04-01-06 Jose Maldonado
Acaba de caer en mis manos....e inmediatamente lo he metido en mi DVD, el doble DVD de Kraftwerk en directo. No sé que decir, bueno si sé que decir, pero de momento mi ánimo esta algo anonadado.
He tenido la oportunidad de asistir a tres directos de la formación alemana, y todo, o casi todo su repertorio está en mi poder: maxis, singles, cassette, vinilo, dvd, cd, mp3... y hasta un ocho pistas de camionero. En fin, creo que no soy imparcial. No me canso de ellos y por fortuna ellos no se cansan de darme gusto, placer y sensaciones siempre renovadas. Me pasa lo mismo con Neil Young (ya, ya... soy algo ecléctico en mis gustos musicales). Al grano: edición exquisita, repertorioexcelente (así, todo junto) y una factura de lujo. Si eres fan, a por él. Y si no lo eres, pues tu te lo pierdes... pero serías tonto si no pillas como sea esta pieza angular de uno de los grupos más influyentes del último cuarto del siglo pasado.
Como muestra lo que dicen los de Pitchfork...que le dan 9.0 ( lo mío es más intestinal)
When Lester Bangs interviewed Kraftwerk for Creem in 1975, Ralf Hütter explained how the band's Menschmaschine concept influenced its concert approach: "We use tapes, pre-recorded, and we play tapes also in our performance. When we recorded on TV we were not allowed to play a tape as part of the performance because the musicians' union felt that they would be put out of work. But I think just the opposite: With better machines, you'll be able to do better work, and you will be able to spend your time and energies on a higher level."
Thirty years later Kraftwerk certainly have better machines, and judging from the fantastic show they put in last week in Washington D.C., they've been spending their time and energy on everything but playing their instruments. The latter-day Kraftwerk live experience is total theater, an intense multimedia spectacle in which the nuts and bolts of who is doing exactly what is not only impossible to determine but completely irrelevant. So it is in a sense odd that Kraftwerk has chosen this time to release their first officially sanctioned live album. Minimum-Maximum is a collection of performances recorded in the last couple years, sequenced to closely reflect the set Kraftwerk are currently touring. Even if Minimum-Maximum is essentially a mixed-down document of whatever pre-recorded sounds the band loaded into the production's computers, it's still an excellent record for three reasons:
1. The Sound
I have Kraftwerk live bootlegs from 1971, 1975, 1981, and 1998, and the sound varies from horrid to passable. Minimum-Maximum, however, is rich, balanced, and full, reflecting the careful pre-show assembly while allowing enough room reverb and crowd noise to let you know it's a live recording. Far be it for Kraftwerk to let substandard sonics soil anything born in the Kling-Klang studio.
2. The Arrangements
While Kraftwerk do less physically live than they once did, their arrangements are constantly being tweaked, so Minimum-Maximum never feels like a playback of familiar records. One need only follow the evolution of "Autobahn" from a trance-inducing jam in the mid-70s that could last up to 40 minutes to the lean, effective version here that seems pop song-length at just under nine minutes. The vocal breakdown in "Autobahn" featuring layers of robots harmonizing on the song's theme (first introduced on The Mix) finds its way into this version, cementing the song's connection with the Beach Boys.
Other shifts in focus are more subtle but still significant. The vocodered vocals on the opening "The Man Machine" are much more prominent, bursting forth from the speakers in a way that seems to command a fully robotic future, even as the songs backing music seems warmer and less harsh than the album version. The beats for "Trans-Europe Express" and the accompanying "Metal on Metal" are thicker and more syncopated, putting the focus of Kraftwerk's railroad homage squarely on the rhythm. The technofied songs from Tour de France Soundtracks have not surprisingly changed the least and, truthfully, "Vitamin" and "Elektro Kardiogramm" can't quite match the classics that surround them. Which leads us to the final reason Minimum-Maximum is worth your time:
3. The Songs
More than anything, Minimum-Maximum gets over because a well-chosen selection from the Kraftwerk catalog is basically unstoppable. The four-song Computer World run on the second disc is particularly powerful, arguing for a steady upward trajectory in Kraftwerk's output through 1981 and also showcasing their deadpan humor. "It's more fun to compute" is the ultimate Kraftwerk line, a t-shirt slogan that pokes fun at the 70s while articulating a pop-culture prescience. Indeed, the mood throughout the live show is upbeat and celebratory-- "Having a Party With Ralf and Florian," if you will. The opening of "Radioactivity" is the only truly heavy moment, with a robotic voice intoning disturbing statistics about plutonium, but even here dance beats kick in roughly halfway through.
Since Autobahn, Kraftwerk have created music in which melody and rhythm become one, and roughly two-thirds of the tracks here are perfect examples of this precise, economical aesthetic. As a career overview Minimum-Maximum far surpasses The Mix. This record's "importance" in the Kraftwerk story is up for debate, but there's no question it's a hell of a lot of fun.
-Mark Richardson, June 8, 2005
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