Ralf And Florian

Released 1973 on Philips
The Seth Man, April 2000ce
Sounding like nothing they released either before their first two wildly experimental albums or after their successful and more song oriented “Autobahn” album, “Ralf And Florian” is probably Kraftwerk’s least discussed album, and where the bachelor themes that would become so predominant in their music graduated from Gilbert & George to Marcel Duchamp in an electronic garage band. “Elektrisches Roulette” opens with a great “wooom, wooom” indigestion/fart synth into a spindly electronic melody reminiscent of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme as the chatter and clatter of the roulette wheel is burst into with strident yet totally fake Klaus Dinger drums. It’s all light and dance until it dribbles off into the fresh air flutes and low drones of the brief “Tongebirge.” It crossfades into the motorik “Kristallo,” which is aptly named as its electronics are crystalline and refreshing until Kraftwerk reverse it all backwards until the fade out. “Heimatklänge” is all becalmed quiet piano and echo-y flutes channeling over a quiet inlet, which ends one.

Side two is 2 songs: “Tanzmusik” and “Ananas Symphonie.” “Tanzmusik” is dance music, though a low volume, dimly lit party thrown by Ralf and Florian for their friends. The drum machine switches on a little too late, and percussion starts to gather. The tinkling bells and xylophones from their Organisation days are all brought out, but hit lightly and sparingly. Vocal drones come and go as sandpapery percussion enters until it all breaks down. “Ananas Symphonie” (“Pineapple Symphony”) is a three part suite of rhythm boxes, Hawaiian guitars, early Roxy synth of lapping waves, but approached about as spare as the walls of their Kling Klang studio. This is the most chilled out territory Kraftwerk ever approached, and the last part is probably as un-Kraftwerk (any era) as they ever got. Glacial synth drones balance Florian’s Hawaiian guitar and chugging rhythm box relays a textured background rather than anything resembling a rhythm pattern. But the chilled synthesizer and H-guitar continue to enmesh gently over a cool and clear Pacific morning like a quiet love letter. Gradually it fades, concluding the most curious Kraftwerk album of all.

The back cover features a CLASSIC shot of the pair seated, facing each other over their respective banks of equipment dressed to the nines with their signature traffic cone behind them as two boxes of neon lights spell out their names in front of them. And the front cover features a gold embossed transistor map with the logo and title embossed in hot pink while the American sleeve opted for a black and white portrait of the two, echoing their later "Traps Europe Express" sleeve. Original copies also came with a Pedro Bell esque "Musicomix" by Emil Schult, which is a howl and a half.