I had written this up months ago and meant to post it then, but I never got around to it. Since it might be a while before I get some new material up here, I figured I’d at least get this to you. This is the second to last installment in the Early Kraftwerk series, but expect some krautrock reviews sometime down the line!
Title: Ralf and Florian
Label: Philips (few reissues in UK / Australia, and many bootlegs)
Genre: kosmische / krautrock, rock, experimental, electronic
At last, we come to the end of the Early Kraftwerk series. This was the final album from the “original pre-robotic” years. Here, we find the founding members alongside their engineer from their second album, Plank, pumping out some unique tunes that still have yet to be reissued.
The opening track is “Elektrisches Roulette.” A few seconds in and we’re met with the familiar warm synth that has popped up hither and thither on the previous two albums. Here, however, there seems to be a lot more forethought in these tracks. Sounds are layered and textured with finesse; things sound a lot less improvised and the sound quality all around sounds a lot better. Things also feel a lot more electronic. The flute, synth and percussion have all been altered to some extent, either being plugged into synths or various pedals. This feels like a well formed kosmische album already.
“Tongebirge” flutters in with heavily echoed flute and textured synth, creating a dreamy feel. It’s lovely, and hints back to their first LP in spots without parting ways with the gentler side. One can kind of draw some comparisons to “Autobahn” here in terms of textures, sounds and even synth; this is a clear precursor.
“Heimarklange,” our third track, lays on the electronic elements thick and heavy. The handmade synths are the star here and they are flawless. Sure, they may sound somewhat dated now, but this still sounds far beyond the technological capabilities of 1973. Few bands at that time could pull this off. The melodies here are brilliant, though simple. This is what made Kraftwerk so likable on their later albums, and I’m glad to see that on such an early piece. The backwards bit on this track was clever, as was the sudden change in pitch and tempo near the end.
Flipping the record over, we’re met with “Tanzmusic.” Things slow down here, taking on a very mellow, and gentle feel. Piano is met with soft flute and subtle synth. This is a like a midnight serenade for your brain. It’s kind of beautiful.
Things wrap up with “Ananas Symphonie.” It relies on a lot of the same synth that builds up the majority of the album, creating a rhythm of sorts, where layers of gentle bass synth, chimes, soft percussion and soundscapes are woven in. Eventually, this gives way to a softer, more textured synth that ebbs and flows, like waves over a sleepy shoreline. It’s very relaxing. Some of the distortion techniques, effects and texture styles used here are very unique and have been barrowed and improved upon throughout the years. Influential? Most likely.
This track carries on for quite some time, evolving slowly but maintaining its mellow atmosphere and easy pace. It remains quite out of the norm from later material, as they never steered too close to this style again, even at their mellowest moments on later works.
This album as a whole is very cohesive, more so than the first two. It seems here Kraftwerk have found their footing and were making solid and precise music. It seemed by the later tracks that they were about to evolve musically, as they sound a bit similar to “Autobahn.” This is an excellent piece to predate that album, and if the band would just reissue this, I would highly recommend buying those two as a set, even though “Autobahn” is a bit more advanced.
Should you buy this? Again, getting an original issue of this is difficult, even if you’re seeking the UK or the Australian edition. The latest reissue was pressed in 1975 and only bootlegged versions are pressed nowadays, neither of which are cheap. I would say that if you’re into Kraftwerk, enjoy the more mellow side of kosmische music, or like early electronic music, this album is for you, if you can find an affordable copy.
4.7 out of 5.
The first three Kraftwerk LPs were an experiment, of sorts. The band dabbled in new sounds and toyed with new equipment, emerging from the rapidly expanding musical movement that was taking place at the time. From this point, Kraftwerk would move onto their fourth LP, “Autobahn,” an album that would help place electronic music on the map (alongside other emerging acts like Tangerine Dream and Kluster). In the eyes of many critics, “Autobahn” is a definitive album, yet I see it as an oddball in some respects. The a-side is the track everyone remembers. It was cutting edge and propelled electronic music forward but the tracks on the b-side are very much like tracks from the previous three LPs. And yet, this album gets reprints while the first three haven’t? We’ll explore this in depth next time!