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Karl Bartos and Fritz Hilpert (Kraftwerk)

Karl Bartos, the German singer-songwriter and keyboard player with German Electronic music pioneers Kaftwerk and Electronic Was Born 31 May 1952 and Fritz Hilpert, The German drummer with Kraftwerk was Born 31 May 1956. Kraftwerk (meaning power plant or power station) are an influential electronic music band from Düsseldorf, Germany.

Kraftwerk were formed by Florian Schneider (flutes, synthesizers, violin) and Ralf Hütter (organ, synthesizers) who met as students at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf in the late 1960s, participating in the German experimental music and art scene of the time, which the Melody Maker jokingly dubbed “krautrock”. They joined a quintet known as Organisation, which released one album, Tone Float in 1969, Schneider became interested in synthesizers deciding to acquire one in 1970. While visiting an exhibition in their hometown about visual artists Gilbert and George, they saw “two men wearing suits and ties, claiming to bring art into everyday life. The same year, Hütter and Schneider start bringing everyday life into art and form Kraftwerk”.

Early Kraftwerk line-ups from 1970 to 1974 as Hütter and Schneider worked with around a half-dozen other musicians including guitarist Michael Rother and drummer Klaus Dinger, who left to form Neu! The only constant figure in these line-ups was Schneider, whose main instrument at the time was the flute; at times he also played the violin and guitar, all processed through a varied array of electronic devices. Hütter, who left the band for eight months, played synthesizer and keyboards (including Farfisa organ and electric piano).

Their first three albums were free-form experimental rock without the pop hooks or the more disciplined song structure of later work. Kraftwerk, released in 1970, and Kraftwerk 2, released in 1972, were mostly exploratory musical improvisations played on a variety of traditional instruments including guitar, bass, drums, organ, flute, and violin. Post-production modifications to these recordings were used to distort the sound of the instruments, particularly audio-tape manipulation and multiple dubbings of one instrument on the same track. Both albums are purely instrumental. Live performances from 1972 to 1973 were made as a duo, using a simple beat-box-type electronic drum machine, with preset rhythms taken from an electric organ. In1973, Wolfgang Flür joined the group for rehearsals, and the unit performed as a trio on the television show Aspekte for German television network ZDF.

With Ralf und Florian, released in 1973, Kraftwerk began to move closer to its now classic sound, relying more heavily on synthesizers and drum machines. Although almost entirely instrumental, the album marks Kraftwerk’s first use of the vocoder, which would in time become one of its musical signatures. Kraftwerk’s futuristic and robotic sound was influenced by the ‘adrenalized insurgency’ of Detroit artists of the late ’60s such as MC5 and the Stooges. The input, expertise, and influence of producer and engineer Konrad “Conny” Plank was influential in the early years of Kraftwerk. Plank worked with many  other German electronic acts including members of Can, Neu!, Cluster, and Harmonia. As a result of his work with Kraftwerk, Plank’s studio near Cologne became one of the most sought-after studios in the late 1970s. Plank coproduced the first four Kraftwerk albums.

The album Autobahn was released in 1974 saw Kraftwerk moving away from the sound of its first three albums. Hütter and Schneider had invested in newer technology such as the Minimoog and the EMS Synthi AKS, helping give Kraftwerk a newer, “disciplined” sound. Autobahn would also be the last album that Conny Plank would engineer. Following the success of Autobahn Hütter and Schneider invested in updating their studio, thus lessening their reliance on outside producers. The painter and graphic artist Emil Schult became a regular collaborator, designing artwork, cowriting lyrics, and accompanying the group on tour.

kraftwerk toured in 1975, this new, stable, live line-up in the form of a quartet. Hütter and Schneider continued playing keyboard synthesizers such as the Minimoog and ARP Odyssey. They also started singing live for the first time, Schneider processing his voice with a vocoder live. Wolfgang Flür and new recruit Karl Bartos performed on self-built electronic percussion instruments. Bartos also used a Deagan vibraphone on stage. In 1976, Kraftwerk toured in support of the Radio-Activity album. David Bowie was among the fans of the record and invited the band to support him on his Station to Station tour, an offer the group declined. Despite some innovations in touring, Kraftwerk took a break from live performances after the Radio-Activity tour of 1976 andbegan recording Trans-Europe Express (German: Trans-Europa Express) at the Kling Klang Studio using the The signature Kraftwerk sound which combines driving, repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, mainly following a Western Classical style of harmony, with a minimalistic and strictly electronic instrumentation with simplified lyrics sung through a vocoder or generated by computer-speech software. In May 1978 Kraftwerk released The Man-Machine (German: Die Mensch-Maschine), The black, white and red album cover was inspired by Russian artist El Lissitzky and the Suprematism movement.

In May 1981 Kraftwerk released the album Computer World (German: Computerwelt) featuring the song “Computer Love” Some of the electronic vocals on Computer World were generated using a Texas Instruments language translator. Kraftwerk began using more vocals and sequencing equipment for both percussion and music. In 1982 Kraftwerk rleased the album Techno Pop featuring the song “Tour de France”, which was used in the 1984 film Breakin’, Sadly During the recording of “Tour de France”, Ralf Hütter was involved in a serious cycling accident. He suffered head injuries and remained in a coma for several days. During 1983 Wolfgang Flür was beginning to spend less time in the studio. Since the band began using sequencers his role as a drummer was Diminishing.  After his final work on the 1986 album Electric Café (a.k.a. Techno Pop) he left the band in 1987 and was replaced by Fritz Hilpert. In 1990 the band played a few secret shows in Italy. Karl Bartos left the band shortly afterwards. The next proper tour was in 1991, for the album The Mix. Hütter and Schneider wished to continue the synth-pop quartet style of presentation, and recruited Fernando Abrantes as a replacement for Bartos, however Abrantes left the band shortly after. 1997 Kraftwerk appeared at the dance festival Tribal Gathering held in England. In 1998, the group toured the US, Japan, Brazil and Argentina.

In  1999 the single “Tour de France” was reissued And The single “Expo 2000” was alsoreleased in 1999. This was later remixed and re-released as “Expo Remix” in 2000. In  2003 the band released Tour de France Soundtracks, its first album of new material since 1986’s Electric Café. Kraftwerk also embarked on the extensive Minimum-Maximum world tour, using four customised Sony VAIO laptop computers,They also obtained a new set of transparent video panels to replace its four large projection screens. This greatly streamlined the running of all of the group’s sequencing, sound-generating, and visual-display software. r, replacing manual playing with interactive control of sequencing equipment. Hütter retained the most manual performance, still playing musical lines by hand on a controller keyboard and singing live vocals and having a repeating ostinato. Schneider’s live vocoding had been replaced by software-controlled speech-synthesis techniques. In November, Kraftwerk at the MTV European Music Awards in Edinburgh, Scotland, performing “Aerodynamik”. In 2003 Kraftwerk released a box set entitled 12345678 (subtitled The Catalogue) featuring remastered editions of the group’s eight core studio albums, from Autobahn to Tour de France Soundtracks.

In June 2005 the band’s first-ever official live album, Minimum-Maximum, which was compiled from the shows during the band’s tour of spring 2004, received extremely positive reviews.[10] The album contained reworked tracks from existing studio albums. This included a track titled “Planet of Visions” that was a reworking of “Expo 2000”. In support of this release, Kraftwerk made another quick sweep around the Balkans with dates in Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Turkey, and Greece. In December, the Minimum-Maximum DVD was released. During 2006, the band performed at festivals in Norway, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Belgium, and Germany. In 2008 the group played shows in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Denver, and were a coheadliner at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. This was their second appearance at the festival since 2004. Further shows were performed in Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore

The touring quartet consisted of Ralf Hütter, Henning Schmitz, Fritz Hilpert, and video technician Stefan Pfaffe, who became an official member in 2008. Original member Florian Schneider was absent from the lineup. Hütter stated that he was working on other projects. However later on Kraftwerk officially confirmed Florian Schneider’s departure from the band. Kraftwerk’s headline set at Global Gathering in Melbourne, Australia, was cancelled due to a Fritz Hilpert heart problem.

In 2009, Kraftwerk performed concerts with special 3D background graphics in Wolfsburg, Germany; Manchester, UK; and Randers, Denmark. During the Manchester concert (part of the 2009 Manchester International Festival) four members of the GB cycling squad (Jason Kenny, Ed Clancy, Jamie Staff and Geraint Thomas) rode around the Velodrome while the band performed “Tour de France”. The group also played Bestival 2009 on the Isle of Wight. Kraftwerk also released The Catalogue box set It is a 12″ album-sized box set containing all eight remastered CDs in cardboard slipcases, as well as LP-sized booklets of photographs and artwork for each individual album.  Ralf Hütter has also suggested that a second boxed set of their first three experimental albums—Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf and Florian—could be on its way, containing more artwork, extra contemporary drawings, graphics, and photographs to go with each album ” Kraftwerk also released an iOS app called Kraftwerk Kling Klang Machine. The Lenbach House in Munich exhibited some Kraftwerk 3-D pieces in Autumn 2011. Kraftwerk performed three concerts to open the exhibit. In 2012 Kraftwerk played at Ultra Music Festival in Miami. The Museum of Modern Art of New York also organized an exhibit titled Kraftwerk – Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 where the band performed their studio discography from Autobahn to Tour de France whichlater toured to the Tate Gallery as well as to K21 in Düsseldorf. Kraftwerk performed at the No Nukes 2012 Festival in Tokyo, Japan. Kraftwerk also performed at Way Out West in Gothenburg. A limited edition version of the Catalogue box set was released during the retrospective, restricted to 2000 sets. Kraftwerk also performed Catalogue in Düsseldorf and at London’s Tate Modern. Kraftwerk tickets were priced at £60 in London, but fans compared that to the $20 ticket price for tickets at New York’s MoMA in 2012, which caused consternation.

Kraftwerk also performed the eight albums of The Catalogue in Sydney, And In July, they performed at the 47th Montreux Jazz Festival and performed 3-D concerts at T in the Park – in Balado, Kinross, Scotland, Latitude Festival in Suffolk, and The Longitude Festival in Dublin. In  2013 the band played four concerts, at Evoluon (a former technology museum of Philips Electronics, now a conference center)in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The venue was selected by Ralf Hütter, for its retro-futuristic UFO-like architecture. Bespoke visuals of the building, with the saucer section descending from space, were displayed during the rendition of Spacelab. In 2014, Kraftwerk performed their four-night, 3D Catalogue tour at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, NYC’s United Palace Theatre, the Cirkus in Stockholm, Sweden and the music festival Summer Sonic in Tokyo, Japan. In 2014 the 3D Catalogue live set was played At the Fondation Louis-Vuitton in Paris, France and the iconic Paradiso concert hall in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Upon being told that the Tour de France would be starting that year in the nearby Dutch city of Utrecht Ralf Hütter, , decided that Kraftwerk would perform during the “Grand Depart”. Kraftwerk also played three concerts in TivoliVredenburg performing “Tour de France Soundtracks” and visited the start of the Tour in-between. In 2017, Kraftwerk released 3-D The Catalogue, a live album and video documenting performances of all eight albums in The Catalogue which  is available in multiple formats, the most extensive of which being a 4-disc Blu-ray set with a 236-page hardback book.

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