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Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by aglasshouse

4 stars Well, out of all of the Kraftwerk to review first, I decide that Trans-Europa Express is my best option, seeing as it has several of my favorites on it. Now, before I begin I must note that Kraftwerk was stuck in a limbo-like state, due to the more mainstream sound of Radio- Activity and the still remaining experimentation of Autobahn. So they ultimately decided to take a slice of both cakes and put them on the same plate. Thank god that plate didn't fall out of their hand only for the cake to make a large pile of frosting and disappointment. All similies aside, onto the review.

The album starts out with the most known track, 'Europe Endless', which reminds me of the same traveling tunes that 'Autobahn' had some of. Both are free-flowing, giving the sense of travel and adventure. They are quite nice for a car ride, or in this case, a train ride in the morning. 'Showroom Dummies' has a basic beat with a what sounds like one-man choir singing in the backround throughout the song. The song speaks of, you guessed it, the viewpoint of shop window (or in this case showroom) mannequins. It is quite interesting upon listen, it's actually one of my favorite tracks from the album. The second most known song would have to be the title track, 'Trans Europe Express', with groovy fluctuations and synth blasts. The song is undoubtedly a foot tapper, and is actually an interesting listen. This song perhaps may be my favorite song on the album (and perhaps my favorite Kraftwerk song besides 'Sex Object' from Electric Cafe). 'Metal on Metal' has the exact same beat, except this time there's different strange noises thrown in. 'Abzug' continues the similar beat, even going to far to have the same line of "...Trans- Europe Express...". Except this time, it's slightly less creative due to the lack of most any other words. This is my main problem with the album. If you're trying to have a creative album, especially one that mainly uses electronic elements, don't make a large majority of the tracks base off of eachother. Having 'Trans-Europe Express' alone would be better without these two copy songs.

'Franz Schubert' provides not much in the way of different music, in fact it's sort of bland in the way of music on this album. A nice ambient electronic track, but in no means matching the sound of the other songs. 'Endless Endless' is a really nice way to end the album, with the same free-feel that the album opener gave us. Listening to it just reminds me of a city- scape speeding by under a sky of blue. It's a quite nice little minute-long ditty.

So there you have it. Although Trans Europe Express may not be as known as Autobahn, The Man Machine, or even Computer World, I think it deserves a space up there with the bigger Kraftwerk releases.

Go give it a listen.

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 Tone Float (Organisation) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.25 | 62 ratings

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Tone Float (Organisation)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by aglasshouse

1 stars I really had not expected an entrance like this from the electronic band Kraftwerk. In fact, this album is the very last thing I'd think they'd come out with.

This little krautrock gem is a five track release that was recorded by Organisation (pre-Kraftwerk) back in 1969. Mind you, this was before they became Kraftwerk with their 1970 eponymous release. I'd hate to bash on a genre so innocent as krautrock, because I happen to enjoy a number of bands that apply to it, especially Can. But it is obvious after listening why Organisation couldn't stay the way they were.

Wow, these guys tried WAAY too hard to be as experimental as they could possibly be. And when I say that, I mean that they made their music sound excruciating in the name of art. I honestly don't know how people can seem to enjoy this. Sure, I guess you could say that it was 'influencial', but I haven't exactly seen any band that says: "Oh, well we were inspired by the band Organisation. Me and my friends would listen to them all the time while we were kids. Their 1969 album Tone Float really inspired us to make our own sound." If you've heard that from a person, please let me know, because I sure haven't.

I really hate the fact that I have to hate this album. I mean, these guys sure did try and all on this, and it's true that it doesn't sound anything like Kraftwerk, but oh my god. I couldn't even make it through any of the songs during this review. The album has the twenty minute long title track, a compilation of echoes and rhythms, with a third quarter that actually sounds nice. Other than that, this album is completely worthless. 'Milk Rock' could have managed to be a standable track, but instead we get some guitar doodling and incoherent keyboard, all the while a stabbing synth rhythm buries itself in your brain. 'Silver Forest' is worthless, floaty fanfare with unnecessary cymbal crashes and glittery synthesizer. 'Rhythm Salad' is probably one of the most annoying songs I've ever heard, with a ton of people randomly jamming on what seem to be bongos, castanets, and maracas to make something to use as an excuse for art. The finale epic, 'Noitasinagro', is a strange yet painfully boring song with very little context or overall need.

So if you are seeking some good old classic krautrock, here you go. This would be perfect for you, but be warned; if you are searching for krautrock like Can or Neu!, then you are sadly mistaken.

I do not recommend this album.

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 Autobahn by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.51 | 230 ratings

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Autobahn
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by MonsterMagnet

2 stars Autobahn, innovative album precursor of electro pop. It came of course from Germany, as the country had opened rock's gates to electronic influences.The titles are built around the concept of a trip on the highway. Autobahn is the long part of the trip when the road is full; then it's Kometenmelodie, the nightfall (composed of a contemplative first part and of a more festive and joyful second one); followed by the stranger Mitternacht; next it's Morgenspaziergang describing the sunrise with birdsongs imitated by synths which is added a little flute melody reminiscent of Grieg's Morning Mood. Autobahn may be appreciated for its sweet naivety but it sounds pretty easy to me, even boring sometimes. In fact I would say it has a lack of creativity, of inventiveness. However it's true that this music feels comfortable, so you could ask me why it doesn't please me. On a certain point of view you're right, but for musical expectations Autobahn is rather poor. If this album was part of a property catalog, I'd give it more stars because it fills well and decorates nicely an atmosphere. Good to relax, maybe, not to listen to.

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 Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 134 ratings

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Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Realising they had hit on an intriguing new direction on Autobahn, Kraftwerk doubled down on the followup album Radio-Activity by relying still further on electronic instruments. This time, they experimented with the potential of crafting wholly electronic works which functioned as satisfying pop numbers as well as exercises in testing the limits of electronics. Of course, once the late-1970s/early 1980s synthpop wave hit this would all sound rather obvious, but it would be wrong to downplay the importance of this album in laying the groundwork for an entire new genre of music. At points it does feel like rough sketches towards more confident subsequent releases like Trans-Europe Express or The Man-Machine, but it's still an important release in its own right.

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 Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.11 | 134 ratings

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Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I seem to be going out on a limb here with my five stars for Kraftwerk's undervalued 1975 album. As of this writing, ten out of fourteen ProgArchive collaborators (a convincing 71%) all agree on its 'good, but non-essential' status, and not without reason. The general consensus is that the album was patched together under pressure to recreate another 'Autobahn', a conclusion I don't buy. Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider always enjoyed total creative control over their music, and have never failed to know exactly what they were doing. So why should this album have been any different?

I can't say I'm surprised by the prevailing low opinion of it. But when revisiting the album after several decades what I hear is the first, full realization of the classic Kraftwerk ethos. At a time when rock music (and Progressive Rock in particular) was approaching its nadir of decadence, Ralf and Florian simplified their budding commercial impulses and fashioned a unique retro-futuristic self-image, combining elegant suits and poses with antique radio equipment and state-of-the-art musical technology.

For a German band it was a brilliant aesthetic concept, leapfrogging European history from the 1930s to the 1970s as if National Socialism had never happened. A happy side-effect to the new style was that it rendered the music all but timeless, even today, and despite the dated bleeps and buzzes of all those analog synthesizers, because the image of the group itself was already backdated forty years.

From a musical standpoint it's true the album is a bit thin. Of the dozen indexed tracks maybe a third are genuine songs; the balance is effects, transitions, and cyber-social experiments. The resulting collection can seem uneven (and I'm sympathetic to that criticism), but it can also be heard as an evening's old-style radio broadcast, complete with news, intermission, and frustrating on-air equipment tests. The non-musical digressions are more frequent on the second half of the CD (Side Two of the original vinyl). But in the context of their larger career the discomforting sine-waves and primitive vocoders heard in 'Radio Stars' (which I find perversely soothing, in a comic sort of way) marked an affectionate farewell to the long-haired laboratory research of Ralf and Florian's Krautrock infancy.

The album was also hugely influential, almost singlehandedly spawning an entire generation of synth-pop imitators, especially in England. 'Autobahn', by comparison, was only a fluke: a flash-in-the-pan novelty song from a pair of reluctant rockers still clinging to their guitars and flutes. Here their true musical identity suddenly emerged whole and complete, a preview to the even more streamlined packages of 'Trans-Europe Express' and 'The Man Machine'.

All this is of course subjective. But it's important to remember that 'essential' doesn't necessarily mean 'perfect' (it might not even equate with 'good'). 'Radio-Activity' is hardly the most perfect Kraftwerk album - that would arguably be either of their subsequent two releases - but there's a lot more here than just unfulfilled potential and atonal filler. It was a glimpse of the future as it might have been imagined in 1935, performed (with deadpan irony) in the present-day of 1975, and sounding no less weirdly anachronistic as I write this in 2013.

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 Autobahn by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.51 | 230 ratings

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Autobahn
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Contrary to what the band itself would have you believe, "Autobahn" wasn't Kraftwerk's debut album. Ralf and Florian have officially denied the existence of anything recorded prior to their 1974 breakaway hit, but despite its reputation as a pioneering slice of embryonic electronica the record was actually the last of their formative efforts, sharing more common ground with the band's Krautrock roots than with the robotic archetypes of later albums.

In retrospect the 22-minute title song was an obvious preview of coming attractions. But at the time the band was still more Man than Machine, with flutes and guitars very much in evidence, notably on Side Two of the original LP, divided into four shorter instrumental tracks. "Kometenmelodie" presented a more symphonic refinement of their earlier techno-pop single (dropping any reference to the cosmic dud of Comet Kohoutek); "Mitternacht" was a darker, ambient refugee from the band's experimental adolescence; and the gentle flute of "Morgenspaziergang", complete with tacky electronic birdsong, quietly reprised the "Autobahn" melody in a nice bit of understated (acoustic) closure.

Nothing too revolutionary, which may be why the latter half of the LP is often dismissed as filler. But in career terms the album has to be considered a landmark recording, breaking new ground (for both the band and for musical posterity) by embracing the brave new world of synthesizers in a pop music format. Before "Autobahn", most electronic innovators (think TANGERINE DREAM) were stuck in a deep exploratory rut. But Ralf and Florian made the canny decision to abandon the influence of Stockhausen in favor of The Beach Boys, and the result was a hit that made them unlikely global superstars.

The next few Kraftwerk albums would define the newly-minted KlingKlang ideal for all time. But it's the lingering echoes of their closet avant-rock adolescence that make this album special: the still warm fossil of an all-too human impulse the band would soon and forever turn their backs on.

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 Concert Classics by KRAFTWERK album cover Live, 1998
3.90 | 15 ratings

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Concert Classics
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars It looks like a throwaway bootleg, and certainly isn't endorsed by either Ralf or Florian. But this belated live album is pure gold to fans of classic Kraftwerk, offering a rare glimpse at an era unrepresented elsewhere in their official discography, early in the band's electro-pop puberty after the success of the 1974 "Autobahn" album.

The packaging is sketchy, with inaccurate credits, misnamed track titles, and no information about the gig itself (May 1975 in Denver, according to my research). And the band photos shown on the album cover and CD image are all wrong, dating from years later in their career. But the audio quality is better than expected: a soundboard rip, I'm guessing, complete with stray feedback, long silences between songs (several minutes in one instance), and a curious phasing sound in the background throughout the entire concert.

The tunes depart significantly from their studio models, too. "Kling Klang" (not "Morgenspaziergang, Part 1", as it's listed on the cover) is really a new melody altogether, improvised on the spot, and miles away from the immaculate laptop extravaganzas of later concerts. At one point Ralf Hütter actually apologizes for the delay caused by a malfunctioning drum machine.

But the occasional performance goof and technical faux-pas have the not unwelcome side effect of humanizing the budding man-machines on stage. In Middle America circa 1975 the band was little more than a funny German novelty act, still performing on homemade instruments built from tin foil and household glue. This was Kraftwerk playing music instead of merely programming it, and their growing pains only make the show more appealing.

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 Kohoutek - Kometenmelodie by KRAFTWERK album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1973
3.71 | 6 ratings

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Kohoutek - Kometenmelodie
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Kraftwerk's first single is noteworthy for several reasons, beginning with the unlikely fact that two erstwhile Krautrockers like Ralf and Florian were contemplating the singles market in the first place: a rare commercial move in counterculture Germany. Their debut 45 predated the epiphany of the "Autobahn" LP by almost a year, but clearly anticipated the more popular electronic grooves of future albums, albeit in a primitive lo-fi vernacular far removed from their later Man-Machine avatars.

Collectors will appreciate the value of the artifact itself (7" vinyl! Never officially digitized!); fans will be surprised by how far it departs from the more familiar album version. The same melody on the "Autobahn" revision would become an almost majestic synth-rock boogie-woogie stomp. But the earlier recording, named after the much-hyped comet discovered the same year, reverses the arrangement of tempos: the B-Side is the slower movement here, and was closer aligned with older currents of Kosmische Rock than its long-playing cousin.

The A-Side of the single is rinky-dink kid's stuff by comparison, but years ahead of its time. In just a few bouncy minutes it plants one of the first seeds for the British techno-pop invasion a decade later: Depeche Mode, OMD, the Silicon Teens, you name 'em. Not too shabby an accomplishment for a pair of young bourgeois rebels from suburban Düsseldorf, still searching for a musical style to call their own.

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