17 January 2006


TVJust to chime in with all the excellent testcard mania that's been infecting certain parts of the blogosphere, here's the sleeve of Elektric Music's second single called, appropriately enough, "TV". Elektric Music was, and in fact still is, ex-Kraftwerker Karl Bartos. "TV", along with the album "Esperanto" were released in 1993 and revealed the first fruits of creative freedom unleashed after he extricated himself from the Kling- Klang straightjacket. Listening to "TV" now, it does seem alarmingly close to the Kraftwerk aesthetic. The "Electric Cafe" drum sounds, the "Radioactivity" choral pads, etc...but it's still a pretty good electronic pop song. In some ways, the excitement surrounding this release at the time was partly due to the fans being grateful for any new Kraftwerk-related tracks, as seven long years had passed since the last album of original material. "Esperanto" doesn't hold up all that well in places, especially the collaborations with OMD's Andy McCluskey, although some of the others like "Information" still sound vaguely impressive for their complex, chattering cut-up vocal arrangements, which did feel quite innovative at the time. Now you've seen the sleeve, I suppose you wanna hear the track, right?


But there's another reason for bringing up Bartos in this post. In my Art Of Noise thing last week, I made the bold statement that "when "Beatbox" was first released in late '83, Kraftwerk actually aborted their "Techno Pop" album after hearing it, cos they thought it made them sound dated." Now, my learned colleague 11v, being a bit of a Kraftwerk obsessive (and not much of an Art Of Noise fan) wants to know where I got that idea from. Not from Kraftwerk themselves, obviously. And if you go looking in a book like, say, Pascal Bussey's "Man Machine & Music", you won't find any mention there. In fact he states that it was US dance music and, in particular, Micheal Jackson's "Billie Jean" that triggered Hutter and Schneider's confidence crisis. Well there's another spin on events, as related by Karl Bartos when interviewed for Sound On Sound magazine back in March 1998. Naturally I have the original mag here in front of me, but you can read the full transcript here. The particular quote that concerns us is this one:

"...we got a little bit lost in technology, to be honest. Suddenly, in the mid-'80s, all this digital equipment appeared, including sampling; and there was this fantastic record called 'Beatbox' produced by Trevor Horn. His drum sound blew our minds! So we had to step back and think it all over, incorporate MIDI and sampling, and a lot of other stuff."

Okay, so it was probably a combination of things that lead to Kraftwerk scrapping the album, but I hope this proves that "Beatbox" was a significant factor. The defense rests its case...

Oh, and for anyone who wonders what that aborted "Technopop" album might've sounded like, here's a little demo mix of the title track, which they did on the old analogue gear. You'll notice it has a rather beautiful melody that was completely absent on the digital version that appeared on "Electric Cafe" three years later.

KRAFTWERK - TECHNOPOP (demo version)