Two albums to listen to: a pair of avant-garde synth-pop projects

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Kraftwerk helped lead the way for electronic musicians with their album Die Mensch-Maschine.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Capitol Records

Silent Shout – The Knife

In 1999, Swedish siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer formed electronic duo The Knife, but it wasn’t until their 2002 hit “Heartbeats” that the group’s experimental style made its way into the mainstream. However, The Knife didn’t want the spotlight — every public appearance and promotional photo featured them in Venetian plague doctor masks.

Before their first widely successful album was released in 2006, the duo focused on their infectious hits, bringing in subtle drops and odd electronic instruments to create a unique sound. With Silent Shout, the group completely changed direction, developing a cold and lonely sound to produce a dark yet invigorating experience.

This effect is conveyed mainly through the album’s layered and complex production, which constantly shifts from bleak to hopeful, only to crash down again. Andersson’s vocals highlight climactic moments in songs, staying sparse and effective when used. Combined, these two elements create one of the gloomiest pop albums of the 2000s.

Tracks to listen to: “Silent Shout,” “Marble House,” “Like a Pen”

Die Mensch-Maschine – Kraftwerk

Electronic band Kraftwerk had already moved into the international spotlight by 1978. Known for their repetitive melodies and infectious dance music, the band took a sharp turn with Die Mensch-Maschine, which defined their sound.

Kraftwerk explored new wave synth-pop, avoiding their previous minimalist style in favor of layered instrumentation. Die Mensch-Maschine, or The Man Machine as it’s known in the U.S., is often cited as a concept album, with the main focus on the link between humans and technology. Science fiction themes run rampant on this record, and the album is easily the most upbeat in their discography.

Tracks to listen to: “The Robots,” “The Model,” “Neon Lights”