Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf.

Label: Bureau B.

Ever since The Beatles released Love Me Do in 1962, many musical luminaries have talked about collaborating on an album. Sadly, that is often as far as it got. Egos got in the way of the project, and what could’ve been a historical collaboration was shelved. 

Other projects got as far as the studio, when egos clashed. By then, the musical luminaries had started writing songs, and shad even recorded a few songs. That was when oversized egos and pride got in the way of what could’ve been a groundbreaking album. What was an opportunity to make musical history was lost.

Some artists got into the studio, and got as far as recording and releasing an album. Unfortunately, it was an album that should never have seen the light of day. When it was released, these collaborations between musical giants proved to be a wholly unsatisfactory and showed that the artists’ better days were behind them. 

Not all collaborations between high-profile musicians are doomed to failure. Many collaborations lead to landmark and classic. Especially within jazz music, where collaborations were once commonplace, and lead to many a groundbreaking album. It was a similar case when jazz begat fusion. Collaborations lead to some of the greatest albums in fusion’s history. However, collaborations were also commonplace with country and rock and nowadays, are commonplace with hip hop. There was also many a collaboration between some of the biggest names in Krautrock and the Berlin and Düsseldorf Schools of Electronic Music.

These collaborations led to countless groundbreaking classic albums. One of the highest profile collaborations was Harmonia, which featured Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius of Cluster and Michael Rother of Neu! They released Musik von Harmonia in 1973 and Deluxe in 1974. Harmonia also collaborated with Brian Eno on their third album, Tracks and Traces which was belatedly released in 1997. By then, countless collaborations had been released which featured the great and good of German music. 

This includes many albums which featured either Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf. Both men have enviable CVs, and have played with of Germany’s leading bands. They’ve featured on many albums, including countless classic albums. However, up until recently, Harald Grosskopf and Eberhard Kranemannt have never recorded an album together. The two men live in different parts of Germany. Harald Grosskopf lives in Berlin, while Eberhard Kranemann is a resident of Düsseldorf. However, they decided to collaborate on an album, and the result was Krautwerk which was recently released by the Hamburg based record label Bureau B. Krautwerk is a meeting of two musical minds, who have certainly made their mark on Germany’s music scene.

Harald Grosskopf has been one of the leading lights of the Berlin music scene for over forty years, and during that time, has played on albums by some of the biggest and most influential groups in the history of Krautrock and the Berlin School of Electronic Music. His story began in 1972.

That was when Harald Grosskopf played on two debut albums, Wallenstein’s Blitzkrieg and also Witthüser and Westrupp’s Bauer Plath. A year later, in 1973, Harald Grosskopf played on albums by Ash Ra Tempel, The Cosmic Jokers, Wallenstein and Walter Wegmüller. This was just the start of a long and illustrious career. 

As the seventies progressed, when some of the biggest names in German music were looking for a drummer, Harald Grosskopf got the call. Soon, he found himself playing alongside Klaus Schulz and Ashra. This included on Ashra’s 1979 classic albums Correlations. However, a year later, Harald Grosskopf embarked upon a solo career.

In 1980, Harald Grosskopf began his solo career as he meant to go on, by releasing a landmark album Synthesist. After a six-year wait, Harald Grosskopf returned with his sophomore album Oceanheart in 1986. Just like his debut album Synthesist, Oceanheart was hailed as another genre classic. Oceanheart had been well worth the six-year wait.

There was another gap of six years before Harald Grosskopf released World of Quetzal following in 1992. However, the gaps started getting longer, and ten years passed before Harald Grosskopf released Digital Nomad in 2002. There was a reason for the lengthy gaps between solo albums.

Harald Grosskopf was still the go-to drummer for some of the biggest names in German music.  That had been the case since 1971, and continued when Harald Grosskopf embarked upon a solo career in 1980. He was constantly in demand, and it got that the studio became a second home for Harald Grosskopf, and since 1980, had worked on albums by Ashra, Bernd Kistenmacher, Bernd Witthüser, Joachim Witt, Lilli Berlin, Steve Baltes, Sunya Beat and 17 Hippies. It was no surprise that often there were long gaps between Harald Grosskopf’s solo albums.

Just two years after the release of Digital Nomad in 2002, Harald Grosskopf released Yeti Society in 2004. There was then a six-year gap until he returned with Synthesist 2010, where he reworked his classic debut album. The following year, 2011, Synthesist was remixed and became Re-Synthesist. This introduced Harald Grosskopf’s classic album Synthesist and his back-catalogue to a new and younger audience. They embraced his most recent solo album Naherholung, which was released in 2016. That was also when Harald Grosskopf started working with Eberhard Kraneman on Krautwerk.

Eberhard Kraneman was born in 1945, and studied classical double bass at the Dortmund Conservatory, where he played Bach, Mozart and  Telemann orchestral music. In the evenings, Eberhard Kraneman started playing with local jazz bands. However, a move to Düsseldorf to study painting at the Arts Academy, transformed Eberhard Kraneman musical outlook.

At the Arts Academy, Eberhard Kraneman experimented with colours and painted abstract pictures. This lead to him embarking on musical experiments. These sonic experiments started on a cello and clarinet, before Eberhard Kraneman started experimenting with a variety of different instruments. Gradually, he introduced a tenors saxophone, electric guitar, Hawaiian guitar and later, various electronic instruments. This lead to Eberhard Kraneman and other art students he founded the experimental music group Pissoff in 1967.

Not long after this, Florian Schneider heard the band, and decided to joined. This was the start of a four-year collaboration, where Eberhard Kraneman was a member of the nascent Kraftwerk between 1970 and 1971. That was when Eberhard Kraneman left Kraftwerk, and started collaborating with Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger who had already formed Neu! 

Eberhard Kraneman time with Neu! came to nothing, and Neu! became a duo, featuring Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger. They went on to release a trio of classic albums. Meanwhile, Eberhard Kraneman reinvented himself. 

Eberhard Kraneman decided to reinvent himself as Fritz Müller, who had many strings to his bow. Having dawned his new persona, Fritz Müller became a recording artist and worked on television and radio. Initially, though, Fritz Müller spent much of his time working at Conny Plank’s studio in Wolpera. That was where Fritz Müller recorded his 1977 debut album Fritz Müller Rock. By then, he had also founded the Fritz Müller Band, who would embark upon regular tours. However, as a solo artists, Fritz Müller released eight solo albums between 1977 and 2010. He even found time to collaborate with Larsen and Nurse With Wound on the 2010 album A Selection Of Errors. This was just part of the story of Eberhard Kranemann.

In 2003, Eberhard Kranemann decided to release an album under his own name.  Klangfarben was the first of six solo albums Eberhard Kranemann released between 2003 and 2010. He also found time to release six collaborations between 2011 and 2015. Krautwerk, Eberhard Kranemann’s recently released collaboration with Harald Grosskopf takes that total to seven.

When it came to record their first collaboration, Krautwerk, Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf headed to Kunsthaus Boltenberg, in Wuppertal, Germany. That was where the two veterans of German music wrote, recorded, edited and mixed the six tracks that eventually became Krautwerk. 

To record Krautwerk, Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf used a combination of traditional instruments and technology. Harald Grosskopf added electronics, electronic drums and percussion. Eberhard Kranemann was responsible for the cello, electric guitar, electronics, Hawaiian guitar and vocals. Once the four tracks were recorded, editing began and gradually, Krautwerk started to take shape. All Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf had to do was mix Krautwerk, before the album was mastered by Andreas Kolinski. Now Krautwerk was ready for release.

As Midnight In Düsseldorf Berlin opens Krautwerk a gnarled, bubbling bass synth joins with effects-laden guitars and crisp electronic drums that provide the hypnotic heartbeat. The arrangement meanders menacingly, all the time growing in power. Searing guitars are unleashed, adding to the lysergic, cinematic sound. So does Harold’s whispery soliloquy as it drifts in and out. Meanwhile, blistering guitars and synths combine. Especially bubbling synths that help create a dramatic backdrop, and later, an ethereal synth soars above the arrangement adding a contrast. It’s replaced by a wall of scorching, effects-laden, rocky guitars as synths bubble, beep and squeak. Later Harold’s soliloquy briefly returns, before a pulsating synth and myriad of electronics are added. They add the finishing touch to this captivating, cinematic, dramatic and sometimes psychedelic soundscape. 

The bass synth and vocoder that open Ou Tchi Gah are reminiscent of Kraftwerk in their prime. Soon, the drums shuffle as bass synth pulsates and is joined by a squawking vocal. It drifts in and out, as the soundscape becomes the man machine.  For the listener, it’s like heading off on journey, first on an express train then a plane as it soars into Berlin’s night sky. As it lands in Düsseldorf, an express train awaits. Meanwhile, a sinister and squawking are part of a five-minute moody, moderne and thought-provoking soundscape that features Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf at their most inventive.

Back in 1984, Wim Wenders directed Paris Texas, which featured a soundtrack by Ry Cooder. Both are cult classics, and Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf seem to pay homage to them on Texas Paris. A searing, effect-laden guitar is unleashed, and panned left and right. Soon, it’s joined by a thunderous and menacing bass synth. Later, washes of whooshing, grinding and ethereal synths are added and when combined with the blistering guitar, pay a fitting homage to one of Ry Cooder’s finest soundtracks.

Ethereal, shimmering synths glide slowly across the arrangement to Happy Blue creating a feel-good sound. It’s ambient and draws inspiration from the Berlin School. That is still the case when crisp and dubby drums are added. A vocal is transformed into an extra instrument, before it almost heads in the direction of hip hop. By then, the drums are thunderous, as synths grind and squawk. Suddenly, it’s a quite different track, as the changes are rung. Now the arrangement is jaunty and uplifting, and then slow, ethereal and dreamy. Soon, the tempo rises and the track is anthemic and dance-floor friendly. Still, the changes are rung, on this musical merry-go-round. A buzzing bass synths, drums and synths play leading roles on what’s now an uplifting, hands-in-the-air anthem that later, becomes ethereal and understated before it dissipates, leaving just a memory of Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf showcasing their considerable skill on this genre-melting opus.

A drone soars above the arrangement to Buddhatal, as grinding and percussive sounds provide the backdrop for an improvised vocal. Sometimes it has a spiritual quality, other times it heads in the direction of free jazz. Occasionally it’s akin to Primal Scream Therapy. However, it plays its part in this ambitious soundscape where drones, layers of synths percussion and searing effects-laden guitar are combined. They’re all part of Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf’s musical palette, which is put to good use, as they carefully create a truly ambitious thirteen minute epic soundscape. It takes a series of twists and turns, as it reveals subtleties and surprises where Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf create tomorrow’s music today.

After six carefully crafted soundscapes lasting forty-three minutes, Krautwerk is over. It’s the first collaboration from two of the elder statesmen of German music. They’re perfectly suited to collaborating, and seem to bring out the best in each other. So much so, that they’re like yin and yang. The result is ambitious album of innovative and genre-melting music.

During Krautwerk, Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf combine elements of ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School, dub, electronica, experimental, Krautrock, psychedelia, rock and techno.  Elements of all these disparate genres are combined to create music that is variously anthemic, joyous uplifting, to dark, moody and broody, and other times dramatic, futuristic and mesmeric. Krautwerk is also psychedelic, cinematic and always captivates.  

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf aren’t afraid to through a few curveballs, or springs some surprises during Krautwerk. This keeps the listener on their toes during this captivating musical journey. They never know quite where Krautwerk is heading, but going by what’s gone before they know that these are interesting times. 

And so it proves to be, as Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf climb aboard the man machine during the rest of this the magical mystery tour that is Krautwerk. The Fab Two have created an ambitious and captivating album of contemporary and futuristic music. Sometimes, Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf make the music of tomorrow, today on Krautwerk, which is a groundbreaking and genre-melting album from two of the leading lights of the German music. They’re responsible for the six cinematic and psychedelic soundscapes on Krautwerk, that are also dramatic, thought-provoking and at times, joyous and uplifting.

Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf-Krautwerk.

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