Title: 1 (s/t)
Label: Phillips (and various bootlegs)
Genre: Kosmische / Krautrock, experimental, electronic
It wasn’t too long ago when I posted an updated about how much I wanted to do a series about kraftwerk. I lamented greatly about how the scarcity of the first three records would delay this from happening. As luck would have it, my father stumbled across both Kraftwerk 1 and 2 at the local indie record shop. He was kind enough to grab them for me while they lasted. What made me laugh was the reaction of the folks at the store when he paid for them. They praised him greatly for his knowledge in music, and then proceeded to call up off duty coworkers to tell them that someone actually bought Kraftwerk. It’s not that absurd, is it? How rare is it that someone would want their music?
In the same year as Organization’s split, Kraftwerk was born. The founding members, Ralf and Florian, are joined by Klaus Dinger (Neu!, La Dusseldorf) and Andeas Hohmann (Ibliss). This was the band’s first LP, issued in 1970 with no official reissues to date. Keep this in mind, it’ll be important later.
As I drop the needle on side one, it’s evident that this is not the Kraftwerk most people are familiar with. A sweet flute riff kicks things off before and catchy organ lick taps us into a gentle kosmische beat. It’s quickly met with a tall frosty glass of space age experimentalism before the beat picks up in tempo. This track is odd; it feels a lot like a dance track but is quick to dart into Pink Floyd or Tangerine Dream styled tangents. It fades in and out, starts, stops and starts again. It’s like they didn’t know when to end the track. This isn’t bad, of course; it certainly keeps me on my toes.
“Stratovarius” shrieks in like an alien transmission from deep space. It’s loud, noisy and haunting. We get a bit more electronic studio noodling and this continues for quite a stretch before the more rock oriented stuff blasts back in. That, again, lasts briefly before feedback driven beats explode into a wild organ oriented jam session. At this point, my cat tries climbing onto my turn table. I guess she’s a Kraftwerk fan, too. Holy cow, is that a violin? Yes, yes it is!
After a very abrupt end to Side A, I flip the record over. We open with “Megaherz,” which as the name implies, is rather sonic in nature to start with. An organ is being fed through who-knows-what kind of distortion and faders, and the feeling quickly becomes similar to what a bad acid trip must sound like. I’m guessing the theme of this record is quick bursts of noise, fades and then calmer, quieter washes of sound. Things get very cool and almost ambient a few more minutes into this track. It’s hard to believe they could make a flute and organ sound so… cosmic.
Before I notice the transmission, the fourth and final track fades in with a low, growly electronic buzz. It’s a lot of experimenting with machines and distortions, with buzzes quickly exploding into nothing, only to fade in and explode again. The crazy noises give way to a snappy break beat, allowing the noise to get some sort of coherent groove going. And, amazingly, this gives way to a very techno sounding dance track. It’s completely off the wall and unexpected. It lasts just a few minutes before exploding into nothingness once more.
All in all, this is an interesting album. It’s so radically different from “Autoban,” or anything else that came out later, and I find that enchanting. Sure, the material here is noisy and completely off the wall in spots, but that encapsulates the kosmische feel. This record is bold without being over the top and it certainly doesn’t try to impress. It just is what it is and it makes me happy.
Should you buy this? If you’re into krautrock / kosmische, you’ll enjoy this. Fans of the band’s later work will be surprised at the vast differences here, and for some, that might be a turn off. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this record and did like it more than I thought I would. Thus, I would recommend it.
Going back to my statement earlier, this LP was released just once in 1970 and hasn’t been reissued officially. The band has made no effort to do so, either, which has forced prices of the original pressing sky high. Naturally, the majority of us Kraftwerk fans have had no choice but to buy bootlegs for that reason. At least those are easier to get and exist both on CD and vinyl. Would be great though if we could get a deluxe edition or something down the line…
4.5 out of 5