Coming from the German experimental music community of the late 1960s, Kraftwerk was formed in Düsseldorf, West Germany, in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider. At the time of its inception, they were an experimental free-form rock band exploring musical improvisations through a variety of instruments, including guitar, bass, drums, organ, and flute.
Hütter and Schneider performed as a duo using predefined electronic drum patterns on Schneider’s flute and guitar and Hütter’s keyboard sounds. They adopted the name Kraftwerk, which means “powerhouse”, and described themselves as sound chemists, immersing themselves in sounds reflecting new emerging technologies.
The couple released two albums, 1970s Kraftwerk and 1972 Kraftwerk 2 and supported releases with intimate performances in Germany and France. With the release of their album Ralf and Florian, the band started incorporating the vocoder for the first time. Wolfgang Flür joined the group in 1973 as the group began to focus on a more electronic sound as a trio. Karl Bartos completed the group when he joined the group in 1976.
Kraftwerk’s musical imprint can be seen in luminaries of synth-pop and eclectic music like Depeche Mode, Aphex Twin, Daft Punk and more. The group has also had a strong influence on techno and drum and bass, notably with artists such as Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Carl Craig.
Kraftwerk is widely regarded as the forerunner of electronic music. They drastically changed the parameters of pop music and informed most of its trends at the end of the 20e century by staying one step ahead with a sound that defies boundaries that has inspired a legion of synth-pop followers.
Listen to 5 essential pieces from Kraftwerk:
1974 album release Highway It was at this point that Kraftwerk began to incorporate the Minimoog synthesizer and settle into its completely electronic ambience. Highway was a commercial success. It peaked at No.5 on the charts, fueled by its title cut.
2. “Trans-European Express”
Shortly after the release of Highway, the group became a quartet with the addition of Karl Bartos, who further galvanized their electronic excursions on the 1976 album Radioactivity. Kraftwerk embarked on a prolific race by adopting an experimental ‘robot pop’ sound that mixed lush electronic pop melodies, infectious hypnotic rhythms with strategically sparse and stylized minimalist arrangements. The quartet adopted matching costumes based on computer and robot themes. With their sound and visual aesthetics completely in place, they released the 1977’s Trans-Europe Express.
3. “Numbers / IT world”
Following Trans-Europe Express, work began on what would be the band’s magnum opus – a meditation on the new global domination of technology. nineteen eighty one Computer world is a timeless musical offering illustrating electronic funk at its best. The album had a strong influence on hip-hop and b-boy archetypes over the following decades.
4. “Tour de France”
The quartet hit the road on the Computer World Tour, taking their Kling Klang studio on the road with them. They developed their own live performance setup where they used live visuals such as slides and overhead films synchronized with the music as well as portable miniaturized instruments during filming. They also used model replicas of themselves to make some sets like “The Robots” and publicly presented themselves as automatons.
The Computer World tour was physically demanding, so the group stayed in shape while riding their bikes. They recorded a track inspired by one of Europe’s most popular cycling competitions, with sounds that followed the theme of cycling: chains, gear mechanisms and heavy breathing of the cyclist.
5. “Non Stop Music”
With their solidified status as pioneers and pioneers in the global electronic music community, Kraftwerk took time off touring to focus on producing tracks that would evolve into the 1986s. Electric coffee. At this time, the group’s influence could be seen in pop music as it was now dominated by synthesizers and drum machines. they came out The mixture in 1991 and 2003, the Original Tour de France tapes. They were recognized with a Grammy Award-winning Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and were inducted into the Rock n ‘Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.