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MusicReviews

Kraftwerk’s Transition from Krautrock

(Kraftwerk, 1974)

Krautrock is a term that defines a German band that is formed by the fusion of influential late sixties psychedelic rock bands, like Pink Floyd and the Beatles. Elements from other music styles such as avant-garde, electronic music, funk, improvisational jazz and world music were also very influential in the creation of Krautrock. The electric guitar also became revolutionized by Krautrock. Instead of being perceived as merely an instrument of harmony and rhythm, the electric guitar was revealed on the main stage as a potential source of sound in itself that held potential to also act as a synthesizer.

Kraftwerk is a Krautrock-turned electronic music band from Dusseldorf that are considered to be among the first successful groups to popularize the genre. Kraftwerk was formed in 1970 by Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider. Music lovers have referred to Kraftwerk as innovators and pioneers within the electronic music industry. They placed a lot of faith in the synthesizer and considered this to be the future of music. Their predictions were correct and because of how remarkable and unique their music quality became, they were dubbed the godfathers of various genres including euro-disco, new romantic synth-pop, electro, Miami bass and techno rave.

Kraftwerk produced many synth and drum-machine tracks out of their Kling-Klang factory. Considering they used to be krautrock, it is truly astonishing how they have been so influential and successful in the electronic music industry. Kraftwerk released several albums that were considered sensational for their time and were so influential that they closed the gap separating electronic dance music from rock and roll. This bridging of genres can be seen in Kraftwerk’s 1974 album, Autobahn. This new aged music fusion was carried out in the bands following albums such as Trans-Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978) and Computer World (1981).

Kraftwerk’s masterpiece ‘Autobahn’ had great commercial success in the United States. The 1974 sensation peaked to number five in the Billboard Top 200. The radio edit of this track was truly an international hit, reaching “number 11 in the UK, number 12 in the Netherlands, number 25 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and number 30 in the Australian chart.”  The music quality of this album was significantly different compared to earlier albums. This could be attributed due to the band’s decision to invest in new production equipment, namely the Minimoog and an EMS Synthi AKS.  A popular track from this album was also titled ‘Autobahn.’

Upon actively listening to this track, a variety of sounds including a heavy bass synth, motor vehicle engines, soft and vibrant drums, catchy but simplistic German vocals and extra-terrestrial like effects can be identified. This track was out of this world at the time of creation and in modern times it could still be labelled as ZAZZY!

As a result of Autobahns success, Hutter and Schneider took the plunge and upgraded their studio, thus taking more control of their music career and becoming less reliant on outside producers.

They visualised a different future, a music industry that was not yet seen, they set off on a mission to make a global impact within the music industry and by god, did they succeed.

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