Kraftwerk is the first album by Kraftwerk. It was released in Germany in 1970, and produced by Konrad "Conny" Plank. No material from this album has been performed in the band's live set since the Autobahn tour of 1975, and to date, the album has not been officially reissued on compact disc. The band are seemingly reluctant to consider it a part of their canon – Schneider in later interviews referred to the first three Kraftwerk albums as "archaeology".
Like its predecessor (similarly designed right down to the traffic cone cover, though green instead of red), Kraftwerk 2 has never been properly re-released, giving it the same lost-classic aura as the first album, or at least lost, period. Thankfully, bootleg reissues in 1993 restored it to wider public listening; even more so than Kraftwerk 1, its lack of official reappearance is a mystery, in that the band is clearly well on its way to the later Kraftwerk sound of fame. Stripped down to the Hütter/Schneider duo for this release, and again working with Conrad Plank as coproducer and engineer (this album alone demonstrates his ability to create performances combining technological precision and warmth), Kraftwerk here start exploring the possibilities of keyboards and electronic percussion in detail. Given that the band's drummers were gone, such a shift was already in the wind, but it's the enthusiastic grappling with drum machines and their possibilities that makes Kraftwerk 2 noteworthy.
What might have been simply seen as an agreeable enough debut album has since become something of a notorious legend because Kraftwerk, or more accurately the core Hütter/Schneider duo at the heart of the band, simply refuses to acknowledge its existence any more. What's clearly missing from Kraftwerk is the predominance of clipped keyboard melodies that later versions of the band would make their own. Instead, Kraftwerk is an exploratory art rock album with psych roots first and foremost, with Conny Plank's brilliant co-production and engineering skills as important as the band performances. Still, Hütter and Schneider play organ and "electric percussion" – Hütter's work on the former can especially be appreciated with the extended opening drone moan of the all-over-the-place "Stratovarius" combined with Schneider's eerie violin work. But it's a different kind of combination and exploration, with the key pop sugar (and vocal work) of later years absent in favor of sudden jump cuts of musique concrète noise and circular jamming as prone to sprawl as it is to tight focus.
The line-up on this newly released bootleg is said to consist of Florian Schneider, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger, which tells us that this was probably recorded in that short period of time in 1971, estimated to 6 months, when Ralf Hütter had left the band. Supposedly, the recording was made at the Gondel Kino in Bremen, Germany on June 25, 1971. And it's an interesting recording.
Continuing to work with Conny Plank, who once again provides a compelling job as producer and engineer, Kraftwerk went right ahead and named their new album after their two remaining members – an understandable enough move. Like the first two albums, Ralf and Florian still has not seen official re-release, for all that one can practically taste Kraftwerk's leap into the beyond on it. Given that this was the last album before the most famous lineup was formed and Autobahn was released, it's appropriate to listen to Ralf and Florian as a harbinger for the future, though perhaps all too easy. Take it on its own terms – a further investigation of electronic possibilities in a more open-ended, less constantly structured fashion than would be the case later – and Ralf and Florian becomes most enjoyable.
Although there are three original compositions, including the title track, featured here, the majority of Possessed is made up of string quartet remakes of Kraftwerk songs. Given that the precision of the German electronic band's songs bear no small resemblance to Baroque classicism, the Balanescu Quartet needs to do little to make their covers work than to play them straight.