Electric Café  

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"I don't wanna be your sex object
I've had enough
And that's a fact." --"Sex Object" (1982) by Kraftwerk

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Electric Café is a music album by the group Kraftwerk. It is mildly infamous for taking the band almost half a decade to produce; work is said to have begun on the album as early as 1982 (with the working titles of Technicolor and then Techno Pop), but the project was delayed due to band member Ralf Hütter suffering a near-fatal cycling accident, and then due to concerns within the band that the production quality of the album was not sufficiently cutting-edge, necessitating much re-work. The album, mastered by Bob Ludwig, finally saw release in 1986.

The album was initially released in English, German and Spanish language versions. It was the first Kraftwerk LP to be created using predominantly digital musical instruments, although the finished product was still recorded onto analog master tapes. The song named "Der Telefonanruf" ("The Telephone Call") was the first and only Kraftwerk song to feature Karl Bartos on lead vocals.

Audiences generally appeared to find the music somewhat more sterile and less engaging than that of its conceptually more cohesive predecessor, Computer World. Compared to the band's four preceding albums, some critics have pointed to the lack of a strong and sufficiently intriguing theme to tie the Electric Café material together. Furthermore the near half-decade hiatus in the band's record releases and performance activity lost them crucial momentum in their career. Whatever the possible influence of these factors, Electric Café did not meet with any great commercial success.

Two singles were released from the album, "Musique Non-Stop" and "The Telephone Call". Both were accompanied by promotional videos. "Musique Non-Stop" showcased a computer animated representation of the band. The animation, which was complex for its time, was created by Rebecca Allen, using state-of-the-art facial animation software developed by the Institute of Technology in New York. Though both singles went #1 on Billboard dance chart in 1987, neither of the singles performed well in the general pop charts. However, "Musique Non-Stop" has been the closing piece of Kraftwerk's concerts ever since.

In the proposed remastered album collection The Catalogue, the Electric Café album has been renamed Techno Pop.

Contents

The ‘lost’ Techno Pop album

Much speculation has taken place over the years as to whether a ‘lost’ Kraftwerk album (i.e. unreleased songs/recordings) exists from the four year period between 1982 and 1986. Kraftwerk are notoriously secretive about their activities, but a fairly reliable and consistent picture can be gleaned from interviews given by the various band members.

In 1982, Kraftwerk had begun work on a follow-up album to their successful and influential Computer World. This new album initially had the working title Technicolor, but this name had to be abandoned as that title was a trademark. The proposed title was changed to Techno Pop. Bootleg recordings of the songs Techno Pop and Sex Object claiming to be demos from these early sessions have been circulated over the years, with a noticeably different production sound to the final album. The authenticity of these demos has not been verified.

Recordings were progressing, and one song from these sessions, "Tour de France" was released as a single in summer 1983, achieving moderate commercial success. However, shortly after this, Ralf Hütter suffered a serious cycling accident, leaving him in a coma, and unable to work with the band for at least six months.

EMI Records had announced a summer release date for the Techno Pop album; promotional advertisements were released and official catalog numbers were assigned to the project. However, the band were unable to complete the project in time. Instead, Autobahn was re-issued in 1985 in a "digitally remixed" edition to mark the album's transition to Compact Disc. By this time, Hütter & Schneider had regained the rights to the recording, after their original contract with Philips had expired.

When work did recommence on the sessions, the band were reportedly concerned that the album's production was not of a sufficiently ground-breaking quality to match their reputation as sonic innovators. The final mix of the album was completely redone from scratch at least once, Hütter eventually travelling to New York with the master tapes to work on them with producer François Kevorkian. The recordings did not see release until 1986, by which time the title had changed again, to Electric Café. The band had decided not to include the song "Tour de France", but instead to leave it as a stand-alone single: it had already been reissued in 1984, when Kevorkian had auditioned his production skills with a largely instrumental remix of the song.

At various times, Hütter, Bartos, and Flür have each stated in interviews that there are no unreleased songs from this period, and that all of the original Technicolor /Techno Pop material was eventually reworked into what can be heard on the finished Electric Café album.

Track listing

German release

  1. "Boing Boom Tschak" – 2:57
  2. "Techno Pop" – 7:42
  3. "Musique Non-Stop" – 5:45
  4. "Der Telefon-Anruf" – 8:03
  5. "Sex Objekt" – 6:51
  6. "Electric Café" – 4:20

English & Spanish releases

  1. "Boing Boom Tschak" – 2:57
  2. "Techno Pop" – 7:42
  3. "Musique Non-Stop" – 5:45
  4. "The Telephone Call" – 8:03
  5. "Sex Object" – 6:51
  6. "Electric Café" – 4:20

Note: In Spain the album was released in two versions. One was the regular English/International edition, and the other a local Edicion Española version, appearing early in 1987, with the verse lyrics to both "Techno Pop" and "Sex Object" (often mis-titled "Objeto Sexual" by discographers) sung in Spanish. The Spanish-only vinyl album was withdrawn soon afterwards due to a manufacturing error and has never been reissued on CD. Both versions were also available as a cassette.

Trivia

  • The song, "Sex Object" is absent from the South Korean pressings of the album.
  • In the early 1990s, a completely different version of "Musique Non-Stop" – slower and more melodic – was used extensively as a jingle on the MTV channel.
  • The slow rate of the album's progress, combined with rapid changes in software animation, meant that Rebecca Allen had to archive the animation program developed at the Institute of Technology in 1983–4 until Hütter and Schneider were ready, in 1986, to travel to New York to edit the images to the final version of "Musique Non-Stop".
  • A few bars of melody from "Musique Non-Stop" can be heard as a few bars of bass melody in "Techno Pop."
  • The album's title track "Electric Café" gained some notoriety in the U.S. when it was used (slightly remixed and sped up) as the theme song for "Sprockets," the German television spoof by Mike Myers on Saturday Night Live.





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