Review Summary: Kraftwerk's self-titled debut is filled to the brim with divergent ideas but, despite its muscle, is mildly forgettable.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Kraftwerk were one of the most influential groups in the evolution of electronic music. Their reputation as seminal architects of the genre is well-deserved, given their innovation and exploration of the many facets that could define this style. However, before their breakthrough record Autobahn
, the band was an overlooked name that blended underneath the Krautrock umbrella. Their self-titled debut is an effort to juggle around disparate sounds with the hope of locating a purpose.
While only four tracks comprise Kraftwerk
, there are several different bastions within each track. Some segments emphasize dissonant percussion, and others zero in on a more slow, sedated emanation. The album excels at being unpredictable, since every instance of stillness feels tenuous and insecure. As a result, the LP provides a very interesting dichotomy between control and chaos. Kraftwerk's music is consistently antsy and anxious. From the acceleration of "Ruckzuck" to the crumbling introduction of "Stratovarius", recalcitrance is in the air. The persistent jostling within these tracks keeps the album kinetic, yet it also makes it unbalanced and tiresome.
Each track has its fair share of bright spots, like the payoff at the end of "Vom Himmel Hoch" where driving percussion and noisy drones signal a sonic implosion, however some of these pinnacles do not quite warrant the drawn-out lengths of the tracks themselves. Thus, the less imposing sections feel empty and uneventful. For an album that, as a unit, feels so restless itself, Kraftwerk
demands a significant amount of patience to allow its sprawling ideas to unfold completely. "Megaherz", for example, is the album's slowest track, germinating at a more relaxed pace but constantly building toward something more unsettling.
On this album, Kraftwerk sound much more organic than robotic, utilizing electronics sparingly to accommodate other components like drums, flutes, and ragged feedback. However, it often seems like Kraftwerk are using these ingredients to add muscle to their sound when, in fact, there is not as much substance beneath the crust. Kraftwerk's approach on this LP is certainly adventurous, but the four tracks together don't really form any distinguishable force. Thus, the impact that they shoot for is never really there.
Kraftwerk's first record finds itself wandering in many different directions without any real unification. At the same time, hearing them explore these paths can be intriguing, especially when the band's music takes sudden leaps. Granted, this is not an immensely engaging album, but this LP portrays musical minds on the demanding trail of experimentation. Kraftwerk's debut is not a bad effort, but given what would come later, it's not hard to see why it's been forgotten.
Vom Himmel Hoch