On paper Wolfgang Voigt’s Kafkatrax seems an obvious and predictable proposition. The Cologne Techno pioneer, ambient champion and Kompakt records founder has a long history of conceptual projects, happy to stick a four-four kick drum over any old musical genre, from Wagner to Schlager, thereby linking it to Germany’s musical heritage. As Voigt has said, the ‘Boofta boofta boofta represents the deep soul of German Techno’, and Voigt has never tired of its thrills, and I expected Kafkatrax to deliver little more than indecipherable vocal swirls and regimented unwavering bass thuds (Nonetheless my geeky obsession with both Kafka’s writings and Voigt forced me to buy the early limited vinyl editions, of which this CD collects all and expands upon).
Which is essentially what Kafkatrax does, but given Voigt’s knack for making this stuff the results are spellbinding. Voigt creates a feeling of genuinely disorienting, Lynchian-Kafkaesque dread from the disembodied voices, not dissimilar to the effects produced from aspects of Gas’ Zauberberg, with a dirty, linear funk which escalates throughout individual tracks, and across the album. Phrases are extracted, like the unsuspecting Josef K. from his bed one morning, swirling incomprehensibly, before intelligible (to German speakers) passages break the surface, to be frayed and stuttered with reverb and delay. Bass and drums are all Voigt adds, but anyone familiar with any of Voigt’s innumerable proto-minimal productions from the mid-to-late nineties will be aware of the magic he can work with these simple devices. The image of Voigt done up as little Franz provides the dark humour essential to Kafka’s world.