Album #116: Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk

  • Released: 1970
  • Origin: Düsseldorf, Germany
  • Label: Phillips
  • Best Track: Stratovarius

A somewhat morbid feature of this project is that I keep listening to and reviewing albums straight after one of their creators dies. I’m not really trying to do this out of any sort of mawkish tribute, but simply because there are far, far more albums out there that I haven’t heard than ones I have, so finding a reason to settle on a particular one isn’t always easy. If they’re in the news, I suppose that’s as good a reason as any.

In a sad week for music, we’ve lost Strangers keyboardist Dave Greenfield, and also Kraftwerk founding member Florian Schneider. I think I’ve listened to three Kraftwerk albums – Autobahn (1974), The Man-Machine (1978) and Computer World (1981). I thought I’d go right back to the start and listen to their debut, and I think the oldest album I’ve covered on this blog yet.

I find it hard to imagine how unusual and ahead of their time Kraftwerk must have seemed in 1970. Containing only four tracks, but reaching nearly 40 minutes long, we have everything from the frenetic to the ambient on here, but the one constant is innovation and experimentation.

From the fluty whistles of ‘Ruckzuck’ (presumably provided by Schneider as he did most of the wind instruments), to the soaring plane sounds of ‘Von Himmel Hoch’, this record is full noises you rarely hear in music even today, let alone 50 years ago. I think ‘Stratovarius’ is the pick of the tracks, starting with all kinds of bashing and rattling and morphing into droning, psychedelia-edged post-punk. Yes, post-punk, before even punk had happened!

It’s highly avant-garde and not quite as accomplished or polished as their later work, but I really like it. It’s possibly of greater interest to those looking into proto-punk like Can and the Velvet Underground than those wanting to immerse themselves in ’80s synth.

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