Release Date: Mar 19, 2013
Record label: Bureau B
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance, Electro, Neo-Electro
Karl Bartos left Kraftwerk in 1990, frustrated by the band’s legendarily glacial work rate. Creative and ebullient, he established himself as an independent producer and writer, as well as co-founding an MA course at the Berlin University Of The Arts. And now, eight years after his name graced a release (2005’s Camera Obscura/Super 8 single), here’s Off The Record, 12 new songs inspired by a comprehensive delve through Bartos’ sound archive, retrieving fragments of melody and utilising them as springboards for full-blown compositions.
Karl Bartos was a member of Kraftwerk from 1975 to 1990, during the creation of such influential albums as Radio-Activity, The Man-Machine and Computer World. Ever-striving for more during this period, Bartos worked on a secret acoustic diary free from the confines of the increasingly perfectionist Kraftwerk collective. In his spare time, he jotted down bits and pieces for personal projects that never ended up being fully realized.
When the Bureau B label contacted Karl Bartos and showed interest in releasing any archival material he might have laying around the lab, the former Kraftwerk member (that is, "classic lineup" member, joining for the Autobahn tour and leaving somewhere between Electric Cafe and The Mix) wasn't interested. After all, he's a never-look-back futurist, but as the liner notes to Off the Record explain, he's an open-minded futurist as well and allowed this initially rejected idea to morph into something new. Kicking off with "Atomium" -- a grand bit of robot techno and possible sequel to Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity" -- Off the Record uses Bartos' archival tapes, zip drives, or computer files from 1975 to 1993 as its foundation, then mashes these off-hours audio sketches (recorded "off the record" from his usual band) with new ideas, overdubs, and vocoder vocals.
Karl BartosOff The Record[Bureau B; 2013]By Joshua Pickard; April 10, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThere’s a pretty big shadow hanging over the latest release from electronic composer and former Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos. And after reading that first sentence, you should know exactly where that shadow comes from. Kraftwerk’s immeasurable contributions to music have all but guaranteed that any former member’s musical output will likely—and probably always unfairly—be compared to the vast and creatively dense discography of their former band, especially when they continue to mine the same sonic territory.
Electronic musician Karl Bartos was a pivotal part of German rock band Kraftwerk, known for employing Krautrock, electronic, avant-garde, and experimental-rock styles. Bartos would leave the band in 1990, pursuing independent music production, songwriting, serving as a visiting professor (Berlin University of the Arts), and as a solo artist. A notable recent slice of Bartos’ resume is his writing credit on Coldplay’s single “Talk” from 2005 multi-platinum effort X&Y.
When Kraftwerk effectively turned themselves into a museum piece, via sporadic full-album shows that began at MoMA in New York in 2012, it felt like Ralf Hütter might be eyeing up a way to call time on the legendary synthpop outfit. Where to go from here? There is one potential last hurrah that could get longstanding fans as excited as they were for the museum shows, albeit one that seems unlikely: a reformation of the "classic" Kraftwerk lineup, featuring Hütter, Florian Schneider, Wolfgang Flür, and Karl Bartos. The latter joined the band in the mid 1970s and became much more than a sideman to Hütter and Schneider-- he has songwriting credits on some of the band’s most famous material, including "The Model", "Tour de France", and "Computer Love".
Former Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos’s latest solo album is a release of moderate interest as a series of compositions, but will certainly please Kraftwerk nerds, providing a set of insights behind the scenes of the Teutonic titans' heyday. Commissioned by Bureau B, with the initial request being for original Kraftwerk-era demo tapes, Bartos has trawled his archive and re-imagined the songs collected here, often trimming them down significantly. There’s plenty here that highlights Bartos’s ability and his integrity to many of Kraftwerk’s significant releases (The Man-Machine, Computer World), but Off the Record is of more interest as a historical document than for the music itself – something Bartos would probably admit.
Off The Record is based on a "secret acoustic diary" compiled by Bartos during his Kraftwerk days. The composer/producer extraordinaire has rifled through his "musical jottings" to create these new, remarkably fresh-sounding compositions. Dramatic opener 'Atomium' features pulsating bass, stabbing synths and narration from a heavily cybernated tour guide.
A mixed manifestation of electronic pop from the former Kraftwerk-er. Martin Longley 2013 Karl Bartos, a member of Kraftwerk between 1975 and 1990, has long kept a “secret acoustic diary”. And it’s to these various notes he turned when the Bureau B label asked him to assemble this collection of previously unissued early recordings. Initially sceptical, Bartos gradually warmed to the concept.