First off it’s going to be impossible to get through this review without mentioning Kraftwerk, the album could only be put together by somebody who “gets” Kraftwerk and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. The style and sound are here in elements but to anyone who loves Kraftwerk this album almost gives you another angle or insight into their music as some form of deconstruction must have taken place.
The world of tomorrow introduces this album with only the type of whooshes and clanks that I had previously heard from Kraftwerk, a staccato synth plays the opening melody while delicate washes of sound play around with lines meandering up and down the scales over the top of a fantastic, with all the notes in the right place and space, bass part.
The vocals are treated to a vocoded effect which sits nicely with the mix, they tell a story of giant hovercrafts, moving walkways and colonies on Mars, the sort of future many years away that was portrayed in fifties sci-fi. For no reason that I can explain it also conjures up the sleeve of The Silicon Teens – Music for Parties album, don’t ask me why! There are a lot of clever sounds and arrangements, particularly with some of the amazingly complex sounds produced. The sort that you think couldn’t possible find their way into a musical; track but here they fit perfectly.
More Automation opens with synthetic clunks, splutters, hums and whirs in an almost Autobahn style. A lovely filtered staccato synth line acquaints us with the melody of this song, on top of a pure electronic rhythm track. In keeping with the rest of the percussion sounds they don’t resemble traditional drums in the slightest, they are there representing the rhythm with similar sonic ranges.
More automation, more time for relaxation, is the vocal line with some very kraftwerkian synthesisers, very reminiscent of the Man Machine album and constantly building on a theme, each time a melody repeats it adds something more or a variation, some very clever and unusual sound producing is going on here and anyone into synthesiser should give this a listen just to see what really can be achieved!
Bill Gate opens with deep vocoder chants “Bill Gates” and then bouncy echoed synth lines and then similar an octave higher and Bill Gate ascending vocodings and samples. Continuing along with the same amount of complexity as the previous tracks this song has clearly taken the building block of the track “The Man. Machine”
Valentina on the album was previously featured on the very first release from Komputer, The Komputer E.P. where it was titled as Valentina Tereshkova, historians among you might know that she was a Russian cosmonaut and the first women in space. When I first heard this track I was struck at the smoothness of the production and the complexity of the electronics in the arrangement. I think one of the best descriptions of this whole album is everything is in the right place. A passing resemblance to “The Model” but with a space feel. Komputer’s now familiar use of weird sound effects in a musical context is again apparent, it’s amazing how they get them to fit so well. An immensely listenable song.
Looking Down on London for me seems to use the construction pattern of Tour De France but slows it down. Using synthesised choir and the familiar ascending scale arpeggios, treated vocals tell a story of a trip around London, particularly near the Camden area, The Woodmen and Suicide Bridge. More pure electronic percussion and soothing melodies are evident again.
Terminus Interminus uses synthetic strings in a manner not dissimilar to Trans Europe Express. With a plodding bass line and an almost flanged percussive part taking the place of a snare drum, Terminus Interminus is again heavily vocoded until a cleaver melody interweaves with other parts at an almost orchestral level. A particularly noteworthy part of this song is the bit where the vocals say “automatic doors hiss open and close while countless strip lights flicker and hum.” Listen to the sounds behind the words and you will get a feel for what I mean about how they take weird synthetic doodling’s and put them in a very musical context. They use some very harsh percussive sounds on this track to contrast with the smooth, almost purity of the melodic lines. Again Komputer are not content to repeat and fade to end a track, they have to add and subtract from the theme in an intricate and evolving way.
Singapore sounds like the Kraftwerk track Antenna from way back in the Radio Activity days. Using similar synthesiser sounds in a similar fashion and with a none to different rhythm track, quite simplistic compared to some of the albums more complex offerings but with a sound effect laden middle eight to remind us, if it were needed, of how a genius can mix effects and melodies in electronic bliss. A nice addition to, although I’d be surprised if it was anyone’s favourite track.
The Perfect Pop Band carries more than a few similarities to Showroom Dummies, opening with pounding synth percussion before short synthetic melodies take over and push and pull in different directions. Again I must mention, listen to the sound after the lyrics “Speaker magnets oscillate” just perfect! And the middle eight sections synthesiser solo! That’s how they can sound!
Komputer Pop for me is the absolute jewel in this accomplished album and in carrying on with my analogy of which Kraftwerk track they are based on, this one would have to be “Computer Love”. From the onset this track delivers, pre-sets are not a word that Komputer use, every sound and effect is intricately constructed and synthesised. This song should come with a warning, like “this song may contain the most beautiful melodies you will ever hear”, seriously that’s what this track is about, it takes all the elements that I have so far mentioned and puts them in the context of a beautifully written and put together song. A huge deep plodding bass underpins the arrangement as other ingredients file in and out and build up this opus. One particular lyric sums up this album for me “electronic tunes carefully arranged at the studio called the lab”!
Motopia was the futuristic city conceived by British architect Geoffrey Alan Jellicoe, made of glass and with the roads up in the air, as such pretty much what this album is about judging by the front cover, Motopia the track is an instrumental and keeps with the vein of the album, the stark rhythm and carefully chosen synthesiser parts crafted around an intricate arrangement. Does fit very well with the images of Motopia and quite a short track by Komputer’s standard lasting three minutes exactly.
Which brings us on to the final track of the album We Are Komputer (Version) which originally featured on The Komputer E.P. but here is a bit different, stripped down and shortened “work is pleasure – pleasure is work” you can almost hear this phrase being said by their German counterparts.
Komputer have a talent for being able to capture the atmosphere about a subject matter.
There’s plenty going on with these songs with some very complex arrangements, they certainly stand the test of time as I’ve listened to this album hundreds of times, start to end. This isn’t the kind of thing that can be thrown together quickly as anyone who’s experimented with producing electronic music will appreciate. A beautiful listen, the sort of album I put on at night with headphones and just enjoy time and time again. You hear something new every time you listen to this album, maybe it’s because you can focus on a myriad of different things depending on how the mood takes you. This is pure synthesiser heaven. It’s almost electronic music perfection. It couldn’t have been called anything else but World of tomorrow.