Saturday, September 21, 2013

40 Year Itch : 1973 in Krautock

Faust in 1973

   1973 was another monster year for Krautrock, though you wouldn't have known it in the United States. I still think the term "Krautrock" is far too vague, encompassing German bands cranking out long 4/4 "motonik" beat numbers like Can and Neu; German ambient fusion jazz groups like Embryo and Ash Ra Tempel; and just purely progressive rock bands who sing in German ( like Message and Agitation Free). We have already discussed Tangerine Dream's Atem and Can's Future Days so let's get right to the one band that seemed to embrace the term "Krautrock", at least enough to record a song by that title.

Faust put out two albums in 1973. The first one, The Faust Tapes, was sold by Virgin Records as a marketing gimmick for 49 pence ( less than a dollar) and found its way into 50,000 British homes. It was basically a collection of odd music the band was working on when they signed with Virgin. The question is: of those 50,000 record buyers, how many actually liked The Faust Tapes?  

          The answer came with Faust IV. The full price follow-up simply didn't sell. Too bad! It sounds like a 42 minute overview of everything happening in Krautrock at the time, from the hypnotic beats of "Krautrock" to the ambient electronica jazz of  "Just a Second". And then there's the odd stuff like "The Sad Skinhead". Today Faust IV is considered a Krautrock classic.

[Out of Print]

"The best Krautrock album in the world ever!"
--Julian Cope

Originally released with a deck of tarot cards, Swiss musician Walter Wegmuller's Tarot is a double album full of spacey cosmic weirdness recorded with Ash Ra Tempel and Klaus Schulze ( More on them later). Great album for freaking out your kids while they try to do their homework.

The German avant garde band, Embryo, produced two jazz rock albums in 1973. Rocksession is a spectacular effort highlighted by the funky "Entrances" and "Warm Canto", written and performed by American jazz pianist Mal Waldron. After adding saxophonist Charlie Mariano, Embryo recorded We Keep On which features all kinds of African rhythms. I listened to both of these albums on a foggy morning driving along the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. I'll give the nod to Rocksession for sustaining a mood without going all atonal on me the way the later album does in places.

With Cyborg, former Tangerine Dream member and Ash Ra Tempel founder Klaus Schulze gives us 90 minutes of spacey synthesized drone. The perfect soundtrack for visitors to San Francisco's Exploratorium. Teutonic and Neuronic all at the same time! Schulze has recorded 60 solo albums. This is the one to get first.

Is this the ultimate acid trip record? Space prog pioneers Ash Ra Tempel team up with LSD guru Timothy Leary on this bizarre, if underwhelming freak out.

Agitation Free follows up the heralded debut, Malesch, with this album of mostly San Francisco-styled hippie rock and I can dig it!

As you might guess from the album cover, Message's From Books And Dreams contains some heavy handed prog rock. You know its prog because of the saxophone. Side One ends with "Turn Over" which features a disembodied,  heavily accented voice telling listeners to flip the record to the other side : "Turn Over". "Turn Over. "Turn Over".

One of the founding fathers of Krautrock, Neu!, shows us why on the brilliant 11 minute opening track "Fur Immer" ("Forever") .  Unfortunately the band ran out of money so side two is a mish mash of the album's singles played at different speeds and with other audio bits added. The best argument ever for the EP!

1 comment:

  1. discogs dates another Embryo LP out in '73: Steig Aus