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During the mid-'70s, Germany's Kraftwerk established the sonic blueprint followed by an extraordinary number of artists in the decades to come. From the British new romantic movement to hip-hop to techno, the group's self-described "robot pop" -- hypnotically minimal, obliquely rhythmic music performed solely via electronic means -- resonates in virtually every new development to impact the contemporary pop scene of the late- 20th century, and as pioneers of the electronic music form, their enduring influence cannot be overstated. Kraftwerk emerged from the same German experimental music community of the late '60s which also spawned Can and Tangerine Dream; primary members Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter first met as classical music students at the Dusseldorf Conservatory, originally teaming in the group Organisation and issuing a 1970 album, Tone Float, in the U.K. Schneider and Hütter soon disbanded Organisation, re-christening themselves Kraftwerk (German for "power station"), beginning work on their own studio (later dubbed Kling Klang), and immersing their music in the fledgling world of minimalist electronics; their 1971 debut, titled simply Kraftwerk 1, offered a hint of their unique aesthetic in its earliest form, already implementing innovations including Schneider's attempts at designing homemade rhythm machines. A series of lineup shifts followed, and at one point Hütter even left the group; however, by the release of 1972's Kraftwerk 2, he and Schneider were again working in tandem. Recorded without a live drummer, the album's rhythms relied solely on a drum machine, creating a distinctly robotic feel without precedent -- the concept of purely technological music was, at the time, utterly alien to most musicians, as well as listeners. A series of well-received live performances followed before Kraftwerk began work on their breakthrough third LP, 1973's Ralf and Florian; honing their many ambitions down to a few simple yet extraordinarily innovative concepts, their music began growing more and more revelatory -- even their clean-cut, scientific image was in direct opposition to the dominant pop fashions of the time. Kraftwerk's first album to be issued in the U.S., 1974's Autobahn was an international smash; an edited single version of the epic title track was a major hit at home and abroad, and in America the previously unknown group reached the upper rungs of the pop albums chart. Performed in large part on a Moog synthesizer, Autobahn crystallized the distinctive Kraftwerk sound while making the group's first clear overtures towards conventional pop structure and melody, establishing a permanent foothold for electronic music within the mainstream. Kraftwerk resurfaced in 1975 with Radio-Activity, a concept album exploring the theme of radio communication; indicative of the group's new global popularity, it was released in both German and English-language editions, the latter appearing early the following year. Train travel emerged as the subject of 1977's Trans-Europe Express, which marked an increased movement towards seeming musical mechanization; the line became even further blurred with the follow-up, 1978's aptly titled The Man Machine, a work almost completely bereft of human touches. By this time, the members of Kraftwerk even publicly portrayed themselves as automatons, an image solidified by tracks like "We Are the Robots." Having reached the peak of their influence, however, the group disappeared from view, the first of many extended absences to follow; they did not return to action prior to 1981's Computer World, a meditation on the new global dominance of technology -- a society their music long ago predicted and pre-dated. After topping the British charts with the single "Computer Love," Kraftwerk again vanished, enjoying a five-year layoff culminating in the release of 1986's Electric Cafe. By now, however, pop music was dominated by synthesizers and drum machines, and the group's stature flagged; but for a 1991 best-of collection titled The Mix, they remained silent during most of the decade. They finally released a new single, "Expo 2000," in late 1999, and surprised fans by announcing tour dates. On the recording front, Kraftwerk celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Tour de France with a new version of their 1983 single "Tour de France," and followed with a full album (Tour de France Soundtracks) in August 2003. The live record Minimum-Maximum followed in 2005. ~ Jason Ankeny
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  1.   Song
  2.   Trans-Europe Express
  3.   The Model
  4.   Computer Love
  5.   Radioactivity
  6.   Pocket Calculator
  7.   Expo 2000
  8.   Computer World
  9.   Numbers
  10.   Autobahn
  11.   The Robots
  12.   Spacelab
  13.   Tour de France
  14.   Tour de France '03
  15.   Planet of Visions
  16.   Europe Endless
  17.   La Forme
  18.   It's More Fun to Compute
  19.   The Man Machine
  20.   House Phone
  21.   Chrono
  22.   Neon Lights
  23.   Music Non Stop
  24.   Morgenspaziergang
  25.   Die Roboter
  26.   Aerodynamik
  27.   Titanuim
  28.   Elektro Kardiogramm
  29.   Vitamin
  30.   Tour de France Etape 2
  31.   Tour de France Etape 1
  32.   Home Computer
  33.   Endless Endless
  34.   Metal on Metal
  35.   The Hall of Mirrors
  36.   Radio Stars
  37.   Antenna
  38.   Musique Non Stop
  39.   The Telephone Call
  40.   Abzug
  41.   Dentaku
  42.   Die Mensch-Maschine
  43.   Neonlicht
  44.   Taschenrechner
  45.   Expo 2000 (Kling Klang Mi
  46.   Radioactivitat
  47.   Tour de France Etape 3
  48.   Aerodynamik Kling Klang Radio Mix]
  49.   Régéneration
  50.   Aerodynamik
  51.   Prologue
  52.   Mitternacht
  53.   Nummern
  54.   Kometenmelodie 1
  55.   Sex Object
  56.   News
  57.   Airwaves
  58.   Geiger Counter
  59.   Techno Pop
  60.   Franz Schubert
  61.   Ohm Sweet Ohm
  62.   Radioland
  63.   Heimcomputer
  64.   Metall auf Metall
  65.   Metropolis
  66.   Titanium
  67.   Kometenmelodie 2
  68.   Showroom Dummies
  69.   Uranium
  70.   The Voice of Energy
  71.   Intermission
  72.   Boing Boom Tschak
  73.   Transistor
  74.   Electric Cafe
  75.   Das Modell
  76.   Computerwelt
  77.   It's More Fun to Compute-Homecomputer
  78.   Pocket Calculator/Dentaku
  79.   Geiger Counter / Radioactivity
  80.   Trans Europe Express / Metal On Metal / Abzug
  81.   Tour De France / Prologue / Etape 1 / Chrono / Etape 2
  82.   Kometenmelodie 1 / Kometenmelodie 2 / Mitternacht / Morgenspaziergang
  83.   Intermission / News / The Voice Of Energy
  84.   Radio Stars / Uranium / Transistor / Ohm Sweet Ohm
  85.   Franz Schubert / Europe Endless
  86.   The Telephone Call / House Phone
  87.   Boing Boom Tschak / Techno Pop / Music Non Stop
  88.   La Forme / Régéneration