Kraftwerk’s futuristic meditations on the sounds of our industrial society are laid claim to by both of their musical descendants–the super-abstract avant-industrial school, and the super-underground disco party-goers who shook what their mama gave them throughout the ’80s to the group’s infectious rhythms. The influence of their conceptual sonic experiments is immeasurable, and  includes: Devo, the Cars, the Human League, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Afrika Bambaataa, 2 Live Crew, all Detroit techno, the Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, and Radiohead.

 …a dramatic fresco, powerful and harrowing – worthy of an abstract painting, electronic dadaism, surrealist poetry  — Piero Scaruffi

Autobahn – Opening Night

Kraftwerk Performing at The Museum of Modern Art. PHOTO + WORLDWIDE 2012 © by Peter Boettcher

Autobahn is more minimalist than subsequent works, and many argue after this release, the band abandoned all intellectual pretense, giving in to the fame and glamor of the discopop world. As a fan myself, I remember dancing to “Numbers” (Computer World) at the Paradise Garage with Larry Levan behind the turntables, and having also given up all intellectual pretense, I always liked each album even more than the previous one, so I might not be the most objective critic.

I do know that it was really special to go back to the beginning and see Autobahn performed in MoMA’s main atrium, a context that brought together the group’s various and complex layers of music, sound, videos, sets and performance. That is, notwithstanding getting yelled at by an annoyed Michael Stipe, standing behind me and Nibs, beckoning me to “be in the moment”, and stop taking pictures. Sorry Michael, I couldn’t help myself.

Kraftwerk Performing at The Museum of Modern Art. PHOTO + WORLDWIDE 2012 © by Peter Boettcher

This  album, recorded in German, was Kraftwerk’s first international success (subsequent releases were recorded in English and German). It was voted one of Spin Magazine’s 15 Most Influential Albums, Autobahn features hypnotic crescendos wrapped in romantic melodies intertwined with medieval dance rhythms and sounds. It is considered a pioneering work for use of the drum machine, vocoders and computer speech technology, but the real success of this album is due to those distant lingering melodies.

Opening Night Setlist

“We Are the Robots”
“Kometenmelodie 1”
“Kometenmelodie 2
“Trans Europe Express”
“The Model”
“The Man Machine”
“Computer World”
“Computer Love”
“Home Computer”
Tour De France + Intro
Tour de France Etape 2
“Planet of Visions”
“Techno Pop”
“Music Nonstop”

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