Kraftwerk at Ricoh Coliseum (100 Princes'), Friday (April 23). $19.50-$47.50. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
An enigmatic detachment is all part of Kraftwerk's man/machine mystique, but it's still a bit strange that the electropop pioneers haven't been more actively involved in the electronic music revolution they helped touch off. Last year's Tour De France Soundtracks (Kling Klang/EMI) disc - completed to coincide with 100th-anniversary celebrations for the world's premier cycling showdown - was Kraftwerk's first album of new material since '86's Electric Café.
Certainly the collection of low-key electro whoosh originally intended for use as incidental film music couldn't have taken 17 years for Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Fritz Hilpert and Henning Schmitz to complete even with time off for cycling jaunts to Munich and Frankfurt. So what have the mysterious foursome been doing in Düsseldorf all this time?
"That's very simple to answer," offers co-founding sound scientist Hütter over the phone from Kling Klang Studios. "We've been digitally transferring all of Kraftwerk's original recordings and sound sources from our badly degrading master tapes while our engineers, Fritz and Henning, have been working in parallel to remaster our early albums for re-release."
They've also been going through their archives to find the original album graphics and photos to complete the packages as they intended them to be issued.
"So for the first time, our recordings will be available in crisp, clear Kling Klang sound with all the fold-out covers and images our label at the time either messed up or wouldn't pay for."
According to Hütter, the highly anticipated Kraftwerk back catalogue rollout kicks off the reissue of their landmark Autobahn disc in late May or early June and then continues with Kraftwerk 1, Kraftwerk 2, followed by Ralf And Florian, each with special packaging including bonus tracks.
Don't get your hopes up for the appearance of any revelatory lost songs discovered in the lengthy archival process.
"There will be some alternate mixes of tracks and some unedited versions, but unfortunately we don't have much unreleased material.
"We never recorded extra songs or 20 different versions of the same song. We would complete a song and then move forward, always keeping very focused on one Kling Klang project at a time."
Among the titles slated for reissue is the Techno Pop album. However, it's not the long-rumoured "missing" album reportedly cut at Kling Klang immediately after the Computer World tour of '81.
"Our working title for the Electric Café album was Techno Pop, but after some years there was a discussion and it was decided to name the album Electric Café instead, which was the album's final track.
"For the reissue, we thought we should use the original title Techno Pop along with our original sleeve design and graphics."
So far there are no plans to compile Kraftwerk's intriguing promotional short films from the 70s or their early concert and television appearance footage, but they are documenting their multimedia extravaganzas on the current world tour - performing songs spanning their entire career - for future DVD release. According to Hütter, it's precisely the right time for Kraftwerk to re-emerge.
"When I started Kraftwerk with Florian in 1970, we were putting on five- hour shows in art galleries and universities using projected images and strobe lights. But because we couldn't afford to stay in hotels, we would have to drive home to Düsseldorf following our performance each night.
"All the time we spent on the autobahn, that became the inspiration for the song and the album.
"Now, 30 years later, we can turn on the radio in our car and hear our song Autobahn while we're driving on it. What was once only a dream for us has become reality."