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The following Krautrock reviews are courtesy of Aquarius Records in San Francisco, who offer many of these titles through mail-order (click on the "Aquarius" buttons to link to their site). For more mail-order outlets visit our contacts page.

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Kluster "Eruption" [Marginal Talent]
Long-awaited reissue of the third and last "Kluster with a K" album from 1971, when the "Cluster with C" duo of Moebius and Roedelius was a trio with Conrad Schnitzler, making pioneering, prehistoric ambient/industrial/ electronica. And, unlike the first two Kluster records, there's no German spoken religious narrative included (and it's plenty spooky without it).

Kraftwerk 1 & 2 [Germanofon]
The first two Kraftwerk records, the ones with traffic-cone covers. Both are electronic masterpieces, melodic Krautrock classics, and while far more challenging than the popular later Kraftwerk albums, all the more lovely.

Kraftwerk "Expo Remix" [Kling Klang]
The requisite remix single of Kraftwerk's comeback last year's single features Orbital, Francois K, DJ Rolando, and Underground Resistance. Maybe if you really dig UR records, this would do it for you.

Kreidler "Eve Future" [Wonder]
I've always been a fan of Kreidler's unique sort of post-rock take on electronica -- it reminds me of Fridge's epic Eph album, which many of you reading also love. Well, let me tell you that Kreidler's new mini-album is so great, and so clearly surpasses their previously released work (which was stellar to begin with) that it just takes my breath away. As deeply dramatic and stately as an Ennio Morricone score, the music features gorgeously plucked strings articulating arpeggiated chords over and over in a sort of Reich-ian style of repetition. Glassy, pleasantly chiming melodies bring to mind krautrock of the serene Harmonia / La Dusseldorf variety, and especially the charming driving synth experiments of Cluster's Moebius and Roedelius. Maybe even some Eno. These seven instrumentals sound instantly classic and should appeal to a wide range of listeners -- it's that undeniably good. The cover art is also pretty -- no sleeve, just a mint green woman's torso silkscreened onto the jewel case.

Lucifer's Friend "s/t +5" [Repertoire]
Debut album (circa '70) of this krautrock band (one that started in a kind of hardrock vein, moved into more progressive realms, and thence to heavy metal, we're told)... This disc (with 5 bonus tracks from their early singles) is a great piece of proto-metal very similar to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and (especially) Uriah Heep! A little psychedelic weirdness, lots of riffing and great vocals (courtesy British singer John Lawton, who later did join Uriah Heep). Current "stoner rock" fans (who dig Queens of the Stone Age, Monster Magnet, Nebula, etc.) should definitely delve into the work of past masters of the form, like Lucifer's Friend (and Captain Beyond, and Blues Creation, and Dust, etc. etc.).

Metabolismum "Spriesswartsdrall" [Amish Records]
Krautrock like they used to make, from these modern-day heirs to the glorious kosmiche tradition. The German collective Metabolismus has actually been around since the '80s, but this is only their second domestically released album (available last year on LP, but now on cd). Indeed, most of their other releases have been super-obscure rarities. Wonderful, psychedelic stuff, mostly-instrumental explorations, experimental yet pretty, proving that the heyday of Faust and Can and Popul Vuh and Cluster and the like is not forgotten.

Nazgul, The [PsiFi]
A krautrock album supposedly issued in the 70s in a tiny editions of, like, 50 copies or something. The Nazgul cd is from 1975 and features 4 long tracks of droning ambience that's easily as good as any current space rock outfit could put together; i.e. Magnog, Labradford or anything else on Kranky. Bonus weirdness: the bandmembers are named Frodo, Gandalf, and Pippin.

Neu! "Neu!" [Astralwerks]
Seminal krautrockers Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger have at long last (after an uncomfortable decade-plus of legal wrangling) patched up whatever their differences were in order to allow their three classic '70s albums to be offical released on cd for the first time.

For those of you not already Neu!-savvy, these are the guys responsible (along with Kraftwerk, with whom guitarist Rother and drummer Dinger once played -- that's how they met, before splitting to form Neu!) for the "motorik" beat, the propulsive, autobahn-friendly, proto-punk electronics hybrid that has influenced countless bands. From big fans Bowie and Eno back in the seventies to the hundreds of postrock/electronica acts that namecheck them now, Neu! are gods. Negativland not only got their name from a Neu! song off the first album, but even the name of their label, Seeland, comes from a track off of 75. Indeed, some bands have built their entire careers on, uh, paying homage to Neu! (Michael Rother, quoted in the most recent issue of MOJO: "I went to a Stereolab concert once. Suddenly I had the impression I was listening to myself -- very strange!")

Neu! 1 (1971) is a stunning work of art, drifting back and forth between the stripped down minimal kraut-pop that they're most commonly associated with, to long, spacey and psychedelic forays with lapses into musique concrete like moments with lapping water, children and jackhammers. Their sound could be most closely compared to early Kraftwerk or Cluster. In fact, the track "Im Gluck" sounds an awful lot like both Kraftwerk's "Radioland" and, believe it or don't, the beginning preamble to Rush's "Xanadu." Whether these two had Neu! in mind when they worked these songs out remains to be proven, but it's nice to think of such dissimilar groups drawing from the same well.


Neu! "Neu! 2" [Astralwerks]
Neu! 2 could possibly be considered the world's first "remix" album, as a good portion of it features "varispeed" versions of previously released Neu! material. They ran out of studio time/money, so the story goes, and after recording two songs for a single ended up making alternate versions by playing the record itself at 16 rpm and 78 rpm -- you can even hear the needle drop and the record player bumped into -- and doing similar remixes of tracks off of the first album with a cheap tape player. 2 wasn't considered the best Neu! album back in the day, but it actually stands the test of time quite well (certainly better than 75) and boasts the acclaim of having had a track used on the soundtrack for the English dubbed version of "The Master Of The Flying Guillotine" (those who spent countless hours of their childhood watching Kung Fu Theater will know well the One Armed Boxer and his travails.)

Neu! "Neu! 75" [Astralwerks]
The critical status quo qualifies "Neu! 75" as the best of three albums, simply because it is the most musically adept and holds the most studio polish. While we're not going to deny that Neu! 75 isn't a great and possibly required album, we disagree that this is their best work.

The two previous albums were infused with a bold spirit of experimentations that led to the mutable pace of the motorik grooves on "Negativland" (from Neu! 1), and the idiosyncratic "remixes" from Neu! 2. While Klaus Dinger's percussion remains unchanged from the first two releases, Michael Rother moves away from the risk-taking agendas from the first two albums, to a more commonplace rock schtick. Rother's guitars hold a greater range of dynamics with beautifully soaring Pink Floyd-esque harmonics to gritty aggro / glam rock power chords, but his insistance on singing much more isn't a great idea. As previously mentioned, Neu! was a profound influence for David Bowie; thus, it is not a coincidence that Neu!'s "Hero" (from Neu! 75) predates Bowie's "Heroes" by a good two years.

Out of Focus "Four Letter Monday Afternoon" [Kuckuck]
Not to be confused with Focus, of "Hocus Pocus" fame! Out Of Focus were a German rock/psych/jazz/fusion outfit that made three albums (four counting a posthumous release) back in the early '70s. A band with radical political issues and avantgarde tendencies, their style was at times heavy, with full-on organ/guitar jams, at times mellow and folky...and always with lots of flute! (You've gotta love flutes, though, to get into this.) Krautrock fans who like Gila, My Solid Ground, Agitation Free, Nosferatu, McChurch Soundroom, Dies Irae, and other "heavy" obscurities from the pages of Crack in the Cosmic Egg should check these guys out if you haven't already.

On this, their third album (1972), the band expanded to include a large brass section (saxes, trumpet). Appropriately, disc one starts off dramatically with a massive, bombastic horn-riff onslaught that stretches into a hypnotic seventeen minute jam (titled "L.S.B.") that sounds something like an imaginary Terry Riley take on the music from Hawaii 5-0. Indeed, much of this album has a "late-night TV band on drugs playing repetitive minimalism" vibe, if you can imagine that. There's definitely a nod to prime Soft Machine in Out of Focus' rock/jazz fusion as well. But, there's more: calmer, creepier ballads, searing psychedelic guitar attacks, baroque flute noodling... only in the '70s I guess!

The vocals, when present, range from eastern-influenced meditative chants to wild nonsensical scatting to (when there's actual words) crazy drug-damaged lyrics like "...sometimes when you're playing flute/and the tones are surrounding you/and the pale face underneath your boots/is tumbling through your rooms" (I *think* that's what he's singing) delivered in a melancholy croon, or (later in the same song) the menacing refrain of "...three years of your life, or seven fingers". It's almost as weird as fellow krautrockers Paternoster.

Disc two indulges even further in psychedelic jazz jam excess, being a spacy 48-minute, three-part composition/improvisation called "Huchen 55" that originally spanned two whole album sides. Again, flutes to the fore!

Out of Focus s/t [Kuckuck]
Lots of organ/guitar/flute riffing on these. This is their jazzier second album, from 1971, and our favorite song title on here belongs to the seventeen-minute long "Fly Bird Fly Television Program."

Out of Focus "Wake Up" [Kuckuck]
This is their first, from 1970, and features "See How A White Negro Flies" among other titles.

Paternoster s/t [Ohrwaschl]
One of the saddest records ever made. From Austria, circa 1972, what goths would have listened too had there been goths back then. Complete with full-blown psychedelic guitar freakouts, coupled with somber church-like organ and a vocalist who sounds on the verge of tears throughout the album. Oh so sad. Here's the lyrics from their song "Blind Children": 'Rotten eyeballs feet between/Hanging down the cheese machine/Hew it strew it do it too/Say it slay it just to do/Try to call yourself on the phone/Surely you are not at home/Sweep the swept floor once again/Stab yourself and feel the pain/Then stand and watch the speed/Clean your eyeballs wash your feet/Listen and repeat'. Or from "Stop These Lines": 'Morning peace dusty air/Clean your teeth comb your hair/Dressed in clothes you always wear/Go to work I won't be there/Lunchtime snackbar eating chips/Ketchup's running down your lips/Deadeyed waiters selling bibs/Which you have to fix with clips/Sitting waiting find an end/Meaningless with no comment/Is this life in your own hand/People are like grains of sand/Pick up streets and pull down skylines/Ravish women blast the mines/Burn the whiskies spill the wines/Find beginnings stop these lines'.
It's an odd, but excellent, hidden treasure!


Book: Eurock: European Rock And The Second Culture by Archie Patterson
[Eurock Publications]
This, my friends, is a not a book, but a tome. Over 700 pages, collecting together almost every important piece of writing that appeared in Archie Patterson's Eurock 'zine during its existence from 1973 to 1990, and more. Eurock magazine was all about prog / psych / krautrock / space rock / electronic stuff (in later years, entering into New Age territory to be sure), not just from Europe actually but from around the world. The earlier material is particularily cool 'cause Eurock's coverage of bands like Amon Duul and Can is like reading a current magazine's stuff about Godspeed You Black Emperor! or Acid Mothers puts things then and now into perspective. There's tons of obscure lore in here to uncover -- paging through at random I found articles about Ash Ra Tempel and Area, a piece on '70s Yugoslavian rock, a recent interview with Magma's Christian Vander, a review of a 1980 Rock In Opposition festival, and even an interview with our favorite '70s Italian prog band Osanna! In addition, as a special bonus, this book includes a seven-page appreciation of Amon Duul written in 1971 (for Creem magazine) by famous rock crit Lester Bangs, that I for one have always wanted to read. Basically, this book, I mean, tome, is highly recommended to all weird kraut / psych / prog music fiends!

Pluramon "Render Bandits" [Mille Plateaux]
Markus Schmickler's second album as Pluramon features ex-Can percussionist Jaki Leibezeit chugging away on all of the tracks for a propulsive / trance inducing album of prog-electronica. Certainly for fans of Kreidler and the recent Deutscher Funk compilation (which actually featured Pluramon).

Pyramid [PsiFi]
3 krautrock albums that were supposedly issued in the 70s in tiny editions of, like, 50 copies or something. The Pyramid album sole track is a mysterious 35-minutes of spacy drone with mellotron, moogs, and Tibetan bells. The Nazgul cd, our favorite of the three, is from 1975 and features 4 long tracks of droning ambience that's easily as good as any current space rock outfit could put together; i.e. Magnog, Labradford or anything else on Kranky.

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z