Kraftwerk 2

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Like its predecessor (similarly designed right down to the traffic cone cover, though green instead of red), Kraftwerk 2 has never been properly re-released, giving it the same lost-classic aura as the first album, or at least lost, period. Thankfully, bootleg reissues in 1993 restored it to wider public listening; even more so than Kraftwerk 1, its lack of official reappearance is a mystery, in that the band is clearly well on its way to the later Kraftwerk sound of fame. Stripped down to the Hütter/Schneider duo for this release, and again working with Conrad Plank as coproducer and engineer (this album alone demonstrates his ability to create performances combining technological precision and warmth), Kraftwerk here start exploring the possibilities of keyboards and electronic percussion in detail. Given that the band's drummers were gone, such a shift was already in the wind, but it's the enthusiastic grappling with drum machines and their possibilities that makes Kraftwerk 2 noteworthy. The nearly side-long effort "KlingKlang," which would later give the name to the band's studio and which predicts later lengthy efforts like "Autobahn," shows how the duo is still working toward its future styles. Steady beats are sometimes sped up and slowed down; more freeform performances on flute, violin, and keyboard remain present (rather than honing in on a core melody); and again, no vocals yet grace the recordings. On the second side, the more rock-oriented origins of the group still cling on, mostly without any percussion whatsoever: the distorted solo guitar start of "Strom," the guitar/bass duets of "Spule 4" (queasy) and "Wellenlänge" (quite beautiful and very indicative of many '90s space rock efforts). Ultimately as with Kraftwerk 1, Kraftwerk 2 isn't the "classic" sound of the band, but it's astonishingly worthy on its own, well worth seeking out.

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