CBS / Millenium
1979 / 2005
rankfurt-based kraut-rock little-knowns Roboterwerke, a band formed around Supersempfft member Dieter Kolb, are credited for being among the first to harness electronics as primary instrumentation. Upon inventing one of the first self-made electronic drum kits, they were paid a visit by Herbie Hancock, who in turn went for a peep at their homespun gadgetry and commenced to bestow his approval and dangle from their jocks. Afrika Bambaataa followed this by reworking some of their music into his own. As for more recent devotees, German techno guru Sven Väth has offered his own fair amount of praise to the Roboterwerke. But otherwise, who has heard of these guys? I wouldn’t suspect many have. But now, you have. And believe me, that’s a good thing.
The unit’s self-titled 1979 finale finds them occupying a specific niche in the Kraut rock paradigm. What we have is quirktacular synth-pop/electro-disco with an uncommonly high production value for that time period. They pick up where Kraftwerk left off and apply those blueprints to sprouting forms of pop and dance music (e.g., synth-pop/electro-disco). Expect to hear a wealth of crisp percussion, eccentric pads, spacey washes, and other shrewd studio noodlings.
In some tracks, Roboterwerke’s calypso and soca music inspirations shine through. Both “Rockbots” and “Shine on Me” carry a heavy tropical steel-drum influence. “Out of Time” sounds like The Bee Gees being smooched by a mid-eighties anime soundtrack, while the 4/4 throb of “High on Tech” would fit peachily in a Tommie Sunshine DJ set. The Pearls Before Swine-resembling fantasy folk ballad “Fantasia” is the closest Roboterwerke comes to a digression from the squishy disco bounce of the rest of the record. Roboterwerke’s vocal content is nothing too special, but it’s certainly appropriate and in no real way takes away from the enjoyableness of the songs.
The production is just odd and loopy enough to make Roboterwerke a highly imaginative, stirring album, conjuring up plenty of exercises in late seventies acid-soaked imagery (with loony comic art in the liners to boot). The songs are good enough to not be negatively consequenced by the trademark electro blips, hums, and tweets of that era. On an album of less tuneful prowess, they would no doubt become excessive. The songwriting is certainly pop savvier than most anything Kraftwerk ever peddled. What's more, Roboterwerke is just as successfully punctuated in the technology department as the work of any of the Kraut rock champions during that same stretch of time.
Reviewed by: Will Simmons
Reviewed on: 2005-06-02