Thursday, July 27, 2006

Kraftwerk: Pioneers of Almost Everything

I had on Kraftwerk's super-sleek "Minimum - Maximum" live document last night, and was struck once again at how inventive, relevant and influential these German synth-pop pioneers are, almost four decades after their initial formation. But you might ask, how do four ageing Teutonic studio boffins still remain significant in this day and age? Here are three examples of Kraftwerk's stylistic reach and legacy, and solid proof of why they should be made rock deities:

1. Without Kraftwerk, there would be no modern-day dance movement: everything from direct, hard-stepping styles like house, techno and drum n' bass, to more fluid, freeform sub-genres like trance, ambient and dub owe their existence in large part to the proto-cybernetic forms and structures that the Dusseldorf collective conceived in their spotless laboratory back in their halcyon days.

2. Without Kraftwerk, important latter-day trends like synth-pop, new wave and new romantic simply would not exist. Seminal acts like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Howard Jones, O.M.D. and about a million others virtually Xeroxed their fundamental artistry from ideas taken from classic albums like "Trans Europe Express", "The Man Machine" and "Computer World".

3. Even the basic building blocks of seemingly unrelated genres like hip-hop, acid jazz and Brit-rock are derived from Kraftwerk works. After all, Afrika Bambaataa's groundbreaking "Planet Rock" (virtually the original blueprint for all of today's hip-hop forms) takes its lead melody from 1977's relentlessly propulsive rail travelogue "Trans Europe Express". And let's not forget Coldplay's shameless lift of 1981's whimsical "Computer Love" for their "Talk" single.

Kraftwerk! We're functioning automatic, and we are dancing mechanic!


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