Early Kraftwerk line-ups from 1970 to 1974 fluctuated, as Hütter and Schneider worked with around a half-dozen other musicians during the preparations for and the recording of three albums and sporadic live appearances; most notably 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 gadgets. Hütter, who played synthesizer 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 jam music, played on a variety of traditional instruments including guitar, bass, drums, electric 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.
These shows were mainly in Germany, with occasional shows in France.Later in 1973, 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 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 highly significant in the early years of Kraftwerk and Plank also worked with many of the other leading German electronic acts of that time, 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 co-produced the first four Kraftwerk albums.
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