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Kraftwerk - Trans-Europe Express [Aka: Trans-Europa Express] CD (album) cover

TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS [AKA: TRANS-EUROPA EXPRESS]

Kraftwerk

 

Progressive Electronic

3.95 | 320 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Caught between the full frontal technology-oriented harshness of "Radio-Activity" and the stylish, colourful amalgam of "The Man-Machine", "Trans-Europe Express" stands as a kind of compromise between the respective general outlines of both aforementioned albums. It is clear that the band is more confident than ever before about their own peculiar musical trend, so they can now expand their scheme and enrich it with a series of melodic structures and expanding their ideas (therefore, making their tracks a bit longer). 'Europe Endless' celebrates the clichés comprised in the prototype of European dandy, with an unhidden touch of glamour in the synth lead lines and textures, as well as in the catchy pattern delivered by the two percussionists on their electronic devices. It's like a train ride through the most Cosmopolitan parts of Europe, seen through the combined eyes of a tourist pleased to see what is portrayed in postcards and a local gentleman that manages to make his way into the contemporary world while yearning for a golden past - in fact, I think that this different contemporary world is alluded by the vocoderized vocals in the additional harmonies. I strongly suspect that this celebration is mostly a statement of irony, perhaps a cruel wake-up call to all those old- fashioned snobs who still set the Belle Epoque as an example of joie de vivre. However, the gentle orchestrations don't sound cruel at all, but mesmeric and, overtly, elegant. The mesmeric factor is further explored and increased in 'The Hall of Mirrors', a modern Narcissus tale that portrays a great young movie star who finds himself captivated by his own beauty and gets trapped among the countless reflections of himself: maybe this is where Kraftwerk state their criticism against the old-fashioned European dandy's self-indulgence. Anyway, this track's most notable features are the clever use of hypnotic synth sequences and the recurring footstep-sounding percussives: the former portray the circular prison of narcissism, while the latter add a "thriller" element to the fold, showing how dreadful the main character's impending fate is. Effective sinister stuff wrapped in an electronic minimalistic cover. With 'Showroom Dummies' Kraftwerk return to the high spirit of the opening title, albeit a bit closer to disco music: the Pygmalion-esque story of boutique dummies who come alive and go party seems to me like a postlude reflection on the European dandy ideology - all that is left of it from the last quarter of the 20th century onwards is a plastic exposure, with nothing real underneath. Then comes the title track, a powerful musical ride of intensity and monotony that includes an aggressive percussive section ('Metal on Metal'): this number takes a clear hint to the "Radio-Activity" stuff, albeit with an increased sense of oppressiveness. The recurrent explosive keyboard orchestrations are provided an exciting contrast by the repeated vocoderized choruses: it is in these specific moment that this track becomes the definitive epitome of the album's artistic direction. This one ends with the harsh noise of a train stopping and lots of people coming down, which serves as an effective contrast against the following number, a homage to Franz Schubert titled after the classical composer himself. The eerie synth soundscapes articulated with floating sequences and dreamy layers conjure images of past splendour. until the 'Endless Endless' litany emerges to remind us, once again, that the current world is a very different one. This is a very good album, almost excellent, but falls short in comparison to "Autobahn" or "The Man-Machine" - 3 to 3 ½ stars.
Cesar Inca | 3/5 |

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