Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany

Penguin. Jun. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780141986753. pap. $18. MUSIC
Schütte (German, Aston Univ., Birmingham, UK) provides a fascinating account of the aims and influences of the German electronic-pop group Kraftwerk (German for “power station”). He contends that the core members, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, created the band in order to forge a new German identity in the aftermath of Nazism, by electronically replicating the sounds of their industrialized Rhineland home and championing internationalism. Weaving together a captivating social history, the author finds that Kraftwerk’s music and graphic presentation were influenced by the Bauhaus movement, Italian futurism, and pop art—all of which conceptualized art as a reflection and function of life. Beginning with the band’s formation in 1970, Schütte traces the electronic, industrialized folk music of Kraftwerk through various albums that emphasized dominant modern-day, technological realities: Autobahn (cars) (1974); Trans-Europe Express (trains) (1977); The Man-Machine (robots) (1978); and the prescient Computer World (1981). He ends by examining Kraftwerk’s refocusing on live concerts, the group’s past catalogue, and their impact on popular music, from ’80s synth bands to techno to hip-hop.
VERDICT This provocative and stimulating, yet readable narrative unearths the social and musical importance of an iconic band, both for general readers and fans.
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