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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Kraftwerk: Autobahn [2009 Remaster]

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Cascading swells of pure synthesis, coupled with the organic nature of guitars, flutes, and pianos abound in what is probably Kraftwerk's first real push as pioneers of electronic music.

I bought this album on a whim as Black Friday sales had dropped the box-set-looking album down to $9.99. I was particularly attracted to the utilitarian design on the front cover; it is the actual symbol used on highway (or, autobahn) signs in Germany. The modern typeset and design that adorns the outer sleeve parallels the warm, Hopper-esque paintings of the autobahn and automobiles that comprise the album art.

And this warmness in art lends itself to warmness in sound; yes, an electronic band (German no less, lol) can nearly equal the romantic sound of a string quartet despite the cold machinery with which is attains it sound. Actually, this is somewhat incorrect for this album as guitars, flutes, and ordinary pianos and organs appear along side the newly acquired synthesizers. This would be nearly the last time such a set up in instrumentation was seen as the band quickly mechanized theselves (much in part to the technical contributions of percussionist Wolfgang Flur), a sound that would be synonymous with their most heralded works Computer World and The Man Machine.

So, first off: title track. At somewhere around 22 minutes in length, I initially thought "Autobahn" (the only vox song) should be a quarter of it's length. Closer inspection (or a good headphones-listening) reveal all the minature movements within the piece; Kraftwerk, along with many of their Krautrock comtemporaries, drew far more from classical music than the blues that formed the backbone of American rock music. The next two pieces, "Kometenmelodie 1" and "2" seems to slow down and are far more ambient in nature than the surprisingly catchy "Autobahn". The last two tracks, "Mitternacht" and "Morgenspaziergang" both elaborate further on some of the main ideas of the album.
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