Kraftwerk is a German electronic rock band formed by Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider in Düsseldorf. They released their first album, ‘Kraftwerk’ in 1970. Their style of music is very mechanical and mathematical. Other then the occasional flute or guitar they often use no traditional instruments and have custom-built many of their own or had them built by close friends. They seem to be greatly inspired by machines, robotics and the transportation industry (cars, trains, and airplanes). The early songs they have do not usually have catchy hooks or a specific song structure. Even their image plays into this mechanical idea and is very simple, they do not have a whole lot of movement and act as though they are robots. Their wardrobe always seems to match each other so that there is consistency and, early on, was very simple. The image they are trying to portray is that they are machines that only do one thing – create music.
From 1974-1981 they released 5 albums – Autobahn, Radio Activity, Trans-Europe Express, The Man-Machine and Computer World. The theme of each of these albums goes hand and hand with the titles. For example; Autobahn shares the idea of driving on the Autobahn through the countryside and anything you may experience on that trip. Trans-Europe Express is about an international railway service in Europe called the Trans-Europe Express (TEE). The music for this album was inspired by the sounds a train makes. These albums all have very simple vocal lines that sound robotic at times. All of them, other than Trans-Europe Express, found positive and successful receptions.
Kraftwerk’s music earns them the position of the biggest influence on electronic music for so many reasons. I have already discussed some visual and musical aesthetics, album concepts, and lyrical themes, but Kraftwerk did so much more than that. Kraftwerk set the stage for many artists to follow in their footsteps. Bands like Soft Cell, Afrika Bambaataa, Joy Division and New Order, to name a few, all found inspiration from these early pioneers. New order even recorded a song called “Krafty” as a musical tip of the hat to Kraftwerk. There are also many tribute bands to this electronic band that paved the way for so many others.
When I first experienced the music of Kraftwerk I did not like it. It was too repetitive and did not seem to have much content. As I learned about them more and more I realized that these buys have really got their act together. They built their own instruments. They also had specific morals to not be drunk or high while performing and they changed electronic music, as we know it. As I listen I was listening to kraftwerk’s music earlier this week I felt like I was taken almost into a trans like state and was really pulled into the music. I was very calm and relaxed as I listened along. Today I have great respect for what Kraftwerk created and they way they created it. They were some of the most creative musicians to ever hit the electronic music scene.
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Harrington, Richard. “These Days, Kraftwerk Is Packing Light.” Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2013. < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/26/AR2005052600677.html>.
“Watch Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution, the United Kingdom Documentary by Rob Johnstone.”Fandor – Films, glorious films. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 May 2013. <http://www.fandor.com/films/kraftwerk_and_the_electronic_revolution>.
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