Tag Archives: Kraftwerk

May 4th – August 2nd, 2016 (Twenty first “week”)

Almost three months since the last entry. For what it’s worth, I think I finished listening to all these records almost a month ago, but writing something substantial about them required more time. Also, school as well as other things had gotten busy. I don’t know why I’m explaining myself to… myself.

Sort of strayed a little bit from Krautrock. There’s Joy Divison here, as well as Autechre and Plaid, and Chuck Brown. I think the next “week” will have more Kraut in it.

1. Kraftwerk – Autobahn [1974]

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I’m reading David Stubbs’ Future Days, which as you can guess from the name, is a book about krautrock. I’ve been trying to listen to the music of the bands he talks about as I’m reading the book, and some of them I’ve been familiar with, but now he’s spending a lot of time on Autobahn which I never listened to before in its entirety, so that’s why I’m here.

I listened to the title track before, maybe it was a decade ago, and I wasn’t impressed with it, even though the refrain (fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn”) has been in my head since.

It’s interesting to read what Stubbs writes about the motivation for Autobahn, like how it’s Kraftwerk’s version of an idyllic Germany (or even the whole world?). I don’t know how much I buy into all of it, but I will say that the track Autobahn definitely gives the feeling of driving on an empty highway. What’s funny is that on this first listen, Autobahn is my least favorite track. It’s good, but the second side of the record is a lot more interesting to me, and things really come alive in Kometenmelodie 2 onward.

2. Tony Konrad – Four Violins [1964]

Almost self-explanatory from the title. Four distorted electric violins that drone and sound mostly like screeching doors. I like the droning part of it, but it’s hard to sit in front of the speakers and listen to four screeching doors. If I stand far back, or do something else when this is in the background, then it becomes easier to listen to, and sometimes it sounds like bagpipes playing and not violins. However, I’m right in front of the speakers as I’m writing this, and there are are subtle changes that I’m not sure I’d catch if I were in the kitchen making food.

This is a recurring theme in a lot of the avantgarde music I’ve been listening to. On one hand, it’s tough to sit in front of the speakers for 30-45 minutes and listen to the music because it’s literally not an easy listen. But then if I step back and avert my attention to something else, I also lose a lot of the subtlety of it.

3. Tangerine Dream – Alpha Centauri [1971]

Alpha Centauri came right before Zeit and it is very obvious that it is the precursor to Zeit. It has a lot of the same elements that Zeit has – slow buildups and eerie melodies, a lot of synths, and very few actual drums. It’s not as epic as Zeit, but it’s a good alternative when I don’t have the time to listen to all of Zeit.

4. Stereolab – Not Music [2010]

This record, like Transient Random-Noise, etc. was a slow burner. The first few listens didn’t leave any impressions on me. It was neither good or bad. It was mostly long (still is). But now I’m starting to open up to it and things are clicking.

This record is whimsical – a lot of toy-ish and retro sounds and noises, but at the same time the songs themselves are serious, so it doesn’t sound like Jean-Jacques Perrey, but definitely has his sonic influences. I think this band has found a musical niche and have been exploring it since then. What I mean is that I don’t think they’re straying very far from where they started. If you listen to Transient Random and Not Music you would know that it’s the same band, where with some bands you wouldn’t know, because the circles around their origins are much wider.

5. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures [1979]

My familiarity with Joy Division is anecdotal. I remember watching the live video of She’s Lost Control (you know which one) maybe 10 years ago, and I was totally into it. Then I listened to the record and that song sounded nothing like the live version. I don’t know if that alone turned me off to the rest of the record, or if it’s the fact that the record sounds similar is what turned me off to it. Anyway, here I am again listening to it a decade later.

Even now as I listen to it, I think that the production detracted in some ways from the songs. I like the production, and I know it was revolutionary (still is in some ways), but it reigned in the aggressiveness of some of the songs. It works for some, like New Dawn Fades, but it totally messed up a song like She’s Lost Control. The production makes the album a slow burner for me, because it takes me a while to uncover the songs under Martin Hannett, but at the same time I enjoy his radical ideas for a rock band.

6. Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers – Bustin’ Loose [1979]

So the other day my wife and I were watching TV and then this commercial comes on and it has the best groove, I jump out of my seat and ask her to rewind and she’s like “Uhh, that’s Nelly’s Hot In Herre”, and like yeah I think I heard it before, but don’t really know it. So I spent a few days listening to Nelly’s Hot in Herre, and then I moved on to the song that sampled it, and that’s Chuck Brown’s Bustin’ Loose.

So Bustin’ Loose, the song, is awesome. The record is almost split between ballads and more up-tempo grooving songs. I like the up-tempo songs better because the slow stuff isn’t hitting the spot for me. It’s not like a slow Curtis Mayfield song. The up-tempo ones are good, but keep in mind that they’re not hard hitting grooves. They’re more mellow. Still a good record that I should listen to a couple more times, I think.

7. Kratwerk – The Man-Machine [1978]

I accidentally skipped over Radio-Activity and Trans-Europe Express (I’m going to go back to them), and it’s amazing to hear the difference four years made in this band. This record has less experimentation and more songs, as in verse and chorus and singing (although sometimes vocoderized).

The last two tracks, Neon Lights and The Man-Machine, are more experimental and “meandering” like the old records, and for now, after listening to this record once, I prefer them over the songs.

8. Plaid – The Digging Remedy [2016]

Can’t find an angle with this record. I have stuff to write, but I don’t think I get this record. It’s not an abstract record, so it shouldn’t be hard to get – I just don’t. Here’s what I have:

The only other Plaid record I know is Double Figure, which is fifteen years old, but I don’t feel like The Digging Remedy is that different. Some songs on this new one sound like they could have been made during the time they made Double Figure. The songwriting and a lot of the sounds they get (even though their process now is different) are the same. This disappoints me a bit because I keep holding every record to this ridiculous bar that it has to be groundbreaking. This record isn’t groundbreaking, and it has a few good songs (Do Matter, CLOCK, Yu Mountain, Reeling Spiders), but these songs don’t pull me back like a bunch of songs on Double Figure did. I think if it had more songs that I deemed good I probably wouldn’t complain about how innovative it is (or isn’t).

 9. Autechre – Tri Repetae [1995]

I read this interview with Autechre a few weeks ago, and it made me want to keep delving into their discography. These guys are cool. I like how they can talk about what they do without being “my art” kind of people. It’s a good interview to read if you’re at all interested in electronic music and how it’s made today.

I picked this record because in the interview they say how the one before it was the first “weird” record they gave Warp, and Warp loved it and it sold, so then Tri Repetae is where they let loose and do whatever they want. At this point I’ve listened to this record at least ten times, and I still don’t have something substantial to say about it. I like the sounds. It’s very intricate, like a painting with million little details. I also enjoy how some of the sounds are annoying. “Here’s this high pitched buzz/rattle that maybe not everyone is going to like”, but it’s interesting. The tracks themselves don’t floor me. I do like Leterel, Stud, and Rsdio, but the rest leave me ambivalent. It’s frustrating because I like a lot of the sounds and I keep constantly feeling like I’m just missing something crucial. So I want to keep listening to it, but it’s also over an hour long.

10. Can – Soundtracks [1970]

My first listen to this record left me bitter. It didn’t sound like a Can record! It sounded like schmaltz except for maybe a couple of songs. So on my second listen, along which I was writing this entry, I came in trying to defend that bitterness.

The first song is from the movie Deadlock and has the same name. It’s actually a pretty good song that maintains the Can-ness that I’m used to, but it’s pretty short compared to their other songs like it. Tango Whiskeyman, the second track (also from Deadlock), is where I’m reminded of my bitterness. It’s got good groove, but the actual melody is very schmaltzy. Then the chorus comes in and I’m really surprised that they went for this low hanging musical fruit. I tell myself that seeing how two of them were students of Stockhausen and one was a free jazz drummer, it was probably a conscious choice. The song does have a good break in the middle, though. The last song, She Brings the Rain, is also very out of character of Can. It’s a faux jazzy ballad that has no place on a Can record. I mean, I get that that was their thing – they were experimenting and seeing if they could do something like a jazz ballad and make it sound interesting. It’s fine, but I’m not into it.

The only reason I bring up these two songs that I’m not into is to circle back to my previous bitterness – the record is book-ended by them and that’s probably what left a bad taste in my mouth. But most importantly, I think I had a sprout of personal growth here. I didn’t like the record at first and I started writing with the intention to defend my dislike, but then halfway through listening I realized that maybe I just wasn’t listening very closely the first time around. So instead of defending my position before, I decided to open my mind. Cool.

So why is this record great? Because of all the other songs. Mother Sky is a perfect and quintessential Can song, and the others are succinct Can songs. I can see why some people think of it as the best Can record. (I disagree and would probably go with Tago Mago, but that’s for a different post on a different blog.)


Eleventh Week: November 1st – 7th, 2015

Yowzers! I’m very late with this one. I got a good start, was listening a lot and writing about the records I was listening to, and then sort of didn’t. It was one of these weeks (and a half) where I really feel like 10 records is way too much.

Anyway, I took what was supposed to be the 11th week off, and it was a great idea. I went back and listened to some records from the past 10 weeks and also some favorites that I didn’t get to listen to a lot lately.

From TRAW I listened to The Topography of the Lungs, and I like it more, but I’m still not that into it. There are just other free jazz records I would rather listen to first. I also listened to a bunch of Coltrane (Meditations, Kulu Se Mama, Ascension) and I like these even more than I did the first time around. I listened to some Mingus records – Black Saint and Sinner Lady and Money Jungle, and also Duke Ellington’s New Orleans Suite, which keeps getting better with each listen. I listened to a few other records, but these are the notable ones.

1. Morton Subotnick – Silver Apples of the Moon [1967]

I learned of Morton Subotnick from this movie (available on Netflix). It’s a really cool movie and is inspiring in the same way anything you watch or read about innovators is inspiring. Anyway, Morton Subotnick commissioned the first or one of the first Buchla synthesizers and later went on to make Silver Apples of the Moon using the Buchla. I was surprised by the name because The Silver Apples is a band from about that time and they’re a drummer and a guy with oscillators and filters. It seems like they’d be aware of each other and how similar the names are.

Anyway, Subotnick didn’t want his synthesizer to have a piano keyboard because he knew that would make him create conventional, western music, and yeah, you hear it in this record. It doesn’t sound like anything conventional or western.

Part A sounds like what someone would have imagined in the 60s to be communication from outer space. We’re talking bleeps and squeaks, no real discernible rhythm or melody. It’s pretty cool, and I appreciate it as an exercise in synthesis, but it gets tiresome after a while.

Part B is awesome. There’s an actual groove that is made of white (pink?) noise and some percussive sounds that I have no idea how he produced. There’s also a weird melody playing, and on top of that there’s the whole “random noises from space” thing. Pretty great.

2. Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk [1970]

Yeah, I don’t know this record. In fact, I barely know Kraftwerk, and right now can only list two of their songs.

This is an awesome record, and it’s more krautrock-y than their stuff that I’m familiar with. You know, the stuff that makes you think of electronic music, like The Model, and Autobahn.

I should have gotten familiar with this record in high school. Back then I was really into progressive rock. I still like it a lot, but it was my jam back then. Anyway, I like(d) it for a lot of reasons, but one in particular is that the songs were really long, had a lot of subtle elements, and there was always a really stretched out bulldup. They were jams. Not as in, jams like Phish, but as in “this song is a jam!” So for instance, Pink Floyd’s Echoes was really fun to listen to, and once you get past the schmaltzy singing (which I loved and thought was the best thing about the song at first) you find the kind of krautrock jam in the middle. I wanted to hear more of this type of music but didn’t know what it was or what to call it. All the krautrock stuff I listened to so far would have fit that category, but I think this record, or at least the first side would have been a great starting point. Man, oh man. I would have listened to this record so much the needle would have cut through to the the other side.

I wanted to put Stratovarius on the playlist, but it’s not on Spotify.

3. Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk 2 [1972]

It’s good but not as good as the first. I also didn’t listen to it enough to know.

4. Can – Tago Mago [1971]

I think this might be my favorite Can record so far. Also, they have a different singer and I like the way he sings a lot more. I’m realizing that his singing (when he’s quiet) is very familiar and I think he influenced a lot of the singing in more modern loud bands. For instance, I’m immediately thinking of Justin Trosper from Unwound.

Ok, I don’t really have much more to say except that this is a really awesome record and has amazing guitar playing. I mean, talking about how I should have listened to Krautrock as a kid. Totally dropped the ball on that.

5. Autechre – LP5 [1998]

Autechre is another “band” that I’m only familiar with a few tracks and not full albums. I also haven no idea how their name is pronounced. Anyway, I’ve known Acroyear2, which is the first song on this record, which is why I got it.

Acroyear2 is pretty great and insane. It’s massive. The “drums” are bursts of noise and an godly low kick coupled with an even lower bass. It’s very aggressive, but the “melody” is really soft somber, which is something that a lot of the IDM people were (still maybe?) doing.

Rae is similar to Acro in its somberness, but it’s nowhere as aggressive.

Woo boy, Vose In! Fold4,Wrap5, Arch Carrier, Drane2 are all extremely dope.

6. Kraftwerk – Ralf and Florian [1973]

I think this is even more abstract than Kraftwerk 2. I don’t think it’s abstract like free jazz, but it doesn’t have the same structures as the first two records. It sounds like they got together and just started playing with their synthesizers seeing where it would take them. Anyway, it’s a fun record, and yet again I’m not sure what else to say other than that.

7. Ornette Coleman – Chappaqua Suite [1965]

I have even less stuff to say about this record. It’s really long and I only listened to it once. From that one listened I could gather that it’s different than all the other Ornette Coleman stuff I heard. I want to say it’s more classical oriented in its structure, but what do I know?

8. Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth [1961]

Pretty good record. The solos were the usual bop stuff, but the themes are all superb, particularly because of how the band harmonizes them in an awesome way.

Another cool thing about this record is that it has an understated groove. For instance, the first song, Stolen Moments, is very laid back but has an amazing groove.

9. Can – Monster Movie [1969]

I listened to this record a lot actually because I was trying to figure out the guitar sound, particularly on Yoo Do Right. It’s that very sustained, fuzzed, possibly delayed and reverb-ed sound. It pierces through everything. It’s an uglier (in a good way) David Gilmore guitar sound. It has the first singer, who I am not crazy about, but at least the vocals aren’t super loud in the mix.

Yeah, it’s a good record.

10. Mohammed ‘Jimmy’ Mohammed – Takkabel! [2006]

My friend Neal gave me a bunch of CDs to listen to. This is one of them.

This record has some elements that remind me of Arab music that people like my mom listen to. Just something about the scales they use and the overall attitude. However, since this music is by Ethiopians (so you know, different place, and different culture), it has its own identity and characteristics. Also, Hahn Bennink plays drums on this!

Really liking Mela Mela.