CULTURE

Electro-pop innovator still linked to circuit

Evolution in music, as in all forms of art, is a gradual process of adding to or moving away from precedent, which may even involve a period of lengthy stagnation that erupts in eventual frustration and revolt, leading to new ways – though in varying degree. Among modern-day musical innovators, the German electronic music group Kraftwerk’s contribution cannot be overstated. The group, which emerged in the early 1970s, helped shape an entire scene of electronic pop music that followed and eventually branched out into various scenes, among them electro, electro-pop, house, techno, hip-hop and ambient. With Kraftwerk’s mission accomplished, one of the act’s key members, Karl Bartos, went his own way in the late 1980s, but has remained active. He recently released a solo album which prompted a current tour that includes a date in Athens this Friday. Since his split from Kraftwerk’s ranks, Bartos has worked steadily with various collaborators, including Electronic, one of the first supergroups from post-punk UK formed by New Order’s Bernard Sumner and Smiths guitarist and songwriter Johnny Marr. Bartos also formed his own group, Elektric Music, in the early 1990s, an outfit that produced similar-veined music to Kraftswerk’s synth-pop throughout the decade. Kraftswerk were formed by the core duo of Florian Schneider and Ralf Hotter in the early 1970s before Bartos joined the German electronic group soon after. His first contributions emerged through 1975’s «Radio-Activity» album and lasted right through to 1986’s «Electric Cafe» project. Bartos departed soon after, which, more or less, ended the pioneering act’s output. Despite his lifelong devotion to electronic sound and equipment, Bartos received classical training before linking up to the gadgets and circuits that helped produce Kraftwerk’s radically different sound. Bartos was intrigued by the use of electronics in the work of experimental «classical» composers who had preceded him, such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Ianis Xenakis and John Cage, before diverging into new directions. As a working tool, technology has been inextricably linked with Bartos’s artistic output. Yet despite the artist’s intimate and unfailing connection with technology as a medium for his work’s expression, the German artist does maintain an objective perspective, questioning man’s relationship with technology. «The issue is how electronic communication can alter the contents of our civilization. Because if you want to learn about any civilization, you must research the media. That’s where all the information is stored,» Bartos noted in a recent interview. «The media of our era are offering their definition of reality, their explanation of how we should view the world… Today, television is the dominant medium. Entertainment is what functions best on television. All other subjects – politics, religion, war, science, news – is turned into entertainment. This leads to a surrealistic distortion of reality which we perceive as being the only reality,» he added. It was issues such as these that provided the fuel for the material of Bartos’s latest album, appropriately titled «Communication.» His current performances offer career-spanning sets stretching back to his days with Kraftwerk. Friday, Rodon Club, Athens (24 Marni, tel 210.524.7427).