Bernd Henninger, Gerd Kraus and Gerd “Odysseus”Artner recorded as Limbus 3 (“New Atlantis“, 1969) before releasing “Mandalas”as a quartet with second percussionist Matthias Knieper. In 1971 the project fell apart.
The music on both records is heavily influenced by ethnic music styles from all over the world, mainly African and Indian music. It’s an all acoustic and fully improvised affair: Viola, Percussion and various exotic instruments that Kraus got from friends who travelled foreign continents and brought tablas, a sitar, a bul-bul tarang, different kinds of pipes and other stuff to the hippie-commune based in Heidelberg back then.
When I first listened to “Mandalas”, I was struck by how fresh the music sounded. It instantly reminded me of improvising collectives like Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice, Sunburned Hand Of The Man or the No-Neck Blues Band and if you dig your “Gypsy Freedom“, “Jaybird”or some “Dutch Money”– Limbus 4 (and 3) is something to go for. Of course, if you’re familiar with some of the Ocora catalogue then the Heidelberg-Hippies might be something up your alley, too!
There’s a strong communal and somewhat spiritual vibe to the music and according to Gerd Kraus the aim was to share that communion with the audience: “It was important to create a meditative atmosphere. To get in the right mood, to empathise on the very moment was most important at the beginning of every concert we played. Sometimes a tea ceremony would mark the start of a concert – and from there we’d try to proceed, try to create something sensitive, always based on improvisation and a certain flow.”
Another strong influence can be found in German mystics like Jakob Boehme. And so it’s not surprising that the four guys pictured on the inside of the gatefold look like country-styled Renaissance paupers – but with tablas. A pretty charming bunch, if you ask me.
Some educated digression: German mysticism was a strong influence on some folks back then. To connect to a German heritage that (presumably) had not been exploited by the Nazis is something that was in the air from early Burg Waldeck Festivals up to bands like Ougenweide who adopted a lot of lyrics/ideas from Hildegard von Bingen or Walther von der Vogelweide, for example. I always get edgy for a bit with that kind of genealogical research, especially when looking for artistic inspiration becomes reaching out for or rebuilding a national identity. It’s a small path to wander on and a delicate subject that is embedded in the history of Krautrock if you look at little closer: The aim of not wanting to mimic British or American beatbands and instead trying something on your own is something f-u-n-d-a-m-e-n-t-a-l-l-y different from the approach to maintain an identity as a German band. End of educated digression…
Anyway, Limbus 4 did a good job recording this beautiful music that is transgressing a lot of borders: “Mandalas”was World-Music before that (somewhat ugly) phrase was coined. An improvised, sensitive and delightful music that – in respect of the aforementioned collectives from the US – was ahead of its time back then and still sounds fresh.
review by Holger Adam