Kraftwerk (German for "power plant") is a German avant-garde electro-pop group from Düsseldorf who were largely responsible for much of the subsequent uptake of, and interest in, electronic music. The techniques that they introduced and the equipment that they developed are now commonplace in modern music.
Originally called "Organisation", but later switching to "Kraftwerk", the principal members are Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter. Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos have also collaborated in Kraftwerk, as have Emil Schult, and Kling Klang personnel such as Fritz Hilpert and Henning Schmitz.
Kraftwerk's lyrics often deal with technology—travelling by car on the Autobahn, travelling by train, using home computers and the like. The lyrics are usually very minimal, but reveal both an innocent celebration of, and a knowing caution about the modern world.
After several early experimental albums their breakthrough came in 1974 (1974 in music) with the Autobahn album and the 22-minute title track (see see Wikipedia:Sound help if it doesn't work), which was a worldwide hit and demonstrated their increasing reliance on synthesizers and electronics. Many of the voices in Kraftwerk songs are processed through a Vocoder.
Their music has been recorded by the classical ensemble the Balanescu Quartet. Five songs were arranged for strings for their album Possessed. Kraftwerk have also been extensively sampled by some influential musicians and bands including Afrika Bambaataa, Beck, The Orb, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu/KLF, Madonna, Depeche Mode, De La Soul, R.E.M, Meat Beat Manifesto, Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, the Bloodhound Gang and many more. In 2000, Senor Coconut released an album of Kraftwerk covers called El Baile Aleman. The tracks were cleverly reworked in a Latin American music style.
Kraftwerk also experimented with the use of computer graphics as a backdrop for their shows. Their stage act involves the members standing behind minimalistic desks, controlling the various sequencers that drive the show. At times, manniquens made to look like the band members replace or accompany the live musicians. They do however state that a reasonable fraction of the instrumentation is actually played live, and that they do improvise somewhat from show to show.
After years of nearly total obscurity, Kraftwerk began to tour again in the late 1990s, and stated that they were working on new material - though speculation about release dates fell through several times. An announcement by their record company of a July 22, 2003 release also fell through, with the perfectionists delaying again for several weeks. A single from the album, "Tour de France 2003" (a totally new track unrelated to their earlier single "Tour de France"), has received radio airplay.
See also: Krautrock