As if Kraftwerk’s sudden emergence from a self-imposed exile in 2003 to release Tour De France Soundtracks wasn’t enough for the fans, the very first official Kraftwerk live album from the supporting tour (complete with an accompanying DVD to be current with the time) was only a bonus.
The double-disc set Minimum-Maximum condenses the band’s career from their early days of Autobahn to their last studio-effort, Tour De France Soundtracks; in a way, this is more like a “best of” album, with songs arranged so meticulously. Apart from the screaming of the crowds and the reverberation of the music, the songs sound flawless and crisp. The music is so perfect that it sounds almost as “fake” as the robots in the band’s live performances taking the place of the actual members.
Whether done live or in the studio, the production quality of this record is flawless and very well thought of. The series of Tour De France Soundtracks numbers on disc one flow into each other as fluidly as they do on the actual studio album. The same goes for the back-to-back cuts from Computer World, with the added nugget “Dentaku” (the Japanese version of “Numbers” not available on American or European prints of Computer World) with the lyrics sung in Japanese as the exhilarated crowd screams in the background; perhaps this is one of the few moments on the record where it really feels like a real live album. Even though it consists of parts from the various concerts on Kraftwerk’s 2004 world tour, Minimum-Maximum sails like one whole live concert.
Kraftwerk has always been at the cutting-edge of electronic music, and the band gives new life to the classics that were seminal in the ‘70s but not necessarily in the current times. While the recent Tour De France numbers are left pretty much unchanged from their original versions, the same is not true for antiquated classics like “Autobahn” (reduced to a mere nine-minute length), “Radioactivity,” and “Trance Europe Express,” which has a more latter-day, meaty sound.
However, tracks like those from the band’s commercial hit The Man Machine and Computer World that are left pretty much like their original versions sound absolutely modern. This just goes to show that even without adding any contemporary spin, some of the old Kraftwerk songs from the days before the genre techno was even born are as fresh as anything else that’s been created since. Minimum-Maximum is a great way to discover or even rediscover this great -- and often reclusive -- band that has indirectly contributed so much to music.