The Man-Machine is the seventh studio album by German electronic music band Kraftwerk, released in May 1978. It includes the singles "The Model" and "The Robots". Upon its release, the New Musical Express stated: "The Man-Machine stands as one of the pinnacles of 1970s rock music." Although the album was initially unsuccessful on the UK Albums Chart, it reached a new peak position of number nine in February 1982, becoming the band's second highest-peaking album in the United Kingdom after Autobahn (1974). The Man-Machine was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry on 15 February 1982…
Computer World (German: Computerwelt) is the eighth studio album by German electronic music band Kraftwerk, released on 1981. The album peaked at number fifteen on the UK Albums Chart. Rolling Stone named it the tenth greatest EDM album of all time in 2012.
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 Man-Machine is closer to the sound and style that would define early new wave electro-pop – less minimalistic in its arrangements and more complex and danceable in its underlying rhythms. Like its predecessor, Trans-Europe Express, there is the feel of a divided concept album, with some songs devoted to science fiction-esque links between humans and technology, often with electronically processed vocals ("The Robots," "Spacelab," and the title track); others take the glamour of urbanization as their subject ("Neon Lights" and "Metropolis"). Plus, there's "The Model," a character sketch that falls under the latter category but takes a more cynical view of the title character's glamorous lifestyle. More pop-oriented than any of their previous work, the sound of The Man-Machine – in particular among Kraftwerk's oeuvre – had a tremendous impact on the cold, robotic synth pop of artists like Gary Numan, as well as Britain's later new romantic movement.
The last great Kraftwerk album, Computer World (Computerwelt) captured the band right at the moment when its pioneering approach fully broke through in popular music, thanks to the rise of synth pop, hip-hop, and electro. As Arthur Baker sampled "Trans-Europe Express" for "Planet Rock" and disciples like Depeche Mode, OMD, and Gary Numan scored major hits, Computer World demonstrated that the old masters still had some last tricks up their collective sleeves. Compared to earlier albums, it fell readily in line with The Man-Machine, eschewing side-long efforts but with even more of an emphasis on shorter tracks mixed with longer but not epic compositions.
By the early '90s, it was quite apparent just how far-reaching Kraftwerk's influence had been. From techno to hip-hop to industrial music to house, numerous others were undeniably indebted to the group. Dance clubs had long been a key part of Kraftwerk's following, and the dance market was the obvious target of The Mix – a collection of highly enjoyable, often clever remixes. While novices would do better to start out with Trans-Europe Express or The Man-Machine, hardcore Kraftwerk followers shouldn't pass up these remixes of such classics as "Trans-Europe Express," "The Robots," "Autobahn," and "Radioactivity." One could nitpick about the absence of "Neon Lights" and "Europe Endless," but the bottom line is that this CD was a welcome addition to the Kraftwerk catalog.
Although Autobahn was a left-field masterpiece, Trans-Europe Express is often cited as perhaps the archetypal (and most accessible) Kraftwerk album. Melodic themes are repeated often and occasionally interwoven over deliberate, chugging beats, sometimes with manipulated vocals; the effect is mechanical yet hypnotic.