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KRAFTWERK Minmum Maximum   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Wednesday, 15 June 2005
“James Brown At The Apollo”? “Live After Death?” Rubbish. This is possibly the best live album ever


Four german techno pensioners hacking out a set that’s, in the majority, twenty five years old? Kling Klang. That’s the sound of cash registers ringing away. But for an act made of notorious perfectionists and procrastinators (with one album of new studio material in the past 19 years), “Minimum Maximum” is practically a rush-release.  Living in a state of practical isolation, the rest of the world moves on whilst Kraftwerk follow their own, dogged vision. 


In the age where everyone and their dog releases an obligatory live DVD and every show is probably already downloadable, the idea of Kraftwerk, who eschew every industry trend, releasing a concert record is almost unheard of. But “Minimum Maximum” is about the furthest thing from an obligatory contract filler of old men performing young songs in ways you’ve already heard.


The 22 song set, ranging from 73’s “Autobahn” to 2003’s “Tour De France”, offers probably the best overview of their career anyone could ask for. The virtual greatest hits includes almost every single of their career, and unifes previously disparate themes of their albums together to create an intruiging, rounded whole. From the opening “Man Machine” to the final, largely improvised “Music Non Stop”, “Minimum Maximum” not only sounds fantastic, but offers the definitive versions of these songs. A quarter century of shows since most of these songs were written have honed the material into taut, precise sculptures, revealing previously unknown depths and textures.


Thematically, “Minimum Maximum” unites the themes of previous albums into a coherent whole. To get a bit prog rock, the set starts with the hallmark KW concept of a Man/Machine that evolves through travel by air, rail, cycle and nuclear power to the synergy of a ComputerWorld. By the end, KW, now dressed in flourescent wire farme graphics and weird sunglasses, have become some kind of hybrid. Their music no longer performed, but produced through the manipulation of digital signals on laptops, where every last vestige of an analog signal is elimnated, barring the occasional, dry vocal from band ringleader Ralf Hutter. To further enhance the thematic richness, each song is chosen for it’s location of performance : “Numbers” from Silicon Valley, “Computer World” from Moscow (where Tetris was written), “Autobahn” from Berlin, as if to reinforce the global village in which we live.


It’s only half the story mind you. The visual presentation for which Kraftwerk are renowned for is absent, which means the record must stand solely on the merits of the music, which it does admirably. The dry humour of their work (evidenced most obviously for an encore which sees the band replaced by dancing robots), only sneaks in the corners around the songs : the comical sound effects added to “Numbers”, or the parodic approximation of a synthesiser bass solo in “Music Non Stop”, offer the merest hints of the humour that has seen the band perform air guitar solos using calculators, or add cloth caps to robots,  or seen them impersonating Dracula during their performances.


Stripped away from the visual richness of their show, “Minimum Maximum” stands alone as a record of musical delights, superlative production, and definitive performances. The best live album ever? Probably.


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