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Friday, September 1, 2017

zeitkratzer - zeitkratzer performs songs from “Kraftwerk“ and “Kraftwerk 2“ (Karlrecords, 2017) ****

By Martin Schray

Over the past two days two days we have been reviewing zeitkratzer albums which deal with their own compositions (KORE) or with music especially composed for the ensemble (ONEIRIKA). These albums have ranged between new classical music, avant-garde and noise. On zeitkratzer performs songs from “Kraftwerk“ and “Kraftwerk 2“ the band presents tracks from the first two albums by Germany’s techno pioneers Kraftwerk and refers to other cornerstones of their universe: experimental pop, kraut rock and early electronic music.

Before Kraftwerk went through the roof with Autobahn in 1974, an album on which their masterminds Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter concentrated on electronics, they mainly used conventional instruments like flute, violin, bass guitar, keyboards and percussion. Moreover, you can hear a strong psych-blues rock influence in their compositions (if you are interested how Kraftwerk sounded live then, check out Gondel Bremen 1971). For zeitkratzer this meant that they had to think about a different approach for this music. Therefore, they weren’t interested in new  interpretations (like in Metal Machine Music) but in covering these songs, in transforming the format of a relatively simple pop song for the ensemble’s complex chamber music instrumentarium.

zeitkratzer decided to stick mainly to the original versions of the Kraftwerk songs, they keep the grooves and the harmonies, even the sounds are very similar because they try to translate the clean, almost aseptic Kraftwerk sound into a more organic one, using extended techniques instead of the billowing, fuzzy keyboards and tender feedback. Tracks like “Ruckzuck“, the first track of the album, sounds almost exactly like the original. But zeitkratzer would not be zeitkratzer if the music on this album could be reduced to this. They contribute small parts, they stress different passages and sounds and even smooth things out, like the end of “Megaherz“, where the spooky drone from the original is softened. They also extend pieces, and they open them up. “Strom“ is twice as long as the Kraftwerk piece, it’s slower and less harsh, and they slightly change the basic riff, so that the ensemble can soar more easily. Finally, they add short phrases here and there. In the background of “Kling Klang“, for example, the violin includes the key motif of “Ruckzuck“ and makes a connection between the compositions, especially highlighting the way Kraftwerk deals with riffs - as set-pieces that can be used in various functions. Additionally, the warped tunes and the psychedelic atmosphere are put in the foreground, another characteristic element of the first two Kraftwerk albums. In contrast to other works in which zeitkratzer condense and reduce the original music (e.g. in Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire), they let the tracks meander seemingly aimlessly, but in the end they always come to the point.

For zeitkratzer standards the album is rather pleasant and relaxed, but in the end the music is more complex and floating. Reinhold Friedl, the zeitkratzer mastermind, said that he chose pieces from the first two Kraftwerk albums because they’ve often been neglected, even the band itself hasn’t included them in their re-issue project. In the end it’s fun to hear the ensemble in such a meditating and accessible way.

You can buy and listen to zeitkratzer performs songs from “Kraftwerk“ and “Kraftwerk 2“ here:


MJG said...

Thank you for this and the other reviews in the series.

I've known the name Zeitkratzer but never heard their music. Starting with what I guessed to be the easier entry point, I've listened to the Kraftwerk album a couple of times, now all I can say is...magnificent.

Now onto Oneirika. Knottier definitely but no less stimulating for it.

Richard said...

So I guess the obvious question is: what's the best entry point
for Zeitkratzer?

A great series of reviews, Martin. Thanks.

Martin Schray said...

Thanks, MJG. Tomorrow there'll be another review about their Serbian War Songs album. Also very recommendable.

Martin Schray said...

Good question, Richard. I would try their bandcamp site:
As a starter I would always recommend "Metal Machine Music" or Karl-Heinz Stockhausen's "Aus den Sieben Tagen". If you want to have something more accessible you can begin with "Electronics" (with Terre Thaemlitz).