Kraftwerk is the foundation upon which all synthesizer-based rock and electronic dance music is built.
Founded in Düsseldorf in 1970 by the band’s two core members, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, the group was part of a new wave of musicians in Germany collectively referred to as Kosmische Musik (cosmic music), exploring the intersection of rock and roll and the avant-garde.
Their first three albums capture the sound of an experimental proto-punk jam band riffing on Hawkwind and the Velvet Underground, but their fourth album Autobahn (1974) - created with producer Konrad “Conny” Plank - established the beginning of something new. The twenty-two minute title track combined the influences of the Beach Boys and Karlheinz Stockhausen into an electronic musical odyssey. It also represented a miraculous use of technology through the amalgamation of Moog synthesizers, multi-track recording, and traditional instrumentation.
The 1977 album Trans-Europe Express completed Kraftwerk’s transformation into a synthesized quartet, featuring some of the funkiest grooves and vocoder melodies ever put on wax. New York City’s burgeoning hip-hop community quickly latched on to the album, and DJ Afrika Bambaataa based his groundbreaking track “Planet Rock” (1982) on Kraftwerk’s beats.
The following years secured Kraftwerk’s place as both musical innovators and master songwriters, and the albums The Man-Machine (1978), Computer World (1981), and Electric Café (1986) established the blueprint for modern electronic music—without them it simply would not exist.
The group has been sampled widely, from New Order’s use of “Uranium” in their masterpiece “Blue Monday,” to songs by artists as varied as Jay-Z, Sunshine, and Coldplay. Kraftwerk’s influence can be heard in the synth-pop of Depeche Mode, the electronic-rock integration of U2, the production techniques of Kanye West, and in countless EDM and dubstep artists. Kraftwerk is a unique unit which has both produced a number one chart success with their song “The Model” and also been invited to perform at MOMA and the Tate Modern as a result of their contributions to avant-garde art.
Kraftwerk has been, and will always be, “Music Non-Stop.”
“Ruckzuck,” Kraftwerk (1970) • “Tanzmusik,” Ralf Und Florian (1973) • “Autobahn,” Autobahn (1974) • “Showroom Dummies,” “Trans-Europe Express,” Trans-Europe Express (1977) • “The Robots,” “Neon Lights,” The Man-Machine (1978) • “Pocket Caculator,” “Computer Love,” Computer World (1981) • “Techno Pop,” “Musique Non-Stop,” Electric Café (1986) • “Radioactivity,” The Mix (1991) • “Aerodynamik,” “Tour De France,” Tour De France Soundtracks (2003)