Samstag, 14. März 2009

Trans Europe Express Revisited

In my last post (which you might want to read as an introduction to this) I broke down the famous train sound pattern from Kraftwerk's Trans Europe Express. For the sequel I put together an (incomplete) selection of tunes that all sample this particular sound. The diversity of the material is truly reflecting Kraftwerk's cross-genre appeal, with songs ranging from hip hop (old and new) to electro funk and even some krauty ambient stuff ... Keep an open mind!

DOWNLOAD the Trans Europe Express compilation

1. Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force – Planet Rock (1982)
The most famous sampling of Trans Europe Express – not the beat though. An emulated version of the train sound is played in the background when the synth melody from Trans Europe Express sets in. Search the blog for more stories about this track.

2. Anthony Rother – Trans Europe Express (1998)
That's a no brainer ... outstanding remix and probably the only one that can hold up to the original. To quote myself: Rother „took the sluggish juggernaut steam engine and remodeled it to a REAL express train by increasing the bpm. The driving beat features prominently in the mix while the rest of the instrumentation is reduced to a sparse frame. Whereas the original version was still rooted in a long musical tradition - a symphony that went through several movements -, Rother's tightly composed Trans Europe Express has finally arrived in the Modern Age, thus realizing what was only hinted at but not unfolded by Kraftwerk.“

3. Kool G Rap – Rhymes I Express (1989)
Only samples the pattern in the chorus but it's such a dope song that I had to throw it in. Nice play on the double meaning of „trans“ and „express“.

4. Special Request – Salsa Smurph (1983)
Electro novelty track (what the hell is a salsa smurph anyway?) that was quite a hit back in the days. I have no idea why; it's just SO odd. I'd say it's the musical equivalent of what art historians call bad painting, an opposition to the canons of good taste. Weird sounds, lo-fi production, weird keyboard playing ... did I mention this is really weird (and fascinating)?

5. Kartoon Krew – Inspector Gadget (1984)
Nowhere near my favorites from the era but it still is a nice little tune, featuring some solid synth and vocoder work.

6. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Society's Creation (1990)
Heavy minimalistic beats and some unusual socio-political commentary from the Bumpasaurus. We are treated with a chopped up and barely recognizable version of the Kraftwerk sample. The 909 snare drum sounds a bit too technoid for my taste ... but then again even Mantronik used the 909 and he is the king of the beat, so who am I to complain?

7. Ras Kass – Ghetto Fabulous (1998)
That song is way past my usual timeframe, but it is a strong track and remarkable in its own right for slowing down the Kraftwerk sample to the point of disintegration. The relation to a train sound is completely lost, but it still retains its floating, ethereal character – „essence precedes existence“.

8. Professor Griff – Last Asiatic Disciples (1990)
PE's own conspiracy theorist/wingnut Professor Griff with a nice upbeat version of the sample which drops quite unexpectedly and is over before you know it. Well seasoned dosage of subsonic boom provided by Luke Skyywalker of 2 Live Crew fame.

9. Ultramagnetic MC's – Crush Kill Destroy (1984-1990)
Traveling at the speed of thought isn't the only Ultra song sampling Kraftwerk. I think I even prefer Crush Kill Destroy for its raw and unpolished minimalism ... even if the production is a bit on the „raw and unpolished“ side too. Call me biased but how can you not like Kool Keith's wacky space scientist lyrics?

10. De La Soul – Ghetto Thang (1989)
Very subtle use of the pattern and a great example of freeing a sample from its original context to create something completely different.

11. Wolfgang Riechmann – Wunderbar (1978)
Riechmann was a contemporary of Kraftwerk and part of the Düsseldorf electronic scene. His only album (also titled „Wunderbar“) is one of the most slept on gems from this time, eclipsed by the artist's untimely demise and by the success of Kraftwerk's Man-Machine which was released around the same time. It is not exactly the same pattern as in Trans Europe Express but you can clearly hear the similarity. This is a wonderful song with a slight spaghetti western feel that always reminds me of the For A Few Dollars More theme (as used in Babe Ruth's „The Mexican“ ... as used in Afrika Bambaataa's „Planet Rock“. And there we are, full circle.).

12. Cosmic Rockers – Exodus (2007)
I couldn't resist sneaking one of my own songs in. Probably the darkest and most Detroit sounding tune I ever made. The percussion pattern adds to the chilling and mechanical atmosphere. A little challenge (not too tough though): Can you ID the two vocal samples?

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