Zeitkratzer – Performs Songs From The Albums Kraftwerk and Kraftwerk 2

by Freq | 2017-04-14T09:52:16+00:000000001630201704 09:52

Zeitkratzer Productions / Karlrecords

Zeitkratzer Performs Songs From The Albums Kraftwerk And Kraftwerk 2Continuing their long-running series of interpretations of avantgarde and electronic music through the ages, Reinhold Friedl‘s exploratory ensemble celebrate their twentieth birthday (and Karlrecords‘ tenth anniversary) with the first round of a selection of pieces from Kraftwerk‘s notoriously out of print first and second records.

With a delightfully arch cover that depicts the signature traffic cones of the original LPs reconfigured as striped party hats, Zeitkratzer‘s album demonstrates once again that they can bring a vital new perspective to the artists subjected to their interpretations.

Kraftwerk and Kraftwerk 2 share more in common with the freer experimentalism of German cosmic music of the early seventies than with their progenitors’ definition of whole genres of electronic dance music. As with the first records by the likes of Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh, they were often as much concerned with atmosphere and exploration as much as they were with rhythm and groove. While numbers like “Ruckzuck” and “Klingklang” might have fitted alongside the some of the more headily propulsive earworms of Can, Faust or later Neu! (whose Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger had been members of Kraftwerk), there were plenty of flute-led excursions into meandering semi-romantic avant-psychedelia on Kraftwerk and Kraftwerk 2. Zeitkratzer, of course, tackle both here, with woodwind, percussion, strings and more.

In their hands, then, the aforementioned tracks feel stripped-back in some ways, and more detailed in others. The crisp recordings are captured in all their intricate glory, Frank Gratkowski‘s flute leading the way on melody lines that hook over Elena Kakaliagou and Hilary Jeffery‘s gloriously subtle French horn and trombone grooves. Zeitkratzer are never afraid to deviate from their source material, and as with Irmin Schmidt and Gregor Schwellenbach‘s recent re-imaginings in the Can Dialog, which weaves quotations and motifs from Schmidt’s group into a contemporary composition without descending too often into the pitfalls of rock music as performed by classical orchestras, Friedl’s ensemble take the familiar and bend it into new and often invigorating – and perhaps even obtuse – shapes.

Each reconfiguration is unmistakably stamped with the ensemble’s identity while also extending the possibilities of the original compositions. So while the epic beast that is “Klingklang” might evoke a pinging and strumming, essentially good-naturedly swinging pastorale– to the extent of verging on easy listening at times (while decidedly not so at others) – other moods are also given expression. The crepitating scrawls and brassy parps of “Strom”, the massed heavy breathing and atonal scrapes of “Atem” or the ominous drone which introduces “Megaherz” are psychedelic in a far darker way. By turns shrill, mellow and introspective, the Zeitkratzer take on the latter pulls out and extends Kraftwerk’s album version into new and ultimately beatific directions, the harmonium drones and keening flute swelling among the shaken and rattled percussion.

With results as satisfyingly expressive as these first six takes on these selections from two legendary albums are, it will be interesting to see where Zeitkratzer take Kraftwerk for a ride in the second round.

-Richard Fontenoy-

Source URL: http://freq.org.uk/reviews/zeitkratzer-performs-songs-from-the-albums-kraftwerk-and-kraftwerk-2/