Kraftwerk, Tour de France

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 04.10.11 in Reviews

Tour De France (2009 Digital Remaster)

A cycling journey through Kraftwerk’s digitized Europe

When your biggest song on what was the biggest station in the world is nothing but beats, counting and sound effects, you probably think you can get away with anything. That was Kraftwerk on its 1981 Computer World track “Numbers,” which was championed by New York’s WBLS at the height of its trendsetting R&B powers and immediately became a breakdancing anthem along with its similarly minimal 1983 single “Tour de France,” the soundtrack for a key dance in the 1984 b-boy film Breakin’. So when the Dusseldorf quartet two decades later built a new album around that standalone ’83 track, writing substantial new melodies probably didn’t rank high on its artistic agenda: Several cuts are compositionally nothing more than accelerated, modernized or merely rerecorded versions on “Tour de France,” and most of the rest are melodically minimal variations on each other. But the sound of the band’s 2003 album — its only studio disc since 1986, and the first crafted on software synths — is distinctly and extraordinarily visceral; it feels like a cycling journey through Kraftwerk’s digitized Europe.