Being asked to remix Kraftwerk must be a daunting experience. How do you improve upon the works of a band who are arguably as influential as The Beatles? Legendary producer Francois Kervorkian got involved with the band in the early 1980s producing and remixing first the standalone single Tour De France and then the Electric Café album and one of its singles, The Telephone Call. Beyond his involvement, however, very few outsiders ever got the chance to remix Kraftwerk.
In typical style, with 1991’s epic The Mix album, Kraftwerk decided that the only people capable of reinvigorating their back catalogue were, well, themselves, and they digitised Kling Klang studios and introduced a new generation to their staggering musical history. I was one of the people who first heard Kraftwerk via The Mix, and I was instantly hooked and devoured their back catalogue almost immediately.
Kraftwerk have always been a band who focus on the future. Radioactivity looked at the newly nuclear world sounding a warning to everyone, its title track later taking on a more sinister edge on The Mix and that tour’s live shows. Meanwhile, the Man-Machine contemplated a world run by robots and men merging with machines. Their finest work (ask me tomorrow and it may be another) Computer World predicted the internet which you can’t fail to be impressed by. Mass surveillance? Online dating? It was all there. Instead of being a backwards step, The Mix reinvigorated these classics and added a new dimension to them. Since The Mix, however, there has only been one new studio album with the band focussing their efforts on their superb live shows. It was also around the time of The Mix that Kraftwerk first became a band that outsiders regularly remixed, and that is where this compilation comes in.
Interestingly, the album opens with a new track, Non-Stop, which sees the band take a 30-second clip they made for MTV in the 1980s and turn it into a new piece of music. It’s Kraftwerk, slightly ominous-sounding, and it is therefore well worth hearing. The two tracks that follow are Kraftwerk’s own remixes of the remixed version of The Robots that features on The Mix. Robotronik (Kling Klang Mix), and Robotnik (Kling Klang Mix) appeared on the 12”, and CD single release of The Robots in 1991 and both are among the best tracks on this compilation. Ultimately, they prove that if you want a job doing, do it yourself.
Two remixes of the 1991 version of Radioactivity follow – the William Orbit Hardcore Mix and the Francois Kervorkian 12” Remix. The former was previously only available on a US 12” so it’s nice to have that more readily to hand. Both are hugely enjoyable remixes.
Given Kraftwerk’s sparse output in recent years, the compilation naturally focuses on the band’s recent work. As a result, we have seven versions of Expo 2000, the one-off single the band released in 1999, their first brand new music since 1986’s Electric Café. Two of the band’s own remixes feature alongside remixes from the likes of Orbital and Francois Kervorkian.
The band’s 2003 album Tour De France Soundtracks features prominently too, with four remixes of Aero Dynamik and one of La Forme. The band’s own remix of Aero Dynamic entitled Kling Klang Dynamix is as is Hot Chip’s Intelligent Design Mix of the same track. Their remix of La Forme (King Of The Mountains Mix) is excellent too. The band put their own stamp on it without removing the Kraftwerk feel of the track.
Finally, there are two new Kraftwerk remixes here too. Firstly, Home Computer (2021 Single Edit) is a track that was previously only available on yellow vinyl 7” with the German magazine Musikexpres. It’s impossible to make this track sound anything other than perfect. We also have Tour De France (Etape 2), an enjoyable, updated version of the song.
As these remixes show, remixing Kraftwerk is a challenge. If you are brave enough to take that on, you need to get it right and happily; most of the remixes here do the job. As this compilation shows, however, the best people to remix Kraftwerk are Kraftwerk themselves, as only they truly understand their music and what they are trying to achieve.
As with everything Kraftwerk related, they are always one step ahead of everyone else.
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