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Off The Record

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Album Review

When the Bureau B label contacted Karl Bartos and showed interest in releasing any archival material he might have laying around the lab, the former Kraftwerk member (that is, "classic lineup" member, joining for the Autobahn tour and leaving somewhere between Electric Cafe and The Mix) wasn't interested. After all, he's a never-look-back futurist, but as the liner notes to Off the Record explain, he's an open-minded futurist as well and allowed this initially rejected idea to morph into something new. Kicking off with "Atomium" — a grand bit of robot techno and possible sequel to Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity" — Off the Record uses Bartos' archival tapes, zip drives, or computer files from 1975 to 1993 as its foundation, then mashes these off-hours audio sketches (recorded "off the record" from his usual band) with new ideas, overdubs, and vocoder vocals. Viennese-flavored highlight "International Velvet" is built from a 1981 idea captured during a Kraftwerk soundcheck, while the great "Rhythmus" comes from the audio sketchbook where "Numbers" and "Trans-Europe Express" were first doodled, so expect a hypnotic, percussive track that is perfect for breakdancing and planet rocking. Picking out Bartos' contribution to Kraftwerk becomes a different game when the hard-slamming "Hausmusik" suggests he was the driving force behind all the heavy "Boing Boom Tschak" found on Computer World or Electric Cafe, but it's not all back to the future as the dreamy, non-vocodered "Without a Trace of Emotion" is the same strain of synth pop Bartos' usual solo records explore. There are some big, garish, and loose moments here that would never be mistaken as coming from the old crew of robots, so fanatics seeking that Ralf and Florian style of restraint will certainly be thrown. Others will find their respect for Bartos has grown after a listen, and once the revelations settle, Off the Record feels like an enjoyable journey back to "Ohm Sweet Ohm."

Customer Reviews

Karl Bartos has continued to evolve!!

Someone else gave this a bad review and stated they knew why Kraftwerk dumped him. Apparently, that person knew nothing. Karl and Wolfgang left because Ralf and Florian wouldn't get off their lazy butts and make any new music. And gave every excuse in the book not to. Karl went on to make many great records, and returned to guitar and vocals. He evolved beyond the "machine". As for missing the 80's revival, Obviously, you missed both of the Elektrik Music albums as well as his last solo CD. Listen and learn!

it's OK

not at the level of Kraftwerk, but at least he's still making music


Karl, You make great melodies which is missing in electronic music today. But the vox on every song takes away from what you are trying to do. Strip it down a little more and with more boing boom tschack and throbbing bass. Your headed in the right direction. Don't stop!


Born: Berchtesgaden, Germany

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As Kraftwerk grew to be perfectionists, their release schedule became quite slow, a byproduct that frustrated member Karl Bartos enough to leave the group and launch a solo career. Born in Berchtesgaden, Germany, Bartos studied at the Rhineland State Conservatory of Music, Robert Schumann Institute, in Düsseldorf, earning an advanced performer's degree in percussion. He joined Kraftwerk as an electronic percussionist in 1975, first touring with the group in support of the album Autobahn. He became...
Full Bio
Off The Record, Karl Bartos
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