When Kraftwerk first made its mark in the early '70s, critics of the seminal German outfit dismissed its electronic experiments as disposable novelties. But Kraftwerk had the last laugh when its innovations ended up having a profound influence on everything from hip-hop to industrial to Indian bhangra. By the time former Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos unveiled his Elektric Music project in the early '90s, electronic music was no longer controversial -- only the most rigid Luddites still believed that synthesizers would be disappearing anytime soon. Not surprisingly, there is a strong Kraftwerk influence on Esperanto; "TV," "Overdrive," and "Information" certainly sound like Kraftwerk titles. And yet, this 1993 CD is hardly a carbon copy of Trans Europe Express or The Man Machine. Bartos updates his electronica, and that means being influenced by everything from techno-pop to rave music to industrial/EBM. Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD) is an influence, which makes sense because OMD's Andy McCluskey provides lead vocals and co-wrote two of the tunes: "Kissing the Machine" and "Show Business." Some of the material acknowledges techno-pop groups like the Human League and Soft Cell, and "Overdrive" successfully blends the Kraftwerk sound with industrial/EBM elements. Of course, it's incredibly ironic to hear a former Kraftwerk member being influenced by electronic artists who emerged in the 1980s and 1990s -- after all, it was Kraftwerk that paved the way for so many of them. For Bartos, being influenced by OMD or the Human League is a lot like Dexter Gordon being influenced by John Coltrane in the 1960s -- Gordon, after all, had been Trane's primary influence in the early '50s. A fine slice of electronica, Esperanto demonstrates that in 1993, the teacher was quite willing to learn some things from his students.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson