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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Icebreaker: Kraftwerk Uncovered – review

Icebreaker: Kraftwerk Uncovered – review

Delivered... John Lewis | Scene | Sun 26 Jan 2014 5:59 pm

Science Museum, London
This British chamber ensemble reinvent early Kraftwerk, discovering something messy, minimalist and more interesting

The lucky few who nabbed tickets to see Kraftwerk at Tate Modern last year will have witnessed a recognisable brand. They are now the Teutonic Fab Four, besuited cyborgs standing motionless behind keyboards, presiding over a series of body-popping metronomic pulses. This tribute concert, however, reminds us that Kraftwerk started out as a very different entity. Their first few albums, recorded with Conny Plank, were the work of long-haired prog rockers. They played flutes and violins and skronky electric guitars. They indulged in lengthy, Grateful Dead-style jam sessions. They improvised. They even played bum notes.

It is the spirit of this early, hairy Kraftwerk that British chamber ensemble Icebreaker revisited in the Science Museum's IMAX theatre. There was little improvisation as such – these are meticulous arrangements for a 12-piece orchestra, synchronised with bleakly arty, black-and-white films – but they were quite radical reinventions. The discordant, ambient textures of Megaherz, from Kraftwerk's 1970 debut album, were turned into a chirruping Nymanesque symphony. Two excerpts from 1974's Autobahn were distended into hypnotic slices of Philip Glass-style minimalism, all burbling organs and parping saxes, while Hall of Mirrors (from 1977's Trans Europe Express) was put through the dub chamber. Elsewhere Icebreaker used their unorthodox lineup to replicate sounds in a manner you wouldn't associate with krautrock – sinister drones were played on accordions, synth riffs on pan-pipes, while pulsating basslines were bashed on an enormous bass drum.

Icebreaker weren't the only act paying tribute to Düsseldorf's finest: in another part of the museum, the Balanescu Quartet performed elegant readings of more orthodox Kraftwerk faves, such as The Model and Pocket Calculator. Their versions beautifully captured the surface textures of the music. But it was Icebreaker's reinterpretations that seemed to delve deep into Kraftwerk's innards, discovering something messy and frightening but more interesting.

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