Squishy Feelings for Fallible Humans

Featuring : Karl Bartos



Those of us lucky enough to grab tickets for the Tate Modern marathon are still presumably in a state of painful Kraftwithdrawal (and, if you’re reading this, I hate you. I hate you.), so it’s fortuitous that the new album from former Kraftwerker Karl Bartos is almost here and that we’re allowed to share some of it with you!

Karl Bartos – Atomium

Atomium is the most Kraftwerky song on an album that sounds quite a lot like Kraftwerk. A slightly sentimental Kraftwerk in places, though – one that aren’t above singing about stuff that isn’t electricity pylons or Minitel, but actual fleshy humanoids.

But before you start getting grossed out, check out Atomium – strong as girders, as pure as mathematics, and a Valentine’s ode to an unphotographable piece of Belgian architecture constructed for Expo ’58.

There must be clever parallels that could be drawn between Atomium – an iconic piece of engineering whose structure is an architectural magnification of a single cell of iron crystal – and the parent outfit that spawned Bartos as a musician. A bizarre copyright law prevents any publication or website from publishing pictures of Atomium – even today it is regularly Photoshopped out of Brussells landscape shots.

The tracks on this album, Off The Record, are completed versions of song-sketches Karl originally mapped out on the sly during his tenure in the 20th Century’s greatest pop group (from Radio-Activity to uncredited work on The Mix) – which explains why the chiselled, handsome polygons of Bartos’ Kraftwerk mannequin appear on the cover, projected live from the Uncanny Valley.

On the album track Without A Trace of Emotion, Karl sings – sans-vocoder – of what seems unambiguously his days in Kraftwerk: “I’m on my way. Got the world at my feet. I wish I could remix my life to another beat. Without a trace of emotion. My image turns around. Calling from a distance without a sound.”

And then a second character responds, in that familiar authoritarian robot voice: “Every single day I am here to let you know. Whatever happens to you, I won’t let go, I won’t let go.”

“I’m so glad to hear! That you ‘care’ about your family,” deadpans Karl, in this strange duet with biography. Without a trace of emotion. I see you right in front of me. Dress code: red shirt, black tie. You’re history. You’re history.”

It sounds bitter, but also kind of sad. Squishy feelings for fallible humans.

You can pre-order Off The Record from Bureau B.