What does it sound like?:
These days, Kraftwerk are billed as “Ralf Hütter and Kraftwerk”, despite having been a Fab Four for most of their hugely successful career. Florian Schneider, the other original Kraftwerk mastermind, left after touring the world for Minimum-Maximum in 2005. Karl Bartos co-wrote much of the music from The Man Machine through to Electric Café. Emil Schult’s contributions were almost as substantial. Fritz Hilpert, a replacement for Bartos, was heavily involved in writing Tour de France Soundtracks in 2003 and is still a member of the group. There have been no new compositions since. Kraftwerk, sorry Ralf Hütter and Kraftwerk, are now a live act and this 3LP or 2CD collection of previously released tracks, with a few updated remixes, acts as a calling card for a new tour. As our friend Moose announced at the time, most of it has already been released on streaming services in December. This is where streaming gets physical.
Remixes demonstrates how Kraftwerk have kept the music alive even after they ran out of tunes. Music Non Stop was originally on 1986’s Electric Café, an album later rebadged as Techno Pop. The version here is derived from a jingle for MTV, a soft, almost seductive, thirty second snippet now extended to a dreamy eight minutes. Its title is also remixed into simply Non Stop. In 1991, Kraftwerk rearranged and re-recorded their ‘hits’ for the misleadingly labelled, The Mix. A number of singles, including twelve inch and CD singles, were released as part of the project, giving room for further experimentation. Both Robotnik and Robotronik are Kling Klang’s own but, for the first time, they allowed outside artists access to their material. William Orbit, fresh from working with Madonna, and François Kervokian, who’d helped produce Electric Café, stamp their personalities on Radioactivity. In 1999, Kraftwerk were paid 400,000 DM to conjure up a musical ‘signature’ for Hannover’s Expo 2000 Exhibition. It’s extraordinarily simple, using six languages and designed (rather than composed) for computers, phones and other electronic devices. It was released as a single plus a maxi version featuring a number of remixes, four by Kraftwerk themselves and three by Underground Resistance. Orbit and Kervokian, with Rob Rives, and DJ Rolando add more. By Minimum-Maximum, the tune had become Planet Of Visions. Tour de France Soundtracks also yielded twelve inch singles. The Aerodynamik single included a Kling Klang, a Kervokian and a Alex Gopher/Etienne de Crecy remix. A couple of years later, it was followed by a Hot Chip remix plus their take on La Forme. All this is brought together for this physical package with the addition of a Computer World remix, the CD version edited down to fit on the vinyl, just as La Forme is. The cover art is in their noughties style. For Kraftwerk, the visual presentation is usually of equal importance. They have even remixed the cover art of their classic LPs recently but, this time, it feels as though the image simplification process has gone too far.
Individually, the tracks are interesting and engrossing. Overall, the sound is smooth, flowing, pleasant. The bass is warm and cosy. However, the thrill has been extracted by seductive Artificial Intelligence. The defiant Kraftwerk saltiness is sweetened. There are no thunderous crunches of a train crashing into the buffers, no windows smashed in acts of liberation and no relentless pounding of an infinity of numbers. Amazingly, none of the remixers manage to create a genuine club banger, perhaps Kervokian’s Aerodynamik coming closest. The guests are far too polite to risk damaging their host’s best china. As a result, the whole thing is draining to listen to from beginning to end, especially the run of Expo 2000s, whose bare bones melody produces thin pickings. Indeed, it would be a struggle while lounging by a pool, overlooking the Mediterranean, sipping cocktails.
Remixes is for Kraftwerk completists and DJs and you will need the CD, the vinyl and the download if you are real completist. Sample before you buy.
What does it all *mean*?
The great news is that Kraftwerk are touring again. Catch them if you can.
Goes well with…
A very long electric car ride.
Might suit people who like…
Kraftwerk. Or, sampling Kraftwerk for your own ‘creations’.