Radio-Activity

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For other uses of "Radio activity" and "radioactivity", see Radioactivity (disambiguation).
Radio-Activity
Kraftwerk Radio Activity album cover.jpg
Studio album by Kraftwerk
Released October 1975
Recorded 1975
Studio Kling Klang Studio
(Düsseldorf, Germany)
Genre
Length 37:38
Label
Producer
Kraftwerk chronology
Autobahn
(1974)
Radio-Activity
(1975)
Trans-Europe Express
(1977)
Singles from Radio-Activity
  1. "Radioactivity"
    Released: 1976
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Q 4/5 stars[2]
Mojo 4/5 stars[3]
Uncut 4/5 stars[4]
Rolling Stone not rated[5]
Drowned in Sound (8/10)[6]

Radio-Activity (German title: Radio-Aktivität) is the fifth studio album by German electronic band Kraftwerk, released in October 1975. Unlike Kraftwerk's later albums, which featured language-specific lyrics, only the titles differ between the English and German editions. A concept album, Radio-Activity is bilingual, featuring lyrics in both languages.

The album peaked at number one in France, becoming Kraftwerk's first album to reach a number one spot.

Background[edit]

The hyphenated album title displays Kraftwerk's typical deadpan humour, being a pun on the twin themes of the songs, half being about radioactivity and the other half about activity on the radio. More word plays are evident in the track listing: "Radio Stars", which as a title could refer to pop stars, but upon listening is revealed to be about quasars and pulsars.

This was the first Kraftwerk album to be entirely self-produced by Ralf Hütter and Schneider in their Kling Klang studio, and the first one to be performed by the "classic" Hütter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür line-up. All the music was written by Hütter and Schneider, with Emil Schult collaborating on lyrics. Schult also designed the artwork – a modified illustration of a late-1930s 'Deutscher Kleinempfänger' radio.

It was the first Kraftwerk album to feature use of the distinctive Vako Orchestron keyboard (choir, string and organ sounds), which the group had purchased on their recent US Autobahn tour and the Moog Micromoog which was used extensively on this album. Notably, it provided the harsh sounds on the track "Antenna". The band's custom-built electronic percussion also featured heavily in the sound, and extensive use was made of the vocoder. The usual synthesizers were present (including Minimoog and ARP Odyssey), and Hütter's Farfisa electronic piano made a return on "Transistor". For the first time the group did not use flute, violin or guitars.

By 1975, Hütter and Schneider's previous publishing deals with Capriccio Music and Star Musik Studio of Hamburg had expired. The compositions on Radio-Activity were published by their own newly set up Kling Klang Verlag music publishing company, giving them greater financial control over the use of songwriting output. Also, the album was the first to bear the fruit of Kling Klang as an established vanity label under the group's new licensing deal with EMI. The album reached #59 in Canada, in February 1976.

The title track "Radioactivity" was released as a single, and became a hit in France after it was used as the theme to a popular music show. The song was later re-recorded by Kraftwerk for their 1991 album The Mix. It was further remixed, for subsequent single release, by William Orbit and François Kevorkian.

Singles[edit]

"Radioactivity" (German: "Radioaktivität"), 1976, was the only song to be a released as a single from the album, and it includes the song "Antenna" as a b–side.

Composition[edit]

"The British painter David Hockney once said: 'People who understand music understand silence,' and the LP is full of moments when the music drifts to almost nothing, or is slowed so that the spaces between beats are exaggerated. Radio-Activity is sonically muted, at times fragile and beautiful."[7]

Radio-Activity opens with the accelerating pulse of the minute long intro "Geiger Counter", which is meant to simulate the sounds made by a Geiger counter as it approaches radioactive objects. "Geiger Counter" then segues into the title track "Radioactivity". The song refers both to radioactivity, the process by which the nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting radiation, and the act of listening to recorded sounds and the radio (with the line 'Tune into the melody'). It is followed by a song about the radio, entitled "Radioland". "Radioland" links into a tone that quickly increases in pitch which kicks off the fast-tempoed "Airwaves", which is a song about a modern communication. "Airwaves" segues into a 38 second long "Intermission", which then goes into "News". "News" features simulated radio recordings of German-language news about radioactivity.[8]

Side two opens with "The Voice of Energy", which is based on Werner Meyer-Eppler's "Stimme der Energie".[9] "Antenna" is an upbeat song about antennas and transmitters, and was featured on the B-side of the "Radioactivity" single. "Radio Stars" is a song about pulsars and quasars. "Radio Stars" segues into "Uranium", a composition about radioactive decay. It features a choral keyboard pad in the background, which was later sampled by British rock band New Order on their highly acclaimed 1983 song "Blue Monday". The penultimate song, "Transistor", opens with the sound of someone tuning a radio before cutting to a classical sounding synth lead (reminiscent to that of "Franz Schubert" on their next album, Trans-Europe Express). Radio-Activity closes with "Ohm Sweet Ohm", which begins with a Votrax voice singing the titular phrase. The song continues with a synth melody as the other instruments enter. It slowly accelerates over time before fading out.

Samples[edit]

"Blue Monday" by New Order samples the choral keyboard pad from "Uranium".[10]

"Leave Home" by The Chemical Brothers samples the intro in "Ohm Sweet Ohm".

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider and Emil Schult

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Geiger Counter" ("Geigerzähler") Ralf Hütter · Florian Schneider 1:07
2. "Radioactivity" ("Radioaktivität") Hütter · Schneider · Emil Schult 6:42
3. "Radioland"   Hütter · Schneider · Schult 5:50
4. "Airwaves" ("Ätherwellen") Hütter · Schneider · Schult 4:40
5. "Intermission" ("Sendepause") Hütter · Schneider 0:39
6. "News" ("Nachrichten") Hütter · Schneider 1:17
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. "The Voice of Energy" ("Die Stimme der Energie") Hütter · Schneider · Schult 0:55
8. "Antenna" ("Antenne") Hütter · Schneider · Schult 3:43
9. "Radio Stars" ("Radio Sterne") Hütter · Schneider · Schult 3:35
10. "Uranium" ("Uran") Hütter · Schneider · Schult 1:26
11. "Transistor"   Hütter · Schneider 2:15
12. "Ohm Sweet Ohm"   Hütter · Schneider 5:39

Personnel[edit]

[11]

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1986) Peak
position
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[12] 4
France (SNEP)[13] 1
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[14] 22
US Billboard 200[15] 140

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason (2011). "Radio-Activity - Kraftwerk | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  2. ^ Q (Magazine) (p.116) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] conceptual piece that diverted Kraftwerk's music into monochrome retro-futurism..."
  3. ^ Snow, Mat (November 2009). "Gut Vibrations". Mojo. London: Bauer Media Group (192): 110. ISSN 1351-0193. 
  4. ^ Cavanagh, David. "Uncut Reviews: Kraftwerk - Reissues". Uncut. Retrieved October 22, 2009. 
  5. ^ Ward, Ed (2011). "Kraftwerk: Radio-Activity : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on February 13, 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  6. ^ Power, Chris (2011). "Kraftwerk - Radio-Activity: Remastered / Releases / Releases // Drowned In Sound". drownedinsound.com. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  7. ^ Buckley, David (2015-07-13). Kraftwerk: Publikation. Music Sales Limited. ISBN 9781783236183. 
  8. ^ "Kraftwerk - News Lyrics | MetroLyrics". www.metrolyrics.com. Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  9. ^ "Influenser, referenser och plagiat. En utställning kring Kraftwerks estetik. | Röhsska museet". Röhsska museet. Retrieved 2016-07-30. 
  10. ^ "New Order:Singles:Blue Monday". Niagara.edu. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  11. ^ Radio-Activity (Digital Remaster) (CD). Kraftwerk. Great Britain: Mute Records. 2009. CDSTUMM304. 
  12. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Kraftwerk – Tour de France Soundtracks" (in German). Hung Medien.
  13. ^ https://books.google.se/books?id=JroSCgAAQBAJ&pg=PT279&lpg=PT279&dq=kraftwerk+publikation+discografy&source=bl&ots=sao6xe7CUW&sig=gmVJ-6m9kWFINGza7Ds6zA-Q1d4&hl=sv&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwiwoo-Q2KrOAhVCJpoKHQuMDYwQ6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q=kraftwerk%20publikation%20discografy&f=false
  14. ^ "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Musicline.de. Phononet GmbH.
  15. ^ "Kraftwerk – Chart history" Billboard 200 for Kraftwerk.