Kraftwerk has always been an enigma to me. Their music seemed so cold and distant but precise and bizarre. They seemed either less than—or more than—human. Like robots with a human head. The drummer of Kraftwerk, Wolfgang Flur, puts a human heart behind the beats of the motorik quartet. Post World War II, the children of the Germans who survived the war found themselves lost, without an identity, and it is within this vacuum that the music of Kraftwerk emerged.
Kraftwerk recorded a few records before Wolfgang joined the group. Although interesting, the records utilized an electronic flute and violin. Once Wolfgang joined the group, the sound of Kraftwerk was synthesized. The chapters on the formation of the group are the most interesting. Wolfgang was more than a percussionist; he was also somewhat of an inventor. Taking apart a basic drum machine, he added contact microphones to a rudimentary pad, which triggered the sounds of a snare, kick drum, and hi-hat from the drum machine. It was this invention where human controlled a machine. Further chapters detail the rise of Kraftwerk, their various tours, and continued work in the studio. For a studio geek like myself, I devoured these pages quickly, looking for clues as to how they developed their sound.
Like all machines, the parts of Kraftwerk began to wear out and Wolfgang and his other percussion battery-mates left Kraftwerk. And like many band break ups, this one spiraled into a depressing account of lawsuits. (The first printing of this book was mentioned in the lawsuit and the immaturity of all those involved surfaced, which casts a shadow over the book.) However, the creative details of the recording process make up for any sour taste that the final chapters may leave. –Steve Hart (Sanctuary Publishing, 45-53 Sinclair Rd., LondonW14 0NS, United Kingdom)