❚ THE ELECTRONIC BAND KRAFTWERK exploded into the hippy haze of 1970 and filled the air with an insistent machine-made beat that spoke of the future. Indisputably, the German four-piece formulated a revolutionary kind of non-guitar music that reshaped the thinking of musicians as diverse as Bowie, Afrika Bambaataa, Coldplay, New Order, Johnny Marr, Franz Ferdinand and Radiohead. New genres such as house, synth-pop and techno were heralded by the 1974 hit album Autobahn.
Today, however, the pioneering Ralf Hütter (a Beach Boys fan) and his usually reclusive pals slip out of their comfort zone to become guest editors on the October issue of Wallpaper magazine, which features a new portfolio of Kraftwerk imagery in 3D. Oops!
Of necessity in print, they have chosen the vintage blue-red 3D technology from the 50s to create ten graphics as double-page spreads. Yet however hard you try to flatten the glossy and flexible magazine, the deep gulley down the middle beams out its own distracting reflections! (The images might well improve if viewed on the iPad edition.) Successful, they are not: 70s minimalism always teetered tinglingly on the brink of being boring, and creatively Kraftwerk’s bland graphic renderings of autobahn, calculator, PC, pills, robots, cyclists and the band themselves say nothing new. They wouldn’t guarantee a pass degree at a British art school. Disappointingly, the 3D effects grab you in only two illustrations — one of breaking glass, another of a car’s dashboard radio — prompting the message to Ralf, especially at the age of 65, that, as graphic artists, his band may have seen better days.
There’s much more value in a brief evaluation by the leading British designer Peter Saville of how Kraftwerk opened his horizons to the European cultural canon. The advantages of the analogue era, he reasons convincingly, can be fully appreciated only now, from the perspective of the digital age.
➢ Electronic Sound Pictures — It could be that Kraftwerk’s specially developed multi-channel 3D video installation may offer a more immersive gallery experience. Fans will have to travel to Germany, to the Kunstbau at the Lenbachhaus, Munich, where the exhibition runs Oct 15–Nov 13. There’s also an accompanying book, Kraftwerk 3D, with 3D-glasses.
♫ First Kraftwerk concerts for two years will be held at the Alte Kongresshalle in Munich, October 12–13. Seats from £260 via Guardian Tickets.
♫ Kraftwerk’s Kling Klang Machine No 1 — 24-hour interactive music generator as an app for iPhone/iPad
SCHRAGER ANNOUNCES THE PEOPLE’S HOTEL
❏ Incidentally, the October issue of Wallpaper also interviews Ian Schrager, notorious partner behind Studio 54, the definitive New York nightclub of the 70s, who was jailed for income tax evasion. He later went on to invent the “boutique hotel” along with its “lobby socialising” and philosophy of “hotel as lifestyle” that has been ripped off by hoteliers across the globe.
At 65, with millions in the bank, he is about to launch his new Public hotel chain in Chicago. Business writer John Arlidge reports that “the master tastemaker senses the universe is turning on its axis again, just as it did when old-fashioned class divisions that ruled New York nightlife were swept away, enabling him to create Studio 54”. Schrager insists that there’s “a new simplicity” and “it’s structural”. He argues that many big hotel chains have failed to keep up with the consumer. The essential-services-only Public brand, he says, “will be an entirely new class of hotel that will be a big wake-up call to the industry”.