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trans fusion

Trans-Europe Express (album)

Trans-Europe Express is a 1977 album by German band Kraftwerk. Trans-Europe Express was simultaneous in an English version and a German version released as Trans-Europa Express.

Music

Kraftwerk's sound developed further on this release. Their music is distilled into a song format more than ever, with strong classical melodies. Much use was made of custom-built sequencing equipment, which helped Kraftwerk achieve the precise, minimalist pop sound distinctive of the album. The equipment in question, the Synthanorma-Sequenzer, had previously been used in its standard form by other synthesizer musicians, such as Klaus Schulze (on his 1975 album Timewind) and Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream. Kraftwerk's, however, was a special version created specifically for them by Matten & Wiechers in conjunction with Florian Schneider.

This enhanced "Kraftwerk-sequenzer" allowed precise control of voltages over a range of 10 octaves, eliminating the need for the time-consuming tuning of pitches; it also enabled the exact reproduction of complex or lengthy pre-determined patterns – such as the keyboard arpeggios in "Europe Endless" and "Franz Schubert" or the driving train-like rhythm of "Trans Europe Express" – at precisely measured clock speeds, combined with the ability to easily and quickly modify them. The instrument greatly improved Kraftwerk's recreation of their music in performance, whereas previously everything would have had to be played by hand.

Combined with further developments in their electronic percussion, the soundscape is unique compared to those of their contemporaries. The string sounds of the Vako Orchestron were also used liberally, and some impressive vocal vocoding is on display. The album's opening track, "Europe Endless", is a long romantic-nostalgic paean on European culture. The idea for the album was apparently born during a lunch meeting with journalist Paul Alessandrini at the restaurant Le Train Bleu, an opulent classically-styled space situated above Paris' Gare de Lyon railway station, the terminus for trains arriving from central Europe. Alessandrini was later acknowledged on the album's inner sleeve. The title track in particular was an impressive fusion of electronic percussion rhythms and very strong melody, tied together with a lyrical concept. The idea behind this track harks back to 1974's Autobahn, which recreated a journey on the German motorway network: "Trans-Europe Express" was intended to evoke a trip on one of the TEE rail services that were still operating at the time of its writing. The title song reached #96 in Canada.

Critical reception

This milestone Kraftwerk album has appeared on numerous reputable 'best ever' pop/rock lists, including:

  1. 1 in Slant Magazine's 25 Greatest Electronic Albums of the 20th Century

    #253 in industry magazine Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" (2002)
    #36 in music magazine NME's "100 Greatest Albums of All Time" (2003)
    #71 in Channel 4's (UK) "The 100 Greatest Albums" (2004)
    #56 in TV network VH1's "100 Greatest Albums (of Rock & Roll) of All Time" (2001)
    #6 in Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of The 1970s.

Track listing

English release

Side one

  1. "Europe Endless" (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider) – 9:35
  2. "The Hall of Mirrors" (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Emil Schult) – 7:50
  3. "Showroom Dummies" (Ralf Hütter) – 6:10

Side two

  1. "Trans-Europe Express" (Ralf Hütter, Emil Schult) – 6:40
  2. "Metal on Metal" (Ralf Hütter) – 6:52
  3. "Franz Schubert" (Ralf Hütter) – 4:25
  4. "Endless Endless" (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider) – 0:55

German release

Side one

  1. "Europa Endlos" – 9:41
  2. "Spiegelsaal" – 7:56
  3. "Schaufensterpuppen" – 6:17

Side two

  1. "Trans-Europa Express" – 6:36
  2. "Metall auf Metall" – 1:46
  3. "Abzug" – 5:18
  4. "Franz Schubert" – 4:25
  5. "Endlos Endlos" – 0:45

French release

Side one

  1. "Europe Endless" – 9:35
  2. "Hall of Mirrors" – 7:50
  3. "Les Mannequins" – 6:10

Side two

  1. "Trans-Europe Express" – 6:40
  2. "Metal on Metal" – 6:52
  3. "Franz Schubert" – 4:25
  4. "Endless Endless" – 0:45

: The track "Trans-Europe Express" segues seamlessly into "Metal on Metal", which begins with a percussive section then replays the theme of "Trans-Europe Express", making the whole a 13:32 piece. In the German edition, "Metal on Metal" was denoted as two tracks, "Abzug" being the title of the "Trans-Europa Express" theme reprise.

: The only track differentiating the French and English releases is Showroom Dummies, which is performed in French as "Les Mannequins".

Album cover

The colour English and monochrome German/French versions of the cover are deliberately evocative of the pre-war era, with the use of heavily retouched studio portraits in the style of film-star publicity photos; the inner sleeve of the original LP featured a photo of the group posed in a mocked-up terrace cafe scene, with a background of a mid-European landscape of mountains and lake painted by Emil Schult.

The English language album was issued in a full colour cover, whereas the German album was issued in a monochrome cover with front and back cover images swapped around. The French release had the German style cover design, but with English typography. The French album has never been reissued on CD.

Personnel

Equipment

Release details

The original releases of each format are shown below. These may differ from currently available versions.
Country Date Label Format Catalog Lyrics
Germany March 1977 EMI-Electrola Vinyl 1C 064-82 306 German With poster
March 1977 EMI-Electrola Cassette 1C 264-82 306 German
February 1986 EMI-Electrola CD CDP 564 7 46133 2 German
France March 1977 Capitol Records Vinyl 2C 068-82.306 English/French
March 1977 Capitol Records Cassette 2C 066-82.306 English/French
1989 EMI CD CDP 7 46473 2 English
United Kingdom April 1977 Capitol Records Vinyl E-ST 11603 English
April 1977 Capitol Records Cassette TC E-ST 11603 English
June 1987 EMI CD CDP 7 46473 2 English
United States 1977 Capitol Records Vinyl SW-11603 English
1977 Capitol Records Cassette SU 16301 English
1977 Capitol Records 8-track 8XW 11603 English
Capitol Records CD CDP 46473-2 English

Other utilization

  • The melody of the song, Trans-Europe Express, and the percussion from Numbers, taken from the Computer World album, were used as the basis for the song Planet Rock, recorded and released by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force in 1982. Kraftwerk were originally uncredited as authors for the song, which led to a successful lawsuit brought on by the group against Bambaataa and Tommy Boy Records. It is claimed by many that Planet Rock elevated hip hop music to the next level, and was the genesis of electro music.
  • The opening melody of Trans-Europe Express also forms the basis of the song, Zugaga by Death in Vegas, taken from their album, Satan's Circus.

References

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