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Kraftwerk - Radio-Activity [Aka: Radio-Aktivität] CD (album) cover




Progressive Electronic

3.18 | 202 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
2 stars As a huge Kraftwerk addict and owning everything they have done this is the one album that really does not deliver. It is the most forgettable Kraftwerk I have heard, including their early material!

Even "Tour de France" is better than this mess. Admittedly there are some moments of clarity that are well structured and inventive, namely the title track, Radioactivity, "it's in the air for you and me". I was reintroduced to this classic track on the wonderful indispensable DVD "Minimum Maximum" which is about the best I have seen of footage of the band. There is a Krautrock documentary available on youtube and Kraftwerk are featured prominently and this is worth checking out with some amazing footage of the early years.

After "Autobahn" the band had to follow up with a killer album as they were hot on the charts and a worldwide success in many ways. "Autobahn" was a runaway success and the fifth album for the band "Radio-Activity", a typical deadpan pun of the band commenting on radio airplay, or in their case the lack of activity, should have been an improvement, yet only reached 59 on the Canadian charts. "Autobahn" was a one hit wonder with one brilliant epic track and a lot of electronica weirdness that hardly resonates with me. Radioactivity was a single and only made an impact in France even becoming a TV theme for some weird science show. It passed by without a blip on the radar in Australia and the rest of the world apparently was no different, even Germany only gave it minimum attention.

The problem is the album goes nowhere, conceptually is muddled, and features forgettable tracks. The Hütter & Schneider produced album was created in the infamous Kling Klang studio, and is bilingual featuring both English and German, similar to the more recent Rammstein. There is some inspirational moments among a sea of mediocrity and repetitve sludge-electronica boredom.

The Vako Orchestron keyboard gives the sound of a choir merged with an organ, and this is juxtaposed with lush Moog Micromoog, ARP Odyssey and stark electronic percussion and vocoder, and vocatrax to produce a consistently cold and undefined sound. There was nothing like it at the time, making the band pioneers of the craft and systematically augmenting the Krautrock sound. Interestingly there is not a sceric of guitar, not a whisp of flute and not a screech of violin which featured on previous albums, and this actually adds to the chilling environment of bleak, sterile fridgerator sounds. The human element is eradicated and replaced by robotic mechanistic blasts of staccato bleeps. Two electronic percussionists, as one is not enough, and waves of electro excess. This trademark sound would become the absolute priority on subsequent albums such as the brilliant "Man Machine" and "Computer World". These albums are at polar opposites to "Radio-Activity".

Overall the album is an experiment in how far to take music, essentially taking 'musicianship' out of the picture, as the band were really fiddling with gadgets and creating little nuggets of keyboard motifs. They didn't just open the door to electronica, they blew the door off it's hinges! The drawcard of the album is it is evident how effectively Kraftwerk stripped away the warmth and emotions of 'humanness' in music to create the impersonal ice-cold computerised soundscape, and in this they were lightyears ahead of their time. I do not like most of the tracks on the album as they have no musical appeal, are replete with dull melodies and are a rather forgettable snorefest, apart from a few shining moments. However I have to applaud the bravery of the band's ferociously orignal approach, and this album paved the way to some of the best Krautrock-electronica on the planet.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 2/5 |


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