A live reworking of Kraftwerk music by J Peter Schwalm, with film by Sophie Clements and Toby Cornish
Following their highly successful Brian Eno/Apollo tour, Icebreaker are turning their focus on another contemporary electronic pioneer – Kraftwerk.
Icebreaker began their collaboration with the Science Museum in 2009 with live performances of Brian Eno’s album Apollo, a show which was the brainchild of the museum’s Head of Research, Tim Boon. Since that programme was first seen in the IMAX, both Tim and Icebreaker have been keen to collaborate further, continuing to explore electronic music in live performance in combination with film, using Icebreaker’s amplified instrumentation and the amazing nature of the Science Museum as a venue.
Kraftwerk Uncovered: A Future Past is the result. Whereas Eno pioneered ambient music, Kraftwerk can be seen as the innovators of pulse-led electronic music, which in due course gave rise to house, techno and modern dance music in general: indeed there is virtually no modern electronica which doesn’t carry the influence of at least one of these artists.
To realise our project we needed to find a composer and a film-maker who would be in tune with our ideas about exploring the nature of the music and its innovation: in German sound-scape artist and composer J. Peter Schwalm and his long-time video collaborator Sophie Clements we found the ideal artists. German artist Schwalm an electronic musician, who has performed and recorded with Eno, but who is equally at home writing for ensembles, or for theatre or ballet. Clements, working here with Toby Cornish, is a long-time collaborator of Schwalm’s, and between them they bring a deep understanding of each other’s work and insight into the nature of Kraftwerk’s artistic vision.
Schwalm has created a new work for Icebreaker based on material from a range of Kraftwerk tracks. Drawing deeply on the imagistic and sonic legacy of Kraftwerk’s back catalogue from the little known radical early albums, to iconic material from Autobahn, Computer World and Trans-Europe Express, Schwalm articulates their journey from experimental krautrock band to international icons.
Described as the eyes to Schwalm’s ears, Sophie Clements, working with Toby Cornish have produced an accompanying film for this work. Filmed almost entirely in the Ruhrgebeit, the district from which Kraftwerk famously come, the film makes direct reference to Kraftwerk’s heritage, setting the scene, for a picture of Germany at the time of early Kraftwerk, whilst at the same time touching upon themes ever-present in Kraftwerk’s vision – technological progress, and man’s relation to it.
A purposeful departure from the dehumanised high-tech of the current Kraftwerk shows, the show references an earlier era of technological and industrial innovation, and the experimental or avant-garde film and sound work that came as a result, presenting at the same time a nostalgic vision of a ‘future’ now passed, and a modern reworking of a lost utopian dream.