Kraftwerk month #31 Kover Kollection 7

To finish the month off here’s something that’s been in the pipeline for over a year – KKK vol.7. This took far too long to do and I completely redid the start three times before I was happy with it.
I already have over three and a half hours worth of tracks mapped out for vol.8, which will concentrate more on piano and jazz versions but I’ll let the dust settle for a bit as you can have too much of something. Thanks for all the suggestions and links to tracks or versions, some of them even made it onto this mix.

A quick word on the multitude of cover versions – the images below are just a few of the whole albums dedicated to Kraftwerk covers available, let alone all the single tracks scattered about various artists’ discographies. Every time I do a Kover Kollection, and use the web to research the tracks I’ve used, I find even more out there.

As with all covers, there are more misses than hits, although the Senor Coconut album does deserve singling out as a work of genius. Another that I recently acquired is the Mencshmachine ‘Hand Werk’ CD from Germany, an excellent album of jazz-based covers with a twist in the tail. Unlisted on the CD, and hidden after 10 minutes of silence once the last track has finished, is one of the most sublime covers I’ve yet to hear – the track ‘Spacelab’ from the ‘Man Machine’ album. It’s not on the web that I can find but the band have several tracks on their soundcloud page and I’ll be putting more of their music into the KKK8 mix, which will be better suited to their sound, more acoustic than electronic.

Before I sign off I’d like to thank everyone who’s logged on, checked out the daily content and listened to the mixes. It seems it all went a bit viral around the third week and made Metafilter, with volume 3 clocking up over 50,000 plays!

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Kraftwerk month #29 Tommy Vance interview & more…

The month is nearly up and there’s still so much that could be posted.

In 1981, BBC Radio 1 DJ Tommy Vance saw Kraftwerk play the opening night of their ‘Computer World’ tour in Manchester, England. Afterwards he interviewed Ralf Hutter for his Friday Rock Show and managed to get quite a revealing response, including some uncharacteristic humour. I’ve edited out the music as tastefully as I can and cleaned up the audio but the quality isn’t great to begin with.

Rare European 7″ sleeves for the singles ‘Kometemelodie 1’ and ‘Kometemelodie 2’.

Kraftwerk month #27 Neon Lights 12″

The legendary 12″ of ‘Neon Lights’ issued in the UK on luminous vinyl in 1978, backed with ‘Trans Europe Express’ and ‘The Model’. This copy was given to me recently by Steve Cook who’d had it tucked away in his collection for decades, hardly played. You can see what great condition it’s in and he’s even kept the price sticker on – £1.49 from Allders of Croydon – that wouldn’t even get you two downloads these days let alone a beautiful item like this. I tried to test how luminous it was and photograph it in the dark but had no joy, I like how you can see little bits of grit in the vinyl too where it wasn’t entirely pure. Thanks Steve!

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Kraftwerk month #23 ‘The Model’ oddities

Rare sleeves for ‘The Model’ 7″: top – Japan, middle – Germany, bottom – France.

The lyrics for the song on the back of the Japanese sleeve contain some interesting turns of phrase:

“She plays hot to get smart, from time to time”,

“and she has been checking nearly all the land”

and the classic,

“She’s posing for consumer bought a town and then”.

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Kraftwerk month #22 Fonts and Icons

David Basgalla has created a set of desktop icons, based on the bands’ artwork, available for free download on the iconfactory

Bernard B has designed a font family in tribute to the band called Kling Klang, whilst not actually appearing on any Kraftwerk sleeves you can see where he got his inspiration from. Available to buy over at MyFonts.

Finally, there have been several font sets created over the years, emulating classic album sleeve typography too, as well as a couple of dingbat sets. These are archived on the now defunct technopop site which is a wealth of Kraftwerk-related media and a great source of info on the band. Also see the KEEP werking site.

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Kraftwerk month #21 Autobahn animation, 1979

Animated by Roger Mainwood (this post originally appeared on my old MySpace blog, July 2008)

I’m sure many of you will know that I am a major Kraftwerk fan and, whilst hunting out all manner of weird and quirky animation recently, I remembered the late seventies film made for the band’s 1974 hit ‘Autobahn’. If you haven’t seen this gem then see below, unfortunately of atrocious quality – heavily digitised and with washed out colours. It’s in a league of it’s own from a time sadly passed, all Pop Art imagery meeting the late seventies obsession with sci-fi, post Star Wars. It’s a real trip (in more than one sense) for ten minutes plus, and sticks out like a sore thumb in the retrospectively airbrushed history of the German four piece.

Originally commissioned by EMI for a laserdisc release that never appeared because the format didn’t take off as expected, it was then occasionally shown as filler on TV late at night or even during kid’s TV schedules in the eighties. I remember seeing it once or twice and not knowing what to make of it because it was so far removed visually from the image Kraftwerk had at the time. I filed it away in my mind until a few years ago when a random check on YouTube brought it back to my consciousness and a recent showing to my kids elicited squeals of delight at ‘the alien’, the flying lips and ‘Mr Nosey’ (check it, you’ll know what I mean).

I decided to find the animator, Roger Mainwood, primarily to find out if I could obtain a better copy but also to see if he had any of the original artwork to sell. A quick search gave me an email address and, as luck would have it, he had a tiny caché of images stored, a deal was struck and this fine image is now in my possession.

It’s actually two layers although there would have been four in the original image, a head on one, a small figure reflected in his goggles on another, but the background and flashing lights also reflected in the goggles have since been lost. I took the opportunity to ask Roger for more details about the project – his first commissioned film – and his impressions of the song:

Which studio made the film?
RM: Autobahn was made at the Halas and Batchelor studios in the late 1970s. John Halas, the producer, passed away some time ago but his daughter Vivien continues promoting the studio’s work and runs the Halas and Batchelor Collection.

Did you know the song or the band before the commission and did you actually like it once you heard it?
RM: As far as I recall Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’ was an unknown to me when I was presented with the project by John Halas. I think I found it an interesting piece of music but didn’t warm to immediately, although I did think it would be a good piece to animate some images to. I didn’t research Kraftwerk at the time, (we didn’t have Google in those days!). This was probably a good thing as I think I might have then tried to produce something that I thought would find favour with them rather than just going with some ideas of my own. Maybe Kraftwerk would have wanted something more mechanical and controlled than my psychedelic fantasy world that I conjured up. I acknowledge there are many nods to other animated works – The Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’ for example, and Ian Emes‘ films too, in particular his ‘French Windows’ which was animated to music by Pink Floyd. Neither of those two, I am guessing, would be on Kraftwerk’s favourites list. In case you haven’t seen it French Windows is on You Tube.

How long did it take?
RM: Always a difficult one that because I was fitting it in around other jobs that were coming into the studio. So the answer is on and off over what felt like a two year period.

What process was used to animate it
RM: It was all hand drawn on paper first and then line tested to check the movement, before being handed over to the paint and trace department. Xeroxing drawings onto cel was a technique used at the H&B studio but I thought most of Autobahn was hand inked. Maybe there was a mixture of the two techniques used. It’s a long time ago and I can’t recall exactly what we did. Looking at the monster cars cel, that definitely looks like a pen and ink tracing of a drawing onto the cel. Then the cels are turned over and painted using special animation paint. You had to wait for each colour to dry before applying the next. No wonder it took so long !

Was the film intended to be part of a collection alongside other Kraftwerk films or as just one part of a general EMI label compilation?
RM: My feeling was that it was a laserdisc of just our animated film.

Has it ever been officially available to buy?
RM: Autobahn hasn’t been available on DVD so far but Vivien was talking earlier this year about a possible release involving a French distributor. John Halas did do a deal with Polygram for a video release of Autobahn (together with another Halas and Batchelor film called ‘Dilemma’), and I managed to track down the front cover recently.

There are a few more images over in the Originals section where I posted about this last year. Also there are some pristine images from the film over at this site.

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Kraftwerk month #20 Kover Kollection 3

Here it is, the ‘rare’ one, if something digital could ever truly be such a thing. This mix was hosted at the now defunct along with four others but the link to this particular mix corrupted and I’d get people emailing me to see why they couldn’t download #3. This is one of my favourites and I really slaved over it around Xmas 2004. I spent way too long online searching for a rip of the sketches from the Little Britain comedy show with the punchline, “Computer Says ‘No”, which I was determined to get into the mix somehow. A lot of electronica and hip hop in this one and some great versions of ‘Autobahn’, although the Fink listed isn’t the same Fink from the Ninja Tune label, but another.This originally appeared 17/01/05 on Solid Steel.

Kraftwerk Kovers Kollection Vol.3 by DJ Food

Alternative artwork: For the third volume of the Kover Kollection I did some designs based on the pocket calculator and then on the theme of the ‘Meet the Beatles’ sleeve, I wasn’t too pleased with the results so I changed them, these have never been seen before.

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Kraftwerk month #18 Kompilations

‘Elektro Kinetik’ (Vertigo/Phonogram 1981) and ‘Exceller8’ (Mercury 1975) front and back covers – both mid seventies compilations drawing from various albums after ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Model’ became hits. ‘Autobahn’(Philips 1975) was a double album using artwork from the ‘Ralf & Florian’ LP and music from several different releases. The ‘Kraftwerk’ double album (Vertigo 1973) pairs the first and second albums together with a beautiful sleeve.

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Kraftwerk month #16 Computer World poster

Time for a repost: this lovely design was made by Stefanie Posavec, showing the length of cassette tape needed to record Kraftwerk‘s ‘Computer World’. Originally made as a one off for a friend’s club night she’s finally made them for sale.

It’s available as a 915 x 700mm 2-colour litho print (the yellow is fluorescent) on 300gsm, on Challenger Offset paper in a signed edition of 200. You can get it here and 25% of the profits go to the Ganet’s Adventure fund that helps a small primary school in Milawi.

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Kraftwerk month #14 Kover Kollection 2

After the first mix I had tons of material left over and, with some of the obvious covers out the way, it was time to up the ante. The opener of ‘Radio Activity’ played by the First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra (is there a second?) does that pretty well.

Rare live versions of ‘The Model’ by Lloyd Cole and The Balanescu Quartet featuring David Byrne crop up and we start to see the pattern of many versions of the track appearing, it’s by far their most covered song. I think this one is possibly my favourite of all of the mixes as it features some amazing versions of ‘Pocket Calculator’, silly spoken word and the abstract cover art.

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Kraftwerk month #12 Autobhan oddities

I have to say that Kraftwerk’s incessant tinkering and airbrushing of their past isn’t much to my taste (especially the erasing of past members’ contributions) and is one of the reasons why most of the content I’m putting up here this month doesn’t go beyond ‘Tour De France’. I’m not a fan of ‘The Mix’, as I found that they’d ironed all the soul out of their music in reconstructing it for a real computer age. The irony of the men who wanted to sound like machines finally attaining their wish as technology caught up with them is that they lost the one thing that gave their music depth – the humanity.

Similarly the hand drawn, painted and coloured graphics and photography have been replaced by cold, dull cgi versions of their classic sleeves. The reduction of the ‘Radio-Activity’, ‘Trans Europe Express’ and ‘Man Machine’ sleeves to basic typography and logos may bring them into a neat line with the rest of the Catalogue but it does little for me aesthetically. The one example I will concede to however, (and this happened fairly quickly back in the 70’s), is the re-draughting of the ‘Autobahn’ sleeve. Above you can see the original with its dashboard and rear view mirror most definitely placing the sleeve in the early 70’s. The removal of the dashboard on later sleeves definitely makes for a better composition but the adoption of the UK sleeve, that centered on the white on blue motorway logo, gives it the jump from literal illustration to iconic status.

Above are different front and back sleeves for various 7″ singles utilising parts of the ‘Autobahn’ artwork and below are two CD booklet illustrations from the Catalogue remasters. I assume these are newly commissioned pieces in the style of the original cover  but the hyperreal colour does nothing for me.

…and a couple of late entries: Not official in any way but linked visually to the above designs, flyers for a club my friend Graeme Ross was involved in.

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