Kraftwerk 2

Released 1971 on orig Phillips, unreissued. some CD boots out there
Reviewed by Serotonin, 29/01/2002ce

An interesting record that I've been rediscovering in the past few days, having found my tape of it (from an admittedly scratchy & sticky vinyl I found in a library) behind the radiator...

Ralf & Florian's second album together is pretty much where they started to sound like recognisable Kraftwerk, as opposed to Stockhausen with a flute. That said, it's still only in the 17-minute centrepiece KlingKlang that you can hear the seeds of pieces like Autobahn and Kometenmelodie being sown, and for the remainder of the LP there's still plenty of outre experimentation going on. Like post-Syd Floyd striving towards Dark Side, this snapshot of the still embryonic Kraftwerk sound might flounder about a bit, but even Floyd & Kraftwerk's flounderings are well worth investigating.

KlingKlang starts off with a minute or so of just that; some metallic klinging and klanging straight out of the Stockhausen school. The piece then settles into a groove driven by a bass guitar and primitive drum-machine, and builds up layers of tinkly piano and nice breathy flute from there. Ralf & Florian are certainly on their way to the Tanzmusik, Kometenmelodie & bridge-section of Autobahn sound, but rather more minimalistically. It's quite pleasant and soothing; almost hypnotic in its single-chord droning.

Until R & F get a bit bored and start tweaking about with the tape machine's speed controls, that is.

The music speeds up a little first, then eventually slows right down to a dead halt, picking up to a crawl after that for a few minutes before a faster and different sounding section of the piece, with some guitar effects, cuts in to take the track to its conclusion.

Good stuff; nicely melodic and deifnitely classic Kraftwerk. As for the remainder of the record...

Side 1 closes with Atem: three minutes of someone breathing into a microphone. Oooh, aren't we avant garde. Actually, after KlingKlang, it does work, complementing the largely (apart from the speed variations) plaintive and somnambulistic drones of its predecessor.

Side 2 is rather more patience-trying, though, especially for listeners favouring the seamless sheen of later-70s Kraftwerk in their musical and conceptual prime. But give these guitar experiments and closing harmonica solo a try, though; they are interesting in their execution.

First up is Strom. It's a fairly short piece which picks through the notes of a detuned guitar, the noisy lo-fi recording sounding like a tuning-up session for someone's home demo. The next two guitar pieces are better, though. Spule 4 and Wellenlange utilise various echo, reverb and delay units to let the notes float and collide in a pleasant enough way. Imagine Fripp & Eno sandblasted into pure kosmiche minamilism.

The record draws to a close with the self-explanatory Harmonika. It's fairly similar to Atem, but with the titular mouth organ in front of the closed-miked mouth.

As I said at the beginning, an interesting record; lots of sound experimentation going on and enough melody as well to make the record listenable, particluarly on KlingKlang. To sum up, then; if the late 70s Kraftwerk robots were slick-haired androids, developed to a perfect sheen, here they're primitive, bolted-together robots, inhabiting some Phillip K. Dick-esque metropolis and sparking with electricity, out of metaphors, sorry.

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