From the vault: 1974

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 July, 2008, 12:00am




Kraftwerk - widely known today as the godfathers of electronic music - arrived on the scene back in 1974 with their groundbreaking album Autobahn.

The German machine-men had previously released three albums since forming in 1970, but these focused on an experimental style of Krautrock - and are now derided by the band as 'ancient history', and haven't been re-issued for years.

With the release that would make them household names, the band moved on from these free-form jams and introduced early synthesisers such as the Minimoog and the ARP Odyssey, creating a near perfect album that foreshadowed many of the electronic-music styles of today such as ambient, techno and electro.

The 22-minute title track remains a perfect example of the Kraftwerk manifesto: lyrics dealing with technology and movement, plus soaring, minimal melodies, layed over the classic Krautrock motorik beat - a metronomic rhythm that's been compared to the experience of motorway driving.

And it's this experience Kraftwerk were trying to replicate in music, from the opening sounds of a car being started, to the swooshes of other vehicles speeding down the motorway and beeping horns. An edited three-minute cut of the track charted in the US and across Europe, but it's the full-length version that had the most influence on musicians.

The tracks Kometenmelodie 1 and Morgenspaziergang experimented with pure, ambient sounds that would appear in the work of Brian Eno and, later, Aphex Twin, while the driving rhythms of Kometenmelodie 2 laid the blueprint for the techno revolution that emerged in Detroit 12 years later.

Autobahn signalled the birth of the classic Kraftwerk sound, and was followed over the next few years by equally influential albums Trans-Europe Express and Computer World. But the band's obsession with musical perfection led to increasingly large gaps between album releases, and increasingly large lapses in songwriting quality.

However, it's nice to think that these robot men - still tinkering away with gadgets in their Klingklang studio in Dusseldorf - will again produce a masterpiece of the same scale as Autobahn.