Karl Bartos left Kraftwerk in 1990, frustrated by the band’s legendarily glacial work rate. Creative and ebullient, he established himself as an independent producer and writer, as well as co-founding an MA course at the Berlin University Of The Arts. And now, eight years after his name graced a release (2005’s Camera Obscura/Super 8 single), here’s Off The Record, 12 new songs inspired by a comprehensive delve through Bartos’ sound archive, retrieving fragments of melody and utilising them as springboards for full-blown compositions.
Clearly, Bartos carries the romance and self-aware humour of the “classic” Kraftwerk in his genetic code: the sweet, buoyant, dignified and melodious Nachtfahrt and Hausmusik, for example, breathe the same rarefied European air which rendered The Man Machine and Trans-Europe Express such heady and immaculate touchstones. Elsewhere, Without A Trace Of Emotion cheerfully subverts kneejerk preconceptions about German synth-pop; the placid, minimal Vocoder refrain of International Velvet idealises the Warhol starlet of the same name; Vox Humana drily salutes the expressive nature of the human voice over the contrastingly mechanistic wheeze of a rudimentary Maestro Rhythm King drum machine; and the remarkable, imperious Atomium – the name of the “atom” building designed by André Waterkeyn for Expo ’58 – balances its brave-new-world awe with an unspoken but palpable subtext of retrospective dismay.