Xhol Caravan – Electrip

R-2029274-1387807356-3272The artists formerly known as Soul Caravan relaunched themselves in 1969 as Xhol Caravan with this wild album that melds Soft Machine-style jazz prog with something a bit more rock n roll and something a bit weird. It keeps up these frantic, storming rhythms while the jazz gets out there. It sounds miles away from anything the other jazzy krautrock bands like Embryo and Brainticket did. Mainly because it does stay closer to the jazz.

The first track “Electric Fun Fair” starts off with a toilet flushing before the band all jump in. It makes me think a bit of Zappa’s livelier jazz pieces from late 60s/early 70s with its melodic but hypnotic stabs of sound and ever changing timing. “Pop Games” starts off with sped-up chattering voices and then kicks in the jazz. This time it is at a bit more laid-back pace but still grooving along at a toe-tapping pace. It does intensify half-way through into a bit of wilder honking but overall remains something a bit more mainstream. Side one ends with “All Green” which sees wild, free-wheeling drumming set to a more conventional, organ-heavy jazz number. It wigs out a little towards the end for a few seconds but then calms down a bit apart from a tiny bit of electronics.
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Most of side two is taken up with “Raise Up High”. There are almost hints of classic rock with as a proper gravelly-voiced singer going on about getting stoned but then the horns and organ come sneaking in and doodle all around us, getting more and more frantic over seventeen minutes. It suddenly gets all slow-mo and cosmic, suddenly starts backtracking, abstracts about a bit and then hurtles off into wild jazz jump. It is kind of like Sun Ra you can dance to.

It all ends with a quick track called “Walla Mashalla” which is less than two minutes long and whimsical little piece with an African/Eastern feel. Yeah, so there is no point picking up this album if you don’t enjoy some jazz. There are little snatches of strange sounds in here but they are just brief asides from what is very much a musician’s album.

It often gets relegated to the fringes of krautrock simply because it has so little in common with its peers. In fact, you could easily entertain a Blue Note collector with this album, although they would find it a little unusual in places but it wouldn’t alienate them. If you enjoy those first few Soft Machine albums then you would do well to tune into this.

The album made its official CD debut in 2000 in a snazzy edition with a 32 page booklet, nice remastering and two tracks off the 1969 7″ single “Planet Earth” thrown in as bonus tracks. The title track on side A is like a John Barry number with Jimi Hendrix on vocals. Side B is blues guitar and vocals. Obviously, due to the format they are two short tracks, quite fun, slightly cheesy but the remastering is non existant, they sound ripped straight from a dusty 45rpm. Their addition without pause creates an awkward epilogue to a good album.
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Kraftwerk

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The first three Kraftwerk albums have never been reissued and never remastered for CD (at least officially). Because of this, they feel like a secret history of the band, a very different Kraftwerk to the band that cut those classic electropop albums. On these albums, they are more in tune with their krautrock peers and nowhere more so than on this, their self-titled debut album.

The line-up is just Ralf and Florian accompanied by a drummer. On side one Andreas Hohmann drums. By side two he has gone (jumped or pushed? We don’t know but his next move was to join Ralf & Florian’s former bandmates from The Organisation to form Ibliss) and future Neu! man Klaus Dinger sits behind the kit.
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There are two tracks on each side of the LP. Side one opens with the distinctive “Ruckzuck”. The track, with its catchy flute melodies, growly electronics and motoric drumming, was one they played on German TV with previous band The Organisation and it remained in their live sets right up to the Autobahn tour. The second track on side one, the much longer “Stratovarius” goes through some more abstract electronic passages but comes back to the rapid fire drumming and some chunky riffs which might be on a distorted organ but sound very much like some roughly treated electric guitar.
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Over to side two and the promise of some wildman Klaus Dinger drumming is delayed by the wild swirls of sound that open up “Megaherz”. It is total madness that gives way to peaceful organ drones and Florian whips out his flute again to blow gently along. Its almost pastoral stuff and worlds away from their futurist fantasies to come.

The killing blow arrives last, though, in the form of “Von Himmel Hoch”. To begin with, there is an extended opening of insane electronics sounding like the Radiophonic Workshop manipulating recordings of air raids. Its all a big tease, however, and eventually Dinger begins to hit his kit like he hates it and the drums and electronics build up in pace before exploding into a giant, monstrous electronic funk wig-out that still remains unsurpassed in music. Its now become a permanent fixture in my DJ sets when I play out with vinyl.
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If you like Kraftwerk’s well-known albums but don’t enjoy the classic krautrock sound then there is nothing for you to see here. However, any lover of quality experimental rock music or rowdy electronics really needs to hear this classic album.

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A.R. & Machines – Die grüne Reise

Reise front When it comes to adopting international musical styles it’s easy to see that Achim Reichel was slightly ahead of his (German) times: He founded The Rattles, the ‘German Beatles’, in 1960, toured England briefly with The Rolling Stones and Bo Diddley in 1963 and supported The Beatles in Germany in 1966. During the early and mid-1960’s The Rattles had a few hits and became more and more popular when Reichel had to join the German Bundeswehr in 1967 and his career as a musician was put on hold. Coming back from the military service he grew his hair and recorded “Die grüne Reise” in 1970. It was released in 1971, the same year as the first Ash Ra Tempel.

Maybe it’s because of Reichel’s age (he slightly older than Schulze or Göttsching, for example) or it’s because of the fact that “Die grüne Reise” (the green journey) was recorded in Hamburg, where Reichel lives until this day – but A.R. & Machines are strangely disconnected from the Krautrock canon. In Munich there was Amon Düül and in Berlin the eponymous school (Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, Cluster…) for example – people who formed different groups and played together in various combinations. Achim Reichel remained alienated from all these actions and listening to “Die grüne Reise” I ask myself why? Maybe just because he wanted to be on his own. (The back-cover of the record pictures Reichel standing solely in front of a setting sun.)

The music on “Die grüne Reise” is not unlike some early Ash Ra Tempel or some Amon Düül – but it’s a solo-record and because of that it bears similarities to Göttsching’s “Blackouts” or “Inventions For Electric Guitar” – not to speak of Reichel’s “Echoes” from 1972, which sounds like the musical template for Göttsching’s “Inventions…”. But by the time of Göttsching’s “Inventions…” Reichel was already off the psychedelic plane and released a record consisting of Shanty music.

Reichel’s musical journey remains a bizarre Sonderweg in the history of Krautrock – but for the most part it’s a journey to enjoy. “Die grüne Reise” is a colourful and diverse record (the sleazy guitar riff on “In The Same Boat” sandwiched between “Globus” and “Beautiful Babylon” is a hilarious aberration – at least when it comes to the average expectations when putting on a ‘psychedelic’ record). Its ten fluffy psychedelic tracks wear the obvious signs of the times, but they still sound fresh. “I’ll Be Your Singer” is a folky-trippy ditty with slightly goofy faux-philosophical lyrics, “Body” another fine echo-guitar-etude blending into a laid-back “Book Of Blues”. And that’s just the first side of “Die grüne Reise”…

Flipping the record “Cosmic Vibration” radiates from the vinyl, so what are you waiting for? Take the trip – the green journey awaits you!
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review by Holger Adam

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Musikalische Gruppen-Improvisation

front“This record contains various examples of ‚musical group-improvisations”. Yes it does. The self-explanatory title of the record and the first sentence of the accompanying notes are as precise as demystifying. It’s a bunch of people (not trained musicians, necessarily) improvising on various (non-)musical instruments. Or, to quote Andy Warhol (according to Lou Reed): “It’s work.”
In fact, the ten examples of improvised music compiled on this record are selected from workshops that were organised and held by the Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft Nordrhein-Westfalen to inspire the participating music therapists, students, social workers and nursery school teachers (and a few musicians, too – from Annexus Quam, Kollektiv and Bröselmaschine) to work with the concept/idea of musical group-improvisations in their own field of work.

In theory these musical group-improvisations were thought of as a way to experience yourself within a group of people and as a human being that is capable to develop and extend its musical and social possibilities, so to speak. Furthermore: to exercise these improvisations was meant to improve your understanding of yourself and your relationships to others: “Through music to the self” (Peter Michael Hamel).
Everybody attending the workshops was encouraged to bring things to make music with, not necessarily musical instruments. And of course you didn’t need to have any experience in playing an instrument. Every attendant was considered to be a musical person anyway and that was all it took: Stuff to make noise with and the courage to just do it.
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Of course, it’s mostly regular musical (acoustic and electric) instruments that can be heard during these sessions, but there’s also some dogs barking, birds singing, hands clapping and some empty bottles and a fiddle made out of a clabbered milk mug for good measurement.
One half of the sessions recorded are free improvisations, the other half was inspired by something that all the attendants were asked to use as a collective inspiration for their group-improvisations: a graphic artwork, a projection of a landscape, a surrealistic painting or the surrounding environment (one session was recorded open air, that’s were the dogs and birds can be heard).

All in all: it’s a great concept and judging from the collage that shows some of the people that participated in these workshops it must have been fun to do it and I could go on and on about theoretical assumptions, presumptions, further implications and contradictions that lie within the whole thing – but what about the music actually?

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It’s great. Not unlike Michael Vetter’s recordings with/of children doing vocal-improvisations this is another fine example of folk-music that (at first) may sound like it was recorded by academically trained improvisers – but it isn’t. It’s the sound of people listening to each other. And that’s a good definition for music in general, maybe (and maybe that’s old news to some bookish musicologist, but anyway…).

By its approach and in its results “Musikalische Gruppenimprovisation” can be compared to Anima Sound recordings like “Stürmischer Himmel” and it can also be seen and heard like the blueprint to the whole discography of music-collectives like Sunburned Hand Of The Man, the No-Neck Blues Band or Wooden Wand & The Vanishing Voice. Yeah, why not – let’s call it the German Forebears Of Free Folk!
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Review by Holger Adam

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Cosmic Jokers – Planeten Sit-In

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The criminally under-rated Cosmic Jokers project is often the subject of scorn and derision, perhaps because of their more jam-based structure as opposed to the song forms of many of their contemporaries. Perhaps it is because of the ambiguous legality of it all and the seeming lack of awareness of the participants owing to the producers handing out mind-altering drugs in heavy supply.

None the less, “Planeten Sit-In” remains a wild piece of space-rock. Klaus Shculze wigging the electronics for all their worth whilst members of Wallenstein rock out with Ash Ra Tempel whilst in higher states of mind. The resulting jams may not showcase the artists at their most proficient but they certainly show them at their wildest and most primal. Tribal drums, spooky electronics, deep bass and weird acapellas. Schulzian electronics regularly loom high in the mix and there is an even a moment of piano towards the end of “Loving Frequencies” that makes me think of Brian Eno with Cluster.

The track listing could be considered a bit misleading with none of the “tracks” being very long and are all segued. Unless you are listening on CD or computer files whilst watching the track display change, you would not know that “Raumschiff Galaxy Startlet” had ended and “The Planet Of Communication” (itself only 47 seconds) had begun. Oh, and that segues right into the 35 second “Electronenzirkus”. Perhaps the different song titles are used to mark out the different sources. Knowing the methods of uber-kosmik producer Rolf Ulrich-Kaiser, this album will be a psychedelic Frankenstein’s monster stitched together from different jam parts. The only pause is for the end of side one which concludes with the aforementioned “Loving Frequencies”

Over to side two and “Electronic News” is nothing short of an amazing trip, like Stockhausen at a rave, all weird dark electronics hanging out with throbbing pulses that mulch the mind. It yields to the ritualistic rock of “Intergalactic Radio Guri Broadcasting”. Someone is singing far away from the microphone and quite clearly off their face in a major way. The rhythm starts to evolve into a groove and with Schulze on electronic overdrive it verges on proto-disco/techno. A brief 41 second all electronic interlude gives way to “Interstellar Rock: Kosmische Musik” which is the sort of psychedelic space drone rock you’d associate with someone like White Hills.

Another 46 second Schulzian interval and we are onto the climactic “Der Planet Des Stemenmadchens” which at over 8 minutes is far and away the longest song on here. Primal rock rhythms reminiscent of Cromagnon and plenty of Schulzey electronic wiggins. It goes all sci-fi, like an instrumental version of The White Noise. The odd thing is the track very slowly fades away, melting the record out rather than going out with a bang. It leaves the listener a little underwhelmed at the end of listening which may in part account for the albums lukewarm reputation but whimpering climax aside, this is a great album.
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Djong Yun – Du sollst lieben / Ave Maria

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Djong Yun (daughter of the famous composer Isang Yun) contributed vocals to Popol Vuh records such as “Hosianna Mantra” and “Einsjäger & Siebenjäger”, for example. And maybe most Krautrock fans know her from performing “Kyrie“ together with Popol Vuh on German TV – one of the few rare bits of Popol Vuh footage that survived..

Shortly before, during or after recording together with Popol Vuh for “Hosianna Mantra” she also recorded what is (un-)known as the only record she released under her own name. A 7“-record that features two compositions (“Ave Maria” and “Du sollst lieben”) credited to Florian Fricke and recorded with members of Popol Vuh (by the time of “Hosianna Mantra” these were – besides Djong Yun and Florian Fricke – Conny Veit, Robert Eliscu and Klaus Wiese).

The rerelease of “Hosianne Mantra” that was put out on Wah-Wah-Records this autumn comes with this sweet little and hard to get gem and considering that an original of the 7“ might cost you a fortune there’s a good excuse to get another copy of “Hosianna Mantra” for these two songs alone.

And since Florian Fricke composed the two songs and members of Popol Vuh recorded the music – it actually IS a Popol Vuh record, and the two songs are similar to the music that was recorded for “Hosianna Mantra”, so it makes perfect sense to add the 7“ to the rerelease.

There’s Djong Yun’s angelic voice (singing German lyrics which are somewhat of Christian origin), Bob Eliscu’s beautiful oboe, Florian Fricke’s playing the piano and Conny Veit is delivering his significant guitar playing. Klaus Wiese was maybe contributing, too but apart from credits to Florian Fricke for writing the two songs there’s no additional infos or details about the recording session that led to the release of that 7“ back in 1972 and reincarnated thanks to Wah-Wah-Records just recently.

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Embryo – Message From Era Ora

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