Kraftwerk - 3-D The Catalogue

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  • The film critic Philip French wrote in 1990 that "nothing dates the past like its impressions of the future." He was talking about Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange, but at that time he could have been describing Kraftwerk. For those of us who grew up in the '80s, unless we had particularly hip parents, Kraftwerk already felt like ancient history. Once acid house, rave and techno had arrived, they seemed downright primitive. Their funny outfits and rinky-dink sounds all came over like something from a Doctor Who episode in comparison to the white heat of technical innovation that was happening around us. Of course that was unfair. And as we grew into our musical tastes, working backwards through Underground Resistance, Drexciya and Juan Atkins, Kraftwerk's vitality became more obvious—not just their influence, but also the power and beauty of their creative project. As electronic music became more diverse and complex, the purity and elegance of their sound gained an added appeal in contrast. Their music and art felt more futuristic the further it receded into the past. 3-D The Catalogue contains recordings of the shows performed in major contemporary art galleries during the band's extended tour of 2012 to 2016. The mixing is pristine, the performances note perfect, the dynamics dramatic. And if you select the quadruple Blu-ray set (with accompanying deluxe art book, with concept work and detail from the shows' visuals) and have a decent home viewing setup, the package makes absolute sense. As a straight-up listening experience—whether you get eight CDs, eight LPs or the condensed "best of" version—the value of 3-D The Catalogue is a little more questionable. For sure, the sound is exquisite, and the "liveness" is audible, if mostly in filter-sweeps or the way sounds zip across the stereo field. There's a depth of bass, a sense of scale, a deftness with those moving sounds that certainly "takes you there" if you're going to have a deep-listening session, whether with hi-fi speakers or headphones. But how often, honestly, are you going to do that? For most listening situations, what you're getting is buffed and polished remakes of classic Kraftwerk. Quite often, the structures seem identical—you could send yourself mad flicking back and forth to the original versions working out the slight differences (and believe me, I have). On certain tracks—the majestic sound of the Trans-Europe Express material leaps out here—the lushness of the production is transformational, and they stand out as worthy additions to the Kraftwerk remix and remake canon. But too often, unless you're 100% immersed in the mix's spatial-dynamic brilliance, all that detail is irrelevant, and the originals can sound better. Put the new take on "Spacelab" side-by-side with the original, and the crisp sparseness of the latter pops out of the speakers more than the live version. In a sense, it's just like any box set. If you're a hyper-fan (and God knows Kraftwerk have plenty of those), you'll want it and will enjoy absorbing every minute. If you're not, you won't. But actually, the very nature of Kraftwerk makes it more complicated than that. The way they've always reassessed and reworked their legacy, most notably on 1991's The Mix album, makes it interesting to see which of their tracks stand up best to new sonic treatments. And that their place within the electronic music continuum only seems to become more solidified with each new generation makes new ways of hearing their tracks welcome. Sometimes impressions of the future don't date—they mature.
  • Tracklist
      Autobahn 01. Autobahn 02. Kometenmelodie 1 03. Kometenmelodie 2 04. Mitternacht 05. Morgenspaziergang Radio-Activity 01. Geiger Counter 02. Radioactivity 03. Radioland 04. Airwaves 05. Intermission 06. News 07. The Voice Of Energy 08. Antenna 09. Radio Stars 10. Uranium 11. Transistor 12. Ohm Sweet Ohm Trans-Europe Express 01. Trans-Europe Express 02. Metal On Metal 03. Abzug 04. Franz Schubert 05. Europe Endless 06. The Hall Of Mirrors 07. Showroom Dummies The Man-Machine 01. The Man Machine 02. Spacelab 03. The Model 04. Neon Lights 05. The Robots 06. Metropolis Computer World 01. Numbers 02. Computer World 03. It's More Fun To Compute 04. Home Computer 05. Computer Love 06. Pocket Calculator 07. Dentaku Techno Pop 01. Electric Cafe 02. The Telephone Call 03. House Phone 04. Sex Object 05. Boing Boom Tschak 06. Techno Pop 07. Music Non Stop The Mix 01. The Robots 02. Computer Love 03. Pocket Calculator 04. Dentaku 05. Autobahn 06. Geiger Counter 07. Radioactivity 08. Trans-Europe Express 09. Metal On Metal 10. Abzug 11. It's More Fun To Compute 12. Home Computer 13. Boing Boom Tschak 14. Techno Pop 15. Music Non Stop 16. Planet Of Visions Tour De France 01. Tour De France 02. Prologue 03. Etape 1 04. Chrono 05. Etape 2 06. Vitamin 07. Aero Dynamik 08. Elektrokardiogramm 09. La Forme 10. Régéneration Abridged 01. Autobahn 02. Geiger Counter 03. Radio-Activity 04. Trans-Europe Express 05. Metal On Metal 06. Abzug 07. The Man Machine 08. Numbers 09. Computer World 10. Boing Boom Tschak 11. Techno Pop 12. Music Non Stop 13. The Robots 14. Tour De France 15. Prologue 16. Etape 1 17. Chrono 18. Etape 2