Somnambule - Writing About Music

Trans Slovenia Express Vol.2

The idea of an album of Kraftwerk covers by fourteen less than well-known Slovenian bands fails to set the pulse racing (the title is a play on the German group’s anthem rail travel, Trans Europe Express). However, Trans Slovenia Express is worth your attention, at least intermittently. That opening sentence was rather inaccurate: there is one famous Slovenian group present on this compilation: Laibach. They perform the album’s only original track in the form of the previously unreleased Bruderschaft. It’s notably Kraftwerkian in sound and production values and echoes the second remix CD of the recent Anthems compilation. Given Laibach’s indebtedness and the blank granite of their delivery, it’s impossible to tell whether the song is tribute or satire. It might well be both.

Next up is Silence’s rendition of Hall Of Mirrors, a song that forms a key part of the psycho-geography that Kraftwerk have chosen to jetison in favour of their current, pantheist approach. Their version serviceably casts an alternative light upon the composition though it loses the stark bleakness of the original. Siddharta’s metal rendition of The Robots is laughably redundant. The Stroj’s version of Metal On Metal, the percussive coda to Trans Europe Express reroutes the original journey into the further reaches of Europe (are those horsebacked nomads I can see through the window?) Octex makes polite and slightly anonymous work of Computer Love, jettisoning its vocals, but retaining its gently recognisable melody. Torul create a rougher, clubbier feel for It’s More Fun To Compute but stick with the eery mood of the original. Rozmarinke’s Radioactivity is an unexpected folk/grunge/electronic affair complete with outspoken violins that’s actually a lot of fun (the melody is pretty timeless and fares well in this treatment). Moob’s Telephone Call, particularly its eery liquid vocal might just be better than the slightly lacklustre original. Bast’s Mitternacht (part of the ‘B’ side suite to 1974’s Autobahn) spends a couple of minutes as a gorgeously medieval mood-piece before unpredictably taking off in a weird, acoustic breakbeat direction complete with trumpet and sax solos and jazzy guitar comping. Utterly bizarre and very much worth hearing.

Reflecting upon these interpretations prompts consideration of what makes the Kraftwerk project so significant. Inevitably it’s a composite of elements including the group’s conceptual approach, their discipline and anonymity, the astonishing care with which their music is assembled, the complexity of their interrogation of the impact of new technologies upon our past/present and futures and so on. And on. Trans Slovenia Express serves to remind how important Kraftwerk’s compositons are alongside the other elements. If you’re a Kraftwerk completist or just interested in hearing alternative approaches, it’s very much worth hearing alongside the Balanescu Quartet’s string quartet interpretations gathered on Possessed.
Colin Buttimer
August 2005
Published by milkfactory