SOUL JAZZ RECORDS PRESENTS: DEUTSCHE ELECKTRONISCHE MUZIK 2.
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS PRESENTS: DEUTSCHE ELECKTRONISCHE MUZIK 2.
Sometimes, when it comes to compilations, sequels don’t quite live up the first volume in a series. Often, the first volume in a series has exhausted the supply of seminal music. So, when the eagerly awaited sequel is released, there’s often a sense of disappointment. Too often, the musical memory of the first volume ends up tainted by a disappointing sequel. The lesson to be learnt, is that once you’ve released one or two successful compilations, quit while you’re ahead. Sadly, often record companies realizing that there’s an audience for their compilation series, let greed and avarice get in the way of common sense. After all, with some musical genres, there’s often a limited supply of quality music. Conversely, other musical genres have a plentiful supply of quality music awaiting discovery by enthusiastic and knowledgeable compilers. This includes what’s become known as Krautrock, which has become musical shorthand for a fusion of musical genres. Mining this plentiful supply of music have been Soul Jazz Records, for their compilation Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, which was released on 25th February 2013.
For those yet to discover Krautrock, this musical genre is a melting pot of influences. Indeed, there’s everything from rock, prog rock, jazz, psychedelia, folk and electronic music. While many people will have heard the music of Kraftwerk, Neu, Can and Faust, there’s much more to Krautrock than this. So, for anyone looking to discover Krautrock, then Soul Jazz Records’ latest release, Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, is the perfect starting point. On the two discs that comprise Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, there are twenty-seven tracks. They were released between 1971 and 1983, and are describes as “experimental German rock and electronic musik.” This is the perfect description of the Krautrock. Together with the 2010s Deutsche Elektronische Muzik, this is the perfect primer for the newcomer to Krautrock. Before I tell you about some of the highlights of Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, I’ll tell you about the background to Krautrock.
To make sense of what has become known as Krautrock, we’ve got to look at what was going on musically, just before, and during the period Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2 covers. This compilation covers the period between 1971 and 1983. Much had happened in music just before this period. As the sixties ended, it was a very different musical landscape to when the sixties dawned. Indeed, music was almost unrecognizable.
Ever since The Beatles released Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band in June 1967, there had been an explosion in psychedelic music’s popularity. Jimi Hendrix had played his part, fusing psychedelia, rock, blues and jazz. Rock however, dominated the musical landscape. British bands like Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and The Who been at the forefront of rock’s growth popularity, joining groups like The Doors. However, rock wasn’t the only musical show in town.
Folk, jazz and the avant garde, counterculture music of Frank Zappa offered alternatives. Frank Zappa, Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead represented the counterculture movement and would influence Krautrock.
If psychedelia, rock and Frank Zappa influenced Krautrock, so would jazz music, including albums like Miles Davis’ 1970 album Bitches Brew, with its fusion of psychedelia, rock, electronic and jazz. So too, would groups like Weather Report and jazz rock music, especially Jean Luc Ponty, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul and Tony Williams. Then there was a British musical movement whose popularity grew during the seventies.
By the early seventies, prog rock music was beginning to grow in popularity and would influence Krautrock. Genesis, Yes, E.L.P, Caravan and Van Der Graaf Generator were just a few of the British prog rock bands that would play their part in shaping Krautrock. One other influence was classical music, specifically the avant garde European classical music.
European avant garde classical music would influence Krautrock. Composers like Stockhausen and his hero, Edgard Varese, would play crucial roles in helping shaping the genre. Gradually, a melting pot of musical influences was takinh shape. Each of these would shape German music during the seventies and early eighties. This can be heard on Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, which I’ll tell you about.
DISC ONE-SOUL JAZZ RECORDS PRESENTS: DEUTSCHE ELECKTRONISCHE MUZIK 2.
On Disc One of Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2, there are fifteen tracks. This included tracks from Can, Michael Rother, Michael Hoenig, D.A.F, Amon Düül II, Conrad Schnitzler and Wolf Sequenza, Eno, Moebius and Roedelius plus Wolfgang Riechmann. Quite simply put, this is an eclectic selection of tracks, which for the newcomer to Krautrock. It’s the perfect starting point. These tracks can act as an introduction and allow the listener to investigate artists that until now, they might not have come across. However, what are the highlights of Disc One of Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2?
One of the best known names on Disc One are Can. Their contribution is Halleluwah, a track from their 1971 album Tago Mago, released on United Artists. For newcomer to Can’s music, Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi are their two best albums. However, with Halleluwah, it’s a case of caveat emptor. The original version of Halleluwah is over eighteen minutes long, whereas the version on Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2 is just under five minutes long. This is slightly disappointing, but from a practical point of view, I can see why this has to be the case.
Michael Rother’s Karussell is one of the highlights of Disc One. Driven along by guitars and synths, this was a track from his 1977 debut album Flammende Herzen. Previously, Michael had been in the group Spirit of Sound and briefly, was a member of Kraftwerk. What this track does, is a dispel a myth, that Krautrock as a musical genre isn’t at all dark and gothic. It’s a fusion of rock, prog rock, jazz and electronic music, that as it drives along, is uplifting and catchy.
Harald Grosskopf is a German drummer and keyboard player. His contribution to Disc One is Emphasis, one of the later tracks on the compilation. It’s a track from Harold’s 1980 album Synthesist, released on Sky Records. Here, synth pop, ambient music and elements of rock are combined. Understated at the start, the track grows in drama and always, is captivating and compelling.
Conrad Schnitzler was one of the institutions of German music. He’d been an early member of Tangerine Dream, playing his part in transforming them into the innovative, influential band they became. His 1980 album Consequenz featured Fata Morgana, which features Wolf Sequenza. The best way to describe this moody and meandering track is experimental. Full of beeps and squeaks, tracks like this world provide inspiration during the Acid House era.
When discussing either experimental or electronic music, one name always comes up, Brian Eno. Fittingly, Brian Eno he features on Disc One with two other legends of electronic music. They are former member of Cluster, Dieter Moebius of Cluster and Hans-Joachim Roedelius. As Eno, Moebius and Roedelius, they released After The Heat in 1978 on Sky Records. It’s hard to believe that this downtempo, experimental ambient track, was released thirty-five years ago, given who moderne and timeless it sounds.
My final choice from Disc One of Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2 is the elegant, symphonic sound of Wolfgang Riechmann’s Himmelblau. This is a track from Wolfgang’s 1978 album Wunderbar, released on Sky Records. Listening to the track, you can hear the influence of not only ambient composers, but European classical avant garde composers.
Apart from the six tracks I’ve mentioned, there’s much more to Disc One of Soul Jazz Records Presents: Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2. These tracks are just a musical aperitif. Among the other tracks worth mentioning are the ambient beauty of Hans Joachim Roedelius’ Le Jardin. Then there’s Michael Hoenig’s moody, melancholy and dramatic Sun And Moon, which drives along. Quite different is Amon Düül II’s A Morning Excuse, which has a delicious psychedelic sound. Quite simply, the fifteen tracks are an eclectic selection of German music released between 1971 and 1983. Once you’ve heard these tracks, I’m sure a voyage of discover awaits. Before that comes Disc Two of Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2.
DISC TWO-SOUL JAZZ RECORDS PRESENTS: DEUTSCHE ELECKTRONISCHE MUZIK 2.
While Disc One of Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2 featured fifteen tracks, Disc Two only contains twelve tracks. Rather than quantity, it’s about quality. When it comes to quality, this isn’t lacking. Neu and Faust are the two best know names, and are joined by Niagara, You, Gila, Electric Sandwich and Pyrolator. So Disc Two sees us embark upon another musical voyage of discover, but what are the musical highlights?
Given Neu are one of the best known groups in the history of German music, it would almost be remiss of me not to mention Neu. Their contribution is Isi, a track from their 1975 album Neu ’75, released on Brain Records. Put simply, this is a classic slice of Krautrock. For anyone new to the music of Neu, Neu 2 and Neu ’75 are their three best albums.
Pyrolator released their debut album Inland in 1979, on the Ata Tak label. Danger Cruising was a track from what was one of six albums Kurt Dahlke released on Ata Tak. It’s best described as a fusion of experimental, electronic and industrial music. Having said that, it’s a track that’s compelling, dramatic, innovative and moderne.
Niagara released their 1972 sophomore album S.U.B. on United Artists. One of the tracks on S.U.B. was Gibli, which is a fusion of musical genres. Jazz, rock and a plethora of percussion and synths, create a track that’s moody, broody, atmospheric and laden in drama.
I was pleased to find Electric Sandwich’s China on Disc Two of Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2. This is a track from their one and only album Electric Sandwich. Released in 1972, on Brain Records, rock, jazz-rock and prog rock are combined. It’s a track that defines what Krautrock sounds like, and for me, is a very welcome addition to the compilation.
The last track from Disc Two of Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2 I’ve chosen, is from another giant of German music Faust. Entitled Krautrock, this was the track that opened Faust’s fourth album Faust IV. It was released in 1973, and was Faust’s second album for Virgin. It’s a twelve minute epic where prog rock and rock provide the basis for another Krautrock classic, which brings Disc Two to a fitting close
As I mentioned earlier, Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2 is the perfect starting point for a newcomer to Krautrock. Not only does it feature tracks from some of the genres giants, including Can, Neu and Faust, but hidden gems like Niagara S.U.B’s and Electric Sandwich’s China. Having said that, there’s so much more to discover on Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2. Indeed, there are twenty-seven tracks over two discs. These tracks are inspired by an eclectic variety of musical genres and influences. This includes rock, prog rock, jazz-rock, psychedelia, jazz and avant garde classical music. To that, I’d add electronic, industrial, ambient and funk. Krautrock was inspired by all these genres and was a musical melting pot. Since then, Krautrock has inspired a new generation of musicians and producers. Sadly, despite this, Krautrock is often portrayed negatively in the musical press. That’s quite unfair, given how much quality music is awaiting discovery. There’s much more to Krautrock than just the music of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu and Faust. Not only will Deutsche Elektronische Muzik 2 act as a primer to anyone looking to discover the delights of Krautrock, but will lead them on a voyage of musical discovery, which could last a lifetime. Standout Tracks: Can Halleluwah, Michael Rother Karussell, Neu Isi and Electric Sandwich China.
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS PRESENTS: DEUTSCHE ELECKTRONISCHE MUZIK 2.