|Studio album by|
|Studio||Kling Klang Studio|
2009 remastered edition cover
|Singles from Radio-Activity|
Radio-Activity (German title: Radio-Aktivität) is the fifth studio album by German electronic band Kraftwerk, released in October 1975. The band's first entirely electronic album, it is a concept album organized around the theme of radio communication. To cater to the band's international audience, all releases of the album were bilingual with lyrics in both English and German, the only localised difference being the album and track titles.
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 No. 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.
"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."
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 (specifically, shortwave radio), entitled "Radioland". Hütter and Schneider share vocals on the verses. "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.
Side two opens with "The Voice of Energy", which is based on Werner Meyer-Eppler's "Stimme der Energie". "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. The British big beat duo The Chemical Brothers sampled the intro in "Ohm Sweet Ohm" to their song "Leave Home".
|Rolling Stone||not rated|
|Drowned in Sound||(8/10)|
Radio-Activity was released to mixed reviews, with Rolling Stone criticizing the album: "... no cut on the album comes near the melodic/harmonic sense that pervaded Autobahn or the creative use of electronics on the much earlier album Ralf and Florian".
In a retrospective review, Jason Ankeny from AllMusic called the album "a pivotal record in the group's continuing development" and stated that it "marked Kraftwerk's return to more obtuse territory, extensively utilizing static, oscillators, and even Cage-like moments of silence". Chris Power from Drowned in Sound praised it for the experimental feeling in 2009: "A bridge between electronic experimentalism and the powerful, groundbreaking unification of avant-garde form and catchy, commercial function that was just around the corner, Radio-Activity is the sound of Kraftwerk finding their way in a strange new landscape that they were in the very process of creating".
|1.||"Geiger Counter" ("Geigerzähler")||1:07|
|7.||"The Voice of Energy" ("Die Stimme der Energie")||0:55|
|9.||"Radio Stars" ("Radio Sterne")||3:35|
|12.||"Ohm Sweet Ohm"||5:39|
- Ralf Hütter – vocals, Minimoog, Vako Orchestron model A, drum machine.
- Florian Schneider – vocals, Synthia Vocoder, Arp Odyssey.
- Karl Bartos – electronic percussion.
- Wolfgang Flür – electronic percussion.
- Peter Bollig – technical engineer (Kling Klang Studio, Düsseldorf).
- Walter Quintus – sound mix engineer (Rüssl Studio, Hamburg).
- Robert Franke – photography.
- Emil Schult – artwork.
- Johann Zambryski – artwork reconstruction (2009 Remaster).
|Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)||4|
|German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)||22|
|US Billboard 200||140|
Certifications and sales
- Rubin, Mike (4 December 2009). "Who Knew That Robots Were Funky?". The New York Times.
- Ankeny, Jason (2011). "Radio-Activity – Kraftwerk". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
- Buckley, David (13 July 2015). Kraftwerk: Publikation. Music Sales Limited. ISBN 9781783236183.
- "Kraftwerk – "News" Lyrics". MetroLyrics.com. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
- "Influenser, referenser och plagiat. En utställning kring Kraftwerks estetik". Röhsska museet. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
- "New Order's 'Blue Monday' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
- "The Chemical Brothers's 'Leave Home' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
- Q (Magazine) (p.116) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] conceptual piece that diverted Kraftwerk's music into monochrome retro-futurism..."
- Snow, Mat (November 2009). "Gut Vibrations". Mojo. London: Bauer Media Group (192): 110. ISSN 1351-0193.
- Cavanagh, David. "Uncut Reviews: Kraftwerk – Reissues". Uncut. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
- Ward, Ed. "Kraftwerk: Radio-Aktivitat". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
- Power, Chris (2011). "Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity: Remastered". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
- Radio-Activity (Digital Remaster) (CD). Kraftwerk. Great Britain: Mute Records. 2009. CDSTUMM304.CS1 maint: others (link)
- "Austriancharts.at – Kraftwerk – Tour de France Soundtracks" (in German). Hung Medien.
- "Longplay-Chartverfolgung at Musicline" (in German). Musicline.de. Phononet GmbH.
- "Kraftwerk Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard.
- "Les Albums Or". infodisc.fr. SNEP. Archived from the original on 18 October 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
- "French album certifications – Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique.