Kraftwerk!

What they called robot pop contained exactly the right ingredients to reach mass appeal. Kraftwerk is one of the most influential electronic acts of all time. It makes sense too, seeing that one of their biggest influences was The Beach Boys. Americas most timeless and arguably most popular rock/ pop bands. Taking catchy ingredients from America, and combing it with their love for electronic music, Schneider and Hutter created Autobahn. (1974) Apparently they got the recipe right. The pop elements made the album accessible by the masses, and brought them very wide appeal not only in their home country, but in the states as well.

Their love for radio communication led to the aptly titled follow up album, Radio-Activity. This album was also recorded in their old, empty warehouse dubbed “Kling-Klang.” This would become their studio and home base; where many of their albums were recorded. The title of the album is actually sort of a pun. They were interested in radio communication technology, and also radioactivity. All the music was written by Hutter and Schneider, and entirely self produced by them as well.

In 1977 they released Trans-Europe Express. This album featured almost no human touches, and was done using custom made sequencing machines. In 1978 they released The Man Machine. This album continued where the last album left off. However it was much more complicated so instead of being recorded and mixed in King-Klang, the final mix ended up being done in Dusseldorf by a recording engineer from Detroit. Between the years of 1978 though 1981 they recorded their next album Computer World. A lot of the time was spent making the studio portable, so they could tour right after releasing the album, and bring everything with them. In 1982 they released Technopop. The band had taken up a strong interest in cycling and released a single called Tour De France which featured breathing from a cyclist and even the sounds of chains and such. A few years later they released The Mix. They wanted to perform in quartet live, so they recruited new members Fernando, and long time studio engineer Schmitz.

Two characteristics that earn them the title as one of the most influential electronic acts of all time are their use of visual aids and their incorporation of pop elements and production styles. They were some of the very first to use vocoders live on stage to produce never before heard vocal sounds. They also had many custom pieces of gear built just for them. Sequencing machines, and cheap synthesizers gave them a very unique sound.

When I first pushed play on this weeks playlist I was very surprised at what I heard. Being a German ensemble I expected the music to be much darker, with a heavy mood and atmosphere. It happened to be the exact opposite. Autobahn was fun, and really made you want to go for a Sunday drive. They really changed the face, and perception of German music.

Heineken at the 2008 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Day 2

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2 Responses to Kraftwerk!

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog about Kraftwork. It was well put together and I totally agree with all of the points you made. I too had expected something a bit more dark and industrial. But to my surprise, I can’t stop repeating “Wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn“ as “Fun fun fun on the autobahn”. Its really catchy and once it gets stuck in your head, it doesn’t leave.

    Do you think that if Kraftwerk had never came along, electronic music would be the same as it is today? I definitely think that there would be a lot of innovations we might not have known of so soon. Their zest for using electronic instruments and synthesizers really helped a great deal to get those devices more popular within the market; despite their complexity in the early stages. But now when you look around on the internet for synthesizers, there is so much advanced equipment out. I’ve always played with the idea of traveling back in time and visiting famous bands and artists. I would give them some kind of technology from the future that aided them in music. Then, I would think about what today’s technology would be like if something like that happened. Its hard to say really, because this is the only timeline we know of.

    Great job on the blog, and all of your blogs for that matter! Keep up the great work.

  2. Pingback: Peer Comment # 4 Kraftwerk | Music History 2

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