Monday, 19 January 2015

Kraftwerk "Trans-Europe Express" (1977)


Having enjoyed the works of prolific electronic group Kraftwerk through their album "The Man-Machine", I sought out another record to digest. Recommendations by readers and critically acclaimed across the web, it seemed "Trans-Europe Express" would be one id have to listen to sooner or later. Recorded in 1976, and released a year later, this record marked a significant shift in sound towards a purer electronic output that would mark this and the proceeding records as classics in the modernization of electronic music. Having developed an understanding of what this group are about, I found this album to immediately reveal its brilliance, a vast difference in approach and likability. I was instantly sucked into a carefully orchestrated design of minimalism and color through the opening track "Europe Endless" with its vibrant melodies, formal groove and charming vocoded vocals. Complimented by light choirs and cultural praising of European collaberation, Kraftwerk quickly set a gorgeous tone of which the repetitious content simply does not tire, and becomes indulging and fruitful. As 10 minutes pass the album moves into tis second gear, and reveals a different focus for the theme of the record.

With "Hall Of Mirrors", the warm vibe established is diminished as the record transitions into a dark and egotistical reflection of self image. A distant, tampering beat, moogy bass and swirling melodies create an intense atmosphere for the vocals to tell a shattering tale of fame and self image, the harrowing space of a failed ego. The theme is continued through an equally moody yet sharper and punchier track "Showroom Dummies" that includes some interesting sampling of destructive noises. The song is another impressive showcase of minimalism, yet fills rather "full" from its energetic rhythm. From here the record moves into what was simply a "jaw dropping" moment for me. A shuffling, mechanical rhythm slowly phased to sound reminiscent of a train leads up to a glorious moment in Hip Hop. Sampling has always excited me, and I was so humbled to hear the origins of "Planet Rock", a classic and important song in the Origins of Hip Hop. The eerie melody is followed up by a stunning arrangement of chords that I find myself in awe of, the song is further progressed into "Metal On Metal" which drops the melodies and brings in some big and booming drum hits to descend the song into a meaner tangent of itself guided by some theatrical chord climaxes that lead back into the main theme. Its followed up by two more tracks that shift the feel back to the initial positives this one started out with, yet holds a strong reminiscent or revisited feel about it, mostly likely through a lack of percussion and dreamy synths.

The listening experience as a whole is vastly superior to much modern music out there, and begs me to ponder on the "retro" or "outdated" ideas that can often be associated with music and art. Aesthetically, or musically, this seems far removed from irrelevance of time, and stands on its own two feet. Kraftwerks mastering of minimalism, mechanical rhythms, peachy melodies and eccentric presentations mold the form of a record pure of substance. Even after much time listening to this one, I find myself unable to put it down. Despite haven given my thoughts on this record, I can't help but feel it will only love it more as time goes by.

Rating: 10/10

2 comments:

  1. After reading this post I immediately went to youtube and listened to the album. Unfortunately I couldn't listen the entire thing through in a go, but wow. I'm hooked by the minimalism and the ever repeating melodies (love those!) and I'm sure I'll expand my music library with Kraftwerk :-D

    That same feeling (listening to music for the first time and knowing you'll love it for eternity so to speak) I had recently when listening to Ayreon for the first time (recommended by my music-loving uncle with whom I can have conversations about music all day :-P). Man I had goosebumps listening to Ayreon the first time. It is a music project by the Dutchman Arjen Lucassen and he's a boss. Wikipedia classifies it as Progressive metal although progressive rock is very descriptive as well. Awesome is another word to describe it. Every album is a collaboration between different artists; all albums are sorta concept albums with a story. Every character is another vocalist, up to 12 vocalists for some albums. Very cool way of telling a tale if you'd ask me.
    Would be great if you'd give it a listen, I highly recommend it :-)

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    1. I've listened to a lot of Ayreon in the past :-) I should dust off one and give it a listen again!

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