Kraftwerk To Release First Album In Nine Years

New collection includes instrumental and demo versions of classics, plus a previously unreleased track.

German electronic-music pioneers Kraftwerk will release their first album in nine years next week.

A Short Introduction to Kraftwerk, a collection of seven previously unreleased versions of the group's early classics, will be released along with an 88-page CD-sized booklet by Sonic Books. The material will be available in the U.S. only by mail order from various UK companies.

"The response to this record has been massive," said Phil Walton, president of Music Non Stop Sales (www.music-non-stop.co.uk), one of the distributors of the CD. "I have Kraftwerk fans from all over the world ordering this."

Kraftwerk's core is the duo of Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider, whose notorious secrecy has lent them a reputation for unpredictability. The band just obtained the copyrights to the seven songs from their label, EMI, because they were written more than 20 years ago, Music Non Stop Sales said in a statement.

Considered a major influence on artists ranging from chameleonic rocker David Bowie to pioneering rap DJ Afrika Bambaataa to big-beat techno band the Chemical Brothers, Kraftwerk embarked on a surprise world tour in 1998, prompting fans to speculate about new material for the two years since. The group answered earlier this year with the single "Expo 2000," their first official release since the 1991 remix album, The Mix.

A Short Introduction to Kraftwerk features more than 45 minutes of music, including an early demo version from 1977 of their #1 UK hit "Model" (RealAudio excerpt), from The Man-Machine.

Other tracks include a re-recorded, longer version of Radioactivity's "Uranium," a demo version of Trans-Europe Express' "Hall of Mirrors" and an instrumental version of "Radioactivity" that's drastically different from the 1975 original.

The album opens with "It's More Fun to Compute," originally recorded in 1981 for a planned 12-inch that was never released.

A six-minute remake of their hit "Autobahn" (RealAudio excerpt of original version), originally intended for The Mix but never released, also is included. It, too, captures a different side of the song by nixing the vocal track.

The album's accompanying book includes a history of the band, excerpts from rare interviews and a full discography that includes promo-only releases and bootlegs.

Hutter and Schneider met as music students at the Dusseldorf Conservatory in 1968 and formed Kraftwerk (German for "power station") soon after. Although their early albums, such as Kraftwerk 1 and 2 and Ralf & Florian, are considered some of the first contemporary electronic-music recordings, it was their 1974 album Autobahn that first explored their landmark concept of machine meshing with man and introduced a mainstream pop sensibility. It was followed by four albums (all issued in German and English versions), ending with 1981's Computer World (RealAudio excerpt of title track), that established the group as peerless techno innovators.