CULT CLASSIC: KOLLECTIV-KOLLECTIV.
Cult Classic: Kollectiv-Kollectiv.
Musical history is littered with bands who only ever released one album during their career. All too often, that album fails to find the audience it deserves. This can come as a bitter blow, and sometimes, can lead to the band breaking up. By then, the rock star dream is over and the only option left, is to return to the tedium of the 9 to 5 lifestyle.
Gone forever, is the dream of a glittering musical career. It’s consigned to the past. So is the dream of million selling albums, gold or platinum discs and sell-out worldwide tours. Nor will they be able to live rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Excess, decadence and dalliances with Hollywood stars are but a pipe dream. It could’ve been so different.
Especially, when their debut album was released to widespread critical acclaim. Discerning record buyers embraced and championed the album. Critics and cultural commentators even nominated the album for a prestigious award. Despite this, widespread commercial success eluded the album, and within two years the band had split-up. That band were Kollectiv, who released their eponymous debut album on Brain, in 1973.
Kollectiv had the potential, talent and confidence to become one of the biggest German bands of the early seventies. They pioneers, musical mavericks who made ambitious, genre-melting music. Sadly, commercial success eluded Kollectiv, whose roots can be traced to Krefeld, in 1964.
By 1964, the new waves of British rock and pop groups were influencing teenagers across Europe and America to form a band. They all wanted to live the dream, like The Beatles and Rolling Stones. Brothers and high school students Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkiel and Waldemar “Waldo” Karpenkiel were no different.
So in 1964, they formed The Generals. Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkiel was a bassist, and his brother Waldemar “Waldo” Karpenkiel played the drums. They were joined guitarist Jürgen Havix. In the early days, The Generals were a beat group. They were inspired by much of the music coming out of Britain. However, as the psychedelic era dawned, The Generals music changed.
Different artists began to inspire and influence The Generals. They began to listen to Frank Zapppa’s early albums, plus King Crimson and Blodwyn Pig. Around this time, The Generals discovered jazz, and particularly, Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Scott and Wes Montgomery. All these artists would later influence Kollectiv. However, back in the mid to late sixties, The Generals were serving their musical apprenticeship. This paid off for Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkiel.
Around 1967, he was asked to join another local group, The Phantoms. Their whose lineup included flautist and saxophonist Klaus Dapper; and organist and future Kraftwerk founded Ralf Hutter. For the next year or so, Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkie was a member of The Phantoms. However, in 1968, Jürgen had a big decision to make.
The Generals wanted Jürgen to return to the group he cofounded. He agreed, and when he returned to The Generals, brought with him Klaus Dapper. In effect, Kollectiv had just been born, while Ralf Hutter went on to found The Organisation, a forerunner of Kraftwerk. That was all to come.
It was another two years before The Generals became Kollectiv in 1970. After six years, The Generals became a footnote in musical history. The dawn of a new decade was a new musical dawn, where anything was possible.
For Kollectiv, the seventies was a brave new world. Kollectiv believed anything was possible. They set out to experiment, and push musical boundaries to the limits, and sometimes…way beyond. Kollectiv weren’t content just to combine musical genres, they wanted to combine traditional instruments with effects and handmade instruments. These instruments, whether traditional, handmade or exotic, were used to play lengthy improvised pieces as Kollectiv played live.
By 1971, Kollectiv were ready to make head out on tour. The members of Kollective had spent part of the last year modifying and making new instruments. These instruments were used during Kollectiv’s lengthy and intensive practise sessions. Gradually, the group honed its sound. So did the tracks that would feature on their setlist, when Kollectiv played live.
Before the tour began, the four members of Kollectiv pooled their resources, and bought an old VW bus for DM400. This would travel the length and breadth of West Germany on their forthcoming tour. It didn’t even mater that the VM bus had Campari-Bitter emblazoned on its side. All that mattered, was that Kollectiv were about to embark upon their first tour.
With their newly bought tour bus packed with equipment, Kollectiv began their tour. The firs venue was four-hundred kilometres away from Krefeld, in Wilhelmshaven, in North Germany. This journey was a tantalising taste of what life as a professional musician was like.
Over the next two years, Kollectiv criss crossed West Germany in their old VW bus. They played everywhere from pubs and clubs, to the university circuit and festivals big and small. By 1973, Kollectiv were almost mainstays of the live circuit. The band came alive as they took to the stage. Kollectiv seemed to be intoxicated by life as a professional musicians. They were living the dream.
For any band, part of the ‘dream’ is to release an album. By 1973, Kollectiv had been together for three years, but had still to set foot in the studio. That would change in March 1973.
Recorded of Kollectiv’s eponymous debut album would take place during March 1973, at Windrose-Studio, Hamburg. Guiding Kollectiv through the recording process, was recordist and co-producer Conny Plank. He had already worked with some of the biggest names in German music. I was something of a coup having Conny Plank record and co-produce Kollectiv. He was working was a talented and pioneering group.
This wasn’t unusual. Germany featured some of the most innovative European bands of the seventies. Kollectiv were just the latest Conny Plank had encountered. He watched as Kollectiv setup their instruments.
The rhythm section featured drummer Waldemar “Waldo” Karpenkiell; bassist Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkielm and guitarist Jürgen Havix, who also played zither. Klaus Dapper switched between flute and saxophone. Augmenting Kollectiv, were violinist Volkmar Han; guitarist Axel Zinowski; bassist Georg Fukne; and Christoph on electric piano. Along with Kolectiv, the guest artists cut four tracks. They became Kolectiv.
Once Kolectiv was complete, Germany’s premier label Brain released the album later in 1973. Things were looking good for Kolectiv. Critically acclaimed reviews preceded the album’s release. It looked as if Kolectiv were about to have a successful album on their hands.
Sadly, that proved not to be the case. Kolectiv didn’t sell in huge quantities. Instead, it was a cult album, embraced and appreciated by musical connoisseurs and discerning record buyers. Most record buyers didn’t ‘get’ what was an album of ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting music. Kolectiv was far removed from the populist music in the charts during 1973. Kolectiv wanted to take the listener on a magical mystery tour. Listeners however, seemed reluctant to get onboard. They missed hearing one of the great lost albums of 1973, Kolectiv.
Opening Kolectiv is Rambo Zambo. For the first ninety seconds, it’s just Klaus’ flute. It’s slow, spacey and sometimes, has echo added. Sometimes, sci-fi sounds augment the dubby flute. Then after ninety seconds, the rhythm, section join the fray. By then, the flute is panned thirty degrees left, as the Karpenkielm brothers lay down a groove. Jürgen’s bass sits slightly in front of the drums. He’s joined by Jürgen Havix’s chiming, chirping guitar. He flits between jazz, funk and rock, and at one point, unleashes machine gun licks. Meanwhile, Klaus’ flute references avant garde and free jazz. Echo is to his flute, distorting and disguising the sound. This result is an otherworldly sound. Later, as the Karpenkielm brothers provide the heartbeat, Jürgen Havix unleashes a spellbinding guitar solo. He’s like a shaman, unleashing musical magic. However, Kollectiv aren’t a one man band. Everyone plays their part, on improvised rocky epic, where Kollectiv take detours via avant garde, free jack, funk and jazz. This whets the listener’s appetite, as this magical mystery tour begins.
A chirping, chiming, crystalline guitar is played urgently as Baldrian unfolds. Washes of saxophone have been distorted by effects, adding a lysergic sound. Meanwhile, cymbals shimmer and crash, while a violin protests. Drum rolls add an element of drama. Later, a zither, and a sixty-four stringed instrument made by Kollectiv play their part on this cinematic soundscape. It features Kollective at their most innovative. Later, the music becomes slow, sultry, jazz-tinged and melodic. Washes of shimmering guitar add a dreamy, lysergic sound to this atmospheric soundscape.
Försterlied is a two minute musical experiment. Kollectiv are counted in, and launch into genre-defying, stop-start track. Lyrics aren’t so much sung, but dramatically spoken. Meanwhile, Kollectiv take free jazz as their starting point. They add hints of avant garde and experimental, as a wailing saxophone, urgent rumbling drums, chirping guitar and a myriad of miscellaneous percussion and sound effects combine. Then all of a sudden, the track grinds to a halt, only to start again. This happens several times, before Kollectiv call to a halt this captivating musical experiment
Closing Kollective, is Gageg, which is a three part suite. Andante gives way to Allegro before Pressluft closes this near twenty minute epic. Originally, it took up side two of Kollectiv. Allegro just meanders lazily into being. A guitar is panned right while a myriad of hypnotic sound are panned left. They’re replaced by an airy flute, while washes of guitar reverberate. Drums are eschewed, and Waldo keeps time on the ride. Everyone plays tenderly, as the arrangement begins to unfold. Chirping, shimmering guitars, a fluttering flute and slow, thoughtful drums combine with a probing bass. Kollectiv it seems, are about to stretch their legs.
The guitars grows in power, a blistering rocky solo taking ship. Then when drums pound, that looks like the signal for Kollectiv to kick loose. It’s not. They’re still playing within themselves. Even when another guitar solo unfold. Meanwhile, the rhythm section match each other every step of the way. Above the arrangement, the flute soars. Still the arrangement meanders along, before Kollectiv stretch their legs. When they slow things down, it’s a signal that things are about to change.
At 8.49 the arrangement becomes jazz-tinged, and the bas drives the arrangement along. Then a blistering guitar cuts through the arrangement. The drums add a jaunty beat. A saxophone is added as jazz and rock unites seamlessly. From there, Kollectiv are at their most inventive. Later, Klaus lays down a funky sax solo, while the rest of the band drive the arrangement along. By now the chirping guitar is playing a supporting role. That’s until three minutes before the ending, and a scorching guitar threatens to explode. However, Kollectiv are jamming, on what’s been an epic journey through funk, fusion, jazz, rock and space rock. After twenty memorable minutes, it reaches a magical crescendo, bringing Kollectiv to a close.
After the release of Kollectiv, the band began rehearsing, in preparation for their sophomore album. They eventually recorded some demo tracks, and sent them to SWF. This lead to SWF inviting Kollectiv to record some new material. Sadly, Kollectiv didn’t get as for as releasing their sophomore album.
Kollectiv split-up in 1975, when Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkiel joined Guru Guru. They were, by then, one of Germany’s most successful bands. So it was no surprise that Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkiel joined Guru Guru. By then, Kollectiv still hadn’t made a commercial breakthrough. They were still an underground band.
What maybe made Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkiel’s mind up, was that Kollectiv were no nearer releasing their second studio album. So four became three. Then Klaus Dapper left, and three became two. The first part of the Kollectiv story was almost over.
In 1976, a new lineup of Kollectiv played a few concerts. Joining the two remaining members of Kollectiv was pianist and organist Klaus Hackspiel. However, this lineup only played a few concerts, before splitting up.
The third lineup of Kollectiv featured Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkiel, guitarist Axel Zinowski, bassist Georg Fukne, and Christoph on electric piano. They even recorded a few tracks at the band’s rehearsal rooms including Intro, Pull Moll, Pap-Jack and Rozz-Pop, which showcase the combined talents of Kollectiv Mk. III. Just like the two previous lineups of Kollectiv, they were musical pioneers.
That had been the case since Kollective were born in 1970. Three years later, Kollectiv released their eponymous debut album. It’s the only musical document from a truly groundbreaking group, Kollectiv. From the day they were formed, they were determined to do things their way.
There was no way that Kollectiv were going to blindly follow other groups. Instead, they were innovators, who made ambitious, inventive music. They did this, by combining their array of traditional, handmade and exotic instruments with effects and nascent technology. The result was an album of innovative, genre-melting music.
Kollectiv is best described as a captivating journey throughout disparate and eclectic musical genres. It works though. Seamlessly, Kollectiv combine elements of avant garde, experimental, free jazz, funk and fusion with progressive rock, psychedelia and rock. The result is an album that veers between cinematic, dramatic and melodic, to blissful and wistful. Other times, the music is dreamy, melodic, atmospheric and lysergic. The result was an album which could’v, and should’ve, launched the career of musical mavericks Kollectiv, whose eponymous debut album takes listeners on a magical mystery tour.
Cult Classic: Kollectiv-Kollectiv.
- Posted in: Avant Garde ♦ Free Jazz ♦ Jazz ♦ Jazz Fusion ♦ Krautrock ♦ Prog Rock ♦ Psychedelia
- Tagged: Brain Records, Conny Plank, Jürgen “Jogi” Karpenkiel, Jürgen Havix, Klaus Dapper, Kollectiv, Kraftwerk, Ralf Hutter, Waldemar “Waldo” Karpenkiel
Thanks, Derek! Great read on this band.
Glad that that you enjoyed the article. Funnily enough, I came across the album today and was listening to it. If you don’t have a copy, it’s well worth looking for one. Enjoy.