Thursday, November 6, 2014


Kraftwerk explored synthesized soundscapes with the progressive poise of this expansive electronic excursion.  Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider had met while students at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf.  They became involved in experimental music and recorded an album 'Tone Float' as part of the group the Organisation, before forming Kraftwerk.  Recording three albums ('Kraftwerk', 'Kraftwerk 2', and 'Ralf and Flor') that increasingly incorporated audio tape manipulation to distort the sound of their instruments, they gradually brought synthesizers into the mix.  

Hütter recalls:   “We’d seen [Moogs] with other artists who were very popular at the time.  We knew there was this type of instrument; we had very small sine-wave generators, and we had an EMS synthesizer—very simple, basic instruments, because we were students. There was no budget. We couldn’t afford the consoles or anything, so we played it monophonic, but we recorded to multitrack.”

Their fourth album 'Autobahn' was recorded at Conny Plank's Studio in Köln, Germany and produced by Plank, Ralf Hütter, and Florian Schneider.  The album features Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider on vocals and electronics;  Klaus Röder on violin and guitar; and Wolfgang Flür on  percussion;  with Konrad "Conny" Plank as sound engineer.   

Schnieder says:  "We were on tour and it happened that we just came off the autobahn after a long ride and when we came in to play we had this speed in our music. Our hearts were still beating so fast so the whole rhythm became very fast ... The whole complex we use can be regarded as one machine, even though it is divided into different pieces...Emotion is a strange word. There is a cold emotion and other emotion, both equally valid. lt’s not body emotion, it’s mental emotion. We like to ignore the audience while we play, and take all our concentration into the music. We are very much interested in origin of music. the source of music. The pure sound is something we would very much like to achieve.”

Hütter considers:   “'Autobahn' is our first concept album, when I worked with my first electronic drum box I developed with my friend Florian. And from there into monophonic synthesisers...It’s a process...We experiment and make things happen.  Sometimes the fingers play themselves when you press record. There’s things like that on ‘Numbers’, those free-floating sound patterns: we’re not connected strictly with music, we work with sounds.  Take the name of our studios, Kling Klang: 'klang' is a word for sound, and 'kling' is the verb: ‘sounding sound’, kling klang. And it has that metallic, percussive element. It’s a very good description of our music ... We are fine when the idea comes to a clear statement.  It could be short, it could be long. We also have structure that’s very minimal, so it’s not drama. It’s more modular, minimal. It’s components, it’s conceptual. There’s development, gradual. Whereas in classical music there is drama. That’s not our thing ... When we started in the late 60s in art galleries and student clubs, there might have been 50 people or whatever, and it just developed this way. Then in the early 70s and with 'Autobahn', suddenly the world was-- it was possible for us to tour around the world. Well, in France, Italy, and America. And then from there on, it was for us like a vision of electronic music as a universal language. It became our reality...It's more like a cultural photograph. Like, say, you have the Beach Boys from California, but from Germany you would have Kraftwerk, a song about the Autobahn. It's the language of German electro music, and within our language, developed from our mother this strong quality and the motors are being tuned, and the tires are-- whatever, I don't know the English word for the noise they make. And we try to incorporate all kinds of elements."

 'Autobahn' became an international sensation, going to number twenty-seven in Sweden, eleven in the Netherlands, nine in Australia, seven in Germany and New Zealand, five in Canada and the US, and number four in the UK.

The 'Autobahn' single edit charted at number thirty in Australia, twenty-five in the US, twenty in Ireland, sixteen in the Netherlands, twelve in Canada, eleven in the UK, nine in Germany, and number four in New Zealand.

full album:

Side one
"Autobahn" ("Motorway") (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Emil Schult) – 22:43

Side two 
"Kometenmelodie 1" ("Comet Melody 1") (Hütter, Schneider) – 6:26 (inspired by Comet Kohoutek)
"Kometenmelodie 2" ("Comet Melody 2") (Hütter, Schneider) – 5:48
"Mitternacht" ("Midnight") (Hütter, Schneider) – 3:43
"Morgenspaziergang" ("Morning Walk") (Hütter, Schneider) – 4:04

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