Karl Bartos - Off The Record

A master of his kraft

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.

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars

Bureau | B BB 079 LP (CD / LP)

Reviewed by Oregano Rathbone
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