Cosmic Jokers – Planeten Sit-In

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.

Sergius Golowin – Lord Krishna Von Goloka

Another classic slice of R.U.K. madness here as he gets a Czech new age guru to step up to the microphone and talk about Krishna. I always imagined it’s one of those albums probably best appreciated by the non-German speaker and German friends tell me they try to shut out the words and focus on the music. That seems easy enough to me because there is a whole lot to love here about the music.

You get Klaus Schulze doing keyboards and things (including drums), Wallenstein’s rhythm section multi-tasking,  Bernd Witthüser on acoustic guitar, Walter Westrupp on everything and Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser on the controls – how could it fail? The chemistry between the line-up, forgive the accidental pun, is catalytic. Whilst Witthüser and Westrupp lend an air of psychedelic folk whimsy, Klaus Schulze could not be less of a hippy if he tried. Whether he is conjuring up cosmic electronics or smashing away at the percussion, he does it with an almost aggressive energy.  Add to this the presence of the Wallenstein members, coming from a more traditional rock band, and for all the mystical talk on the top of it, this is not soporific new age music.

The first track “Die Reigen” (which means The Dance) starts off with what sounds like an organ in a great cathedral on another plain filtering through infinity to us. The acoustic guitars begin tentatively and then something starts that sounds like Schulze playing the “choir organ” mellotron he got off Popol Vuh’s Florian Fricke. It’s not long though before they are off.

They keep up a galloping, breakneck intensity for everything from the piano to the acoustic guitar.  Even the piano sounds to be getting a hammering. Heck even the flute playing is a bit manic. Glowing words just hang thick in the air, spoken softly with authority. Although he’s clearly just a passenger on the musicians trip, his is not an unpleasant presence and has a nice speaking voice.  Even during the minimalist midway breakdown (it is a 19 minute song), there is still an urgent, rattling percussion for most of it until the final breakaway into silence.

“Die Weiße Alm” is a (relatively) shorter track to finish the first side and, unlike the other two, credited as being written by just Golowin and Jürgen Dollase  as opposed to the whole gang.  Dollase’s acoustic guitar predominates but there is a nice, subtle electronic background, which is why the writing credit seems a little puzzling. It seems especially puzzling, as it sounds like a lost track from Witthüser and Westrupp’s “Trips Und Traume” album. The track is presumably a celebration of Golowin’s Swiss base as while ‘Weiße’ means white (as any beer aficionado knows), an Alm is a very specific term for seasonal mountain pasture in the alps.

All of side two is given over to “Die Hoch-Zeit”. The most common use of that title is for a wedding but the dash in the middle suggests that we should perhaps be taking a more literal, older translation of the words:  “High Celebration”. It seems a more apt wording because things get really more way out there on this one.

It somehow sneaks gently in at full tilt with furious guitar strumming, punked-out drumming and whispered madness from the Golowinmeister. It’s one of those rare songs that sounds different every time you play it thanks to the intricate, layered mix. It is impossible to focus on all the song at once so the listener creates a new mix with their attention every time they hear the song

The R.U.K. lays down some heavy effect production on old Sergius’ vocals, reverberating and manipulating them. Someone hammers away at a piano in the most heroically wild manner, like the LSD march of the Valkyries. The percussion and drumming hits a perfect storm. It’s a psychedelic cacophony. Then it all slows down to flicker away in an echo of gentler strumming, weird drones, whispers and flute. I have a Dolby Pro Logic surround sound hi-fi and when I play this LP through it, the surround effect is better than any modern album or even movie. RUK was way ahead of his time.

It’s a wild ending to an album that somehow encapsulates both a primal strength and a cosmic peace to it. I have seen it referred to on the internet as ambient but only a complete chump would call it that. Yet, you would be just as stupid to dismiss it as hippy whimsy. This is the real deal, a fantastic session that hits higher levels without indulgence or nonsense, except possibly for those who can understand what old Sergius Golowin is saying. Just try to ignore the fact that it looks like he’s doing a shit in a field on the cover.

Witthüser Und Westrupp – Trips Und Träume

The combination of singer-songwriter Bernd Witthüser and multi-instrumentalist Walter Westrupp with Rolf Ulrich-Kaiser on production creates a union of esemplastic power. “Trips Und Träume” is the most overtly psychedelic folk entry in the krautrock cannon. The vocals are loud and clear in the mix and there is much strumming of the acoustic guitar.

Yet, “Trips Und Träume” is so much more than that. Westrupp creates some beautiful and amazing, not to mention mysterious sounds. Album opener “Lasst Uns Auf Die Reise Gehn” begins with some startlingly vivid and trippy zither playing. It is not just the melody that is impressive but the resonant recording of it which lends this traditional instrumental an almost mythical air.

The next track “Trippo Nova” is a totally different beast. A slow, trippy driving, motoric folk track. It veers quite close to Faust circa “So Far” at times but is its own beast, a psychedelic folk travelogue and a full, wide nine minutes long.

Side A closes with the infectious but dreamy “Orienta” which is somewhere between Kaiser’s opium dream production and what sounds like Amon Duul II doing “Zorba The Greek”.  It is as silly and amazing as it sounds.

Side 2 begins with the beautiful, full-fat instrumental “Illusion 1” where Westrupp plays flute, percussion and trombone. It is a full wall of sound effect, shimmering with melody and reverberation.

Bar the fun little oompah break down in the middle, “Karlchen“ is a bit dull for us non-German speakers. It’s mostly narration and a minimal guitar and flute backing. However, I’m told the narration is telling a story similar to childrens classic “Where The Wild Things Are” only being the story of a dog who runs away instead of a child. This strikes me as a wonderful idea, so I love the track for that, even if I can’t follow it.

“Englischer Walzer” is a minute and a half of drunken waltz, full of midnight magic and mushroom madness. Doesn’t sound particularly English to this ears but perhaps I’m missing the joke.

“Nimm Einen Joint, Mein Freund“ brings it all to a cheeky ending. It begins all pastoral and whimsical, again not too far from Faust’s similar experiments on “So Far” but then builds up into a spritely sing-a-long in celebration of taking drugs. Perhaps to keep it to the people who need to know, it is sung mostly in English. In fact, it might all be in English but just a bit in incomprehensible in places.

While obviously a product of its time, “Trips Und Träume” is also way ahead of its time and has aged beautifully. You really don’t have to look too far in the record shops to see its influence there in the current wave of acid folk. Yet, there is a warmth to this album that eludes many of its imitators. Partly this comes from the duos sense of humour that sneaks into the music and prevents it becoming pompous or pretentious. Another important part is Kaiser’s high-tech production makes it feel vividly alive as it comes out of your speakers. While Kaiser’s legacy is not without its controversies, when you stick this on it speaks for itself.

Ash Ra Tempel / Timothy Leary – Seven Up

Recorded in Switzerland where LSD enthusiast Leary was hiding, ‘Seven Up’ is skilfully edited from some bluesy  acid-soaked recording sessions. It feels like an album born in the post production as Leary-fronted blues sessions give way to wild electronic sound voids before fading back into those blues. A real clash of creators comes together here with Leary’s star power, Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser producing, Tim’s right-hand man Brian Barritt being hands on and then there’s a heavily augmented Ash Ra Tempel too. Given that the release came out on Die Kosmischen Kuriere, it’s probably a fair bet that we are hearing Kaiser’s vision strongest of all.

For Side A, named “Space”, the effect is rather like a DJ had a blues album on one deck and an experimental electronic record on the other and kept skilfully blending them. Although it all segues together as one, there are separate “subnames” for the tracks and it is pretty easy to distinguish them. “Downtown” is a laid-back blues jam. “”Power Drive” is wild space rock. “Right Hand Lover” has an almost Stooges raw energy too it. “Velvet Games” is the fade out. Glueing it all together is some very monged vintage electronics, fizzing away like the musicians minds probably were. After all, the album is said to be named after the LSD-laced soda the musicians were drinking

Side B is called ‘Time’. As with side A, there are surnames but this time it does feel more like one long, coherent piece going through different movements as opposed to the DJ feel of side one. The sleeve notes claim this side to be a live recording but, frankly, I don’t believe that for a second. Music of such high fidelity and the complex, electrical work just can’t be from a stage show or studio jam.
Of course, Leary is not a man known for his music. It could be argued he was but a counter-culture celebrity, although here is not the best place for a discussion of the man. The point is, this is a great Ash Ra Tempel album. They may let their celebrity dealer say a few words and let his entourage get involved and sing but the greatness here emanates from the musicians and technicians.

Leary had some grand concept behind it as “a musical interpretation of this mind map system”, whatever that really means. The bottom line is here is another classic bit of way-out psychedelic rock from the German scene. Probably only a passing curiosity for Leary aficionados, this is an essential purchase for krautrock heads