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Kraftwerk Re-Worked

Senor Coconut
El Baile Aleman
(Emperor Norton Records)

When I first picked up this CD by Senor Coconut, I really didn't know any of the people that were involved in the project, not did I care. At the time, the simple notion that I was holding a release that contained covers of Kraftwerk songs done in cha-cha and meringue style was the only thing that mattered. Normally, I'm not a big fan of either genre, but the fact that the group was covering one of the more influential electronic acts of all time (and one that was close to my heart) in styles that were completely different than the original was something that really intrigued me.

After a bit of research, however, I found out that the main person behind the release is Atom Heart, an electronic artist who is not only prolific as hell, but someone who had the knowledge to actually pull off such a feat without doing a dis-service to the originals. I also hoped that the music itself might be something that wouldnt' let me down, and that it doesn't. The best thing about the release is that not only does the group not take themselves too seriously, but it's easy to tell that they're not trying to poke fun at the originals, but instead give them sort of a new life in a new format.

Gone are the cold tones of the originals and robotic vocals. Instead, almost everything is given a much more organic feel, whether it's synth pads turned into shakers and vibraphones, or the new light Latin vocals. Most tracks are pretty much note-for-note reproductions (with only a change in pitch on a couple tracks), but the instrumentation itself is the major change. That difference is heard in the very first track (after a somewhat too-long introduction track) "Showroom Dummies" in which the track absolutely swaggers along with a cool vibe in it's new format, puntuated by horn bursts at just the right moments.

On "The Robots" (arguably one of Kraftwerks most aseptic songs), the group once again uses nice little horn bursts to accent the song, as well as some very skillful sounding vibraphone playing. It's the vocals that make the most difference, though, as the Latin vocals almost sound like they're celebrating the fact of automation rather than lamenting it. "Autobahn" is turned into a much stranger version, with accordian and all kinds of other strange instrumental flourishes, but it still retains the jaunty, fun feel that the original had. Perhaps the best two tracks on the disc are the one-two meringue versions of "Homecomputer" and "Tour De France." Arriving back-to-back on the album, both tracks have been slightly sped-up to accompany the new sound, but they're both just as excellent as the originals, in their own way.

One of the coolest things about hearing the songs in such a drastically different way is that it's easy to hear that the songs that Kraftwerk originally wrote were just plain good in any format. It's a testament to their songwriting ability that a group could take their songs from the original format and change them up, yet still have them sound so damn catchy and good still. Without hearing the release, it would be easy to write it off as a weak attempt to cash in with a novelty recording, but it's really quite good and makes an awesome compliment to actual recordings by Kraftwerk. It's light and fun, and while it's a bit cheesy, those are all reasons that the originals were so good in the first place.

Rating: 7