Kraftwerk don't have many modern parallels.
Sure, the German group's music remains influential but few can match their sustained artistry, their refusal to bow to contemporary mores. Well right here in London, Factory Floor are giving it a bloody good go...
Currently hard at work on their debut album, Factory Floor share the same studio fetishism which fuelled Kraftwerk's finest moments. Chewing up a broad spread of cultural influences, the London band also echo the German group's itchy, propulsive and thoroughly addictive machine-funk.
"Who better" thought we, "to analyse the work of Kraftwerk than Factory Floor?"
So that's what we did. Nik Void supplies the words...
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My first introduction to Germany was through my Great Uncle at the age of 7. His name was Michael and my memory tells me that he was from Stuttgart. He wore immaculate leathers, a black polo neck and had a Terrier called Dolly. I only met him a few times, he would bring me treats from Germany, once he gave me a gift of orange lollies packaged in a meter length of transparent vacuum foiled beauty, a product so precise it had to be machine made, a product so pure and uncomplicated it exposed the Curly Wurly's and the Wham bars of my childhood decade as mere hollow promises.
I later thought this could, indeed, be my metaphor in comparing Kraftwerk to everything else - contemporary pop music, lollipops, travel...a better place. They brought to us the vision of future sound, yet continuously and profoundly evoke very simple human emotions ……..When I hear The Model, I immediately pout. It's like classical scoring transcribed through electronics, evoking the same pulling emotions as the classics.…Dawn from Thus Spake Zarathustra, Richard Strauss, Wiliam Tell Overture… Kraftwerk, the human machine - the relationship between man and machine can be a calm one. Lester Bangs asked them if their robotic sounds represented a 'final solution' for music….. I wonder if they ever really answered him but I once heard a story that each member, dressed in a lab coat, would go to nightclubs - not really to let themselves go or have a nice time, just almost like mathematicians taking notes, or a chemist observing how one element reacted and affected another. Such a cold way to operate in order to get people to have a good time but they broke it down into the basics. Ones and zeros. Binary nights out. And from there they could build anything.
Kraftwerk couldn't have happened at a better time. Europeans didn't want to make American music, British Prog was popular and for certain a potential trap. While Keith Emerson from Emerson, Lake & Palmer stabbed his organ with 18" daggers, Ralf, Florian, Karl, Klaus from Düsseldorf, Germany, would harmoniously work with their electronics, without them Joy Division wouldn't have become New Order and Throbbing Gristle would have quite possibly stopped at COUM Transmissions.
They illustrated working with machines can set a tone, a tone poem about travel, production, popular culture. Not only did they embrace the nutrients the modern world offered after the war and industrial revolution, their choice of what to extract from their environment, history and culture advanced possibilities leading towards ease, luxury, choice and sleek optimism. Their opposition to rock values actually helped rock evolve - think of Gary Numan, Depeche Mode & Chemical Brothers - this was about the same time Kraftwerk receded back to their Kling Klang studio, did they feel their job was done?
Maybe….. whatever … thank goodness for Kraftwerk!
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Kraftwerk are set to play 'Techno Pop' at the Tate Modern tonight (February 12th).