Thursday, August 9, 2007

Krautrock, er, Cosmic Music, I mean, Motorik...

I purchased Harmonia's first record, "Musik von Harmonia" last week after work and life decided to crap on my head. I shouldn't have done it, but my impulsive love of Krautrock, motorik and "cosmic music" played me like Faust's fiddle.

This brings me to that wonderful world of genre funnery. While perusing the liner notes of the aforementioned album, I found a wonderful passage that decried the label "Krautrock."

If you don't know, the term Krautrock is derived from an Amon Duul II song on their second record, "Mama Duul and Her Sauerkraut Band Begin to Play." This band was an entertaining combination of post-Sergeant Peppers Beatles with the free-form tendencies of Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Think "Interstellar Overdrive" combined with the Grateful Dead/Sun Ra and topped off by a manic two-drum attack and a cackling megaphoned vocalist spitting out some twisted German verse.

This is one of the few freaky psychedelic groups whose image fit their sound. Let me provide you with a humdinger of an example. A picture that definitely fits not only the era but the sound. A bunch of crazy German people hanging out on their couch, which of course is in the middle of the German woods. They all have long hair, tight jeans, and various forms of facial hair. The one difference between this band and their contemporaries is the woman in the foreground, who was referred to as "Renate." She's a great singer/percussionist and served as a template for the lady in Hawkwind (although with far less nudity involved, and she didn't just dance). No crazy costumes, no frills, just a nature couch. I love it.

Got a little off topic here. Basically, Krautrock became this all-encompassing semi-racist label attached to any experimental/electronic group that came out of Germany. So when Roedilius and Moebius from Cluster and Michael Rother from Neu! decided to team up to form Harmonia, everyone buzzed about the Krautrock super group. The music was worthy of the buzz, as the band used synthesizers and beat machine that incessantly thumped along to create a hypnotic pattern-based attack. However, the dudes from Cluster were none to happy of the label, as they had previously been stuck with the "Cosmic Music" tag. I'll go into this bitter dispute when I get home and dig up the liner notes. Let it be known that this record has one of the best covers of the entire century. Dig this shit:
For 1974, or even now, this cover gets me excited to hear some music. The three men and their drum machine cycle through some amazing material, with Rother's guitar drone and Cluster's synth swamped in live tape hiss. This is the kind of stuff that whets my whistle, if you know what I'm saying. The Cluster Bros can be accused of noodling (probably by Samir Khan) but upon intense listening the structure of the wandering keyboard lines. Rother goes from quiet electric plucking to a distorted roar, as the songs are a living breathing display of three artists fitting together, Voltron style. The searching sound of Musik von Harmonia was soon replaced two years later the triumphant near perfect Deluxe. That's right, I said it was near perfect. Deal with it.

I've got to dig up some reviews to destroy, so I'll check back in once I have my facts straight and my liner notes ready.

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