CULT CLASSIC: JODI-POPS DE VANGUARDIA.
Cult Classic: Jodi-Pops de Vanguardia.
Innovator, pioneer and visionary are just three of the words that were used to describe German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. His career spanned six decades and nowadays, he’s regarded as one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th Century. Karlheinz Stockhausen was also one of the pioneers of electronic music, aleatoric music, serial composition, and musical spatialisation. He was also a highly respected academic who taught and influenced many musicians and composers.
This included members of Can, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tom Constanten of the Grateful Dead, avant-garde musician Jon Hassell, composers Gerald Shapiro and Gerald Barry. Students travelled from far and wide to study under Karlheinz Stockhausen. Among them, were brothers, Joern and Dirk Wenger, who had travelled all the way from Paraguay to study under Karlheinz Stockhausen.
After the demise of their band The Rabbits, Joern and Dirk Wenger were keen to complete their musical education. Having heard The Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, the brothers were inspired to create their own experimental music. However, they wanted to take this further. So they travelled from Asunción in Paraguay, to study arts at the Folkwang University of the Arts. That was where they encountered Karlheinz Stockhausen. He taught the two brothers music. The time the Wenger brothers spent studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen was a hugely important and influential part of their musical education.
After their time studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen, the Wenger brothers returned home and began building their own studio. This they christened the Jodi Experimental Studio. The Wenger brothers then spent their time recording what they called spontaneous pop. Some of their recording found their way onto Jodi’s 1971 debut album, Pops de Vanguardia.
Its roots can be traced to Joern and Dirk Wenger’s childhood in Asunción, Paraguay. Their family were industrialists who owned a factory that made paint related products. That factory would later play an important part in the Wenger brother’s musical career.
When they were growing up, their father and grandfather brought a variety of musical instruments into the family home. They taught Joern and Dirk how to play these instruments. Before long, Joern, the eldest brother, could play piano, guitar, violin, bandoneon and solfege. Soon, both brothers had mastered several different instruments. Like teenagers the world over, music began to play an important part in the Wenger brothers’ lives. It offered an escape from the reality of growing up in Paraguay.
Following a coup d’état on the 4th of May 1954, Paraguay was ruled by dictator Alfredo Stroessner. That was the case until 1989. During this period, Paraguay expanded economically and underwent a degree of modernisation. However, the Stroessner regime was an oppressive one. Human rights abuse was commonplace and those that opposed the Stroessner regime did so at their peril. As a result, Paraguay wasn’t the ideal place for the Wenger brothers to embark upon a musical career.
Just like in other countries ruled by dictators, artists, writers and musicians were viewed with a degree of suspicion by the authorities. They were often seen as subversives. However, Joern and Dirk just wanted to make music. That was what they wanted to pour their youthful energy and enthusiasm into. However, they too had a dream.
The Wenger Brothers dreamt of building their own recording studio, and were determined to make this a reality. They had even identified the perfect site for their studio. This was within a disused part of the family factory. With that part of the factory not being used, the two brothers were given permission to turn their dream into reality in 1966.
Once the studio was complete, it was christened the Jodi Experimental Studio. The brothers took the first two letters of each of their christian names (Joern and Dirk) and combined this to create the Jodi name. Joern was sixteen, and Dirk who was nineteen, set about experimenting musically and creating what they called spontaneous pop.
The Jodi Experimental Studio became a musical laboratory, where the two brothers were able to experiment with a myriad of different musical instruments. They were also able to experiment with the latest music recording techniques. There was only one problem.
Paraguay didn’t have a music industry as such. This meant that Joern and Dirk didn’t have access to much of the equipment musicians elsewhere took for granted. Especially effects units. This meant that the brothers had to work out a way to replicate reverb or echo. To do this, Joern and Dirk often laboured long into the night seeking a solution. Usually, they managed to do so as their creativity blossomed.
This continued during 1967. The two brothers immersed themselves in an eclectic selection of music seeking inspiration. Two albums made a big impression on them, The Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Sometimes, the Wenger brothers listened to the Bee Gees and James Brown, other times to Little Richard, Louis Armstrong or Oscar Peterson. For the Wenger brothers this was part of their musical education. However, some of these artists would inspire and influence Joern and Dirk when they decided to form their first band.
Up until then, the Wenger brothers had spent most of their free time experimenting musically. They were dedicated to honing and perfecting their songs. Now two brothers were ready to record and release their first EP. To do that, required a little help from their friends.
When they decided to form their first band, the Wenger brothers were still at school. So they decided to enlist some of their friends from the Goethe School, in Ascuncion. Gilberto González, Naldo Nardi, Rodrigo Campos and Willy Schubeius joined the Wenger brothers in their new band, which they named The Rabbits.
Joern who was three years older than his brother Dirk, became The Rabbits de facto leader. He played organ while his brother Dirk played one of the two sets of drums. Gradually, the nascent garage band’s music began to take shape. While Joern and Dirk had spent months honing their sound in the studio, the rest of the band had some catching up to do. Soon, though, The Rabbits were on the same page. Now they could record their debut EP.
For The Rabbits’ Lo Más Nuevo EP, they decided to record Never Funny, Buscándote, Gloria and Todos Los Instantes. On these tracks, The Rabbits combined elements of psychedelia a and garage rock. Once the recording was complete, The Rabbits took the EP to the Guarania label.
When the Guarania label was formed on August 13th 1955, it became Paraguay’s very first record label. Just under fourteen years later, and it would release copies of The Rabbits’ debut EP. Only 300 copies of the Lo Más Nuevo EP were pressed and released later in 1969. Alas, there was no followup.
Not long after the release of the Lo Más Nuevo EP disbanded. This was the end of the first chapter in the Wenger brothers’ career.
The next chapter began when the Wenger brothers travelled from Ascuncio in Paraguay to Germany. Their destination was the Folkwang University of the Arts. That was where the brothers studied arts. Their music teacher was none other than composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. He was already regarded as a musical pioneer and one of the most innovative and influential composers of his generation. Studying under Karlheinz Stockhausen was the perfect way to complete the Wenger brothers’ musical education.
After completing their studies at Folkwang University of the Arts, the Wenger brothers returned home and began work on their next project. This they called Jodi, after their recording studio where the project came to fruition.
Between 1969 and 1971, Joerk Wenger wrote much of what later became Pops De Vanguardia. Some of the material had been recorded before the sessions in 1969. Some were recorded as far back as 1966. Each of the twelve tracks were recorded at the Jodi Experimental Studio.
Two reel-to-reel recorders were used to record the Wenger brothers. Joern plays the majority of the instruments, including guitar and organ. He also takes charge of the lead vocals. Meanwhile Dirk plays drums and percussion. Eventually, Jodi had enough material for an album. These twelve songs would become Pops De Vanguardia, which was released later in 1971.
Before that, critics had their say on Jodi’s debut album. Sadly, the critics didn’t understand the eclectic and innovative nature of Pops De Vanguardia. With its groundbreaking fusion of garage rock and psychedelia, Pops De Vanguardia was way ahead of its time.
When Pops De Vanguardia was released later in 1971, the album failed commercially. Just like the critics, record buyers never understood the album. Pops De Vanguardia passed record buyers by. That’s despite Jodi showcasing a new and groundbreaking sound on Pops De Vanguardia.
Opening Pops De Vanguardia is Experimento (Experiment), which literally bursts into life. The experimental psychedelic rock of the previous track continues. Guitars and the rhythm section explode into the life, and with Joern’s vocal, power the arrangement along. Washes of swirling Hammond and bursts of bubbling bass are added. Later, so are flamboyant flourishes of Hammond organ. Jodi play with freedom and confidence. So much so, that Joern whistles during another blistering and memorable psychedelic rocker. It’s another heady brew from Jodi, and one to drink deep.
Recuerdos De Un Amigo Ruso (Memories Of A Russian Friend) is another psychedelic track. A lone piano is played, the tempo quickening as the rhythm section, chirping, choppy guitars and Joern’s urgent vocal combining. It’s a mixture of drama, urgency and emotion. Later as Joern scats, the arrangement becomes melodic. Soon, though, the emotion returns and memories come flooding back on this poignant psychedelic song.
Just a lone guitar plays before the drums, vocal and washes of Hammond guitar enter on Reflexiones Heladas (Icy Reflexions). Joern stabs at the Hammond organ as effects transform his vocal, and add a lysergic sound. Later, as he vamps the arrangement is rocky and psychedelic. Again, effects are used, but used sparingly. They help create the groundbreaking psychedelic rock sound that Jodi pioneered in Paraguay.
The tempo increases on Onda Suave (Mild Wave). A scrabbled guitar joins the bass to create an understated arrangement. They provide the backdrop for Joern’s lead vocal and harmonies. It’s the interplay between the lead vocal and harmonies that are key to sound and success of another memorable and melodic song.
Washes of swirling Hammond organ are joined by a scorching guitar and drums on Primavera Amarilla (Yellow Spring). Stabs and swirling washes of Hammond organ join the bristling, searing guitar licks. Meanwhile, Dirk keeps a steady beat, adding occasional drum rolls and fills. Soon, they’ve locked into a groove and are playing with an inventiveness. This materialises when Joerk unleashes an ascending effects laden organ solo. Effects are added to the guitar as innovative instrumental unfolds. It’s a marriage of R&B, rock and psychedelia and is without doubt, one of the best instrumentals you’ve never heard.
An urgent scrubbed guitar drives and powers the arrangement along Arrivederci along. It’s accompanied by Joern’s vocal and multi-tracked harmonies. They’re reminiscent of Big Star, and a generation later, the Teenage Fanclub. Meanwhile, effects launched above the arrangement, adding a futuristic and cinematic sound. Jodi continue combine garage rock, psychedelia with proto-punk to create groundbreaking and melodic musical fusion.
Jodi showcase their versatility on Jodi-Ritmo (Jodi Rytmus). Joern’s guitar has a surf rock sound. Meanwhile, he unleashes a snarling proto-punk vocal. Behind him, the the rhythm section and percussion add to the sense of urgency. Later an organ is added, augmenting and briefly replacing the vocal. When it returns, it continues to showcase the bravado fuelled, proto-punk style vocal that Rotten, Strummer, et al would later claim as their own. However, this was nothing new, as Joern Wenger was one its pioneers.
Flourishes of swirling organ are to the fore on Imagen En Rojo (Red Image). They’re joined by the rhythm section. Dirk’s drums keep a steady beat. Meanwhile, Joern lays down a bass line and plays the organ. It plays a starring role, swirling, stuttering and breezing along, on this R&B inspired instrumental which sounds as if was recorded in Memphis, not Ascuncion. Jodi were it seems, a truly versatile band.
Sueño De La Catedral (Cathedral Dream) is an organ driven track where Jodi showcase their psychedelic rock sound. This they do with an organ that replicates the sound of a cathedral organ. They’re never played this way. Joern powers his way across the keyboard, adding flamboyant flourishes and delivering a vampish vocal. Dirk lays down the heartbeat, while Joern is transformed into Lizark King on one of Jodi’s finest moments.
Guitars are at the heart of Fantasmas Del Sonido (Sound Fantasm), and with the rhythm section helping to drive the arrangement along. Soon, they’ve locked into a groove. Joern lays down the guitar and bass lines. Meanwhile, Dirk plays drums and percussion. All the years two brothers have played together has paid off. They’re a tight unit, who don’t necessary stick to the script. Sometimes, it seems their playing is inventive and off the cuff. Occasional fills and flourishes are added, during this driving, genre-melting instrumental. Everything from surf rock, R&B and rock have been combined to create one of the great lost instrumentals.
It’s all change on Cancion Cariñosa (Loving Song). Jodi return to their melodic garage rock sound. Again, the guitar and vocal play leading roles. Joern’s vocal is tender and heartfelt. He plays his guitar with speed and accuracy, using the occasional effect to produce a variety of sound.This range from a chirping to choppy sound, on what’s a hook-laden paean.
The psychedelic sound of Jodi returns on Espiritu Fosforecente (Glowing Spirit), which closes Pops de Vanguardia. A choppy, effects laden guitar combines with washes of Hammond organ and drums. Joern’s vocal is deliberate and powerful, as Jodi draw inspiration from Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, the Rolling Stones and even Cream. It’s an experimental fusion of rock and psychedelia. This proves a potent and heady brew that proves irresistible. Jodi it seems have kept the best until last on Pops de Vanguardia.
That’s not the end of Out-Sider Music’s reissue of Pops de Vanguardia. It comes complete with five bonus tracks. This includes three previously unreleased tracks, a track from a private EP and Buscándote from The Rabbits’ 1969 EP Lo Más Nuevo. It’s two magnificent minutes of psychedelic rock at its very best.This is a tantalising taster of The Rabbits Lo Más Nuevo EP, which nowadays is almost impossible to find.
The other bonus tracks include Sentimental Moment (Momento Sentimental) and Awake (Despierte). Both memorable and melodic reminders of late sixties guitar pop. Little Butterfly (Pequeña Mariposa) is a beautiful and timeless indie pop song. However, the best of the bonus tracks is Poor Man, Rich Man. Jodi combine blues, psychedelia, rock and effects. Joern sounds not unlike John Lennon, on this innovative and genre-melting track. It’s a reminder of a truly talented group, Jodi which featured the Wenger brothers Joern and Dirk.
Pops de Vanguardia was just the start of Jodi’s career. Jodi went on to release two further albums. They transformed the career of Jodi, when commercial success and critical acclaim came their way. Their music was popular across South America. This was a far cry from 1971, when Jodi released their debut album Pops de Vanguardia.
Critics failed to understand what was a groundbreaking album of where Jodi combined elements of blues, garage rock, indie rock, proto-punk, psychedelia and rock. There were even elements of avant-garde and experimental musical on Pops de Vanguardia. It’s was an ambitious album that deserved to find a much wider audience upon its release in 1971. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
Since then, a new generation of record buyers have discovered the music of Jodi. Their rarest album is their debut album Pops de Vanguardia. It wasn’t a commercial success, and very few copies of the original album exist. Those that do, are prized possessions among record collectors.
Jodi’s debut album Pops de Vanguardia showcases the combined and considerable talents of the Wenger brothers. It should’ve been the album that launched their career. Instead, it failed commercially, purely because the critics failed to understand Jodi’s ambitious, groundbreaking and genre-melting album.
Nowadays, though, Jodi’s debut album Pops de Vanguardia is belatedly receiving the recognition it deserves. So much so, that Pops de Vanguardia is regarded by some musical connoisseurs as a lost genre classic.Pops de Vanguardia is a true musical hidden gem that showcases the versatile and multitalented Wenger brothers, as they embarked upon a new chapter in their musical career as Jodi.
Cult Classic: Jodi-Pops de Vanguardia.
- Posted in: African Roots ♦ Avant Garde ♦ Experimental ♦ Krautrock ♦ Pop ♦ Psychedelia ♦ Rock
- Tagged: Dick Wenger, Jodi, Jodi Experimental Studio, Joern Wenger, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lo Más Nuevo, Pops de Vanguardia, The Rabbits
Hi Derek, thanks for nice article…about Pops de Vanguardia.
Hope you are doing fine…Keep safe!
Glad that you enjoyed the article. It’s a wonderful album and a favourite of mine.
I’m fine and I hope that you’re well and safe. I’ll email you this week.