Album: Kraftwerk, Trans Europe Express (Mute)

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The Independent Culture

It's hard to pick a single representative from the eight remastered Kraftwerk albums, but ultimately it has to be 1977's Trans Europe Express, for the way it looks to the past and future as it maps out the present.

Kraftwerk are too often viewed only in terms of their position as techno progenitors, but on Trans Europe Express it's impossible to ignore the broader scope of their achievement. It's not only the apex of their "romantic realist" period that produced Autobahn and Radio-Activity – celebrating trains as they had previously celebrated cars and airwaves – but also finds them trying to express the "elegance and decadence" of European culture, particularly in the melodies of "Europe Endless" and "Franz Schubert". Yet lest that freight the album with seriousness, they make fun of their own public image with the laconic "Showroom Dummies". The trademark electronic beats are at their cleanest here, while the glacial tones and angelic backing vocals have never since resonated with such purity; and let's not forget this is one of the root sources of hip-hop, thanks to Afrika Bambaataa's appropriation of the "metal on metal" section of the title track for the seminal "Planet Rock". Probably the most influential album released in the final quarter of the past century.

Download this: Europe Endless, Trans Europe Express