If you like vintage Kraftwerk you should really like this record. That's not to say it sounds exactly the same as any one of their albums; it most certainly doesn't but elements of the classic Kraftwerk sound abound and are cleverly interwoven into a batch of short (for that bands standards anyway) snappy and very poppy tunes. Listening to this album recalls the joy of hearing Trans Europe Express or The Man Machine for the first time. It is antiquated though and not remotely futuristic but technology has caught up and over-taken where the electronic pioneers stepped off. This album is quite nostalgic, or romantic even and exhibits a certain yearning for the simpler days when the future hadn't quite been invented but we could still dream about it.
On several occasions listening to this I thought about Blade Runner and more specifically, the Vangelis soundtrack album to the film. Thoughts of Fritz Lang inspired architecture and a distinctly retro image of the future come to mind. It's not dissimilar to watching 2001: A Space Odyssey and reflecting on the future as the past predicted it. So what do we have here? An album without a singular theme that contains audio sketches of ideas created when that colossus of electronic music was riding at its peak. It's uncertain how much post-production editing and remixing or restructuring of the original recorded elements has taken place retrospectively so it's difficult to say how much this is inspired by the former band or indeed might have influenced them when it first originated. Does it really matter? Karl was one of that band during its most creative period and since his departure it has made one album: Tour De France Soundtracks. That was hardly ground-breaking or representative of a prolific output. Bartos on the other hand whilst taking some time out of the professional music business to become a University Professor, has managed to produce four albums. Is Herr Karl the future of the band he once was a part of but hasn't been for 23 years? Maybe. We don't see much evidence of activity from Hutter where new music is concerned.
Either way it doesn't pay to pontificate too much. I think Bartos knows and Hutter certainly does that silence is a virtue. Both legacies are intact for posterity. With a low volume of output there is less room to put a foot wrong, something Bartos carefully and skillfully avoids doing here. For me, one particular highlight is the vocal interplay between Bartos and his robot doppelganger - pure existential genius and humour at work! "Atomium", the lead single is not especially representative of the rest of the album so do not be put off if you haven't yet warmed to its atomic iron crystal-like skeletal musical framework. The tone,texture and musical palette elsewhere is more varied and engaging. The music press has almost blithely written this off as an average dated synth pop album. I believe it is wrong. Musically, if not necessarily thematically, this album has more tunes and ideas than some of the better Kraftwerk albums. Yes, it really is that good. In fact I'm going to stick my neck out by stating that it could even be the best album made by Bartos or Kraftwerk ensemble since The Man Machine! What, better than Computer World even? Yes, I think it just might be. Listen very closely and you'll hear it. There is simple subtle genius at work here.
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