Kraftwerk's influence on pop culture is almost incalculable.
To make a comparison to rock music, Kraftwerk's role in channeling the voice of electronic instruments is the equivalent to the shock of Elvis Presley with the refinement of The Beatles and the artistic daring of Bob Dylan.
Shifting, changing, evolving with near technological precision, the group's current incarnation are at this very minute preparing for an exciting London residency. Taking control of the Tate Modern (itself a former power station) Kraftwerk will run through 'KRAFTWERK - THE CATALOGUE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8' - a full audio / visual exploration of their back catalogue.
Analysing a series of studio albums in their entirety, the group will present their work in a unique environment. To celebrate this, Clash are inviting a series of groups to outline the effect Kraftwerk have had on their music.
First up: Wolfgang & Reinhard Voigt, the brothers who help spearhead Germany's seminal electronic imprint Kompakt.
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That Kraftwerk are pioneers of electronic (art) pop music is probably general cultural knowledge all around the musical planet by now. The same applies to the fact that they are celebrated as THE driving force for later musical trends, from NDW to Hip Hop, from EBM to techno. But another of Kraftwerk’s essential achievements must also be considered the fact that they managed to make the German language resound in pop music as never before. Those of us who as youngsters in the 70ies heard „Wir fahr'n, fahr'n, fahr'n auf der Autobahn“ coming out the loudspeakers of their portable radios for the first time, immediately sensed – without really understanding why: This is new. This is unprecedented.
We were bowled over by these melodies, with their catchiness reminscent of childrens’ songs, sung in a stoic and unexcited manner and combined with an entirely new form of beautifully detached machine music. Kraftwerk were the first to successfully raise catchy electronic (pop) music and lyrics to the level of great pop (art) culture through cool exaggeration and without sliding off into the embarrassment of schlager music or sweaty rocker pathos. The themes and selected lyrics, the forms of visual self-display, brought great international recognition especially because Kraftwerk borrowed so many presumedly typical German clichés.
With their albums Autobahn and its successors, 'Radio-Aktivität', 'Transeuropa Express', 'Die Mensch Machine' and 'Computerwelt', Kraftwerk outdistanced anything even faintly comparable by light years.
The most recent accolade conferred upon Kraftwerk by elevating its work to the level of fine arts (MOMA) was long overdue.
“Die Fahrbahn ist, ein graues Band. Weisse Streifen, grüner Rand"
"The road is a grey band. White stripes, green border".
Wolfgang & Reinhard Voigt