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Saturday, April 13, 2013


KARL BARTOS - Off the Record (Bureau B)

Second solo album from Kraftwerk core member is filled with retro synthpop that recall his former band's glory days.

At their peak, Kraftwerk sounded like the future. That future has come and gone and now the robotic vocals, synthesized bleeps, and mechanical electro pop rhythms have a charmingly nostalgic quality to them. That doesn't take anything away from how innovative and alive those records still sound today, or how much stronger the songs are over the countess bands they've inspired. Listening to Kraftwerk is still exciting and often I wish there was just one more album from that Trans-Europe Express / Man-Machine / Computer World era. In a way, Karl Bartos has granted that wish.

Karl Bartos was one-fourth of the classic 1975-90 Kraftwerk lineup (Radio-Activity through Electric Cafe), contributing writing, electronic percussion, and the occassional vocal. This album, Bartos' second solo, started as a collection of unused ideas from the Kraftwerk days updated for 2013. There is absolutely no way to separate Off the Record from Bartos's Kraftwerk past, which I think is part of the idea.

The sound and feel of the entire album is Kraftwerk circa 1980, but there's just enough modern production to keep it from sounding like a collection of Kraftwerk outtakes. Overall the songs are solid and occasionally stand up to the glory days - namely on the OMDish "Without a Trace of Emotion" and the hypnotic electro-groove of "Musica Ex Machina". But I might be giving the whole album a style-over-substance pass. But damn, he does the style so well. Between this album and his Elektric Music music I wonder if he influenced the band's sound a bit more than he's given credit for. For me this album is worth it just for the sensation of having a few more Kraftwerk nuggets to enjoy.

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