Harmonia, large and in charge

According to Michael Rothers website, Harmonia will not only release the live recording from 1974 as we've mentined below. No. They will also perform live in Berlin again, for the first time in over 30 years. Here's the information, as it was written by someone else:

Berlin will see the first Harmonia concert since 1976 on 27th November 2007 when Michael Rother, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius will open the Worldtronics festival at the "Haus der Kulturen der Welt" with their live appearance as Harmonia. More information will follow soon.


Computer Rock 2000

Time has come to turn this publication into an mp3 blog. But just for a minute or so, while we're delving into the area of Kraftwerk covers.

Quite a few of these has been done throughout the years. We've heard bland electro versions, symphony orchestra renditions, and a late version from the Simple Minds. But there has been a few interesting ones as well. Here's a small selection of the latter, selected from the rock/punk/noise area.

Big Black - "The Model"

Big Black, formed in 1982, recorded this cover of Kraftwerks "The Model" for a double a-side 7" single released in 1987. The other track on the 7" was a cover of Cheap Trick's "He's a Whore". Both songs are also available on the CD version of the Big Black album "Songs About Fucking", while the LP version omits the Cheap Trick song.

You'll have to read more about Steve Albini (influential genius, general mastermind and front figure of both Big Black, Rapeman and Shellac) somewhere else. And we're happy to have a reason to use the above picture.


Harry Pussy - "Showroom Dummies"

Over to Harry Pussy, then, a noise rock band from Miami that was active for 5 or 6 years in the mid 90s. It's a bit hard to describe what they did, but take a look at this video and you'll grasp the basics. See? Noise rock is a fairly appropriate term here.

Their cover of Kraftwerk's "Showroom Dummies", as far as i can recall/find out it was recorded in 1995, is possibly still available for purchase on the "What Was Music?" compilation cd. The likeness to the original is uncanny ...

Teddybears STHLM - "The Robots"

From the release of the "Extra Pleasure" ep in 1993 up to (and including) the release of the album "I Can’t Believe It’s Teddybears STHLM" in 1996, Teddybears STHLM were one of the more interesting Swedish hardcore bands. Later, they turned into the somewhat less interesting party machine that is currently conquering the world backwards, by selling songs to computer games, tv commercials and movie soundtracks (Caddilac, Intel, Heineken, Music and Lyrics, Bones, Epic Movie, FIFA, and many others). Not that there's anything wrong with that.

For the "I Can’t Believe It’s Teddybears STHLM" album, the band recorded a version of Kraftwerk's "The Model". The cover was also released as a single a few months later.

Zeni Geva - "Sex Object"

Fronted by legendary noise artist KK Null, this Japanese metal band has been active since 1987 (Happy 20th!). The band was formed by Null, picking a guitarist from Boredoms and a drummer from Hanatarash, two other important bands in the outskirts of Japanese experimental rock noise. Many of the Zeni Geva records have been produced by Steve Albini, mentioned above.

For the rather good (which is rare) Kraftwerk tribute album "Musique Non Stop", released in 1998 featuring artists such as Melt-Banana and Buffalo Daughter, Zeni Geva recorded this cover of Kraftwerk's "Sex Object". Listen all the way through, it gets better towards the end.

Parts of the "Music Non Stop" album were later rereleased by another label as "The Radioactive Tribute to Kraftwerk", but the new version of the record excludes the harder material, such as the Zeni Geva and Melt-Banana tracks.

BONUS: Melt-Banana - "Showroom Dummies"

Since Melt-Banana is such a brilliant band, here's their edgy version of "Showroom Dummies" as well. This one's also taken from the "Musique Non Stop" album.


Sunglasses on robots! Why, Kraftwerk? Why?

Kraftwerk has, at least since around 1973 or so, been a rather minimalistic outfit. Sharp suits, strict positioning, law and order, straight lines. But there's one thing that breaks the mold, and it haunts me. It's not Florian Schneider's hats or weird side projects, and it's not the nervous shape Ralf Hütter's hand assumes when he's singing. No, sirree.

It's the sunglasses. Sunglasses on robots.

1. The "comeback era" look

Remember the wireframe suits Kraftwerk introduced just before the turn of the decade? The, eh, checkered overalls with a black base and some neon color on top? Sure you do! They're pretty great, as long as you only have to see them in the dark. In broad daylight, however, they're hideous and reveal a to much of the shape of the body beneath (bellies).

On a few of the publicity shots from that period, someone has decided to attach sunglasses to the faces of the robots. The real Kraftwerk wore the sunglasses to concerts as well, but that's not the point here. Robots with yellow wrap-around Bollé sunglasses, is that a good idea? Well, no. Is it Bono's robot? Or Gunde Svan's? Futuristic, I'm sure...

2. The "Minimum-Maximum" era look

According to one source, Ray-Ban's Wayfarer model's "distinctive trapezoidal frame spoke a non-verbal language that hinted at unstable dangerousness, but one nicely tempered by the sturdy arms which, according to the advertising, gave the frames a masculine look."

So, after Tom Cruise in "Risky Business", The Blues Brothers, and Jack Nickolson, there's Ralf Hütter's robot. I admit Wayfarers are kind of cool (again), and I bet Hütter's robot looks better with them, sitting at his desk, than he would without them.

Or, as Don Henley once put it in "The Boys of Summer":

I can see you
Your brown skin shining in the sun
You got that hair slicked back and
Those Wayfarers on, baby
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

But still, it's a robot with sunglasses. If a robot needs sunglasses it's not very well designed, is it?


Kraftwerk On The Beach

Dan Curtin was born in Cleveland ,OH, but has relocated to Berlin, Germany. His producing career started in 1992, and has included releases for labels such as Buzz, Peacefrog and Sublime. Curtin also runs a his own Metamorphic Recordings label.

In 2004, the Swiss label Inzec released his vinyl 12" "Shadow Locked EP". This specific record holds a song named "Kraftwerk Am Strand". The music on the record is a fairly relaxed but driving techno-house hybrid, with what I perceive as nods to older times. Certain sounds and tempos makes me think of Giorgio Moroder-era disco, which generally is a good thing.

But on to business. The "Kraftwerk Am Strand" track. This is a slightly softer affair compared to the other three songs on the record. The lead, a rather smooth sinus type sound, might be derived from some Kraftwerk track, but then again it might not be. The song is decent, but just barely. Listen here.

Oh, but there's another reference point to be mentioned, apart from Kraftwerk in general. I'd guess Philip Glass' five hour opera "Einstein on the beach", a repetitive construction designed for the audience to enter and leave whenever they felt like it, has been an inspiration. At least title-wise.

We could also mention Haruki Murakami's brilliant 2002 novel "Kafka on the Shore", but that is probably not related to the Curtin song in any way. Read it.


Kraftwerk of the Mountains

Sasha, international DJ gigolo known for previous collaborations with John Digweed, kicked off his set the other day with the eagerly awaited Hot Chip 11:32 "King of the Mountains" remix of Kraftwerk's "La Forme". And, naturally, it was recorded and is now available right here, on the Internet.

So, for all you curious people: listen to it through the... machine below. It's on right from the start, and goes on for 11 (short) minutes or so.

"King of the Mountains", by the way, is a title given to the best climber in cycling competitions, typically stage races such as Tour de France. More here.


Edit: A couple of minutes of both tracks are now available through Kraftwerks MySpace page. (Yes, they have one!).


Kraftwerk 1971, Live on Radio Bremen

The line-up on this newly released bootleg is said to consist of Florian Schneider, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger, which tells us that this was probably recorded in that short period of time in 1971, estimated to 6 months, when Ralf Hütter had left the band. Supposedly, the recording was made at the Gondel Kino in Bremen, Germany on June 25, 1971. And it's an interesting recording.

The track listing includes something called "Heavy Metal Kids", followed by "Stratovarius", "Ruckzuck", "Vom Himmel Hoch" and "Rueckstoss Gondoliere" (misspelled on the back cover, correct on the CD and in the booklet). It's the "Heavy Metal Kids" track that does it. The title, for starters, is most likely too weird to be the original one. And listening to the song makes you think the music has been created by someone else as well. It 's a bit in style with the first two Kraftwerk records, but still... this is hard rock. We've got metal guitar riffs and guitar solos throughout this sucker... But there's a steady, almost punishing motorik beat keeping pace, to convince you that you've ended up in the right country and in the right area.

The band just keeps on rocking, not only on that "Heavy Metal Kids" track but throughout most of the recorded concert. Stratovarius -rock. Ruckzuck - not rock, but 20 minutes long. Vom Himmel Hoch - rock. Rueckstoss Gondoliere - rock.

"Live on Radio Bremen" gives us an interesting lesson in the wobbliest, rockingest part of early Kraftwerk history.

You could also get the tracks right here, in mp3 format.
01, 02, 03, 04, 05.

(Courtesy of Big0 Worldwide)


Kraftwerk's future live setup

There has been some indications lately that Kraftwerk is moving towards a more futuristic setup than before, at least interface-wise. I'm sure there's more information out there, but let me tell you what I know.

New interface #1, the Tenori-On.

The Tenori-On is an instrument/controller/interface, created by sound artist Toshio Iwai (backed by Yamaha). Mr Iwai is also responsible for the brilliant Electroplankton program for the Nintendo DS. Tenori-On has existed for, if I remember correctly, a few years already, but only as a prototype version. Now, Yamaha seems to be ready for a commercial release of the rather amazing looking product.

We were recently reached by the news that a number of interesting artists, including Mouse On Mars and Atom™, had visited Japan to test drive the machine. And recently, Kraftwerk was added to the list of test pilots.

Here's a video that will tell you everyting you need to know about the Tenori-On.

New interface #2, the JazzMutant Lemur

The Lemur, produced by the french JazzMutant company, is an interesting input device, designed to control real-time computer applications. The multi-point touch screen is said to be completely customisable, allowing users design their own personal control surface. And it looks good, too.

Amongst the "lemurized" artists listed on the JazzMutant web pages, we find our german friends Kraftwerk.

Added together, these two items might lay the foundation for an interesting future of updated Kraftwerk concerts. Maybe, the Tenori-On is the tool they've been looking for to get back to the front of the stage for an old skool performance of "Pocket Calculator"?


Hot Chip to remix Kraftwerk

Electronic party band Hot Chip has remixed the two Kraftwerk tracks "Aerodynamik" and "La Forme" for release in September, according to several official EMI websites.

The four Hot Chip members have divided the heavy work load between themselves. "Aerodynamik (Intelligent Design Mix)" was created by Alex Taylor and Joe Goddard, while Al Doyle and Felix Martin did the King of the Mountains Mix version of "La Forme". The remixes will be available as 12", cd and as digital download.

But what do we think about this, then? Well, cant say that I've heard it yet but I am not completely sold on the idea... I mean, it's been almost three years since "Aerodynamik" and "La Forme" were first released, on the "Tour De France Soundtracks" album. So, really, why now?

On the up side, however, we have this:

Early this spring, DFA Records presented a 12" by Booji Boy High. Obviously some kind of DEVO tribute band, BBH actually consisted of Alex Taylor and Joe Goddard from Hot Chip, disguised as Georgios Panayiotou and Mother Markzbow. Now, that was an interesting idea. And most likely nu rave. Listen here.