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CLASSIC ALBUM: AUTOBAHN

IN 1974, KRAFTWERK CREATED AN ELECTRONIC EPIC. AUTOBAHN WAS AN ALBUM WHICH SAW MAN AND MACHINE WORKING IN PERFECT HARMONY. IT WAS A PIVOTAL STEP FORWARD FOR CONTEMPORARY MUSIC – A TIMELESS AND PROFOUND PIECE OF WORK THAT STILL REMAINS RELEVANT TODAY…

KRAFTWERK

Formed in Düsseldorf by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, Kraftwerk’s name translates to ‘power plant’ in English
© Getty Images

Anyone surveying great moments of artistic innovation over the centuries will note one prevailing factor – the more innovative the art, the more vociferous the response to it.

As revered octogenarian Berlin theatre director Claus Peymann noted in 2017: “Art is always resistance, contradiction… and the moment in which that no longer occurs, art runs dry.”

Such was the case with Peymann’s fellow countrymen, Kraftwerk, when the electronica pioneers released their career-defining fourth album, Autobahn, in 1974. When the band embarked on a UK tour the following year to promote the album, they played to halffilled halls, while rock critics seemed equally underwhelmed.

“Spineless, emotionless sound with no variety, less taste,” railed Keith Ging in his review in Melody Maker, adding: “For God’s sake, keep the robots out of music.”

Four decades on, Autobahn is hailed as a masterpiece. On this record, Kraftwerk created a sound that was transformative and unique – a hypnotic and insistent electronic pulse populated by shimmering electronic keyboards, rhythm loops and trance-like guitars.

At the heart of Kraftwerk was the relationship between humans and technology.

Synths dominated the sound, which was sparse, linear and rhythmic. But beneath the machine-like ethos breathed elegant and enticing melody.

As Neil McCormick wrote in The Daily Telegraph in 2014, Kraftwerk’s sound implied “an almost mystical reverence for the ordinary objects of an industrial world”.

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