Five Reasons To See… Kraftwerk
Pioneering German electronic group Kraftwerk will perform eight albums from their back catalogue chronologically over successive nights at the Tate Modern in London in February, in a groundbreaking residency featuring audio and 3D visuals.
1. While the escapist 1970s saw U.K. musicians like David Bowie blasting off into outer space with ‘Ziggy Stardust’, and the prog-rock pack egesting endlessly-silly fantasy-inspired concept LPs, over in (West) Germany Düsseldorf quartet Kraftwerk took inspiration from the real world around them. Their forward-looking albums reflected on relationships between man and machine, and how human progress is shaped by technology, science, transport, computers and more.
2. New York deejay collective Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force’s 1982 single Planet Rock—considered ground zero for the early ‘80s hip-hop sub-genre electro—casually pilfered a chunk of Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express, and remains the most obvious indicator of the group’s wider influence on dance music. But Kraftwerk’s pulsating rhythms, robotic vocals and neon-lit synths would also continue to shape the evolution of electronic music over the next few decades, their fingerprints remaining all over the various strands of techno, house and electronica well into the new millennium.
3. And their output continues to provide producers and deejays with a rich, sprawling palette of samples and ideas. Take U.K. producer Richard X, who was behind Girls On Top’s I Wanna Dance With Numbers in 2002 – one of the earliest examples of the Noughties’ mash-up trend. The remix welded Kraftwerk’s Numbers and Computer World 2—from 1981’s Computer World album—to Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody, imbuing Houston’s fluorescent candy-coated, pop-radio-primed original with a beautiful, haunting minimalism.
4. Such is the anticipation surrounding the upcoming shows that the Tate Modern’s booking website crashed within hours of tickets going on sale in December. Of course, the irony of modern technology going into meltdown while selling tickets for a band whose work constantly ponders the limitless potential of, er, modern technology was lost on exactly no-one.
5. Kraftwerk already played the chronological retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art last year before pitching up at the Tate Modern this week, and music historians have frequently sought to join the art-and-technology dots when studying the group’s output. Some have drawn the obvious comparisons between the group’s mechanical, metronomic beats and angular synths and the Bauhaus movement’s marriage of form and function in the 1920s. Others have seen the group’s modernist approach as a reflection of post-war Germany’s sweeping engineering dynamism. Whatever the case, just leave out any tiresome Lineker-esque gags about ‘typical German efficiency’, okay?
‘Kraftwerk – The Catalogue’ begins 6 February at the Tate Modern.
The programme runs as follows:
Wednesday 6 February – Autobahn (1974);
Thursday 7 February – Radio-Activity (1975);
Friday 8 February – Trans Europe Express (1977);
Saturday 9 February – The Man-Machine (1978);
Monday 11 February – Computer World (1981);
Tuesday 12 February – Techno Pop (1986);
Wednesday 13 February – The Mix (1991);
Thursday 14 February – Tour de France (2003)Tagged in: david bowie, Kraftwerk, Tate Modern
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