Summer 1995 A4 40 pages
KLAUS SCHULZE - Historic Edition
photocopy reprint (last 3 copies)
Example article extract
An Overview Of The
Roots Of Industrial Music In Germany - tracing the history of..
Okay, okay, I know you're probably thinking 'Wasn't industrial music a term coined by Throbbing Gristle?', well the answer is 'no' actually, though they did popularise the term and front a new industrial scene in the late 70's, though that movement had its roots in a music that came much earlier, an experimental underground music from Germany. Chris Carter often admitted his fondness for Krautrock, and also if you listen to early Cabaret Voltaire or Clock DVA, it's obvious where their roots lay: in that incestuously entwined and creative scene that spawned three most influential and groundbreaking of groups, namely Kraftwerk, Cluster and Neu!
To try and explain what created this scene could involve paragraphs of explanation and speculation, the new freedom in music spawned by the psychedelic era was certainly a factor, but as to why such a creative movement evolved in Germany, no one has come up with an adequate answer. The musicians came from various backgrounds, from jazz, pop, psychedelia, the arts underground, and they came from various parts of Germany, but the focus of what we're concerned with here centred on the highly industrialised area around Düsseldorf.
Without a doubt, Kraftwerk have become one of the most influential and groundbreaking of bands in the world, yet really their success is quite surprising when you consider their radical early history. Kraftwerk were always principally the duo of multi-instrumentalists Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider. Ralf was a classically trained pianist, and even as early as the mid-60's he'd moved on to playing in experimental rock and blues bands, like The Phantoms, who spawned another band well worth checking out, namely Kollektiv. Florian had studied flute at the conservatory, and had a long history of playing in jazz bands.
The earliest incarnation of Kraftwerk was the five-piece overtly percussive band Organisation. Recorded in 1969 their album TONE FLOAT was obviously slightly too early to get snapped up by one of the many new German specialist labels, and by some quirk of fate it only gained release on RCA in Britain, and even then it was promptly deleted and soon disappeared. TONE FLOAT has little to do with the industrial sound this article focuses on, as it's really a psychedelic, and highly cosmic jazz-fusion album, one that really trips out with lengthy tracks featuring lots of flute and organ. Timeless, a masterpiece, it's a style of music that was also carried on in an interconnected band called Ibliss.
Kraftwerk proper started in spring 1970, with the dynamic duo taking on board two highly creative percussionists. After the success internationally of highly experimental bands like Can and Amon Düül II, it would seem that Philips Records decided they needed something that they could promote abroad as this new radical form "Krautrock", and scarcely three months after their inception, Kraftwerk were in the studio creating their first album. Though there are connections with the Organisation album, Kraftwerk (meaning "Power Station") certainly lived up to their name. Right from the aggressive and repetitive opener Ruckzack, with its flute motif and subtle use of electronics, Kraftwerk revealed themselves as creators of a radical new music. Stradovarius, which naturally involves the use of violin, is however something else completely, this is the Kraftwerk that challenges and startles with overt use of processed, distorted and overloaded sound, it combines the feel of Faust, This Heat and Throbbing Gristle, and is no doubt an influence on them all. Side two's opener Megaherz falls more into cosmic/atmospheric realms, with lots of processed flute and electronics, but it's the closing number Von Himmel Hoch which is the most revolutionary here, with buzzing electronics and the explosive effects of simulated plane crashes building into an extremely intense Can/Faust-like riff that gets ever more and more intense. Throughout KRAFTWERK is a most radical and startling album, so uniquely creative, that it's still fresh and challenging today. The recording of this, and many of the other albums you'll read about here, was handled by Conny Plank, one of the most revolutionary and explorative of studio engineers in Germany.
Around this time a number of musicians passed through the Kraftwerk ranks, or aided them live, and there are bootleg recordings that show just how creative a live band they were, yet inevitably in such a radical outfit rifts formed and Kraftwerk eventually ended up as just a duo by autumn 1971. Michael Rother had joined from an obscure band called Spirit Of Sound (who never released an album, but also featured later Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flür) but he only played sessions and concerts with Kraftwerk, and it wasn't long before Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother left to form their own group: Neu! (also involved, but not on Neu! LP's, was Eberhard Kranemann, a short-time Kraftwerk member, he went on to front his own band Fritz Müller Rock) and there was also Andreas Homann who joined the earlier mentioned Ibliss.
The second Kraftwerk album, simply titled KRAFTWERK 2, was an altogether more dark, abstract and industrial excursion. The opening 17 minute Klingklang, that covered most of side one, made extensive use of processed sound, tape collage, percussives, electronics and even rhythm machine. But, the rest of the album was arguably Kraftwerk at their most experimental, with excursions into fragmented and processed sound, involving guitars, keyboards, and even harmonica. It's the most avant-garde of all Kraftwerk albums, and extremely weird, even by today's standards.
Kraftwerk plunged head-on into investing is new electronic gadgetry,
synthesizers, effects, etc., obviously with the intent to move on to a new
sound. The album RALF & FLORIAN didn't appear until almost two years
later, and consolidated the Kraftwerk sound on a more accessible level, and
though still highly experimental there are melodies that are extremely
For those who loved the dark experimental industrial sound of Kraftwerk this was really the end, as subsequent albums moved closer and closer to electro-pop realms. Admittedly 1975's RADIOACTIVITY still offered a good deal of experimentation, much humour and even a touch of self parody, lots of buzzing electronics, Mellotron and vocoder. It's still a curious oddity. Then there's 1977's TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS which explored further the use of industrial and mechanical rhythmic structures. Up to this point Kraftwerk were a continually explorative band, but really it seems as if success at this time went to their heads, as increasingly numerous hit singles were culled from their albums, and from THE MAN MACHINE onwards I'd deem little of what they've done as being of interest, especially so THE MIX, which tried to turn legendary numbers into danceable techno-pop.
Arguably more interesting was another project percussionist Karl Bartos became involved in during the 80's, a band called Rheingold who attacked the mid-70's Kraftwerk sound with a good deal of new-wave energy. As far as I know, he never recorded with them, but their albums are certain to interest Kraftwerk collectors.
Article by Alan Freeman
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