Electro - From Kraftwerk to Techno
by Vittorio Compagno for the Carl Kruse Blog
Looking at Dusseldorf, a city with less than 1 million inhabitants, one may only think about the modern architecture, the fashion industry, or its art scene. What many people don’t realize, it’s that the city was the center of a cultural revolution that took place in all of West Germany. In an attempt to create a new identity for their nation, the best of the German intelligentsia drifted away from a 25-year middle period of American influence, creating a counterculture movement that rode the wave of the demonstrations that took place in the 60's throughout the Western world.
At the center of the German avant-garde movement was a band that formed in 1969: Kraftwerk. Their name, which means “Power Station”, is an indicator of the inspiration of the group to industrial design, with an important contribution of the gone but not forgotten Bauhaus.
Their style, inspired at the beginning by industrialism, shifted towards the well-known retro-futurism that all the fans have known since the release of the album “Autobahn”, and continues to this day to the robot-humanoid charm that the four have so well crafted. Their music has always been, by intent, a manifesto of the rebirth of Germany. Wolfgang Flur, former Kraftwerk member said:
“We wanted to oppose the superiority of Anglo-American music with something frightfully German”
This reflects in their music, delightfully electronic. A harmony of synthesizers, a novelty in the music industry, that formed the iconic retro-futuristic sounds predominant in masterpieces like “The Model” and “The Robots”.
In an era when prog rock and metal were at their peak, and the eccentric style was part of the identity of artists like Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, or The Rolling Stones, the German band maintained a minimalist, clean-cut aesthetic. They brought back suits and ties to the stage and created a whole identity for themselves.
That made their influence relevant not only in the European landscape but also in the American one. The cultural shift they brought inspired famous artists like Daft Punk and David Bowie, and a whole new generation of German and European bands.
Probably Kraftwerk would never have been such an iconic band if they didn’t live during the economic miracle of the ’50s and ’60s that made Düsseldorf the richest city of the Rhineland region.
Paying homage to electronic music, Düsseldorf recently hosted an exhibition titled “Electro - From Kraftwerk to Techno”. The centerpiece of the event was Kraftwerk, who found their fortune and inspiration in Dusseldorf, and featured musicians such as Daft Punk, Agnes Dahan, and Sasha Waltz. The exhibition, conceived by the Musèe de la Musique-Philharmonie de Paris, took place in the Kunstpalast.
Another Carl Kruse blog took a look at this retrospective. You can also find Carl Kruse on Cocktail Audio and on Soundcloud.