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Music style: Electronic pop
Band members: Ralf Hütter (keyboard, vocals), Florian Schneider-Esleben (flute, vocals), Wolfgang Flür (percussion, 1973-1991), Karl Bartos (percussion, 1975-1986), Henning Schmitz (keyboard, 1991-), Fritz Hilpert (sound engineering, 1990-)
Name means: "Power station"

Kraftwerk was an early pioneer in electronic pop music. Band founders Hütter and Schneider-Esleben both were classically trained musicians who met as students in an improvisation class in Düsseldorf in 1968. Eager to test the limits of classical music, the two spent the next several months experimenting with electronic instrumentation and performing together with various other musicians in local venues.

In early 1970, the pair joined up with Basil Hammoudi (vocals), Butch Hauf (bass), and Fred Monicks (percussion) to form the band Organisation, a project that produced only one album, Tone Float (1970). The following year, Hütter and Schneider released their own album titled Kraftwerk (1971) and later founded their own recording studio, Kling Klang, in Düsseldorf. Over the next few years and albums, Hütter and Schneider toured and put out more albums under the band name Kraftwerk, drawing a half dozen musicians into the group in various constellations. It was during this period that the sound for which they would become famous crystallized. The band was one of the first to turn to pure electronic sound and instrumentation. They also integrated pop elements into their music.

By 1975, the membership of Kraftwerk stabilized as Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos became permanent members of the group. Together the four musicians produced the band's classic work of the 1970s and 80s, which would heavily influence developments in pop music. Their album Autobahn (1974) was an international hit that propelled them on their first real tour. The next three albums -- Radio-Activity (1975), Trans-Europe Express (1977) and the seminal The Man Machine (1978) -- and their subsequent tours were also immensely successful. While remaining minimalist, their lyrics typically deal with the paradoxical dangers and enjoyments post-war urban life.

Since the 1977 album, all of their LPs have been recorded in at least two versions -- one in German for sale at home and one in English for the international music market, with other translations as they deemed appropriate. According to the band, their German-language versions were meant to provide an alternative to the dominant Anglo-American influence in rock and pop music: "We want the whole world to know that we are from Germany, because the German mentality -- which is more advanced -- will always be part of our behavior. We create out of the German language, the mother language, which is very mechanical; we use it as the basic structure of our music."

After 1981, the band's live performances stopped and the last LP to be released for the next several years was Electric Cafe in 1986. In 1990, the band went on tour once again to promote their album The Mix, which contained remixed versions of several of the band's familiar songs. With Flür and Bartos no longer in the line-up, the original duo welcomed Henning Schmitz and Fritz Hilpert to complete their quartett. From this point on, the band increasingly replaced manual playing with the use of sequencing equipment, and voice with speech synthesis. A new album, Tour de France Soundtracks, was finally released in 2003. In 2005, the band released their very first live album, Minimum-Maximum, which was recorded on their 2004 tour.

Kraftwerk's contributions to modern popular music are widely recognized. The influence of their songs can be heard in multiple musical styles, including techno, electro funk, and the pop music of the 1980s and 90s in general. They also directly influenced such popular musicians as David Bowie, Human League, Depeche Mode, Madonna, R.E.M, Beck, and 2 Live Crew, to name only a few. In 1997, Rammstein did a cover of the band's song "Ein Modell." with their long-play single "Das Modell." And as recently as 2005, Coldplay created an adaptation of the Kraftwerk song "Computerliebe" with their song "Talk". The band has clearly written itself a place in music history.

Kraftwerk CDs

Minimum-Maximum (2005) | 2 Live CDs | LISTEN | REVIEW: The Godfathers of Glitch and the Kings of Kling-Klang come out of seclusion with a double live CD culled from various concerts on their 2004 tour. Minimum-Maximum is essentially a greatest-hits album with an audience applauding and occasionally shouting. Without them, of course, you'd never know the album was live, since Kraftwerk is the band that put the programming in pop music. Not much has changed with them since the 1980s. They're still wired to the same sonic circuitry as on Electric Café in 1986, sculpting glistening electro-soundscapes that pulse but never quite groove. And they still sing in that flat, German-accented English and French with Speak and Spell electro-voices. But rather than sound dated, this has a timeless charm, especially since Kraftwerk are among the few Kraut rock groups with a sense of humor. With only two studio albums in the last 20 years, you have to give them credit for not caving in to current electronica and techno trends--Kraftwerk remain resolutely electronic. Even their samples sound synthesized. But also give them credit for some of the most relentlessly glistening electronic music ever crafted, and a sound that remains surprisingly pure. All the hits are here, from "Autobahn" to "Tour de France," but nicely buffed to a high chrome finish.

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The Box Set edition contains 2 CDs, 2 DVDs, & a hard-cover book.

Minimum-Maximum DVD (2004) | Live DVD || LISTEN
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Tour de France Soundtracks (2003) || LISTEN (English) | LISTEN (German)
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The Mix (1991) || LISTEN (English) | LISTEN (German)
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Electric Cafe (1986) || LISTEN (English) | LISTEN (German): REVIEW: The byproduct of a much anticipated, long-delayed, and ultimately scrapped album to have been called Technopop (and to have contained Kraftwerk's great dance single "Tour de France"), 1986's Electric Cafe suffers only slightly from lacking the thematic focus of previous Kraftwerk albums. Ironically, the '80s techno-pop wave had passed by band founders Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter at this point, but their sly wit ("Boing Boom Tschak," "Telephone," "Sex Object") and melodic inventiveness still stand the test of time. Its segues virtually seamless, Electric Cafe plays like one mega-dance-mix, but with the tasteful restraint that has long been a Kraftwerk hallmark. This is club music for thinking men and women. - Review by Jerry McCulley
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Computerwelt (1981) || LISTEN
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Computer World (1981) | English edition CD || LISTEN
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Die Mensch-Maschine (1976) || LISTEN
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The Man-Machine (1976) || LISTEN | REVIEW: The album on which Kraftwerk got serious about their legacy of fusing human flesh and the technology it has inspired into an indistinguishable whole, Man-Machine also ironically embodies some of the band's most endearing contradictions. The case is stated up front with the techno classic "The Robots." The journey continues to worlds both utopian ("Spacelab") and dystopian ("Metropolis"). Then it segues into a bona fide, hook-laden dance track ("The Model," perhaps inspired by the club success that Kraftwerk's previous album, Trans-Europe Express, experienced at the hands of enterprising early mixmaster DJs). There's also a downright sentimental cityscape, "Neon Lights." But lest anyone think that Schneider, Hutter, and company are too human, they wrap up the proceedings with the robotic dance-groove of the title track, inspiring dizzy listeners to ponder: Kraftwerk--men or machines? - Review by Jerry McCulley
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Trans-Europa Express (1977) | LISTEN
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Trans-Europe Express (1977) || LISTEN | REVIEW: It's ironic that electronica's forefathers include two German bands whom, at least on the surface, were polar opposites. On the one hand, there was Can--shaggy, Stockhausen-trained advocates of trance improvisation--and on the other, Kraftwerk: clean-cut control freaks and masters of the pristine machine groove. Yet, even at their most robotic, Kraftwerk manages to locate the soul of the machine, as they demonstrate throughout this 1977 outing. Hell, the mannequin manifesto "Showroom Dummies" alone is worth the price of admission. For a band so closely tied to technology, it's a testament to Ralf and Florain that their music continues to sound fresh more than two decades down the autobahn. - Review by Bill Forman
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Radio-Aktivität (1975) || LISTEN
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Radio-Activity (1975) | English version || LISTEN
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Autobahn (1974) || LISTEN
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Ralf & Florian (1973) |
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  Kraftwerk 2 (1972)
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Kraftwerk (1971) |
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Tone Float (1970) |
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Kraftwerk Weblinks

Kraftwerk [German] - Official webpage [German / English] - Long-standing fan webpage with band info, news, more
Kraftwerk [English] - Brazilian fan webwite with lyrics translations, concert reviews,

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