An electro kid who hasn’t listened to Kraftwerk is like a guitarist unfamiliar with Hendrix. Or a porn star who doesn’t know who John Holmes is. Point is, you’ve gotta know your roots.
And these quirky German synth dudes—like a mix of Devo and the band in Revenge of the Nerds—were true pioneers, using primitive electronic gear to craft bleeps and blips, funky beats, and vocal snippets into songs that have influenced the likes of Jay-Z, Duran Duran, Coldplay, and Radiohead. It was their unique sound that helped Afrika Bambaataa launch American hip-hop when he famously sampled Kraftwerk’s classic “Trans Europe Express” for “Planet Rock.” The remastered version is a reminder of the original song’s undeniable allure. And much like Hendrix created some of rock’s greatest riffs, the main keyboard line in “Trans Europe Express” stands today as one of the best in the history of electronic music. From “The Man Machine” to 1981’s “Computer World” to the video game bounce of “Techno Pop” and “The Robots,” this comp should be a staple in any self-respecting minimalist or breaks DJ’s record bag. But more than that, these remasters serve as an analog and digital reminder that the group was light years ahead of its time. Dave Wedge File under: Brian Eno, New Order, Tangerine Dream
Some may view The Penelopes’ chill room cover of The Beastie Boys’ rap-rock classic “Sabotage” as sacrilege. But the French dance-rock duo says their downtempo, atmospheric overhaul embodies their fearless approach to track making. And if you don’t buy that, just blame it on the weed.
“We like to be surprised and we like to surprise people too,” says Axel Basquiat from his home in southern France. “And we wanted to make something more stoney. We smoke a lot of joints. We wanted to do something very slow, very strange for us. We wanted a new interpretation of it.”
Basquiat and his electro-pop partner, Vincent T, are the latest to emerge from Paris’ digital renaissance—an inspiring movement that’s given the electronic music world Justice, Air, Daft Punk, and Sébastien Tellier, among others. The duo’s U.S. debut, Priceless Concrete Echoes, produced by Black Strobe’s Arnaud Rebotini, is a melodic mix of New Orderish dance rock, disco, pop, shoegaze and the sexy synth-wave purveyed by their fellow Francophiles.
“When we have an idea, we follow the idea to the end. It’s also the sophistication of the music. It’s not rock. French music is very sophisticated. We try to keep that in our minds to be demanding and to be strange and unique.”
I'm a journalist who's covered news, mayhem, hacks, gender-bending killers, rock stars and tragedy, among other things, for the Boston Herald since 1999. I also write for DigBoston.com, SocietePerrier.com, Esquire.com and Lambgoat.com and have been a contributor to Revolver and Boston magazine. My first book, called "Boston Strong" (with co-author Casey Sherman), will tell the incredible stories of heroism and survival at the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. It will be out in fall 2014.