Electric Cafe

 

Boing Boom Tschak

After previously using analog equipment kraftwerk step into the digital world for the long awaited Electric Café album. Boing boom tschak heavily uses vocal samples throughout, ironically describing the analog drum machine equivalent sounds with its boings, booms and pings. This track is almost all rhythm and percussion with delays and gated reverb ,with just about the only melodic parts coming from what sounds like Yamaha DX7’s  providing sharp and short sounds along with a typically computer world type lead line harmonising with the original line. The drum sounds on this track are particularly processed with compression and gated reverb to give them a big sound.

Techno Pop

This track runs seamlessly from the opening Boing Boom Schawk with various digital metallic percussion hits and Kraftwerk style vocoders and computer speech synthesis and then adds a DX7 type string sound with stabbing chords and harmonies almost like an electronic string quartet! Not a million miles away from Trans Europe Express. Further short percussive digital melodic sounds combine in a track with tends to take it in turns to feature the various elements. Nothing becomes too overcrowded here and the word spare comes to mind but in a very precise way. It sounds like everything that’s in this track has been put there for a reason and anything that didn’t add or fulfil a job has been removed in a music-ectomy! Towards the end of the track more melodies combine that evokes computer world themes.

Music Non Stop

This track opens with a kraftwerk “ahh “ sound as first heard from the Radioactivity days, almost mellotron sounding but more likely a sample, with the now familiar percussive vocal sounds and effects. This song takes what the first two tracks have established but then moves it further with the addition of a superb analog drum machine sounds and the kraftwerk drum sounds made their own from Tour de France.  Rhythmically this song has more of a bounce to it as similar elements from the earlier tracks on this album start to establish a theme. The ahhh sound re-joins at the end as delay and gated percussion build to a crescendo to take this track to its finale. This would have been the final track of the side in the vinyl days of its release.

The Telephone Call

If the first side of this album is rhythmic then, the second side is melodic! The Telephone Call opens with samples of telephones in various guises, ringing, dialling and with samples of various associated tones, the drum sounds are again big and gated and probably originated from samples and quite unlike anything Kraftwerk have done before, gradually the ingredients to a fantastic song are introduced; various little melodies and repeating sequences intertwine before the man hook and adding more heavy DX type digital string sounds, in a similar vein to those in Techno Pop. . The song builds and drops with the sample “the number you reached has been disconnected” repeated throughout the song periodically. Quite a lot of the other samples are quite typical of Kraftwerk and in multiple languages.

Karl Bartos takes on the vocal duties for the first time on a Kraftwerk track. I’m not sure if it’s anything to do with their classical music training but they are able to create melodies that are truly beautiful at times. This certainly falls into that bracket along with Computer Love. The Telephone Call’s main melodies sort of become ingrained into your memory. There’s a certain delicacy to them that’s made all the clearer in the choice of lighter digital tones

Sex Object

Echoed vocal samples start off this song, panned all over the stereo field, they are quickly joined by the now familiar to this album DX string sounds put together in huge stabbing chords conjuring up an almost orchestral power. Instead of the previous massive drum sounds, here they are more in the traditional Kraftwerk analog/drum machine style. This sounds like a Ralph Hutter vocal with the melody cleverly placed between various different types of sounds each playing a couple of notes. Samples again feature quite heavily, and multi-linguistic as usual with some clever digital bass programming evident again probably DX in its origins, a few more string type elements are added as the song enters its final phase and fades out.

Electric Café

The title and final track of the album. There are definite similarities to the Trans Europe Express theme, but I guess if any can take themes from your tracks you should be allowed to borrow your own! Vocal synthesis features quite a lot in this track, which is sung in French. Listening back to this song now it’s quite evident that the sound of this track is the direction that they would go in their next studio album Tour De France Soundtracks. It has a certain class and smoothness to it, almost as if taking the production to the next level. Also I think apparent with the speech synthesis also featuring a lot of created sounds that can only be described in words as being Kraftwerk. At its finale everything cuts out to leave just the theme in what proves to be a fitting end to the album.

This was one of the very first albums I bought on CD and was played to death, if it were vinyl it would have worn out.  Kraftwerk are one of those rare breeds, there’s no one else that sounds quite like them and anyone who tries, sounds exactly like that, someone trying to sound like kraftwerk, if you know what I mean. This album was a departure from Kraftwerk’s traditional analog past as this is the first release using their newer digital experiments (although there was a taster of what was to follow with the single release of Tour De France) not much of their sound has been left behind but they have certainly augmented it with some new tricks. I would personally put this album in second place of their previous offerings sitting behind the absolute classic Computer World.