Although Autobahn was a left-field masterpiece, Trans-Europe Express is often cited as perhaps the archetypal (and most accessible) Kraftwerk album. Melodic themes are repeated often and occasionally interwoven over deliberate, chugging beats, sometimes with manipulated vocals; the effect is mechanical yet hypnotic.
Like its predecessor (similarly designed right down to the traffic cone cover, though green instead of red), Kraftwerk 2 has never been properly re-released, giving it the same lost-classic aura as the first album, or at least lost, period. Thankfully, bootleg reissues in 1993 restored it to wider public listening; even more so than Kraftwerk 1, its lack of official reappearance is a mystery, in that the band is clearly well on its way to the later Kraftwerk sound of fame. Stripped down to the Hütter/Schneider duo for this release, and again working with Conrad Plank as coproducer and engineer (this album alone demonstrates his ability to create performances combining technological precision and warmth), Kraftwerk here start exploring the possibilities of keyboards and electronic percussion in detail. Given that the band's drummers were gone, such a shift was already in the wind, but it's the enthusiastic grappling with drum machines and their possibilities that makes Kraftwerk 2 noteworthy.
What might have been simply seen as an agreeable enough debut album has since become something of a notorious legend because Kraftwerk, or more accurately the core Hütter/Schneider duo at the heart of the band, simply refuses to acknowledge its existence any more. What's clearly missing from Kraftwerk is the predominance of clipped keyboard melodies that later versions of the band would make their own. Instead, Kraftwerk is an exploratory art rock album with psych roots first and foremost, with Conny Plank's brilliant co-production and engineering skills as important as the band performances. Still, Hütter and Schneider play organ and "electric percussion" – Hütter's work on the former can especially be appreciated with the extended opening drone moan of the all-over-the-place "Stratovarius" combined with Schneider's eerie violin work. But it's a different kind of combination and exploration, with the key pop sugar (and vocal work) of later years absent in favor of sudden jump cuts of musique concrète noise and circular jamming as prone to sprawl as it is to tight focus.
The line-up on this newly released bootleg is said to consist of Florian Schneider, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger, which tells us that this was probably recorded in that short period of time in 1971, estimated to 6 months, when Ralf Hütter had left the band. Supposedly, the recording was made at the Gondel Kino in Bremen, Germany on June 25, 1971. And it's an interesting recording.
Continuing to work with Conny Plank, who once again provides a compelling job as producer and engineer, Kraftwerk went right ahead and named their new album after their two remaining members – an understandable enough move. Like the first two albums, Ralf and Florian still has not seen official re-release, for all that one can practically taste Kraftwerk's leap into the beyond on it. Given that this was the last album before the most famous lineup was formed and Autobahn was released, it's appropriate to listen to Ralf and Florian as a harbinger for the future, though perhaps all too easy. Take it on its own terms – a further investigation of electronic possibilities in a more open-ended, less constantly structured fashion than would be the case later – and Ralf and Florian becomes most enjoyable.
Tour de France Soundtracks is the tenth studio album by the German electronic group Kraftwerk, released in August 2003. It was re-released in October 2009 under the title Tour de France. The album was recorded for the 100th anniversary of the first Tour de France bicycle race, although it missed its intended release date for the actual tour.
The last great Kraftwerk album, Computer World (Computerwelt) captured the band right at the moment when its pioneering approach fully broke through in popular music, thanks to the rise of synth pop, hip-hop, and electro. As Arthur Baker sampled "Trans-Europe Express" for "Planet Rock" and disciples like Depeche Mode, OMD, and Gary Numan scored major hits, Computer World demonstrated that the old masters still had some last tricks up their collective sleeves. Compared to earlier albums, it fell readily in line with The Man-Machine, eschewing side-long efforts but with even more of an emphasis on shorter tracks mixed with longer but not epic compositions.