I own two Kraftwerk records, Autobahn and Trans-Europe Express. I love many Kraftwerk records; like Kraftwerk 2, Radio Activity, The Man-Machine, Computer World, and the single “Tour de France” thanks to Breakin’. But for some reason I landed on those first two records when I dove into the world of the Krautrock/electronic music pioneers. I remember Kraftwerk like I remembered Devo in the early 80s. They didn’t seem like musicians, more like bizarre characters. Of course Devo were pioneering punk rockers disguised as weirdos in yellow jumpsuits. Kraftwerk, while looking like androids in suits standing in front of IBM computers on stage were actually pioneering German musicians that came out of the monumental experimental German music scene from the late 60s and early 70s. Bands like Tangerine Dream, NEU!, Can, Popol Vuh, and Kluster all arrived and blew minds around the same time. But from the beginning Kraftwerk felt as if they were fully developed by the time their second album hit. Florian Schneider had a hell of a lot to do with that.
Schneider was not only one of the main songwriters, but he came up with most of the concepts behind the records. He was one of the true visionaries in the electronic German music scene. From the start he saw a path and a sonic landscape that he wanted to take Kraftwerk into, and he did. Within the android beats and motherboard melodies, Schneider added a humanity with saxophone, guitar, flute, percussion, and violin along with the state of the art electronic flourishes that Kraftwerk were known for.
But you probably already know this…
For me personally it took till I was in my 30s before I really took the deep dive into Kraftwerk. I bought a remastered CD of Trans-Europe Express and was blown away by tracks like “Europe Endless”, “The Hall of Mirrors”, and “Showroom Dummies”. Besides a $1 copy of Tangram I’d bought a couple years prior I hadn’t yet explored the Krautrock/German electronic world. I was immediately taken by both Kraftwerk’s alien yet inviting feel of their music. I fell hard for Kraftwerk, and they were the portal that took me into the world of electronic music. Kraftwerk led to NEU!, which led to Cluster, which led to Can, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Florian Fricke, Roedelius, Harmonia, and La Dusseldorf.
When an artist opens such a wide door to so many amazing new artists, sounds, vibes, and sonic worlds you can’t help but classify them as pioneers. And with songs like “Autobahn”, “Neon Lights”, “Tour de France”, “Computer World”, “Pocket Calculator”, “Trans-Europe Express”, “The Robots”, “Europe Endless”, “The Numbers”, and “Techno Pop” as your creations then the proof is right there before your eyes(and ears.)
Florian Schneider was a pioneer, and his work with Kraftwerk will stand as some of the most important art to have been created in the 20th century. Besides his bandmate and fellow founding Kraftwerk member Ralf Hütter, Schneider stands at the top of the list of 20th century music innovators, not only in electronic music but pop music.
RIP Florian Schneider.