Two years ago Kraftwerk reissued their back catalog, Pitchfork awarded it Best New Reissue, and there was much rejoicing. But three albums from the band’s discography were mysteriously absent. In fact, Kraftwerk considers their catalogue to begin with 1974’s masterwork Autobahn and have disowned the recordings that preceded it. Not only have these LPs never been reissued, Kraftwerk hasn’t even touched the material since 1975. So these things must be complete shit right?
Wrong. While Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf und Florian don’t mesh well with um… anything else the band has done, they are all great records in their own right. If nothing else, they show a time before Kraftwerk presented themselves as futuristic robo-musicians and weren’t afraid to play physical instruments, actually perform at their shows, or show themselves at all for that matter.
Krafwerk hasn’t aged as gracefully as its two companion records, but its flute and organ workouts still stack up favorably against other early krautrock LPs and moments of brilliant distorted violin make it well worth a listen. The real reason to hunt down these albums is the extended flute-synth trance of Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf und Florian. It’s pretty damn amazing to hear the transition from hippie jam band to a precisely programed computer ensemble that takes place over these records, and many of the resulting tracks (the hauntingly beautiful flute exhibition “Tonbirge,” the propulsive but soothing “KlingKlang,” and the bubbly synth piece “Elektrisches Roulette”) are as strong as anything off Kraftwerk’s better known LPs. It’s a shame they have chosen to hide these records, but I guess it makes sense in the end. Just look at that fucking picture up there. Who wouldn’t want to forget that?