Album: Karl Bartos

Communication, Home
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The Independent Culture

Karl Bartos left Kraftwerk when the music became secondary to the cycling, and creation ground to a halt as the group leaders, Ralf & Florian, attempted to laboriously digitise their arsenal of painstakingly crafted analogue sounds. Communication is a reminder of what we (and clearly, he) have been missing, a series of charmingly simple, catchy pieces whose directness is suggested by the pictograms representing the individual songs. "The Camera" has an almost identical electronic twang and pumping electro twitch to that of "The Robots", while the pulsing "Interview" recalls both "Spacelab" and "Metropolis". The familiar synthetic celestial choir and sinister strings that adorned so many of his former band's tunes, meanwhile, are audible on "Electronic Apeman" and "Cyberspace", the latter's German lyric introducing the kind of evocative terms - "Elektro-Universum", "Datenhandschuh" ("data glove") and "Koordinatenfeld" ("matrix") - that might once have graced albums such as Radioactivity and Computer Love. But Bartos has a more circumspect, sardonic attitude towards technology, celebrity and the future than his former employers, commenting in "Ultraviolet" about being "insulted by commercials which say that banks help you with your life", and drolly repeating: "I have to return some videotapes," like some modern mantra. There's a touch too much of the machine-voice for my liking, but throughout, the immediacy and melodic variety of the simple, throbbing synth lines stands in stark contrast to the overworked eking-out of slim ideas that comprises the dreary Tour de France Soundtracks.