In an era of disposable hits and rabid auto-tune, it seems fitting to plant a show like Kraftwerk’s at a modern art museum based at an ex power station. The eight-day, one-album-a-night, 3D-heavy residency at the Tate Modern is no less than a manifesto to innovation, to forward thinking, to creativity and it is almost as if it was waiting for the right scenario to exist in order to take place. Is it the future yet?
Wikipedia says that “was formed by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in 1970, and was fronted by them until Schneider’s departure in 2008. The signature Kraftwerk sound combines driving, repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, mainly following a Western Classical style of harmony, with a minimalistic and strictly electronic instrumentation. The group’s simplified lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder or generated by computer-speech software. Kraftwerk were one of the first groups to popularize electronic music and are considered pioneers in the field.” It was back 1974 that Kraftwerk, German for power station, was releasing Autobahn, an album that would finally let them transcend the borders of a post war Germany and be seminal inspiration for later bands such as REM, Bjork, Joy Division, New Order, David Bowie, Human League, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Yazoo, Simply Minds and a list that doesn’t seem to end which leads me to infer that perhaps their wikipedia entry is reliable must be that the hackers are into them.
And it is somewhat ironic that we are saying all this about a band that is technically getting back together on the nostalgic bandwagon that brought us back the Stone Roses, every boy-band that we can think of and most recently Destiny’s Child and their Superbowl dancing, I mean ‘singing’ set (and between these brackets I would like to say: Please Beyonce, lay off it that’s not art, it’s just a magnificent representation of your overblown ego and it’s 1- old, 2- boring, 3- a little sad). Also, it is at least questionable to say that Kraftwerk are being artistic themselves since they are not putting out any new material.
I thought about it long and hard and I must say, from my unqualified eye -I did not grow up in Europe, I am not over forty, I am not so much into electronic music and I refuse to consent to the notion that a synthesizer is a musical instrument-, I believe I am getting the most objective perspective. I listen to them in the context of their show, with the backdrop of their music and what becomes evident is that Kraftwerk composed songs for the future and the future has arrived.
Sure their fans will love every tune, and as a friend and fan of them put it: “It is hard for them to play badly, they are just pressing buttons after all”. I’m sure there is a little bit more skill to what they do but in any case, it doesn’t matter. They saw the future then and they are living it now. In a somewhat quirky approach to journalism I am wondering what Michael J. Fox would say about this enterprise, it does smell a bit like time traveling.