Radioland: Radio-Activity Revisited

Franck Vigroux / Matthew Bourne, 2015

Albums like Radioland are shaky propositions: full album covers need to serve a purpose. Slavishly recreating the original is pointless, but living up to it is essential—especially as the most likely listeners are fans of the original. Electronic artists, Franck Vigroux and Matthew Bourne, chose a white whale of a band by covering Kraftwerk's Radio-Activity. They chose well, though. Radio-Activity has long been overshadowed, sitting between two unassailable masterpieces: Autobahn and Trans-Europe Exrpess.

Good curation aside, they do bring an new nuance to the original. It's an interesting moment for such a reappraisal, with so many avant electricians working with vintage or home-made analogue gear, it's as if the scene has come full circle. When Kraftwerk made it, keyboards were all uncharted territory. One would expect a more knowing confidence, but the liner notes say that they tried to use the themes from each song as a jumping off point for improvisation. That in-the-moment aspect goes a long way to injecting a sense of mystery back into the work, lost by the familiarity of the tools.