Tag Archives: krautrock

by way of Krautrock

HISTORY IS OFTEN DEFINED BY THE HISTORIANS.  TAKE FOR INSTANCE KRAUTROCK (OR ITS’ SISTER KOSMISCHE),  A GENERIC TERM THAT HAS BEEN APPLIED TO GERMAN BANDS MAKING ADVANCES IN ROCK & ELECTRONIC MUSIC DURING THE 1970’S.  STYLISTICALLY, KRAUTROCK DOESN’T REALLY EXIST BUT CAN BE APPLIED AS A POINT OF REFERENCE TO INCLUDE A NUMBER OF ARTISTS INCLUDING (BUT NOT LIMITED TO) NEU!, KRAFTWERK, CAN, AMON DUUL, CLUSTER/HARMONIA, FAUST, POPOL VUH, TANGERINE DREAM/KLAUS SHULTZ/ASH RA TEMPLE AND LA DUSSELDORF.  MUCH LIKE POST-ROCK IN THE 1990’S, KRAUTROCK EXISTS LARGELY DUE TO THE IMAGINATION OF CRITICS AND FANS.

DESPITE OUR LOVE OF THE ‘GENRE’, WE HAVEN’T REALLY FOCUSED MUCH ATTENTION ON IT HERE.  WHY IS THAT?  MOSTLY BECAUSE IT HAS ITS OWN DEVOTED FOLLOWING AND HAS RECEIVED A LOT OF ATTENTION ELSEWHERE…… WHAT WOULD WE BE ADDING TO AN ALREADY GROWING PANTHEON OF WRITTEN MYTHOLOGIES AND PRAISES ON THE SUBJECT?

WHAT WE FIND AS INTRIGUING AS THE RECORDS THEMSELVES IS THE LASTING INFLUENCE AND INSPIRATION THEY’VE HAD ON DECADES OF MUSICIANS.  ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MODERN KRAUTROCK, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF ARTISTS AND ALBUMS THAT SHOW ITS DIRECT INFLUENCE WHILE CREATING THEIR OWN DEFINING STYLE.  A FEW OF OUR FAVORITES IN RECENT YEARS INCLUDE THE LIKES OF CAMERA (Berlin), BEAK (UK), ARP, CLOUDLAND CANYON AND JONAS REINHARDT (USA).  WE MENTION THESE IN PARTICULAR AS DEMONSTRATIONS OF THE SUBTLE ART OF INFLUENCE, WHICH IS NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH APPROPRIATION.  ANYONE CAN STEAL SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEAS (and many do these days).  THE ART LIES IN CREATING SOMETHING OF YOUR OWN WHILE ADOPTING SOUNDS OR STYLES THAT HAVE COME BEFORE YOU.  ALL OF THE AFOREMENTIONED ACTS SEEM TO BE DOING JUST THAT.  EACH IS TAKING PARTICULAR INFLUENCES FROM KRAUTROCK/KOSMISCHE AND BUILDING UPON THEM, OFTEN UPDATING CLASSIC SOUNDS OR APPROACHES IN MODERN WAYS.

GIVEN THE VARIOUS ‘RETRO’ WAVES THAT HIT POPULAR MUSIC EVERY DECADE,  WHAT IS OLD WILL ALWAYS BECOME “NEW” AGAIN (AT LEAST FOR 5 MINUTES).  THERE WILL BE A NEW GENERATION THAT DISCOVERS THE 60’S, 70’S, 80’S OR 90’S AND, ONCE AGAIN, TURN OUT RECYCLED IDEAS FOR THE BILLIONTH TIME…….BUT NOT ALL ESTABLISHED GENRES ARE DEAD END STREETS.  KRAUTROCK MIGHT BE A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THAT; WHERE NO SINGULAR BAND DEFINES THE TERM AND MORE OFTEN THAN NOT THE NATURE OF EXPERIMENTATION IS THE COHESIVE ELEMENT OF THE GENRE.  THE SOCIAL CLIMATE AND FASHIONS OF THE 70’S THAT ALLOWED THE AVANT GARDE TO FLOWER IN GERMAN MUSIC MAY HAVE CHANGED AND FALLEN OUT OF FAVOR BY THE 80’S, BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE SPIRIT, OR THE SOUND, OF THAT INNOVATION ARE NECESSARILY DEAD.

REMEMBER THAT ALTHOUGH THESE-THINGS-PAST BECOME HIP AGAIN, LIKE VINTAGE ANALOG SYNTHS, ONCE YOU WADE THROUGH THE MIRE YOU CAN FIND FOLKS OUT THERE DOING NEW AND GOOD THINGS WITH THEM.   

GOOD LUCK.

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a rare treasure – Harmonia ‘Live 1974’

WE HERE AT THE AURAL DUSTBIN ARE PRETTY MUCH CATEGORICALLY AGAINST ‘LIVE’ ROCK RECORDS.  THEY RARELY ADD ANYTHING TO THE DISCOGRAPHY OF AN ARTIST, USUALLY SOUND LIKE SHITE AND CERTAINLY DON’T ACCURATELY REPRESENT THE “EXPERIENCE” OF SEEING A BAND LIVE.  SO WHY ARE THEY SO UBIQUITOUS?  PERHAPS BECAUSE IT IS A WAY FOR A BAND (OR ITS’ RECORD LABEL) TO MAKE MONEY OFF AN EXISTING CATALOG OF WORK WITHOUT THE COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH MAKING A STUDIO ALBUM?  OR IS IT JUST BECAUSE THERE ARE ENOUGH RABID FANS TO BUY THEM?  EITHER WAY, WE USUALLY HAVE LITTLE TO NO INTEREST IN ALMOST ANY LIVE ROCK/POP ALBUM.  USUALLY.

TWO NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS SPRING TO MIND: KICK OUT THE JAMS BY THE MC5 AND LIVE 1974 BY HARMONIA.

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF REASONS WHY THIS HARMONIA ALBUM SHOULD  BE CONSIDERED ON PAR WITH THEIR STUDIO ALBUMS MUSIK VON HARMONIA, DELUXE AND THE POSTHUMOUSLY RELEASED TRACKS & TRACES (with Brian Eno):

  1.  THERE IS LITTLE TO NO AUDIENCE NOISE (AND IF THE STORY IS TRUE, THERE WERE ONLY 50  PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE AT THIS SHOW TO BEGIN WITH). 
  2. THE SOUND QUALITY IS GOOD AND SURPRISING CLEAN FOR A LIVE RECORDING FROM 1974.  THE LEVELS OCCASIONALLY DIP OR RISE WITHIN A GIVEN TRACK, BUT THE TONES ARE REMARKABLY CONSISTENT WITH THEIR STUDIO ALBUMS.
  3. UNLIKE THEIR OTHER ALBUMS WHICH FEATURE SHORTER SONGS WITH TIGHT ARRANGEMENTS, THE PIECES ON THIS DISC ARE LOOSE AND SOMETIMES EPIC.  OF THE FIVE TRACKS ONLY ONE IS 5:20, THE OTHERS LOGGING IN BETWEEN 10 AND 17 MINUTES!  THE FEEL IS SOMETIMES DARKER AND EVEN MENACING, SHOWING AN EXPANDED CAPABILITY IN THE SONIC ARSENAL OF HARMONIA.
  4. THE SONGS ON LIVE 1974 DO NOT APPEAR ON ANY OTHER HARMONIA ALBUM.    

ADMITTEDLY, WE ARE KRAUTROCK FREAKS AND WE PUT HARMONIA HIGH ON OUR LIST OF FAVORITES FROM THE GENRE.  PERHAPS THIS MAKES OUR OPINIONS BIASED ON THE SUBJECT, BUT SO BE IT.  LIVE 1974 STANDS AS A RARE EXCEPTION TO OUR “NO LIVE ALBUMS” RULE AND ONE YOU SHOULD INVESTIGATE FOR YOURSELVES.

Kraftwerk according to….. Seu Jorge!

WE ARE LIFELONG FANS OF THE ICONIC & LEGENDARY GERMAN ELECTRONIC BAND KRAFTWERK, ALTHOUGH THEIR CULT STATUS AND THE AMOUNT OF PRE-EXISTING PRESS ON THEM PRECLUDES OUR NEED TO WRITE MUCH ON THE SUBJECT . WHAT COULD WE ADD TO THE MASS OF WORDS DIRECTED TOWARD THEM OVER THE DECADES?

NOT MUCH ON KRAFTWERK THEMSELVES, BUT COVER VERSIONS OF THEIR SONGS ARE A DIFFERENT MATTER.  WE MUST SAY THOUGH THAT IT IS ALWAYS WITH CURIOSITY (and perhaps a healthy dose of skepticism) THAT WE APPROACH COVER VERSIONS OF KRAFTWERK’S SONGS.  WHO HAS THE BALLS TO ATTEMPT TO DO A VERSION OF A SONG THAT HAS BEEN DILIGENTLY CRAFTED (no pun intended) BY THE VERY PICTURE OF GERMAN MELODIC EFFICASY, RHYTHMIC PRECISION AND STUDIO FASTIDIOUSNESS?  WELL….. SEU JORGE IT TURNS OUT.

THE BRASILIAN SINGER IS PROBABLY KNOWN TO MOST AS THE DUDE IN WES ANDERSON’S 2004 FILM THE LIFE AQUATIC THAT SINGS DAVID BOWIE SONGS IN PORTUGUESE, ALTHOUGH BEFORE THAT HE WAS A WELL-KNOWN SINGER IN HIS NATIVE COUNTRY AND HAD PLAYED ‘KNOCKOUT NED’ IN THE 2002 FILM CITY OF GOD.  THIS TIME JORGE, AND HIS BAND ALMAZ, TURN THEIR ATTENTION TO ‘DAS MODEL’ OFF OF KRAFTWERK’S 1978 ALBUM DIE MENSCH-MASCHINE…… AND WITH SURPRISING RESULTS;  THE COVER IS ACTUALLY QUITE GOOD.  JORGE & BAND HAVE DECIDED TO DO A ‘STRAIGHT’ COVER HERE BY NOT MONKEYING WITH THE SONG STRUCTURE AT ALL.  IT’S JUST AS KRAFTWERK WROTE IT, THOUGH THERE ISN’T A SYNTHESIZER TO BE HEARD.  THIS VERSION OF ‘THE MODEL’ IS DONE IN A LAID-BACK SURF STYLE, WITH REVERB-SOAKED GUITAR TAKING CARE OF THE MELODY LINES ORIGINALLY VOICED WITH KEYBOARDS.  IT SOUNDS PLEASINGLY “LIVE” AND WORKS REMARKABLY WELL BY ADDING A UNIQUE PRESENTATION TO A FAIRLY WELL KNOWN PIECE WHILE MAINTAINING THE INTEGRITY OF THE ORIGINAL.  JORGE’S NICCOTINE-STAINED VOICE IS PERHAPS ANTITHETICAL TO RALF HUTTER’S, YET SOMEHOW IT’S SEXY IN A WAY THAT WE’RE SURE KRAFTWERK NEVER IMAGINED. 

WE’LL NOT COMMENT ON THE REST OF THE 2010 ALBUM, NOR THEIR COVER OF MICHAEL JACKSON’S “ROCK WITH YOU” RIGHT NOW.


EVEN IF YOU CAN’T ABIDE BY SEU JORGE & ALMAZ’S AMBITION IN COVERING KRAFTWERK, YOU HAVE TO ADMIRE THEIR APPROACH: