Kraftwerk - Minimum Maximum

Kids today eh! The future generation desperately need a musical education. Barely out of short trousers the disaffected youth take one look at Daft Punk and proclaim in disbelief "how mysterious and original these French techno pioneers are with their weird and wonderful robotic image. I wonder what went through their minds to conjure up such a futuristic idea?". Well I tell you who, it's the kings of synthesized pop Kraftwerk who formed a staggering 35 years ago in Dusseldorf, Germany. I was lucky enough to see them back in 1991 at Manchester Apollo, a time when they had yet to be re-discovered and re-evaluated by bands, music critics and the new wave of electronica. Bono himself, never one to to miss an opportunity to make a sweeping statement uttered "Kraftwerk is a modern soul statement". The two men who are responsible for such emotional outpourings from rockstars are Ralf Hatter and Florian Schneider, the driving force behind Kraftwerk, who are joined by Fritz Hilpert and Henning Schmitz for the double live album "Minimum - Maximum" which features some of their most celebrated tracks recorded on tour at venues across all corners of the globe.

Of disc 1 there are ten tracks, the highlights being "Tour De France Etape!" which has ambient synths, trademark robotic vocals (sung in German) with subtle shades of techno. You can hear the crowd at Riga Olumpiska Hall vocal in their appreciation. "Vitamin" is upbeat, modern with funky slabs of pre-programmed sequencers, drum machine assisted beats and a deadpan vocal which could only come from Kraftwerk. The R2D2 style bleeps and rhythmic futuristic feel is out of this world. "The Model" is the famous single sung with clinical precision in English with a thick German accent. It's one of their most commercial and most recognizable songs. It's still not dated after all this time and it reminds me of my mis-spent youth spent hanging around school discos.

Over on disc 2 there's even more to savour and enjoy. "Trans Europe Express" is grandiose and almost operatic in it's sense of dramatic impact. It's very immediate with the vocal less mannered than usual. The vocoder is used sparingly with a symphony of synths a stroke of genius. "Pocket Calculator" is very tongue in cheek with the group coming on stage playing with their pocket calculators towards the end of the song. Who said Germans don't have a sense of humour? It's maybe a throwaway, novelty-esque song, but who else would have the gall to write a song on this subject of marvellous technology we all take for granted.

The crowd at Tallinn Exhibition Hall were all present when the track "Electro Kardiogram" was recorded live for the album. The heartbeat and heavy breathing sounds may on the surface have overtly sexual connotations, but with Kraftwerk laying on the techno with aplomb, with generous attention given to the old school keyboard touches (swirly and disorientating) it's another well selected song for the live album.

"Minimum-Maximum" works both as a live album and a collection of Kraftwerk's best songs and with two discs over two hours containing twenty two songs, nobody can quibble about what good value for money this is

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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