As a massive Kraftwerk fan, I was thrilled to find a totally original tribute to Kraftwerk called 8-Bit Operators. On this CD, a number of chiptune musicians retool Kraftwerk’s hits using mostly 8-bit video game systems. It’s a riot for the ears. Must-hears include Nullsleep’s “The Model” and Herbert Weixelbaum’s totally video-gamey “Tanzmusik,” which sounds like a theme song from a retro, Mario-style game. (Another one that goes all out with the 8-bit is Oliver Wittchow’s “Kristallo.”)
Bear in mind that not every song works. A few silly ones like Bit Shifter’s “Antenna” and Gwem and Counter Reset’s “The Man-Machine” are only intriguing to check out once or twice, in a what-the-hell-is-this sort of way. For me, the CD’s most disappointing track is “Radioactivity.” By Kraftwerk, this one of my absolute favorite songs of all time… but in the hands of David E. Sugar, it’s unrecognizable. It’s one of the least chiptune-sounding songs on the album, with trying-to-be-hip vocals and a weird disco flavor that doesn’t seem a tribute to either Kraftwerk or 8-bit. (At least it’s sort of fast-paced, which always helps a song feel catchy…)
For Kraftwerk fans worried that these musicians will rip apart Kraftwerk’s songs beyond recognition, “Computer World” by Firestarter and “Computer Love” by Covox are easy gateways into the CD, as they don’t force too much of their personalities onto the originals. And though some people complain about the vocals on this CD, I don’t think they’re terrible… and vocals were never Kraftwerk’s strong suit anyway.
The real fun of this CD is hearing Kraftwerk’s songs with retro technology — a fitting tribute to an innovative band that proved just how far early electronics could go in producing catchy, complex music.