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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 that 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 toward 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 toward 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. The Catalogue box set appeared in 2009, which pulled together eight classic albums from the band's career. Each title was digitally remastered, a number of the releases were treated to redesigned cover art, and it also included rare photographs not part of each record's original release. In 2012, the band performed their studio albums from Autobahn to Tour de France at New York's Museum of Modern Art. The following year they repeated that performance in Düsseldorf and at the Tate Modern in London. Over the next few years they continued to tour, which culminated in them putting out the live release 3D the Catalogue. The collection captured the band's live performances from 2012-2016, and was presented with a Blu-ray option that included high definition 3-D video. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Top Songs by

  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.   Spacelab
  12.   The Robots
  13.   Tour de France
  14.   Planet of Visions
  15.   Tour de France '03
  16.   Europe Endless
  17.   La Forme
  18.   It's More Fun to Compute
  19.   It's More Fun to Compute/Home Computer
  20.   Tour de France Etape 3
  21.   Metropolis
  22.   Tour De France/Prologue/Etape 1/Chrono/Etape 2
  23.   Titanuim
  24.   Radioactivitat
  25.   Elektro Kardiogramm
  26.   Chrono
  27.   Prologue
  28.   Mitternacht
  29.   Music Non Stop
  30.   The Man Machine
  31.   Showroom Dummies
  32.   Intermission
  33.   Geiger Counter
  34.   Musique Non Stop
  35.   Radio Stars
  36.   Morgenspaziergang
  37.   Die Roboter
  38.   La Forme/Régéneration
  39.   Boing Boom Tschat/Techno Pop/Music Non Stop
  40.   The Telephone Call/House Phone
  41.   Intermission/News/The Voice of Energy
  42.   Kometenmelodie 1/Kometenmelodie 2/Mitternacht/Morgenspaziergang
  43.   Trans-Europe Express/Metal on Metal/Abzug
  44.   Geiger Counter/Radioactivity
  45.   Aerodynamik
  46.   Expo 2000 (Kling Klang Mi
  47.   Pocket Calculator/Dentaku
  48.   Aerodynamik Kling Klang Radio Mix]
  49.   Régéneration
  50.   Titanium
  51.   Aerodynamik
  52.   Vitamin
  53.   Tour de France Etape 2
  54.   Tour de France Etape 1
  55.   Neonlicht
  56.   Kometenmelodie 2
  57.   Numbers/Computer World
  58.   Nummern
  59.   Kometenmelodie 1
  60.   Sex Object
  61.   Home Computer
  62.   Neon Lights
  63.   Endless Endless
  64.   Metal on Metal
  65.   The Hall of Mirrors
  66.   Uranium
  67.   Antenna
  68.   Airwaves
  69.   Techno Pop
  70.   Boing Boom Tschak
  71.   Franz Schubert
  72.   Transistor
  73.   Radioland
  74.   The Telephone Call
  75.   House Phone
  76.   Electric Cafe
  77.   Die Mensch-Maschine
  78.   Das Modell
  79.   Heimcomputer
  80.   Metall auf Metall
  81.   Abzug
  82.   Dentaku
  83.   Taschenrechner
  84.   The Voice of Energy
  85.   Franz Schubert/Europe Endless
  86.   Computerwelt
  87.   News
  88.   Ohm Sweet Ohm
  89.   Radio Stars/Uranium/Transistor/Ohm Sweet Ohm