“The sound needed remastering…it’s like a reconstruction, like when a painter takes his paintings from the archives and blows the dust off and puts them in a retrospective. It was quite time-consuming work, but I think once you see it you will immediately understand.’ – Ralf Hutter, Kraftwerk
With its iconic Emil Schult sleeve, Kraftwerk release their international breakthrough album. The symphonic title track, an epic ode to the joys of motorway travel, wraps a mesmerizing motorik rhythm around a sampled collage of car horns, engine noise, whirring tires and radio crackle. In edited form, it becomes a revolutionary hit single around the world.
Elsewhere, in wordless industrial folk music, the band reveal both their light and dark sides – ‘Mitternacht’ is all creeping midnight shadows, while ‘Morgenspaziergang’ is fresh with morning dew and birdsong. Two versions of ‘Kometenmelodie’, one a starkly gothic prowl, the other a sunny electro boogie, provide further instrumental sound paintings. Pure and strong and bold, Kraftwerk compose cinema for the ears. The pop world falls in love with them.
The impact of this album is so strong that Spin magazine includes it in their list of The15 most influential albums not recorded by The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis or the Rolling Stones. “
”Autobahn was a big step and a different approach to making an album, a whole concept…I felt really inspired by Kraftwerk’s music.” – Michael Rother (Neu and Harmonia)
Kraftwerk embrace the atomic age with mixed emotions. Surfing on sine waves, scanning the stratosphere for stray radio signals, they plug themselves into a buzzing grid of energy and communication. From the stately eco-angst anthem ‘Radioactivity’ to the synthetic Gregorian chants of ‘Radio Stars’ and the melancholy machine processional of ‘Ohm Sweet Ohm’, a sombre but engrossing monumentalism dominates.
With heavily processed vocals in both German and English, Kraftwerk go global with depth and majesty. If factories and power stations are the new cathedrals, they write liturgies for a new industrial epoch.
At the time Trouser Press magazine notes that the album marks an important step in Kraftwerk’s artistic progress converting the band into “ultramodern sonic engineers.”
“Radio-Activity is the record I would listen to and still do when I want to feel alone. It’s the warmest and to my mind the saddest of all the Kraftwerk records, though this could be attributed to the song ‘Radioland’ which is the most aching thing I’ve ever heard on record. I can easily sit in my house and cry listening to that song…This entire LP is filled with great transitions (‘Geiger Counter’ into the title track into ‘Radioland,’ etc.). It marks a bridge between the sprawling earlier work and the more controlled Man Machine and Computer World. It’s also the first time I heard this type of gentle and terrifying electronicsound, the sound at the end of “Ohm Sweet Ohm’ and the quiet space of ‘Radioland,’ that makes this record break my heart.” – James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem)
TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS
Kraftwerk celebrate Europe's romantic past and shimmering future with a glistening panorama of elegance and decadence, travel and technology. The infinite vistas of ‘Europe Endless’ and ‘Endless Endless’ bookend the album, which includes the unsettling Kafka-esque fable ‘The Hall Of Mirrors’ and the hilarious ‘Showroom Dummies’ - Kraftwerk's elegantly ironic reply to critiques of their deadpan manner.
But it is the streamlined rhythmic locomotive of ‘Trans Europe Express’ which dominates with its doppler-effect melodic swerves and hypnotic, pneumatic, piston-pumping rhythm. Along with its sister track, ‘Metal On Metal’ which New York DJ Afrika Bambaataa would re-construct five years later for his own seminal ‘Planet Rock’, this milestone in avant-pop modernism later becomes a crucial influence on the early pioneers of hip-hop & sampling, electro and industrial music. Poetry in motion.
“With Trans-Europe Express, they set out to reinvent a different legend: that of Europa itself. In the process, they changed pop music forever.” – Rolling Stone
“The juxtaposition of the humanity and the technology creates the melancholy tension. Trans Europe Express was the apex where beauty and machinery chiming together.” – Andy McClusky (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark)
THE MAN MACHINE
A bold new look, sound and concept for Kraftwerk. Over supple processed rhythms which predate the rise of European techno and trance, they address automation and alienation, space travel and engineering, the seductive allure of urban landscapes and the vacant glamour of celebrity. Clipped and funky, ‘The Robots’ adds another dimension to Kraftwerk's ultra-dry sense of humour. Behind its intoxicating melodic pulse, ‘The Model’ is a highly prophetic satire on the beauty industry, so ahead of its time that it only becomes a UK chart-topper by accident three years later. And ‘Neon Lights’ is Kraftwerk's most achingly romantic song to date, a sci-fi lullaby for cities at twilight. Pure magic.
“The album has ‘classic’ stamped all over it…in time it would acquire the same ageless quality as The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper or The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds…” – Pascal Bussy, Kraftwerk: Man Machine And Music
“I’ve been a Kraftwerk fan all my life and The Man Machine is my favorite album….The Man Machine was about as flawless record as I could imagine, everything from the artwork to the photography and the production…It sounded so perfect, this platonic ideal of what electronic music could accomplish, this combination of atmosphere, emotion, melody and rhythm. It was the first time I realized that rhythmic electronic music could be stirring, atmospheric and beautiful which is one of the things for years and years that I’ve aspired to do in the music I make.” – Moby
Kraftwerk beam themselves into the future by writing about home computers, online dating and globalised electronic surveillance years before these phenomena truly come into being. A journey into the bright hopes and dark fears of the booming microchip revolution, ‘Computer World’ is a serenely beautiful and almost seamless collage of sensual melodies and liquid beatscapes. Tracks like ‘Numbers’ and ‘Pocket Calculator’, with their weightless bleeps and elastic beats, predict the silky rhythms of Chicago house and inspire a generation of Detroit techno artists. Kraftwerk's fanfare for the silicon age still sounds ageless, timeless and throbbing with invention.
“Computer World is really the cornerstone techno album. Full steam ahead techno! Everything was just so precise about the music. They made every sound count….I hold Computer World in such high esteem, like an icon, man. “ – Juan Atkins
Kraftwerk return from five years of silence to reclaim their throne as leaders of a machine-pop revolution that they themselves began over a decade before. Their ‘Techno Pop’ album, first released under the name Electric Café but now restored to its originally intended title, provides a 360-degree overview of a multi-lingual, multi-channel, musically diverse global village.
From the block-rocking beats of ‘Boing Boom Tschack’ to the electronic funk and computer animation of ‘Musique Non Stop’, Kraftwerk soar into the digital age. Their first excursion into digital recording finds both beauty and unease in a polyglot world of permanent media overload. Once again, Dusseldorf’s test pilots of the musical future effortlessly break new ground.
“The whole side one is brilliant…I used to sample this album all of the time for bits of percussion because they had sound I could only dream of...Its original title Techno Pop makes so much more sense to me as a concept. I could never understand why it was called Electric Café. It was the first time I heard the word techno in an electronic music concept and I reckon Detroit definitely took the term from that Kraftwerk track….I feel almost ashamed when I listen to the Orbital back catalog and hear how much Kraftwerk there is on there. I still hold them up there as my musical gods.” – Paul Hartnoll (Orbital)
Kraftwerk's first fully digital album confirmed their clubland credentials and reworked 11 of their best-loved tunes for a new generation. Painstakingly reconstructed and sequenced in the band's Kling Klang studio, new versions of tracks like ‘The Robots’, ‘Trans Europe Express’ and ‘Home Computer’ now feature more funky rhythms and cleaned-up, liquid-crystal sounds. A stark warning about pollution at Sellafield is added to the glistening overhaul of ‘Radioactivity’, sparking a war of words with British Nuclear Fuels. But most of all, The Mix is a career-spanning collection of legendary electro anthems and a classy acknowledgment of the two-way traffic between Kraftwerk and club culture.
“I really love The Mix. I think it is a great album. It’s Kraftwerk’s greatest hits done on their own terms, The Mix was Kraftwerk reinterpreting their songs in the style of other people who’d come after them. Detroit and Chicago and everybody who did their own take on Kraftwerk…My copy doesn’t play any more because it was played to destruction…Kraftwerk had an undeniable influence on Joy Division and New Order.” – Stephen Morris (New Order)
TOUR DE FRANCE
The centenary of the Tour de France marks the conceptual starting line for Kraftwerk's first album in over a decade. From the chunky cyber-funk of “Vitamin” to the restless metallic shimmers of “Aéro Dynamik,” this is emphatically the sound of 21st century techno visionaries.
“Displays more intellectual rigor, subtle discipline and attention to detail than many of their younger contemporaries can ever dream of attaining.” – The Wire
“A work of near-genius.” - Mojo
“[Tour De France] has got this fantastic weightless, gliding quality, a sense of almost natural warmth and humanity that comes through what is essentially a very cold electronic sound. It just propels you forward…” – Al Doyle (Hot Chip)