When the death of Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider was announced last week, the loudest tributes came from the electronic music community. Kraftwerk’s pioneering approach, using synthesisers and sequenced drum arrangements to evoke robotic or industrial rhythms, became the blueprint for Detroit musicians such as Juan Atkins, who coined the term “techno”. Forty years later, an array of electronic genres have been created from that blueprint: Schneider and Kraftwerk created a feedback loop between Germany and Detroit that has existed for more than half a century. When Schneider and Ralf Hütter started Kraftwerk in 1970, their influences included several Detroit-based acts including the Stooges, MC5 and, according to later member Karl Bartos, Berry Gordy’s Motown label. Gordy initially worked for the Ford motor plant, and gave Motown an industrialised music production-line inspired by Detroit’s automotive industry. This was the ice-breaker in the conversation between his city and Germany – Kraftwerk’s automated drums, vocoder refrains and future-facing outlook also stemmed from the conveyor belts, piston-driven machinery and monotonous rhythm of factory life. This inescapable repetition of sound and movement – programmed, precise – was present in Detroit and Dusseldorf, both industrial centres. Released in 1974, Autobahn provided Kraftwerk’s international breakthrough, setting the… Read full this story
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