Kraftwerk-aktivität in the '90s
1991 saw a great deal of Kraftwerk activity, with the release of 'The Mix', an album of re-recorded Kraftwerk classics, in June. Preceded by a single of 'The Robots', featuring various new mixes, this was Kraftwerk's first new LP release since 1986's 'Electric Cafe'.
To promote the LP, the band embark on a UK tour in July. This provides an opportunity to view Kraftwerk in the flesh; the publicity material for 'The Mix' unveiled the bands new developments on their earlier mannequins - now with robotic arms, the bands 'robots' perform their own 'robotic ballet' in the promo video for 'The Robots' and the live performance of the song.
The LPs profile is further heightened with interviews with the music press and various short features in television shows on the continent, some featuring brief footage from the concerts but no actual interview footage of the increasingly media-shy Ralf Hütter, his robotic doppelganger taking his place with Hütter's disembodied voice in accompaniment!!
What is kept remarkably quiet in the media coverage is that the long established Kraftwerk line-up of Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos has changed; the departure of both Bartos and Flür is not mentioned by Kraftwerk in press interviews and it is a press announcement from the departed members themselves about the formation of a new band, Elektric Music, that reveals all. For the UK tour the Kraftwerk line-up is the ever present Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider plus Fritz Hilpert and Fernando Abrantes. Hilpert's robotic image is alongside Hütter and Schneider on 'The Mix' sleeve; photo's in the press also reveal a robotic Fernando Abrantes, though he stayed with Kraftwerk only for the duration of the UK tour.
The single of 'The Robots' was released before 'The Mix' in the UK (CD, 7", 12" and Cassette single formats commercially, 12" one-sided promo too), Germany (CD, 7" and 12" formats commercially) and the US (CD, 12" and cassette singles commercially, promo CD in different sleeve design too). The 7", 12" and CD singles in the UK come in two differing sleeve designs while the earlier copies of the CD have a mispress and include a version of 'Robotronik' instead of 'The Robots' (Single Version) as stated on the cover.
'The Mix' was released on CD and on double vinyl LP in the UK and Germany. In Germany, separate editions for the German and English language versions are available. Amongst the more unique of released is a single vinyl LP from Venzuala, with edits of many of the LP tracks, in a single (not gatefold) cover.
The UK concerts surprise many by the fact that there are so many similarities with the bands last visit to UK shores in 1981, a very similar stage set and selection of songs. John Shilcock's 'What a difference 10 years makes ?!' article ponders these very issues.
Following a short break after the UK tour, Kraftwerk embark on a European tour through October and November. Countries visited include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. With the departure of Fernando Abrantes, the Kraftwerk symmetry on stage is preserved with the addition of previous Kling-Klang engineer Henning Schmitz in his place. The shows retain basically the same set-list as for the UK tour but have subtle changes in the some of the musical arrangement, for example the addition of an elongated intro to 'Tour De France'.
With the proliferation of live bootleg recordings being made available on the CD format, Kraftwerk fans are able to sample the live shows with a whole series of these unofficial recordings being made available on the black market.
Live concerts in America and Canada were announced, dates advertised, tickets sold, but the concerts never took place, cancelled never to be rescheduled. Similarly, Japanese dates never took place.
October; a second single from 'The Mix' is released. Remixed versions, courtesy of Francois Kevorkian and William Orbit, of 'Radioactivity' are a radical departure from the original 1976 arrangement, fashioned from 'The Mix' version. The sentiments of the song now firmly in support of the anti-nuclear power lobby. Released in the UK (CD, 7", 12", cassette single formats commercially, two-track promo 12"), Germany (CD, 7", 12" commercially), Holland (CD, 7", 12" formats) and the US (12" only, with an otherwise unobtainable mix, the 'William Orbit Hardcore Mix').
A promo edition of 'Radioactivity' was also released in France - on 7" with an edit of 'The Mix' version and 12" with the full 'The Mix' LP version. Both 7" and 12" are extremely scarce and feature a picture sleeve unlike any other 1991 releases.
Updated: 16 : 5 : 2010