by Dave Segal - the Stranger
Ebony Steel Band, "Tanzmusik (Jump Up)" (OM Swagger)
Now in their 50th year, London-based Ebony Steel Band accepted Record Collector Magazine editor Ian Shirley's challenge to cover several Kraftwerk tracks with their array of steel drums. The result is Pan Machine, which features 10 joyous interpretations of the vastly influential German electronic group's material from 1973's Ralf & Florian to 1983's electro club smash "Tour De France."
As Pan Machine proves, steel drums possess fluid, glassy timbres that can facilely simulate those of synthesizers. Another thing that Pan Machine proves is that Kraftwerk's melodies translate well to other contexts, including that of the Caribbean-centric steel drum.
While every version on this album is an absolute charmer, I want to spotlight "Tanzmusik"—from Ralf & Florian—because Kraftwerk themselves refuse to respect any of the music they released before 1974's Autobahn, and that's a damn shame. ESB splendidly capture the original "Tanzmusik"'s spectral playfulness, its over-optimistic pulsations, while imbuing the piece with steelpans' infectious, yellow-orange tone splashes. Instant mood elevation ensues.