Karl Bartos is a former member of Kraftwerk and ‘Off the Record’ is a “re-contextualised” collection of some of the solo music he conceived during his time in the band.
Fans of synth-pop and electronica will find much to interest them here. ‘International Velvet’ is a languid machine-lullaby full of woodwind effects and in no hurry to go anywhere in particular; it’s weirdly affecting given the slightly alienating digital gloss. ‘Vox Humana’ has mutating rhythms and dubbed out radioactive wobble. Short instrumental ‘The Binary Code’ is full of rolling wire-frame Atari hills. ‘Musica Ex Machina’ is a crunchy electro banger, with a looped robot owl refrain and stretched out radiophonic final act. One of the best songs ‘The Tuning of the World’ is a beautiful ballad of dissatisfaction, the protagonist eventually finding solace in song: “I’m on top of the world; I’ve got the music in me.”
‘Off the Record’ is, perhaps, a bit sugary in places but for the most part Bartos shows a great talent for ear hooking melodies and has an engaging unabashed directness in his arrangements. Bartos has brought the best bits of Kraftwerk with him: blue sky synths, pounding minimalist proto-techno rhythms, steam piston beats; and has crafted an album of sophisticated tech pop songs and pulsing high energy dance numbers.