Florian Schneider from Kraftwerk: Memory of an electronics pioneer
Chuck Berry, James Brown, Kool Herc, Kraftwerk: It is rare that one can so easily identify the announced initiator of such an important component of popular music. And yet, the funniest Florian Schneider, who deceased Shortly after his 73rd birthday last month, it’s because he’s made sure this component goes from a refutation of the rock and soul tradition to a way to complement it. Despite his outward perception of the traditional rock ‘n’ roll narrative centered on America and Britain – Schneider’s German roots and the instrumentation of the computer world struck traditional rock followers as hopelessly outsiders in the world. 1970s – it gave popular music another voice, as expansive and easy to build like any other ancient pop form but still distinguished and singular in its original state. And the music he helped make was well in advance and perfectly suited to a future that was both intuitively digital and small-scale international.
If Florian Schneider had only been the flautist for an early ’70s Krautrock band with revolving door lineup, he would still be worth hailing as a remarkable musical mind, just on a more cult level. Twenty-one years after his birth in French-occupied post-war southern Germany, during the year of the 1968 student revolution, he met another student from the Académie des arts de Remscheid, Ralf Hütter. And after a few years of embarking on various musical endeavors, including the unique improv-rock ensemble Organization, Schneider and Hütter took what they had shown in this group’s only 1970 LP. Tone float and consolidated it into something deliberately stranger. Calling Schneider a “flautist” underestimates things a bit: from the first performances of this first version of Kraftwerk, you can tell that this is an instrument that he rarely played without processing or distortion, closer of Eddie Harris Echoplex Sumbersions than the scampering of Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.
It’s a little counter-intuitive to relate the roots of such a supposedly mechanical band to their ability to be such a deeply improvised ensemble. They weren’t exactly free-form, but they had a hell of a time playing with the possibilities of noise, and where that noise could ricochet off the rhythmic and melodic fascinations that still animate them. And while they weren’t 100% simpatico with the shaggy-haired post-psychedelic boogie-rock juggernauts of the early ’70s, they released some fantastic faux efforts until you did that would end up. inspire their peers to mutate into a new Heavy idea. In a brief period when Hütter took a temporary leave of Kraftwerk, Schneider brought musicians Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger into the fold. You can hear him working on their often-booted and now legendary June ’71 session for Radio Bremen: It starts with a track called “Heavy metal children”- a name apparently coined by the bootlegger – which sounds like Black Sabbath played by an unusually tall and angry bear. Kraftwerk will never look like this again, but it certainly gave Rother and Dinger some ideas for their group NEU! a bit later.
When Kraftwerk shut down Ralf & Florian in 1973, “electronic music” was still somewhere between total novelty, the experimental sound lab, and the garnish of pop songs. Art-rock groups had pushed the door of a crack: Pink Floyd dropped the frenzied synth instrumental “On The Run” in the middle of The dark side of the moon‘s A-side, using the early sequencer capabilities of the same EMS Synthi AKS with which Brian Eno wowed his bandmates at Roxy Music. In R&B, Stevie Wonder’s artistic good faith as a singer, songwriter and producer has helped Interior visions legitimizing the then esoteric sound of the ARP synthesizer, while the Ohio Players let Junie Morrison go wild on “Funky Worm” and hit # 1 on BillboardThe best-selling soul singles. And Kraftwerk’s peers in German experimental music, especially the Tangerine Dream championed by John Peel and their breakthrough in ambient space music. Atem, were more than comfortable with the use of every piece of synthesized gear they could access.
But Kraftwerk had its own designs. Schneider and Hütter worked to pull something that found the bizarre in the familiar and vice versa, half transcending the old pop forms, half playing with them. The idea of Kraftwerk being what happens when you erase the pop / academic divisions between the Beach Boys and Karlheinz Stockhausen shows how they could be both experimental and influential: a beat and a melody is a melody. And when combined with the idea that mechanical and electronic frameworks can be as liberating as they are constraining – as well as the cultural background of a shattered old German order that needed to be rebuilt as a new kind of anti progressive , futuristic and intercultural. -Reich – it was inevitable that they would find a new medium outside of the shadow of war of the previous generation.
Highway itself was a breakthrough with enough layers of contradiction and confusion to keep it endlessly fascinating. Supposedly mechanical but fluid and complex, its title track was a 23 minute journey that was reduced to 3.5 minutes for a pop radio that the song seemed to be completely at odds with. Not that the VW Beetles were meant to be buggies or dragsters either, but that’s the thing with German engineering: Sometimes it works so well you can customize it in a way that never has. been specially designed without worrying about collapse. “Autobahn” was a Top 40 hit everywhere, including countries that heard “Fahr’n fahr’n farh’n” (“Drivin ‘drivin’ drivin ‘”) as “fun fun fun”.
In 1975 and on the approach of their first fully electronic LP Radioactivity, Kraftwerk’s status as a “band” – or even as humans with real real emotions – was questioned in baffling ways by a press unsure of how to treat electronic musicians like rock stars. weight fringe gave it a wise blow to Cream, but his skepticism and snark were perfectly countered by Schneider, who stated that their supposedly “emotionless” music worked on different levels of emotion – “It’s not a bodily emotion, it’s an emotion. mental. ” Meanwhile, a Rolling stone profile who played out their ineffable mechanical withdrawal also revealed a certain joy under Schneider’s clinician-technician facade. His enthusiasm in describing the oil refinery that surrounded their Kling Klang recording studio in Düsseldorf – “There’s smoke and fire around and when you come out of the studio you hear that hiss all around you” – reveals a fascination with the dramatic effect of the mechanical-industrial process, the tactile effort of factory work assimilated to the creative process of making art. It was Warhol’s philosophy of art as mass production twisted inside out.
From there until the early 1980s, Kraftwerk not only released the greatest records of his career, he inadvertently prepared the music world for the future. Radioactivity proved they could be melodically indelible, even pretty, while making songs that laid bare the repetitive and mechanical nature of their riffs, rhythms and hooks – then dosed those moments with long meditations on stillness. 1977 Trans-Europe Express was their wholesale minimalist melodic groove album, the rhythms of the train journeys and recursive reflections were altered to ensure they felt more in tune with the movements of the human body while dancing – and, in the narrative Traveling from his internationalist title, they saw themselves as a world’s greater citizens in the process. (Thanks to Iggy Pop and David Bowie on the title cut were repaid later that year with “Hero” instrumental “V-2 Schneider.”) The following year’s masterpiece The Man-Machine was proto-cyberpunk in its heyday, a pastiche of Fritz Lang who envisioned a mechanized society where everything worked so efficiently that he freed everyone up all the time to delve into the details. And the years 1981 Computer world was a tongue-in-cheek humor and rhythmic warmth that could shift from an uneasiness of the automated state to the mesmerizing study of a mathematician’s data points.
Upon the release of their last great single, the classic “Tour de France” which turned the derailleur in 1983, their music seemed imbued with the kind of dizzying luminosity that accompanied the realization that they had been on the right track. track all the way through this whole “synthpop” thing. Giorgio Moroder, DEVO, Suicide, Human League, Afrika Bambaataa, New Order, the Belleville Three, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis – they strength have experienced similar career developments without Kraftwerk, but the fact that they all fit so effectively alongside them in the electronic music pantheon is at the very least the hallmark of their integration into much of its first wave – and beyond. Even “Dirty Mind” could be called Prince’s Kraftwerk movement as much as it was his new wave anthem (“In your daddy’s car / It’s you I really want fahrenThe only true storyline involves Kraftwerk’s career after that, with the recording process spanning half a decade from the 1986s Electric coffee and its faltering transition from analog synths to fully digital sounds making innovators water couriers. In the meantime, they had had more than their share of heirs to take over, and with only scattered singles and an album of new material (2003 Soundtracks from the Tour de France) to follow, it can be assumed that they felt their inheritance was in good hands.
Like the band as a collective, Schneider himself was never particularly outgoing, an enigmatic figure who operated under the understandable assumption that the music he and his partners made was self-explanatory. He was not a robot, but a man who found a very direct connection between electronics, the physical and the emotional. And he helped to mainstream the idea of using science and technology not to build consumer goods or institutions of control, but to create sounds that didn’t exist before and make them not only look fantastic and beautiful. space age, but ordinary and welcoming. He entered a new digital and industrial world and experienced it through creating music that approached it like old folk songs, the prospect of an ever-present future that, for all who hear it today, has the impression that he has always been there.