Monday, 22 February 2016

Fun fun fun on the Autobahn

Listening to Kraftwerk's Autobahn this evening and it occurred to me that the album came out the same year as J.G. Ballard's novel Concrete Island. The connective tissue between album and novel is the motorway, but it's interesting that both assume diametrically opposed positions - Autobahn's title track presents the motorway as a technological landscape in harmony with nature - the image of clean Bauhaus lines unspooling across the German countryside. Ballard imagined the "elaborately signaled landscape" of the motorway as something far more sinister - a high-speed network of relentless and aggressive 24/7 traffic flow that could not be halted, even if a person's life depended on it, the predicament the protagonist of Concrete Island finds himself in as he swerves off the motorway onto a stretch of disused and forgotten wasteland between interchanges. I wondered had Ballard heard Kraftwerk's album but it's seems unlikely. Ballard doesn't mention Kraftwerk in any interviews and in a 1978 interview Ballard himself admitted "I don’t listen to music. It’s a blind spot." Still I like to imagine Kraftwerk, or Kraftwerk dummies playing electronic music to the guests at Vermillion Sands...

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