Sunday, October 14, 2007

Es ist Krautrock, weibchen

With my inaugural post on Dollar Bin Jams I wanted to kick things off right, in the true spirit of For-Nerds-By-Nerds that this blog was founded upon. That being said, what could be more nerd-core than Krautrock, the Dungeons & Dragons of music?

And I'll start by cheating a bit. This first band, Magical Ring, isn't German at all; they're French, which I suppose makes them the direct opposite of German. Still, this track from their 1977 release Light Flight/More and More is a creeping psychedelic guitar workout that definitely wears a Krautrock influence on its sleeve. Plus, I thought it would sound great as a kind of overture to the rest of this post.

There's next to nothing about Magical Ring on the interweb, but I did find a copy of the record on sale for $266, so grab this like Paris in 1940.

Magical Ring - Fire Zone

One of the most mythical bands off all time, Faust is nonetheless distinguished for being one of the first signed to rebel billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Records. Between their breakup in 1975 and their reunion in 1990 the whereabouts of the group remain unknown. "It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl" is the lead track off their sophomore release, So Far, and sounds something like a deconstructed '70s pop song, albeit a little more repetitive.

Faust - It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl

Cluster was probably the most innovative group in German space rock, also known as kosmische, and featured guest artists from Neu!'s Michael Rother to Brian Eno. 1974's Zuckerzeit was a departure, in that it came down from outer space in favor of a sound approaching electronic pop, which narrowly predated Kraftwerk's Autobahn.

This would be in the opening credits to Werner Herzog's adaptation of Pulp Fiction.

Cluster - Caramel

Back into the cosmos. I don't know what else to say about this except "freaking epic." And eerie, good Halloween mood music if that's your thing. My girlfriend loves Tangerine Dream but doesn't much care for electronic dance music. Figure that one out. This is a 320kbps CD rip, and it's almost 18 minutes long, so serious nerds only.

Tangerine Dream - Phaedra

In the 1980s, Harald Grosskopf was the drummer for Ash Ra Tempel, the other big kosmische band and the primary vehicle for Manuel Göttsching (whose landmark E2-E4 I would absolutely love to post in its righteous entirety, pending a discussion with my colleagues on possible legal ramifications). Grosskopf also pursued a decent solo career in his own right, expanding on Ash Ra's flirtation with New Age; here's a less cheesy example from his 1980 LP, Synthesist. For Echoes, I'm John Diliberto.

Harald Grosskopf - Emphasis

Harmonia was a veritable Krautrock supergroup, comprised of key players in the scene, and was arguably an ideal representation of its signature motorik chug. Brian Eno called them "the world's most important rock group" and would later collaborate in several sessions. Although Kraftwerk would ultimately become the most widely influential band of that era, Harmonia is often considered the flagship Krautrock band, a perfect encapsulation of its time and place. This track is off their 1974 debut, Musik von Harmonia.

Harmonia - Veterano

We've come full circle here because I'm cheating again. Davey Jones isn't German, but he moved to Berlin in the late 1970s to produce a trilogy of groundbreaking, Krautfluenced albums with help from, you guessed it, fellow ex-pat Brian Eno. Heroes was the middle child of the three, released 30 years ago this month in fact (see, I knew what I was doing). The title track is still my all-time favorite Bowie song. Amazing guitar solo from Robert Fripp, great use of oscillators, but Bowie's vocal is unreal. The lyric about a couple embracing against the backdrop of the Berlin Wall, defying that symbol of overwhelming oppression with such a visceral display of emotion, chokes me up every time. Critic Ned Raggett put it best: "Not even ending up as a Microsoft commercial theme could quench the sheer power and beauty of 'Heroes.'"

David Bowie - Heroes

-Dave T


Cousin Cole said...

good shit...

skinny said...

i sampled the fuck out that phaedra record.

vivikat said...

amazing. that magical ring track is awesome, been trying to track it down ever since richard sen dropped in a mixtape a while back. cheers.