domingo, 22 de janeiro de 2012
Germany and the Avant-Garde: The early German rock scene - Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider Organisation - "Tone Float" - Kraftwerk - Man, Machine and Music by Pascal Bussy
IN THE CENTRE OF DÜSSELDORF IS LOCATED ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE and mysterious recording studios in the history of modern pop music. Although it houses banks of the most up-to-date recording technology and equipment, it has never been hired out and neither do its walls echo to stories of famous recording sessions by visiting pop musicians. This studio stands in an anonymous looking street, inside a yellowish building, overlooking a cheapish hotel with a Turkish grocery store nearby. The studio has no reception, no phone and accepts no mail. Unlike Abbey Road or the Sun Studios in Memphis, which receive hordes of interested tourists, this studio remains mostly unrecognised, having rarely been visited by music journalists, let alone the public. Nevertheless, some of the most innovative and startling records of the recent past have been recorded from within its confines. The place's name is the Kling Klang studio and for over 20 years it has been the workplace of one group - Kraftwerk.
For the duration of its existence, two musicians, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, have met at this studio as an everyday routine -they have improvised, worked and meticulously recorded for posterity their vision of the world. It is a vision that could be loosely described as the quest for a type of sonic perfection - the constant striving for a new sound. In this quest, they have been joined by a limited and select group of musicians and engineers, as well as inanimate dummies and robots - all of whom have contributed in some way to make up the public product which is Kraftwerk.
From within the self-imposed seclusion of the Kling Klang studio they have created a factory-like environment - a laboratory where the musicians appear to work more like scientists than artists. This little home industry has consistently grown in stature if not in size and has embraced every new advancement in instrument technology, allowing each new machine to assume a life of its own. The sum total of their endeavours has the outward appearance of a streamlined, corporate business where the studio, the music and the image, have been manipulated into one unique entity vastly different from a run-of-the-mill pop group.
Yet this is a company which releases very little product - its workers are increasingly silent and uncommunicative. Infrequent LPs punctuated by the odd live performance are all the public now gets to see of Kraftwerk. In an entertainment business saturated with groups craving attention, airplay and record sales, it is surprising that the public hasn't lost interest in a group whose contact with the outside world is so minimal.
Exactly the opposite is the case. Kraftwerk are one of the most respected, revered, influential and namedropped groups of all time. Even more than that, it is now inconceivable to view the course of modern music without that piece of the jigsaw that is Kraftwerk. It is also impossible to see how such diverse groups as OMD and Depeche Mode through to Afrika Bambaataa and numerous house and techno exponents could exist in the form they do today without the influence of Kraftwerk. They have at one time or another been described as avant-garde musicians, creators of industrial music, founders of electronic pop, the Godfathers of techno music, even "The Beach Boys from Düsseldorf. The labels are endless and inevitably limiting, but all these tags are at least in some way appropriate.
Somehow, despite having existed for over 20 years, the group seem as modern today as they have always been. A remarkable and rare achievement in a world that thrives on the 'here today, gone tomorrow' ethic of a disposable pop culture. This is even more surprising considering that it has been achieved by a group who have had scant regard for any of the trends or niceties of the pop business, and are of a nationality not normally associated with much indigenous pop or rock music.
To trace the beginnings of what has become an institution and a total enigma within the music industry, it is necessary to look back to a period in the late sixties when rock and pop music was beginning to spread its wings across both musical and geographical boundaries. In fact, now that pop music is much more of a global business, it is easy to forget that there was a time when the idea of anything other than American or British rock music was almost inconceivable. Budding pop musicians from anywhere else in the world would inevitably look for inspiration to groups like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones or The Who in Britain - or Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys and The Doors in the US.
By 1967 the so-called "summer of love" was in full swing and a new spirit of experimentation saw certain rock musicians trying ever more daring excursions away from regimented forms of pop music. The atmosphere that allowed these musicians to surface was based around the slackening of attitudes, both social and musical, that had accompanied the emergence of the hippy movement. Many of pop music's leading lights had started to turn their backs on the singles-orientated pop market and had adopted a new, more experimental, album-orientated rock music. The influence of rhythm and blues that had dominated the music of The Beatles and The Stones was now being abandoned in favour of more open structures borrowed from free-form jazz and ethnic music, often fuelled by copious quantities of LSD.
In England, Pink Floyd and The Soft Machine were not only pioneers of a new fusion of music but also participants in large multi-media events, love-ins or happenings that far exceeded the expectations of an average rock concert. At the same time, on the West Coast of America groups like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were headlining their own cosmic acid-marathons with a strange mixture of totally spontaneous improvisation, feedback and traditional American music. Similarly in New York, as an antidote to all the peace and love of the West Coast scene, The Velvet Underground, under the guiding hand of Andy Warhol, were staging their own multi-media events based around the group's amphetamine-induced throbbing mantras and flashing light shows.
The hippy revolution and the notoriety surrounding the "happenings" soon spread from the USA and Britain to the youth of mainland Europe carrying with it more challenging ideas than mere loud rock music. Sexual and drug experimentation, the emerging prominence of the feminist, gay and peace movements, all culminated in the feeling that young people now had a more effective political voice for change.
However, in the main, Europeans like the French and Germans did not yet have their own indigenous rock groups. By and large, European efforts at producing contemporary music were considered laughable, confined to the sort of derivative hum-drum sing-a-long songs of the Eurovision Song Contest. Most European bands contented themselves by playing cover versions of their British or American mentors, mostly regurgitating rock music's now burgeoning thesaurus of cliches but with the lyrics sung in slightly foreign accents.
Perhaps because of the lack of musical role models, the European student movements took on serious political overtones. They were unwilling to merely sit around with flowers in their hair listening to rock music, thus avoiding the hedonistic excesses produced by the London, San Francisco and New York hippy 'scenes'.
The climax of this political activity occured in Paris in May 1968, in an outbreak of youth rebellion that saw widescale rioting by left-wing students in the French capital, the intense severity of which caught the authorities napping. The destabilising violence that ensued, in some ways outweighed that of the peace demos and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in America and Britain, so much so that it nearly succeeded in bringing down the French Government. Here was an anarchic display of disorder that was far broader in its political agenda than even that of the more radical hippies.
In Germany too, changing destinies reflected a deeper sense of political youth commitment. The country was still afflicted by a "cold war" menace fuelled by tensions between East and West. Consequently, a new generation of young West Germans were wrestling with a consciousness that remained in the shadows of Nazism and the Second World War, even though they were too young to have actually experienced the holocaust.
It was from within this political instability that a number of German artists like Beuys, Richter and Kiefer started to explore ways of recapturing a German cultural identity. Similarly, a new world of opportunities opened up to film students like Fassbinder and Wenders. Also, a whole bunch of avant-garde music students became interested in challenging mainstream ideas about what constituted music. Of all the German groups that emerged on the crest of this particular experimental wave, three in particular - Can, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk - would go on to have a lasting influence on the international music scene.
The primary group to make an impact were Can. Formed in Cologne in 1968, their influence would dominate German music for a decade. Somehow, Can managed to inject into their music a passion and anarchy that mirrored the student riots of 1968. They quickly became popular in Germany, Britain and France, where their mixture of quirky improvisation and ethnic influences was most readily appreciated.
Can's music was constructed in their own self-appointed studio, a room in a castle called Schloss Nörvenich. Immersing themselves for days on end, they worked on pieces through a process of extensive improvisation over a steady and repetitious drum beat. The effect was to create a trance-like music that seemed to be both wildly random whilst being strictly regimented and disciplined. Live, the group often played long sets that disregarded conventional song structures - songs were considered almost bourgeois. Now young people in Europe were getting a taste of their own homegrown 'happenings' similar to those going on in London, San Francisco and New York.
Can's initial impetus was as much born out of the classical avant-garde as it was contemporary rock music - two of the group, Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay, having studied classical composition under Karlheinz Stockhausen. However, although most of Can were classically trained, they were never overly concerned with the symphonic pretensions that were captivating their British counterparts from classical backgrounds like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes.
The real long-lasting influence of Can on subsequent German bands lay in their emphasis on rhythmic repetition. Jaki Liebezeit played with metronomic precision, and remains one of the most influential and respected drummers in rock music. At a time when most drummers were showing an unrestrained flamboyance typified by Carl Palmer, Liebezeit was honing his technique to an absolute minimum, providing a solid base for the improvisational layers of sound produced by the rest of the group.
Can succeeded in building a bridge between the rarified atmosphere of the classical avant-garde and the more traditional approach of rock music. Once they had started the ball rolling by expanding musical barriers, other German music students took up the mantle, using the newest developments in instrument technology. In the years that followed, a whole gaggle of German groups attracted a sizeable fringe following across Europe and were tagged, somewhat derogatorily, by the UK music press as 'Kraut Rock'. However, the very existence of the tag signified for the first time it was possible to look outside the boundaries of the UK and the USA for a source of innovation in rock music.
Probably the major early influence on the perception of German synthesizer music were Tangerine Dream. "The Tangs" as they became affectionately known, had been formed in 1967 by a trained artist and sculptor, Edgar Froese, together with Klaus Schulze and Conrad Schnitzler. Froese had spent some time in the mid-sixties in Cadaques with Salvador Dali, whilst Schnitzler went under the rather splendid nickname of "the mad genius from Berlin". The group were initially a traditional rock band, but mainly under Schnitzler's influence they became a totally electronic synthesizer band.
Later on, Tangerine Dream's ambient synthesized music throbbed with a similar trance-like repetition to that of the music of Can. With little percussive element to speak of (drum machines not being widely available then), the rhythm was provided by the repetitive pulses and wave signals produced by the synthesizer. This was particularly evident in the repeated arpeggios that provided a rhythmic track of their own. Here was a totally new underground form of music that by its nature ignored the very idea of singles. The length of the pieces (often exceeding 20 minutes) meant that they stood little chance of being played on the radio.
Soon Can and Tangerine Dream were joined by a proliferation of other German groups like Amon Diiul, Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru, Faust and Cluster, all of whom seemed to have little regard for the niceties or cliches of rock 'n' roll. They preferred to extend the boundaries of the perceived confines of "music". Unlike many jazz or classical avant-garde musicians who may have had broadly the same aims, these German groups were guided by a mischievous anarchic spirit.
As a result they managed to avoid becoming marginalised, aiming their music toward mainstream rock audiences.
However, it soon became evident that there were further steps to take if this new German music was to make a lasting impact. Can, and especially Amon Duiil, were connected with a 'hippyish' and anarchic imagery, being associated with the sixties and the so-called drug culture. Similarly, although the music of Tangerine Dream had all the elements of modern technology, their image was still that of rather dowdy looking university professor-types playing with synthesizers. At this juncture 'Kraut Rock' could easily have ended up as a historical curio, a musical cul-de-sac that had been tacked onto the late '60s and early '70s hippy scene, with a limited if potent influence.
Even so, Can and Tangerine Dream were rewarded by quick success - not to mention a certain degree of notoriety. (A famous 1974 concert by Tangerine Dream and Nico in Rheims Cathedral led to calls from the Pope for the building to be resanctified). As well as disapproval from the Vatican, the rock establishment were beginning to show signs of recognition to the point where German rock music could no longer be viewed as a joke. This increased awareness created the framework for the third, arguably most influential, and certainly the most commercially successful German group to flourish.
Kraftwerk, having arisen out of this experimental explosion, moved the whole perception of German music up a gear, ultimately extending the experimental philosophy and shining a torch toward a more technologically motivated future. These new obsessions were taken to their logical conclusion, finally establishing synthesizer music with mass-market credibility. Spawning legions of imitators and influencing music far beyond the experimental or electronic, they were to provide the natural link between the German avant-garde scene and electronic pop music.
However, this was a slow and metamorphic process/When two classically trained musicians - Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben - first met at the Kunstakademie (Academy of Arts) in Remschied, near Düsseldorf, they could have had little idea of what the future held in store. Like Can and Tangerine Dream, they were just students whose dream was to play music that expanded upon conventional notions rather than merely copying British and American rock music.
Ralf Hütter was born in the town of Krefeld, near Düsseldorf, on 20th August, 1946. The son of a doctor, Hütter now describes his upbringing as "normal, devoid of interest. Nothing special."1 As the main spokesman for the group, this is typical of the sort of laconic response he gives to questions about their private lives - lives which they have consistently claimed as being normal and boring.
Today, Hütter is equally as cagey about his early influences, now describing his first musical memories as, "nothing... Silence." He admits to having listened to the radio but adds that it was, "nothing exciting. No memory about that. No flash, no event, no shock." This type of memory lapse conveniently camouflages Hütter's life outside of the group. However, strangely for someone who now claims his early musical interests were nothing and silence, Hütter did actually spend a number of years studying classical piano from which he gathered enough musical impetus to study electric organ at the Düsseldorf Conservatory. It was in the improvising class that he met up with the distinctive looking Florian Schneider-Esleben was born on April 7th, 1947, in a small town in the Bodensee area in the South of Germany, near the Swiss and Austrian borders. When Florian was three, the Schneider family moved to Düsseldorf, where he lived with his father Paul Schneider, his mother Eva Maria Esleben, and his two sisters. Florian's father was a well-known architect, being responsible for a number of notable design projects in Germany including railway stations and airports. One his most famous designs was the Haniel-Garage in Düsseldorf which was built in 1949. This unique building was a transparent glass, five-floor car park for 700 cars.
Düsseldorf itself was ravaged by bomb damage and bore the scars of war. Florian Schneider:
"Much of the town was still destroyed. I remember the streets were full of all these bomb holes, it was a bit like it is in the Lebanon now. But as a child this did not seem terrible at all, I had the feeling that the streets were a very exciting place to play, but of course it was very dangerous as well..."4
By the age of five, the young Florian had already been exposed to his parents' record collection, including such unusual recordings as the concrete musique of Pierre Henry. However, being brought up in the conflicting atmosphere of post-war Germany, the radio not only played late night electronic broadcasts of the sort that his parents would listen to, but also a lot of American music, as there was still a large allied troop presence in the town.
Schneider started by playing the recorder and, encouraged by his mother, soon moved on to the flute, even playing in some local jazz combos. It was music, and in particular the flute, that Schneider went on to study at the Düsseldorf Conservatory. Florian Schneider:
"I studied seriously up to a certain level, then I found it boring, I looked for other things, I found that the flute was too limiting... Soon I bought a microphone, then loudspeakers, then an echo, then a synthesizer. Much later I threw the flute away, it was a sort of process."5
At the Conservatory, Hütter and Schneider became inseparable friends and found that they not only came from similar backgrounds, but also shared an interest in improvised avant-garde music. Like many early improvisers, their initial musical attempts were much more experimental than tuneful. Hütter explains, "the idea was to make contemporary electronic music."6 However, as such, the duo had no defined musical plan. Ralf Hütter:
"We didn't really have a strategy, we rushed into making industrial music, abandoning all our other activities from before - our education, our classical background. It was a total rupture for us. Neither then nor now did we think about the future, or about some strategy. Why would we think about the future?"7
Although having no decisive musical plan, or acknowledging any particular early influences, their initial musical experiments were generally similar in both form and inspiration to their compatriots Can and Amon Duiil. Just how aware or influenced by each other these groups were remains very much a matter of conjecture, although the marked similarity in musical content would tend to lead to the conclusion that they at least shared some sort of common spirit without necessarily feeling part of a movement as such. Certainly much of this apparent cohesion must be put down to the similarity in classical background which meant they were exposed to the same kind of avant-garde music.
One of the most notable influences on all the early German rock groups was the central figure of Karlheinz Stockhausen. As leader of the Darmstadt school, his influence on the electronic music field was immense. His experiments with electronic sounds were also influential on rock musicians further afield - his picture being one of those included on the cover of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper LP. Incidentally, Hütter told the journalist Jean-Francois Bizot that he and Schneider had been to see a Stockhausen concert in Cologne in the late '60s having taken LSD beforehand. Whether this would have helped or hindered making sense of Stockhausen's music is debatable. His theories were concerned with expanding musical environments, being rather pretensiously described as "continuous event concerts in non-specific buildings" and often featured what appeared to be random blasts of sound.
Similarly influential was the Italian composer Russolo who built up what was described as "musique bruitiste" with noises and sound effects. Also, the Fluxus group (among them LaMonte Young, Jon Hassell and Tony Conrad) from New York were constant visitors to Germany. Conrad even went on to record an album in the '70s with the German band Faust. The last component that made up this avant-garde jigsaw was the considerable interaction between the French Radio station France Musique - where composer Pierre Schaeffer played a huge role as a radio pioneer - and its equivalent radio stations in Germany.
All these influences were in some way responsible for shaping the emerging electronic rock scene in Germany. Contrary to Hütter's current assertions as to having no early influences as such, it is most probable that both he and Schneider were as affected by this creative nucleus of experimental music as the other German musicians starting out at the same time.
Certainly by 1968, Hutter and Schneider had already begun to put their improvising experiments to some use. They formed the core of a group called Organisation whose early music was a mixture of feedback, sounds and rhythm. As music students, they could have chosen to work in any number of different fields, but they consciously chose to interpret their early improvisation within the bounds of a rock band. Group friend and journalist Paul Alessandrini:
"The interesting thing is that both of them came from families of the upper middle class. Sometimes I get the feeling that they were intellectuals from the high bourgeoisie who wanted to discover another world. They have always been fascinated by discoteques and girls, and coming from the sort of social background and education they did, music was the only way. They had this German aspect, the family aspect, very starchy - and they wanted to team up with the rock world."
This immersion into the "rock world" meant that Organisation began taking part in various performances at universities and art galleries. However, this was a world which was vastly different from the trappings of rock 'n' roll in the UK or USA. Many of the German music students considered themselves less part of any rock scene, and more like performance artists who were making a musical art statement. Ralf Hutter:
"We were very lucky, at the time there were electronic music concerts, happenings, the Fluxus group etc. It was very normal, we played on the same circuit, the galleries. When we began we didn't have any engagements in the traditional music world, we were engaged in the
artistic world, galleries, universities, etc."
Michael Karoli of Can remembers one such multi-media event as being one of the first early connections between the two groups:
"The first time I remember meeting them was in the summer of 1968. I remember Ralf being very communicative, but Florian didn't speak so much. It was the time when they were involved with their band Organisation. Malcolm Mooney had just joined us and we were to play at the preview of a painting exhibition. We had not brought many instruments with us, so we played one long piece on their instruments for about 15 minutes. As far as I can remember this was Can's first public appearance.
Later, when they had formed Kraftwerk, they came to Schloss Nörvenich four or five times and we played jam sessions together in the afternoons."10
Subsequently, Karoli contrasted the difference between the two groups, "Kraftwerk were very German. I think that we were more open."11 Can's keyboard player Irmin Schmidt remembers that later on the two groups played a concert for the radio together, and that after that they would meet up for a drink from time to time. "Kraftwerk were the perfect antithesis of Can", but Schmidt adds, "I find their music as impersonal as it is original, but it is saved by its humorous side."12
Back in 1969 the experimental wave of German music had caused enough of a stir in their home country for many of the new groups to find outlets for their material through recording contracts. The result of this flurry of deals saw the release of Can's debut record Monster Movie, together with Amon Düül by Amon Düül I, and following a split in the group, Phallus Dei and Yeti by Amon Düül II.
The following year the momentum continued. Not only did Can release their hugely influential Tago Mago double LP, but there were also debut releases by other groups like Xhol Caravan, Embryo and Tangerine Dream. Not to be outdone, Organisation recorded an LP called Tone Float in early 1970. Initially recorded for Conny Plank's company Rainbow Productions, the music was produced and engineered by Conny Plank in his temporary studio which at the time was located in a disused refinery. Rainbow had been set up by Plank not only to record contemporary German rock bands, but also to act almost as an agency, providing business help to find a release for their material. As a result, when the LP was completed, Plank visited England and took it to a friend who had connections with RCA who were sufficiently impressed to release it as an LP.
Conrad (known to all as Conny) Plank was an amateur jazz musician who had become a radio sound technician. By the time he teamed up with Hutter and Schneider, Plank's pedigree was already established as he had worked as an apprentice to Wolfgang Hirschman who was renowned for doing the live sound for Marlene Dietrich. This had given Plank the unique opportunity of being the sound engineer on a Duke Ellington session.
Although loving all sorts of music, Plank had become interested in British and American rock music, and in particular, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and The Velvet Underground. He also admired the simplicity of the music of the Jamaican producer Lee Perry and the minimal technology that was used to produce it. Perhaps more importantly he quickly realised that it was pointless for.European musicians to try and imitate British or American groups, something which he hated, and as a producer set about devising ways of giving groups like Organisation a discernibly European identity and sound.
Despite having a specifically German outlook, Hutter and Schneider chose to operate under the English name of Organisation for their first LP. However, it was an unusually ambitious step for a German group to sign to an English label. This could have been interpreted as a potentially groundbreaking move, exposing German music to a wider English audience, but it was one which partially back-fired. English audiences were not quite ready for the new wave of German groups. Furthermore, as RCA was a British record company, the LP was only available in their native Germany as an import and thus failed to sell many copies.
The front cover featured a pseudo-mythological drawing by the mysteriously named Comus, of the sort that was fairly common place on LP sleeves in the early '70s. In attempting to be enigmatic it bore more than a passing resemblance to the cover of the first King Crimson LP but was much less successful as an image.
On the back cover was the first appearance of the duo's early adopted symbol - the soon to be familiar image of the traffic cone. In choosing an everyday mass-produced image, Hutter and Schneider had been influenced by the early sixties art of Andy Warhol. The traffic cone represented a similarly anonymous image to that of Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans" and "Coca-Cola Bottles". They were no doubt impressed by Warhol's knack of taking an object of little significance and turning it into a trademark. By adopting the symbol of the traffic cone they were making a similar artistic gesture. Whilst Warhol's "Coca-Cola Bottles" symbolised everyday Americana, the traffic cone was an everyday image that could be seen aplenty on the German autobahns.
On Tone Float, the Organisation line up consisted of Hütter on organ, Schneider on flute and violin, Basil Hammoudi on vocals, Butch Hauf on bass, and Fred Monicks on drums. Unlike conventional rock groups who have a body of songs ripened and honed by constant gigging and ready for inclusion on a debut LP, many experimental bands' first waxings verge on the tentative. The Organisation LP is no exception, and their initial step into recording, like much else in their somewhat elusive and blurred past, is something they are reticent to expand upon. Florian Schneider:
"We were very young, and we were just trying different things. The group was me and Ralf, and some other people who changed from time to time.We were maybe the most important members, but both of us also worked 13 on different projects. I don't remember so well..."
The Tone Float LP elicits comparisons with many others who were experimenting with the fringes of feedback and noise at that time, such as the early Pink Floyd. Later in 1975, Lester Bangs asked Hütter if Kraftwerk felt a debt to Pink Floyd. "No", he replied, "It's vice versa. They draw from French classicism and German electronic music."14
It is easy to understand why Hütter would more readily want to acknowledge the classical avant-garde rather than any debt they owed to the early Pink Floyd who, by the time of Hütter's statement, had become rather unfashionable in the eyes of the critics. However, with Tone Floafs clumsy percussion, rather doom-laden bass lines and ponderous organ chords, comparisons with Pink Floyd are difficult to ignore.
Similarities with Can are also evident, but the title track "Tone Float", which takes up the whole of side one, and other tracks like "Silver Forest" and "Milk Rock", do not build in anywhere near as tense or dynamic a way as their improvising contemporaries. So, even though the Organisation LP has the same spontaneous feel, it lacked the direction or impetus of Can's powerful debut LP Monster Movie,
Tone Floafs weird noises and percussive breaks are used in a rather haphazard way that has a certain quaint charm but no lasting potency. Somewhat similar to Pink Floyd's first post-Syd Barrett LP, Ummagumma, released a year earlier, the pieces all too often meander and irritate rather than intrigue. Whereas during its better moments Ummagumma relies on its melodic strengths, Tone Float has no such backbone to fall back on.
The LP features repetitive percussion and bass drum patterns, embellished with guitar, flute, violin and organ, all vying for attention. More often than not Hutter's organ playing dominates proceedings, but very much in the soloing mode of improvisation, presumably encouraged by classes at the Conservatory, showing none of the restraint that would dominate later LPs.
Sections of the music are clearly '60s influenced and have an almost eastern feeling with scratchy violin and bongos. On the whole they fail to achieve anywhere near the eery mantric feeling of The Velvet Underground or the cosmic humour of the early Floyd. But there are glimpses, however brief, of Hutter and Schneider's interest in minimalism as certain moments on the LP almost seem to peter out into silence.
The Organisation LP having been released through RCA, neither sold well nor made the impression that some of the other German groups had achieved. It was obvious that the duo would have to find not only a different record label, but also a more confident sound if they were to establish an identity of their own and emerge from the shadows cast by their more successful compatriots. However it is interesting, if nothing else, as an example of the growing pains of two musicians who were eventually to break out of the restrictions imposed on them by unstructured improvised music.
In reality, any comparison between the later Kraftwerk sound and the Organisation LP is hard to draw. It is quite easy to understand why Hutter and Schneider might later want to draw a quiet veil over this earliest part of their career. Certainly, Tone Float cannot conceivably be considered as the duo's forgotten masterpiece, in fact, many people remain unaware of the LP and assume that their first recording was the self-titled Kraftwerk that appeared in the autumn of the same year.
Tone Float was the last time that Hutter and Schneider would rely totally on the unrestrained free-form expression of an improvising band. Perhaps they realised that undisciplined improvisation could be as restricting as song structures. Also, with Organisation being essentially a democratic five piece band, it was difficult to develop a disciplined approach. When they were to record again a few months later, the duo could concentrate on a harder more regimented edge, and the seeds of the more familiar Kraftwerk sound would be much more apparent.
GERMANY and IMPROVISATION
1 Ralf Hütter: Interview by Pascal Bussy, Lyons, November 5th, 1991.
2 Ralf Hütter: Interview by Pascal Bussy, Lyons, November 5th, 1991.
3 Ralf Hütter: Interview by Pascal Bussy, Lyons, November 5th, 1991.
4 Florian Schneider: Interview by Pascal Bussy, Lyons, November 5th, 1991.
5 Florian Schneider: Interview by Pascal Bussy, Lyons, November 5th, 1991.
6 Ralf Hütter: Interview by Pascal Bussy, Lyons, November 5th, 1991.
7 Ralf Hütter: Interview by Pascal Bussy, Lyons, November 5th, 1991.
8 Paul Alessandrini: Interview by Pascal Bussy, Paris, November 13th, 1992.
9 Ralf Hütter: Interview by Jean François Bizot Actuel Magazine/Radio Nova, November 1991.
10 Michael Karoli: Interview by Pascal Bussy, February 7th, 1992.
11 Irmin Schmidt: Interview by Pascal Bussy, April 13th, 1992.
12 Irmin Schmidt: Interview by Pascal Bussy, April 13th, 1992.
12 Florian Schneider: Interview by Pascal Bussy, Lyons, November 5th, 1991.
14 Ralf Hütter: Interview by Lester Bangs: 'Kraftwerkfeature', Creem (Sep 1975). Reproduced in Psychotic Reactions & Carburettor Dung (Minerva 1990).
Pascal Bussy. Man, Machine and Music. SAF Publishing Ltda. UK, 1993, p. 9-24.