Electric Café

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"Techno Pop" redirects here. For the musical style, see Technopop.
Electric Café
Studio album by Kraftwerk
Released December 16, 1986
Recorded 1982–1986
Genre Electronic
Length 35:38
Label Kling Klang
EMI
Warner Bros.
Producer Ralf Hütter
Florian Schneider
Kraftwerk chronology
Computerwelt
(1981)
Electric Café
(1986)
The Mix
(1991)
Singles from Electric Café
  1. "Musique Non-Stop"
    Released: October 1986 (1986-10)
  2. "Der Telefon-Anruf"
    Released: February 1987 (1987-02)

Electric Café is the ninth studio album by the electronic group Kraftwerk, originally released in 1986. In October 2009 it was re-released under its original working title, Techno Pop. The initial 1986 Electric Café came in versions sung in English and German, as well as a limited "Edicion Española" release, featuring versions of "Techno Pop" and "Sex Object" with only Spanish lyrics. It was the first Kraftwerk LP to be created using predominantly digital musical instruments, although the finished product was still recorded onto analog master tapes.

Background[edit]

A tentative image from Rebecca Allen's site, which displays the original Techno Pop title.

The album is somewhat infamous for taking the band almost half a decade to produce. Work is said to have begun as early as 1982 (with the working titles of Technicolor and then Techno Pop), but the project was delayed due to band member Ralf Hütter suffering a cycling accident, and then due to concerns within the band that the production quality of the album was not sufficiently cutting-edge, necessitating much re-work. The album, mastered by Bob Ludwig, finally saw release in 1986. It is the last Kraftwerk album to feature Wolfgang Flür, who subsequently left the group in 1987, respectively.

Recording[edit]

The album was recorded in Dusseldorf with the Emu Emulator II sampler (used previously on "Tour De France" and the demo of "Techno Pop" album) and various contemporary devices including Yamaha FM-engines and digital effect processors. The final mixing was done at Right Track Studio in New York together with DJ Francois Kevorkian and Ron St. Germain. Also in America Kraftwerk and Kevorkian produced the single mix of "The Telephone Call" using the Synclavier system for the first time.

Composition[edit]

The first side of the album is instrumental without proper singing parts, relying instead on repeated spoken phrases. The side is divided into three tracks, but they may be taken to be one long piece of three variations with recurring elements. For instance, a few bars of melody from "Musique Non-Stop" can be heard as a few bars of bass melody in "Techno Pop." The second side also contains three songs, following a somewhat more conventional pop format. The song "The Telephone Call" (German version: "Der Telefon-Anruf") is notable for being the first and only Kraftwerk song to feature Karl Bartos on lead vocals. The album closes with the title track "Electric Café", featuring French language lyrics. The track gained some exposure in the United States when it was used slightly sped up as the theme song for "Sprockets", the German television spoof by Mike Myers on Saturday Night Live.

Development[edit]

In 1982, Kraftwerk began work on a follow-up album to its successful and influential Computer World. This new album initially had the working title Technicolor, but this name had to be abandoned because that title was a trademark. The proposed title was changed to Techno Pop. The initial track listing consisted of four tracks. The first track, "Techno Pop", taking up one side of the LP, was an original one-track mix of "Boing Boom Tschak", "Techno Pop" and "Musique Non-Stop", as they appeared on the final album; the second track was "The Telephone Call", with the third being "Sex Object" and the final track being "Tour de France".

Recordings were progressing, and one song from these sessions, "Tour de France" was released as a single in 1983, achieving moderate commercial success. However, shortly after this, Ralf Hütter suffered a cycling accident on the Rhine Dam and was apparently unable to work with the band for some time.

EMI Records announced a release date for the Techno Pop album; promotional advertisements were released, and official catalog numbers were assigned to the project. "We were working on an album concept Technopop, but the composition was developed and we just changed the titles," Hütter explained. "It became Electric Café. But somebody within the record company went out and did a pre-order, we were working on the sleeve and some marketing idiot did this".[1] To bide time while the band continued work on the new album, Autobahn was reissued in 1985 in a digitally re-mixed [sic] edition that subsequently marked the album's transition to compact disc the following year. By this time, Hütter & Schneider had regained the rights to the recording following the expiration of the group's original contract with Philips Records.

When work did recommence on the sessions, the band were reportedly concerned that the album's production was not of a sufficiently ground-breaking quality to match its reputation as sonic innovators. The final mix of the album was completely redone from scratch at least once, with Hütter eventually travelling to New York with the master tapes to work on them with producer François Kevorkian. The recordings were not released until 1986, under the new name Electric Café. The band had decided not to include the song "Tour de France" but instead to leave it as a stand-alone single: it had already been reissued in 1984, when Kevorkian had auditioned his production skills with a largely instrumental remix of the song.

Unreleased material[edit]

Much speculation has taken place over the years as to whether a lost Kraftwerk album (i.e. unreleased songs/recordings) exists from the four-year period between 1982 and 1986. Kraftwerk is notoriously secretive about its activities, but a fairly reliable and consistent picture can be gleaned from interviews given by the various band members. Bootleg recordings of the songs "Techno Pop" and "Sex Object" that claim to be demos from the early Technicolor/Techno Pop sessions have been circulated over the years, each with a noticeably different production sound from the final album.

At various times, Hütter, Bartos, Flür and Schneider have each stated in interviews that there are no unreleased songs from this period, and that all of the original Technicolor and Techno Pop material was eventually reworked into what can be heard on the finished Electric Café album. Hütter commented "We don't spend our time on making 20 versions of a song only to leave 19 in the closet. We work target related. What we are starting we release. Our storage is empty."[2]

Promotion[edit]

Singles[edit]

Two singles were released from the album, "Musique Non-Stop" and "The Telephone Call". Both were accompanied by promotional videos. Though both singles went to #1 on the Billboard dance chart in 1987, neither of the singles performed well in the general pop charts. However, "Music Non-Stop" (based on the later version from The Mix) has been the closing piece of Kraftwerk's concerts since 1991. In the early 1990s, a completely different version of "Musique Non-Stop" – slower and more melodic – was used extensively as a jingle on the MTV Europe channel. Earlier, MTV Europe had already included elements from the original song and the video in the title graphics for MTV's Greatest Hits.

The video for "Musique Non-Stop", created in 1984 and released in 1986, is notable in itself for showcasing a computer animated representation of the band. The animation, which was complex for its time, was created by Rebecca Allen, using state-of-the-art facial animation software developed by the Institute of Technology in New York. The slow rate of the album's progress, combined with rapid changes in software animation, meant that Allen had to archive the animation program developed at the Institute of Technology until Hütter and Schneider were ready in 1986 to travel to New York to edit the images to the final version of "Musique Non-Stop".

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[3]
Mojo 2/5 stars[4]
Uncut 3/5 stars[5]
Drowned in Sound (6/10)[6]

Audiences generally appeared to find the music somewhat more sterile and less engaging than that of its conceptually more cohesive predecessor, Computer World. Compared to the band's four preceding albums, some critics have pointed to the lack of a strong and sufficiently intriguing theme to tie the Electric Café material together. Furthermore the near half-decade hiatus in the band's record releases and performance activity lost them crucial momentum in their career. Whatever the possible influence of these factors, Electric Café did not meet with any great commercial success.

Re-issues[edit]

A newly remastered edition of Electric Café was released by EMI Records, Mute Records and Astralwerks Records on CD, digital download and heavyweight vinyl in October/November 2009. The release was changed back to the original title of Techno Pop. Due to licensing restrictions imposed by Warner Music Group, this version has only been made available in the US and Canada as a part of The Catalogue box set.[7][8]

This edition is the only album in The Catalogue that has been given a bonus track: the original "The Telephone Call" was replaced by the shorter and subtly different 7-inch single mix, and as a replacement for the latter part of the original album track (which contained telephone sounds and operator voices), the remix "House Phone" was inserted. However, the CD version included within the earlier promotional copies of The Catalogue, issued in 2004, features a remaster of the 6-track album as originally released, with the full 8-minute version of "The Telephone Call" and no bonuses.

Track listing[edit]

Electric Café (1986)
Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Boing Boom Tschak"   Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos 2:57
2. "Techno Pop"   Hütter, Schneider, Bartos, Emil Schult 7:42
3. "Musique Non-Stop"   Hütter, Schneider, Bartos 5:45
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
4. "Der Telefon-Anruf" ("The Telephone Call") Hütter, Schneider, Bartos 8:03
5. "Sex Objekt" ("Sex Object") Hütter, Schneider, Bartos 6:51
6. "Electric Café"   Hütter, Schneider, Bartos, Maxime Schmitt 4:20
Notes

Note 1: In Spain the album was released in two versions. One was the regular English/International edition, and the other a local Edicion Española version, appearing early in 1987, with Spanish-language lyrics for both "Techno Pop" and "Sex Object" (often mistakenly titled "Objeto Sexual" by discographers). The Spanish-only vinyl album was withdrawn soon afterward because of a manufacturing error—a several-second complete drop-out of sound during the final track—and has never been reissued on CD. Both versions were also available as a cassette.
Note 2: The song "Sex Object" is absent from the South Korean pressings of the album.

Techno Pop (2009)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Boing Boom Tschak"   Hütter, Schneider, Bartos 2:59
2. "Techno Pop"   Hütter, Schneider, Bartos, Schult 7:42
3. "Musique Non-Stop"   Hütter, Schneider, Bartos 5:45
4. "Der Telefon-Anruf*" ("The Telephone Call") Hütter, Schneider, Bartos 3:50
5. "House Phone**"   Hütter, Schneider, Bartos 4:57
6. "Sex Objekt" ("Sex Object") Hütter, Schneider, Bartos 6:42
7. "Electric Café"   Hütter, Schneider, Bartos, Schmitt 4:19
Notes

* Remix - previously released as a 7" single in 1987.
** Previously released as the B-Side of "The Telephone Call" (German: "Der Telefon Anruf") 12" single in 1987.

Personnel[edit]

The original 1986 sleeve notes are, like those in Computer World, unspecific regarding the precisely defined roles of contributors. The 2009 remaster credits give the following information:

  • Ralf Hütter – voice, vocoder, keyboards, electronics, mix
  • Florian Schneider – vocoder, speech synthesis
  • Karl Bartos – electronic drums, electronic percussion (and voice on "The Telephone Call")[9]
  • Henning Schmitz – sound engineer (Kling Klang Studio)
  • Joachim Dehmann – sound engineer (Kling Klang Studio)
  • Fred Maher – music data transfer (Axis Studio, NYC)
  • Bill Miranda – music data transfer
  • François Kevorkian – mix (Right Track, NYC)
  • Ron St. Germian – mix (Right Track, NYC)
  • Bob Ludwig – mastering
  • Hubert Kretzschmar - graphic design

Band member Wolfgang Flür is included in a subsequent general list of collaborators, but is not credited with a musical or production role in these recordings. [10]

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1986) Peak
position
US Billboard 200[11] 156
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[12] 9
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[13] 23

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Scotsman Newspaper - Ralf Hütter - March 2004". Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  2. ^ "Der Spiegel - Ralf Hütter - July 2003". Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  3. ^ Ankeny, Jason (2011). "Electric Cafe - Kraftwerk | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Snow, Mat (November 2009). "Gut Vibrations". Mojo (London: Bauer Media Group) (192): 110. ISSN 1351-0193. 
  5. ^ Cavanagh, David. "Uncut Reviews: Kraftwerk - Reissues". Uncut. Retrieved October 22, 2009. 
  6. ^ Power, Chris (2011). "Kraftwerk - Techno Pop: Remastered / Releases / Releases // Drowned In Sound". drownedinsound.com. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  7. ^ Kraftwerk at Astralwerks.com
  8. ^ "Discogs.com". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2012-05-14. 
  9. ^ Bussy, Pascal (2004). Kraftwerk: man, machine and music. SAF Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-946719-70-5 – Not credited as such in the album notes, but Bussy's account and the recording itself makes it clear Bartos sang on this track.
  10. ^ Techno Pop (Digital Remaster) (CD). Kraftwerk. Great Britain: Mute Records. 2009. CDSTUMM308. 
  11. ^ "Kraftwerk Album & Song Chart History" Billboard 200 for Kraftwerk. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  12. ^ "Kraftwerk – Electric Cafe". Swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  13. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Musicline.de. Phononet GmbH. Retrieved June 1, 2013.