Man, machine and funny electric suit in perfect harmony
Three decades after they gave us a blueprint for the future of music, Tim Abrahams explores how KRAFTWERK still inspire awe and devotion worldwide.
avid Bowie went to Germany in 1975 to cure
himself of a potentially terminal case of self-
indulgence. When he left the city — thank the stars — we were saved from Bowie: the Punk Years. and were given instead a trilogy of tawdry romanticism. The decrepitude of Kreuzberg. the scuzzy squat district of West Berlin that he and Iggy Pop scampered around in. informed Bowie's three- album comedown from the glam high. West Germany. a social democracy created to blot out memories of its recent Nazi past and the corrupt dictatorship of its withered eastern half. hosted more bisexual Anglo- Saxons intent on romanticising its most squalid and desperate corners.
‘Iirom station to station back to D'Lisseldorf city/Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie‘ is a line from the title track of Trans liaropc [zit/trays. their fourth album to be released internationally. Kraftwerk. although remembered by many for their pessimistic moments. celebrated another Germany and a mythical Iiurope undivided by the Cold War. It was a world of excitement were divisions had disappeared thanks to technology and the enlightened rational society it symbolised; where you get on a train in Paris. meet a genius or two in north Germany but manage to make it to Vienna for closing time.
Their first international release. Autobahn. struck a note of clarity and enticed Bowie from LA to Berlin. As synthesisers were co-opted by British bands to bulk out guitar and drums into a preposteroust ponderous sound. Kraftwerk played them straight and. in doing so. championed the future. Together with its successor Radioactivity. Autobahn actually helped form the future. There. in one album. is the sonic palette that techno music is still using; chimes and
pulses with a perfectly round signature. Radioactivity
added to it: Geiger counter clicks and static. Thirty years later. electronic music is only just moving away from the sounds Kraftwerk first constructed.
50 THE LIST 4~18 Mar 200/.
THE ALBUM AUTOBAHN CONTAINS THE SONIC PALETI'E THAT TECHNO MUSIC IS STILL
It is no secret that Kraftwerk‘s favourite metaphor for the way they made their music was the relationship between the cyclist and his bicycle — man and machine in athletic harmony. Ironically. they created this optimistic vision of society on clunky old kit. ('omptitcr World. released in I981. was made without the aid of computers. In the past they had to dismantle their Kling Klang studio in Dusseldorf and cart it to wherever. This determined rewiring gave their music Immunity. As Karl Hyde of Underworld puts it. Kraftwerk's music is ‘precision tainted by the imprecision of humanity".
Watching a band that first celebrated the future 30 years ago will be strange. Before they released Tour (la France in 2003. their last album proper was lilcctrt'c (‘a/k‘. which came out in I986. Since then Kraftwerk have lost their percussionists Wolfgang I5Iur and Karl Bartos. who both left complaining about the slow progress of a band who once celebrated speed. Tour (la France. with its Detroit techno flavour. showed that much of what they aspired to has come to pass. They will tour throughout a united I‘iurope playing on laptops they can carry onto the plane.
Hiitter and Schneider are now pushing (TI) years old (rather than miles per hour). Iiven as mainstream fashion and graphic design pilfers their style. we‘ve even started laughing at them a little. Witness the hilarious nihilist/technopop outfit Autobahn in the (‘oen Brothers‘ 'lhc Big choirski who declared to a bemused Jeff Bridges: ‘We believe in nothing. Lebowski. Nothing. And tomorrow we come back and we cut off your Johnson.’ Yet as David Bowie endlessly reinvents himself. Kraftwerk measure out their own time. In a rare interview last year. Ralf IItitter told author and journalist David Toop: ‘We don't submit to the dictatorship of the new.‘
Carling Academy, Glasgow, Tue 16 Mar.
All the creaking, squeaking and out of turn 3 eaking in the wonderful world 0 musrc
Iggy gets downloaded
THE LINE-UP FOR THIS YEAR’S T in the Park has been announced. Go immediately to the news section on page 4 and rejoice that your favourite bands are now ofﬁcially heading to Scotland.
ONLY ADDING TO THE JAMBOREE madness is the news that the Download festival has added the Distillers. Korn. Slipknot and Machine Head to its bill for 2 and 3 June. All welcome visitors for Sure but the Scottish debut of the newly reformed Iggy and the Stooges will no doubt provide the highlight of this two-day mosh fest.
THE CLOSING DATE HAS BEEN set for those submitting entries for T Break. The winning artists will get a slot on the T Break stage at T in the Park and all musical genres are considered, so send your CD to: T Break 2004, Tennent Caledonian Breweries, 161 Duke Street, Glasgow, 631 5.10.
EDINBURGH AND GIASGOW coffee house chain Beanscene is launching its own online radio station. with a music policy that suggests the more mellow but still innovative side of the musical spectrum. Visit www.beascene.co.uk to find out more more.
MARCH IS OXFAM’S MUSIC Month, during which it has a nationwide campaign to raise money through its shops. It is asking for any music related donations to any of its 100 stores, especially the two specialist music shops at 171 Byres Road, Glasgow and 64 Raebum Place, Edinburgh.
WIN GIG TICKETS!
Fed up with not hearing the music that you want? Then join Beat 106 in demanding Better Music Right Now! Beat 106 and gigsinscotlandcom are giving away a pair of demanding pants, plus tickets for some of the best gigs around. including Roni Size. John Squire, Super Furry Animals and Graham Coxon. To enter. just be the first to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Tickets also available from www.gigsinscotland.com