Monday, May 31, 2010

May 31

Been a while since I did a twofer, but it's easy when they're in the same band. First, happy birthday to Karl Bartos, formerly of Kraftwerk. You can hear the echoes of their music in everybody from Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails to T-Pain and Blue Man Group. Plus, anybody who uses an electronic keyboard.
Here's a Top of the Pops clip, with a great encapsulation about the band's style and mission:

The trippiest part for me is, "Autobahn" was inspired by the Beach Boys. One of the vocalists said that the Beach Boys made music that sounded like California, and Kraftwerk wanted to make music that sounded like Germany.
Regarding Karl Bartos, he joined Kraftwerk for the Autobahn tour; he's now part of the classic, electro-pop lineup that would become the global face of Kraftwerk. He played and toured with Kraftwerk through the 70's and 80's. In 1991, he left to collaborate with other artists, and released his own album in 2003.

Kraftwerk entered a new phase in the 90's with a new lineup - including birthday boy Fritz Hilpert (he actually joined the band before Karl left, but it's an undeniable transition.) The emphasis since the 90's has been on live performances, although the technology has streamlined to the point that there's minimal exertion required for performing the music, and more concentration on the presentation (exactly why Bartos left.)

That's not to say the people in Kraftwerk have become irrelevant in a Kraftwerk show; in fact, Hilpert fell ill on an Australian stop in 2008, cancelling the night's show and threatening the tour.
Since 2008, only one founding member remains in Kraftwerk. They still do festival shows, and they've been re-mastering and re-releasing the discography, but no word about new music yet. Then again, they've been traditionally reclusive, so there's no telling when Kraftwerk's latest sound will emerge.

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