Kraftwerk Appreciation Post…
Florian Schneider (4/7/47 – 5/6/20)
"I look at 1991’s The Mix, their re-imagined or updated selection of songs that had, up to that point, been their best known. As both a response to the availability of new technology, and as an alternative to putting out some staid 'best of' compilation, The Mix was Kraftwerk appealing to a new era when guitars were back in vogue and hip-hop had reached its golden age. The Mix comes off as attempt to harness the present, confessing that, even in as primitive a digital era as 1991, technology will remain in flux, never to be outrun by art or music. Progress is forever elusive and temporary while the tangibility of media remains permanent and destined to be left behind."
I don't believe in clairvoyance, but the ideas that both Schneider and Ralf Hütter had for how the future should sound were bold, revelatory and laid the necessary groundwork for so much of the music that we've come to know, appreciate, and take for granted. It is like they saw the future, assuming rigid, robotic movements while generating the most exciting and dynamic electricity captured to wax that 70s/80s technology would allow. And some artists, notably David Bowie and Brian Eno, saw the value in Kraftwerk's vision and took a lot of notes.
In 2009, I wrote a piece about Kraftwerk's reissued discography, The Catalogue: Four Decades of Masterworks. Without delving into each album individually and distilling every seminal and necessary fiber, the goal at the time was to articulate the group's impact on modernity, which, in my mind, put them in the daunting position of having to constantly evolve alongside technology. Citing the group's 1991 LP The Mix, I wrote the following:
Florian Schneider, co-founder of Kraftwerk, passed away at the age of 73.
The most fitting tribute to an artist that I can think of is to fail at imagining the world without their contributions. Certainly there's no way to determine how the last 50 years of music, in all the various permutations, innovations, and excesses it's undergone, would've sounded without Florian Schneider.
Technology will remain in flux, but human beings determine its trajectory. It will never outrun art or music.