Trans Europe Express

Europe Endless opens with a sequencer playing a repeated, echoed melody that gets octave transposed, eventually a melotron choir and synthbass line are introduced before the lilting rhythm track kicks in, along with the wonderfully expressive synthesiser playing the lead line. The vocals then join over the plodding bass, painting a picture of travel and Europe. The song is held together with the repeating sequencer throughout the track with various lead lines over the top, almost soloing.

The Hall of Mirrors again uses an echoed synthesiser, playing short notes that ascend in pitched scales; a reverberated footstep type sound forms the only rhythm part as a contrasting synthesiser plays staccato like striking notes with the bass parts also forming the melody. Ralph Hutter’s vocals form a very stark and foreboding front to this track. I think the word cold describes this to perfection; a few other counter melodies play along in the latter part.

Showroom Dummies conjures up an almost wind up mechanism with its rhythm track, as melotron and synthesiser take it in turns with the main melody. The lyrics tell the tale of showroom dummies that come alive at night and escape the presumed shop that they are in and walk through the city and go and dance in a club! Some quite unusual sounds are created particularly for the bass aspect. This track was also a single.

The title track Trans Europe Express is the next offering. This is one of the types of tracks Kraftwerk do so well, they take an experience such as travelling on a train and produce a synthesised version of that journey. From the opening seconds you can hear the train’s wheels on the tracks and it’s completed as the electronic snare and bass drums join. Then there’s that wonderful building synthesised string chord. For the first time on this album Kraftwerk famous vocoder is used for part of the vocal. They have even managed to synthesise the train going through a tunnel! The song also contains a very memorable melody that Afrika Bambaataa borrowed for planet rock. All the while the rhythm continues relentlessly while it’s put through a flanger. My first encounter of this song was seeing them play it live at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester, complete screens showing black and white images; hypnotic was certainly a word that springs to mind.

The song seamless runs into Metal On Metal, quite aptly named, another tunnel and some more rhythmic parts on the journey are inserted and then before long we into the third part of the excursion, Abzug, which I think means departure and continues along in a similar vein, coupling together some of the earlier themes before finally reaching the station and coming to a screeching halt.

Franz Schubert starts in an almost identical manner to Europe Endless with an echoed sequencer playing staccato notes before the melodic ally typical of Kraftwerk tones overlay the backing, they eventually play out leaving the opening sequencer playing, and again this track runs seamless into Endless Endless, which has the vocoded vocal repeating the word “endless” as the track fades.

Put into the context of being released in 1977 this was a ground breaking album from Kraftwerk tacking various concepts and morphing them into one, seeming unfazed by the traditional verse chorus structure of writing songs, Kraftwerk take what they want and order it how they like. There doesn’t seem to be anything like a formula that they follow. For me this is not one of my favourite Kraftwerk albums, never the less it’s still worth bearing in mind that without this album in its correct place in history others wouldn’t have been able to follow, if you get what I mean.