The “Lost album” as it was sadly branded after its release back in 2003. When ex-Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos left the band, mainly due to his frustrations of being in a band that never released any new material, he engaged in many different projects, but never made any major splashes with his appearances. However, the album Communication was aimed to change all that – unfortunately the release of Communication co-insided with the release of Kraftwerk’s Tour de France soundtrack album and you don’t need to be Einstein to understand the devastating effect this had on the release of Bartos’ album.
So, “Communication” was the first true solo album by ex-Kraftwerker Karl Bartos and was originally published in 2003, 13 years after having left Kraftwerk. The album has now been completely remastered and includes “Camera Obscura” as a bonus track.
To coincide with the album release, Bartos has launched the video for “I’m the Message (Matthew Herbert’s Doctor Rockit Mix)”
Bartos was co-author of many electronic hits as The Model, The Robots, Numbers and Pocket Calculator – and Bartos was also the melody-maker of significant Kraftwerk albums such as The Man-Machine (1978) and Computerworld (1981). Prior to releasing Communication Bartos was a busy man. Under the moniker Electric Music, he released the albums Esperanto (1993) and Electric Music (1998) and with Bernard Sumner (New Order) and Johnny Marr (The Smiths), he composed the second album by Electronic (1996) and he also wrote songs for, and with, Andy McCluskey (OMD)… “It is not the business of music to be fashionable. The meaning of music is to bring people together.” (Karl Bartos, 2016)
Here at Stereoklang we actually had the great opportunity to meet with Karl in person for a brief interview a couple of years ago where we among many things discussed the role of being a director in the music creating process and his signature use of robot voices.
Being a director and the use of computers
Composing is being like a director of drama – there are roles and dialogue. Making electronic music is like making and acoustic film. For Karl melody and harmony are key ingredients. And while composing the sound is and integral part of the composition. Working with synthesizers for more than thirty years Karl has built up a pallet of sounds in his head which he uses as basis while composing. Whilst there are infinite sound possibilities using electronic instruments – “there are so many sounds, I can’t listen to all of them”, only adding new sounds occasionally. Regarding electronic instruments Karl hasn’t sold any of the his synthesizers and still prefers the old analogs. But just like computers – they are only tools. Like a craftsman that needs different screwdrivers but then he doesn’t love them – “computers are just eating my time”. Many musicians today turn to analog gear as they miss the tactile experience while creating but for Karl the important composing process is done in his head – not turning knobs or clicking on computers. That said the computers are used heavily during production of audio and video, sampling sounds.
Regarding computers, Computer World, the eights studio album to come out of the Kling Klang studio, in these Twitter days we can assume that all these sound bytes like “It’s more fun to compute” would make efficient and highly acclaimed Twitter posts today :-). However, what is more interesting to know is that at the time of the making of the Computer World album Karl and the others had never actually owned or used a computer themselves. “During the making of Computer World we had a closer look at those incredibly smart machines at the IBM affiliate in Düsseldorf”. Remember that the PC was just launched and home computers was if not science fiction very exotic at the time.
The robot voices are a trademark of Bartos music and appears on all his albums where he uses both vocoders and synthetic made voices. They are used for the dramaturgic effect – as “the voice of technology it self, or like the voice God”. The robot voices are then not him self singing and can be used just like the narrator in a film. The voice technology has advanced tremenously the last years with products like Antares Auto Tune, Melodyne, Vocaloid etc and they are used in numerous pop hits, but few has put them as permanent tool on their artistic palette.
With this re-release, “Communication” finally gets the deserved attention it lacked when it was originally released in 2003.
“Communication” was recorded between August 2002 and January 2003, together with engineer Mathias Black in his Hamburg studio. The vinyl+CD set is available now for ordering.