Review Summary: We are [not] the robots. We are [not] showroom dummies. We are...
You know, I’ve never been one to try and erase something I’ve put to my name. Sure, the end result may
end up being below standard and incredibly juvenile, but it was my
work – something to be proud of, an effort worth noticing even if I disregarded it as something otherwise. I simply never got the logic behind artists shunning their past works as something so beneath them that they just acted like they never existed, or the attempt to erase it from the canon in the hopes that people will ignore it. Here’s the kicker – art is not meant to be lost to time, to be obscured in the depths of nothing. This is what Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider have tried so hard to do for decades with the first four of their earliest works – Tone Float
(and its successor), and Ralf und Florian
. Why have they decided to act as if these works of art don’t exist though? Isn’t art meant to be heard, to be witnessed and to be consumed? One has to go back to when these albums first came out and the progression the duo made throughout the decade following to gain some sense of understanding into why they disown their own creations. Not technically the
first Kraftwerk album (that honor goes to Tone Float
, under the Organisation moniker), 1970’s Kraftwerk
showcases a band still finding its footing, but managing to put forth something so exciting and innovative that it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Tago Mago
in discussions for the greatest works in the Krautrock subgenre. There’s an unmistakable air of excitement in the four compositions that make up Kraftwerk’s self-titled album that leads one to wonder how they ended up wandering into the glistening robotics of Trans-Europe Express
. The glaring difference between the Kraftwerk of the early 70s and the Kraftwerk that went on to be pioneers of the electronic genre is perhaps the key in the ongoing efforts to ensure nobody knows the earliest of their works prior to Autobahn
As mentioned before, there’s an eager vibe throughout Kraftwerk
that isn’t exactly present in their classic works. The cold, robotic steel of those masterworks contrast greatly to the organic compositions that are featured here, though the electronics, in all their primitive glory, add to the impact this band had in their embryonic stages. The first half, featuring Andreas Hohmann on drums, immediately denies any instant gratification in favor of patience. There’s certainly some vague traces of the Kraftwerk the world knows on the gliding beat of ”Ruckzuck”
, but for the most part, the opener and its succeeding song, the steady electronic groove of ”Stratovarius”
demand patience. There’s a lot of instances in which it seems like the band are noodling around, but it doesn’t exactly mean they’re lost. They have this eagerness to how they play and it’s nothing short of charming to say the least. The second half seems to up the ante with the studio experimentation with ”Megaherz”
, a lengthy duet between Hutter and Schneider that brings about traces of ambient music, being a far-cry from what Kraftwerk would do on later albums. The finale, featuring Neu! drummer Klaus Dinger, ”Vom Himmel Hoch”
returns to the electronic clusterfu
ck that dominated a good deal of the first side of the album. This decision alone is what makes the song what it is by showcasing the band’s ability to create something so suspenseful yet bring it to such a satisfying (and admittedly, even pretty rocking) conclusion.
There’s something so endearing about listening to Kraftwerk’s debut that puts it above some of their classics. Sure, they went on to put out some of the most essential pieces of music out there, but there’s something remarkably human about this that makes it an incredible album worth giving a chance. It doesn’t even matter if Hutter and Schneider want no one to know this is where Kraftwerk began just because they’re
embarrassed by it, but to try and deny the existence of your art as well as deny the world your music is nothing short of foolish.