Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spacebox - 1984 - Kick Up

Spacebox 
1984
Kick Up




01. Session Groove (3.45)
02. Blue Blues (4.45)
03. Roundabout (4.35)
04. Kick Up (7.00)
05. Earmike Song (5.00)
06. Intermodulator (4.55)
07. Introfunction (9.50)

- Uli Trepte / Bass, Spacebox, Voice,
- Lotus Schmidt / Drums, Gongs
- Julius Golombek / Guitar
- Edgar Hofmann / Soprano sax,flute,Violin, Clarinette, Nagaswaram, Mouth Organ



 I still haven't been able to find out exactly what Uli Trepte spent most of the 70's with after leaving Guru Guru in 72 and their third album Kan Guru. But indeed the double Guru lost a big part of its soul when he left them. Apparently he worked for a while with Faust and Neu! before creating this project around 75. But it was not before the late 70's (79 if memory serves) that he resurfaced (to the record buyers) with a new group called Spacebox, the present one dating from 83, but some certainly dating from 70's recordings (or else they were completely anachronistic), but the means were simply derisory: two mikes and a two-track recording deck - in 84.

In many ways the music on Kick-up is completely out of the 80's context and is much closer to early Guru Guru recordings than anything later. The recording quality is so-so as well, but this was most likely voluntary since the music is rough, raw, dirty and gritty. But there are some excellent moments also; most notably the opening Session Groove where Uli rules on his bass, but Hofman's flute leaves nothing to be desired. But some of those improvs can be a bit irritating, like the title track, but more because of the poor recording, than the spacebox through which goes Trepte's singing and most likely Golombeck's guitars. Intermodulator is one of the most interesting tracks (and better recorded too) with Hofman's sax verging on Arabian for a few second before coming back to more standard grounds. Other tracks are close to a straight blues (would you believe Blue Blues is one of them), while the closing Introfunction can sound like Floyd (Saucerful-era) on speed.

Not really essential, rather messy (as in raw and unfinished), but if you are a fan of early Guru stuff, this should be of some interest, although I wouldn't risk calling it essential.

Spacebox - 1979 - Spacebox

Spacebox 
1979 
Spacebox


01. Zonk-machine (3:51)
02. Sue Ist Ein (2:48)
03. Ich Bin Suchtig (6:00)
04. Dapp-da (5:25)
05. Sing Sung Song ( 4:07)
06. Tape Talk (13:59)
07. Bassomat (6:03)

- Uli Trepte / Bass, Spacebox, Voice
- Edgar Hofmann / Soprano Sax, Flute, Violin, Shenai, Nagaswaram, Mouth Organ
- Julius Golombeck / Guitar
- Winfried Beck / Drums, Congas
- Lotus Schmidt / Drums, Gongs


Spacebox is the solo project of Uli Trepte (Guru Guru bass player, also member of early Neu! and Faust). Two albums have been released; "spacebox" (1979) with Geoff Leigh and Catherine Williams as guests and "Kick Up" (1984)as a collective : it features an electric, eclectic, primitive "jazzy" rock "trip". These intriguing "obscure" German improvisations have recently been reissued by the Japanese label "Captain trip".

 A seminal work for some, a music from another planet for others, Spacebox's (Uli Trepte's project, after departing from Guru Guru) set of kraut rock experiments and grobian elations is a significant spot and work, inside the plural German Rock scene and the tough avant-garde of old music itself. It is perhaps only a very difficult code to break, a highly pretentious agitation and claustrophobia, plus a brief kind of an implosive and strangling virtuous art, that, first of all, sends the message that all the classic kraut and shock-rock bands have sent, then, second of all, speaks only towards those that, themselves, choose a difficult, gnashed and introverted value in music.

Within kraut rock, Spacebox's sense comes late and definitely non-innovative, but it shakes the beliefs of harmony and aestheticism, the same way any master or old-rocker did before, drastically, even hurtfully, mixing numbness with aggressiveness, turning rock and acid music in a turmoil of a plumber exploration.

In Spacebox the pleasure point meets with the boiling and excruciating one, reason for which the program and the shuffle of extreme music this album has is, relatively, ecstatic but not wonderful, and intriguing but not undisturbing. Kraut rock itself is a movement surfacing the artists and their advanced art, not the music or its taste reach; Spacebox emphasizes that a lot, Spacebox being the most precious of the two project, putting a brave edge between what's a temperamental and torrential music and what can be called music at all, since it melds and improvised until the best qualities are those suffocating, strange, diluted and sequential bites and essences; commonly said, it's quite something for any fan, acid listener and kraut-head, and quite nothing for anyone too "faint-hearted" or even calofile.

The wide sum of caustic elements are well able to place an original caliber in Spacebox, still (rather helpfully then conventionally) the influences bare the characteristic s of jazzy and acid sound kraut, with a space and psychedelic ironic elegance and a full practice of heavy and untidy rock. There is an undeniable hint towards the grands from the late 60s-early 70s that processed their raw chemical so intensely it became an indescribable and infernal "complexity" - Spacebox, still, keep a straight line of rock and lyrical psych, even if it is protuberant and nervous.

Uli Trepte is Spacebox's kraut-meister, leading with a strong hand and an unstirred ideal the whole experiment, tough race and cold expression of Spacebox. He punches in a perfect way the atmosphere and rapture, so that his vision could only go, unnoticeable!, into an excessive dream, during a couple of pieces and some minor blokes.

Spacebox has an epic composition that tends to be apart from anything else, still most of the short pieces are equally "scrumptious" and characteristic, flooding with different tensions and acid exhilarations, plus with some art techniques and sound phobic airs that define the mood and clean the space-plug of your mind thoroughly. The first two pieces seem raw gems, distorting as much bass and jazz kraut as possible. Further on, Trepte's improvisation and bloody cuts of lyrical and instrumental frenzy make a noisy impact, along some stormy and sloppy cliques. A lot of Spacebox is music of the void, of acid rock, of a sulphuric blow-up art, or of an eccentric collage of ripper-open convolutions and soft-experimental trepidation - a music pretty impulsive, howling and far from tidy or balanced moods.

Uli Trepte fills a good solo moment of dark and dense kraut, by the book, with his two Spacebook works, the first one being the best and the most "far out".

Slapp Happy - 2001 - Live In Japan

Slapp Happy
2001 
Live In Japan 



01. King of Straw
02. Slow Moon's Rose
03. Michelangelo
04. Riding Tiger
05. Small Hands of Stone
06. Haiku
07. Is it You?
08. Casablanca Moon
09. Moon Lovers
10. Strayed
11. A Little Something
12. I'm All Alone
13. The Unborn Byron
14. Scattered for Life
15. Who's Gonna Help Me Now?
16. Let's Travel Light

- Anthony Moore / keyboards, guitar, vocals, harmonica, shaker
- Peter Blegvad / guitar, vocals, percussion, harmonica
- Dagmar Krause / vocals, percussion, keyboards, harmonica



In the early 1970s the trio Slapp Happy, which comprises of German vocalist Dagmar Krause, British keyboardist Anthony Moore and US guitarist Peter Blegvad, was part of the early RIO movement, closely associated with the British group Henry Cow. The two bands recorded a couple of brilliant albums together and Slapp Happy recorded two albums of their own (on their debut they were supported by the German band Faust), which are all considered absolute classic of avant-garde rock. When the band re-united in 1997 to record the splendid “Ça Va” album, expectations were sky-high. The result took many of the band's fans by surprise, as almost 30 years later Slapp Happy evolved into a completely different band, playing sophisticated, but melodic and hardly avant-garde material. Nevertheless the trio members lost none of their magical touch over the years as far as musicianship and composing skills are concerned. This live recording from the group's Japanese tour finds them in great shape, performing several songs from the re-union album, as well as new versions of songs from their early 1970s recordings. This great set of songs is beautifully performed, with superb sound quality. It is hard to determine if the passing time simply mellowed their once young and tormented souls, but they did grow up and aged well. Since one should allow artists to evolve and change, listening to this album one should "ignore" the band's past to some degree, giving it a fair chance. With this approach I'm sure this great music can be accepted on its own terms and admired for its own merits. Excellent stuff!

Slapp Happy - 1996 - Ça Va

Slapp Happy
1996
Ça Va




01. Scarred for Life (3:20)
02. Moon Lovers (3:00)
03. Child Then (4:18)
04. Is It You? (5:07)
05. King of Straw (3:14)
06. Powerful Stuff (4:13)
07. Different Lie (4:06)
08. Coralie (3:54)
09. Silent the Voice (4:03)
10. Working at the Ministry (4:55)
11. Unborn Byron (3:17)
12. Let's Travel Light (3:43)

- Anthony Moore / keyboards, programming, guitars, saophone, toy theremin, percussion, melodica, lead vocals
- Peter Blegvad / guitars, bass, percussion, lead vocals
- Dagmar Krause / vocals, piano



OK, it's been a long time since Slapp Happy's main body of work in the mid 1970s...and here the "m" word (matured) is notably in action. True, the angular eccentricities of their earlier avant-pop are very toned down, which may disappoint some earlier fans and experimental purists. But not only is this music thoughtful and emotional pop, it still subtly retains the unique combination of eccentric personalities (each of whom have a long and varied resume).

The biggest obvious change is in Dagmar's vocals - no longer theatrical and sometimes shrill, her voice is now deeper, fuller, and often sensual or sensitive. Despite her previously impressive vocal acrobatics, her singing here is a beautiful example of the "m" word in its best sense. The instrumentation is also much smoother now, with spacious guitars and hypnotic electric keyboards floating over pop grooves.

The first handful of songs are great in the way described above. The middle of the album hits a bit of a lull, but then starts to pick up again at "A Different Lie" and serves up some interesting melodies and tuned percussion with the above mix of sounds - sometimes slightly resembling XTC (with Andy Partridge co-writing the earlier track "Child Then"). Things end on a high note with the delicate but eccentric "The Unborn Byron" which recalls their artsy inclinations, and the wistful finality of "Let's Travel Light" as a perfect closer.

It's pretty clear that their earlier releases are not likely to appeal to a wide audience, but this one really could appeal to mainstream listeners. It's a shame that its distribution was so small, and now apparently non-existent.

Slapp Happy - 1980 - Acnalbasac Noom

Slapp Happy
1980 
Acnalbasac Noom



01. Casablanca Moon (3:02)
02. Me and Paravati (3:31)
03. Mr. Rainbow (3:50)
04. Michaelangelo (2:40)
05. Drum (3:51)
06. Little Something (3:21)
07. Secret (3:25)
08. Dawn (3:35)
09. Half-Way There (3:08)
10. Charlie 'N Charlie (2:24)
11. Slow Moon's Rose (3:10)

(Bonus Tracks on 1990 reissue)
12. Everybody's Slimmin' (4:10)
13. Blue Eyed William (3:35)
14. Karen (3:19)
15. Messages (2:08)


Line-up / Musicians
- Anthony Moore/ keyboards, guitar
- Peter Blegvad / guitar, vocals
- Dagmar Krause / vocals

Guests (Faust):
- Jean-Hervé Péron / bass guitar
- Zappi Diermaier / drums
- Gunter Wüsthoff / saxophone


A release with an entirely befuddling genesis, Acnalbasac Noom was recorded for Polydor by the core Slapp Happy trio (Dagmar Krause, vocals; Peter Blegvad, guitar; Anthony Moore, keys) with Faust as a backing band in 1973.  The songs were re-recorded for Virgin in 1974 and released as the self-titled Slapp Happy.  The original recordings finally saw release on Recommended Records in 1980 as Slapp Happy or Slapp Happy, then (here comes the really confusing part) reissued again by Recommended as Acnalbasac Noom.  Today, if you want the original Faust version, your best bet is on CD, titled Acnalbasac Noom.

Acnalbasac Noom is pop music with brains--eclectic, jazzy, psychedelic, experimental and intelligent, but never prone to lengthy instrumental passages or songwriting that could be considered "progressive" in the early 70's meaning of the word.  Instead, it's an album that exudes wit; a clever spin on convention that won't assault anyone's expectations but subtle--slightly subversive.  The focus of the show is on Dagmar Krause's vocals singing Blegvad's lyrics.  For those familiar with Krause's later material (Henry Cow, Art Bears etc.), her performances here are much more traditional and even the timbre of her voice sounds quite different.  Here, it's a bit on the nasally side, sweetly but sharply adding an odd sultry edge to much of the lounge-flavored material and occasionally delving deeper into a more technically-proficient Nico-like register.

The real joy comes when you dig past Krause's rather thick but attractive German accent to find Blegvad's adroit way with words.  Take the album-opening words on the spy-themed title track: "He used to wear fedoras/but now he sports a fez/There's Kabbalistic innuendos/in everything he says."   The text of this album is a veritable treasure trove of clever rhyme, boundless vocabulary, humor and wit.  At times, it borders on smarmy, but despite their intelligence Blegvad's songs are blithely unpretentious--a rare combination.  The music is unobtrusively melodic, with pretty standard rock group arrangements with the occasional flittering synthesizer, and in addition to the aforementioned lounge-style pop there's some joyous almost bubblegum pop in "Charlie and Charlie," "Michelangelo," and "The Secret," while "A Little Something" lays down a bossa nova rock groove and "Mr. Rainbow" and "The Drum" tread into demonstrably heavier psychedelic territory.  The CD reissue sports a pretty wicked aerobics-themed bonus track, too, entitled "Everybody's Slimmin'", which is just as awesome as it sounds ("shake your yamma yamma like you're humping a ghost").

If you listen to this and can't stand Dagmar Krause's voice, there's probably little hope you'll enjoy Art Bears or her work with Henry Cow.  On the other hand, if you're already a fan of those, you might find this album a less demanding pleasure.  Either way, you can crawl further down the experimental pop deconstruction rabbit hole with Desperate Straights, Slapp Happy's 1975 collaboration with Henry Cow.

Slapp Happy / Henry Cow - 1975 - Desperate Straights

Slapp Happy / Henry Cow 
1975 
Desperate Straights


01. Some Questions About Hats (1:49)
02. The Owl (2:14)
03. A Worm Is at Work (1:52)
04. Bad Alchemy (3:06)
05. Europa (2:48)
06. Desperate Straights (4:14)
07. Riding Tigers (1:43)
08. Apes in Capes (2:14)
09. Strayed (1:53)
10. Giants (1:57)
11. Excerpt from The Messiah (1:48)
12. In the Sickbay (2:08)
13. Caucasian Lullaby (8:20)

Line-up / Musicians
- Peter Blegvad / guitar, voice
- Lindsay Cooper / oboe, bassoon
- Chris Cutler / drums
- Fred Frith / guitar, violin, xylophone
- John Greaves / bass guitar, piano (15)
- Anthony Moore / piano
- Tim Hodgkinson / clarinet, organ, piano (24)
- Dagmar Krause / voice, wurlitzer (23)

Guest musicians:
- Mont Campbell / French horn
- Nick Evans / trombone
- Mongezi Fezza / trumpet
- Geoff Leigh / flute
- Pierre Moerlen / percussion (16)



Shortly after recording 'Unrest', Henry Cow entered into a merger with label mates Slapp Happy. Slapp Happy comprised Dagmar, a German vocalist who would later win great acclaim for interpretations of Brecht (and sign my copy of this abum), Peter Blegvad, American born but raised and educated in England, played guitar and wrote most of the lyrics and would later contribute the unique strip cartoon Leviathan to the Independent, and Anthony Moore, English pianist who wrote most of the music and who would later work with the post Waters Pink Floyd. Together they produced a kind of skewed pop awash with literary and artistic references. They had recorded 2 albums with Faust, the second of which was re-recorded with session players for Virgin. 2 albums would come from this merger; Desperate Straights (Slapp Happy with Henry Cow) and In Praise Of Learning (Henry Cow with Slapp Happy).
Desperate Straights was the first of the joint ventures to be recorded, and the union of Henry Cow's avant rock with Slapp Happy's warped pop was both challenging and accessible. The majority of the songs were built around a piano/bass/drums accompaniment, with other instruments adding extra colour where needed. Tim Hodgkinson's clarinet is deployed as an instrumental foil to Dagmar's unique voice to superb effect, particularly on the opening song Some Questions About Hats. Elsewhwere, The Owl features Dagmar accompanied solely by horns and Europa has some superb percussion from Pierre Moerlen - all the arrangements are highly original and well thought out. Peter Blegvad takes the lead vocal on Strayed and does a neat pastiche of Lou Reed's drawl. Excerpt From The Messiah is a snippet of Handel as though played by a 70s glam metal band like Slade. There are 2 instrumentals, the title track which is a short, off kilter foxtrot, and the closing track, a lengthy piano/clarinet piece which features the 2 instruments playing scales very slowly. Caucasian Lullaby isn't bad at all, and would have been a superb addition to one of Eno's Obscure label releases, but it is somewhat out of keeping with the rest of the album.

This release is more representative of Slapp Happy than Henry Cow. All of Slapp Happy's albums are worth checking out - this album was released on CD as a twofer with their first album for Virgin, and is superb value if you can find it. If you've ever wondered what a cabaret band from mars would sound like, this album is definitly for you.

Slapp Happy - 1974 - Slapp Happy

Slapp Happy
1974 
Slapp Happy



01. Casablanca Moon (2:49)
02. Me and Paravati (3:25)
03. Half-Way There (3:18)
04. Michaelangelo (2:36)
05. Dawn (3:21)
06. Mr. Rainbow (3:52)
07. Secret (3:31)
08. Little Something (4:35)
09. Drum (3:35)
10. Haiku (3:05)
11. Slow Moon's Rose (2:55)

Line-up / Musicians
- Anthony Moore / keyboards
- Peter Blegvad / second vocals
- Dagmar Krause / lead vocals

Guest musicians:
- Marc Singer / drums
- Dave Wintour / bass guitar
- Graham Preskett / violin, mandolin
- Roger Wootton / backing vocals
- Eddie Sparrow / drums, congas, whistles
- Jean Herré Peron / bass guitar
- Clare Deniz / cello
- Nick Worters / double bass
- Jeremy Baines / sausage bassoon
- Andy Leggett / jugs
- Clem Cattini / drums
- Henry Lowther / trumpet
- Geoff Leigh / saxophones
- Keshave Sathe / tablas, tamboura

(Casablanca Moon--originally titled Slapp Happy)



Slapp Happy was an ambitious Art-Rock trio from the glory days of the genre, back in the 70's, who were mostly remembered for their collaboration with Henry Cow. But before the Avant-Prog work with Henry Cow on the albums Desperate Straights and In Praise Of Learning, there were those sentimental and complex arrangements of Casablanca Moon.
There is a story surrounding the album involving Slapp Happy's collaboration with the band Faust. The two collectives worked together on this album, but the project didn't work out since Polydor rejected the final product. To tell you the truth, I wasn't all that impressed with the few bit of Acnalbasac Noom that I've listened to on YouTube. This meant that Slapp Happy had to re-record most of the material once they moved to Virgin Records.

I'm actually rather surprised that this release wasn't the huge hit that it deserved to be. The music arrangements are quite excellent, still it's Dagmar Krause's vocals that completely steal the show on practically every number. Everyone who has listened to Krause's career in reverse, just like I did, will probably be surprised by the straightforward melodic approach that her voice undertakes here. Some might even criticize this vocal approach, dismissing it for relying too much on the influences from the music scene of its time, but too me Krause has a dominating presence here that can be compared to that of Nico of the first Velvet Underground record.

Anthony Moore and Peter Blegvad do a great job behind the scenes, plus the vast list of guest appearances that are literally crammed on this 35 minute long record make their presence known. There are just so many great tunes that will grab any Art Rock lovers attention. Everything from the opening number's flamenco styled rhythms, to quirky tracks like Michelangelo or the sugary A Little Something make it a highly versatile album experience.

Slapp Happy - 1972 - Sort Of

Slapp Happy 
1972
Sort Of



01. Just a Conversation (4:07)
02. Paradise Express (2:38)
03. I Got Evil (2:33)
04. Little Girls World (3:34)
05. Tutankhamun (2:15)
06. Mono Plane (6:52)
07. Blue Flower (5:21)
08. I'm All Alone (2:52)
09. Who's Gonna Help Me Now (2:28)
10. Small Hands of Stone (4:43)
11. Sort Of (2:21)
12. Heading for Kyoto (3:10)
13. Jumping Jonah (3:07)

- Anthony Moore / keyboards, vocals
- Gunther Wusthoff / saxophone
- Dagmar Krause / piano, vocals
- Peter Blegvad / clarinet, guitar, vocals
- Slapp Happy / main performer
- Werner Diermaier / drums



SLAPP HAPPY was a multinational (specifically British/German) Avant-garde pop group consisting of Anthony MOORE (keyboards), Peter BLEGVAD (guitar) and Dagmar KRAUSE (vocals). SLAPP HAPPY was formed in 1972 in Hamburg, Germany by British composer Anthony MOORE. At the time he was recording for Polydor, but was continually frustrated by the more popular direction the label was trying to woe his music. His music was sited as not commercial enough. Venting this frustration he proposed the formation of a pop group with his girlfriend (Dagmar KRAUSE) from Hamburg and an American friend Peter BLEGVAD. So Slapp happy was born. After much disputes and bantering BLEGVAD and MOORE convinced Krause of their inabilities to sing and she step up as their sing. And to this day remains as one of the distinctive characteristics surrounding the band.

In 1972 SLAPP HAPPY recorded their first album 'Sort of' for Polydor (Germany), with the Krautrock group Faust as their backing band. They took a very simplistic and innocence mind set into studio, crafting a primitive pop album complimented beautiful by KRAUSE's pure German tainted voice. Refusing to play live the marketing behind the album provided to low sales of the LP.

Just a year later (1973) they returned to the studios to record their second album 'Casablanca Moon' (which was to be later released as 'Acnalbasac Noom'). After the disappointing commercial success of 'Sort of' Polydor continued to press the band for more pop orientated material and this is what they recorded. MOORE and BLEGVAD composed simple well crafted pop songs, entailing lush melodies and poetic lyrics. Still not impressed with their work Polydor refused to release the album.

The band then left Polydor (for the better) and moved to London where they were quickly snapped up by the Virgin Records label who was looking for more than just another pop band, which fitted SLAPP HAPPY like a glove. Friends FAUST and HENRY COW had already signed deals. They went on to re-record and release 'Casablanca Moon' in 1974 at the Virgin Manor Studios with the helping hand of session musicals. The approach was more designed at Moore and Blegvad true nature of compositional techniques, producing a more complex song design. Here we also see the lyrical themes tending towards the eccentric side of the spectrum, discounting their roots in the commercial pop realms. That year, SLAPP HAPPY went on to be one of Virgin's biggest money earners. The album was originally release entitled simple 'Slapp Happy' but was later changed to 'Casablanca Moon'

It was to be another 6 years (1980) before Recommended Records release the original 'Casablanca Moon' (backed by FAUST), talking a play on words entitling it 'Acnalbasac Noom'. These two recordings were to become SLAPP HAPPY's most love releases, with constant arguments between fans of which album triumphed over the other. During the time between these two releases Slapp Happy made confidences with label mates Henry Cow and in late 1974 recorded a split album 'Desperate Straights", which despite the variances in style turned out to be a success. Once again in 1975 the two bands joined forces, with Krause as vocalist for Henry Cow acclaimed 'In the Praise of Learning' while Moore and Blegvad took on minor rolls.

While KRAUSE reminded with HENRY COW for many more years, both MOORE and BLEGVAD couldn't ignore the vast differences between the bands style and thus forced the split of SLAPP HAPPY. Both MOORE and BLEGVAD set out on separate solo careers of varying success.

The band was to collaborate again twice during the nineties, producing both 'Ca Va' and 'Camera'. Now coming into a more modern age the band made extensive use of layering and other studio effects. To some fans the lose of the signature 'acoustic sound' was a disappointment, but relatively speaking both albums were solid efforts.

SLAPP HAPPY crafts a unique style of Avant-garde pop; while remain sophisticated, they draw from pop subtleties, from playful moods to the airy voice of Dagmar KRAUSE. Recommend to those looking for a lighter taste of RIO/avant-prog.

Maybe due to the band's unwillingness to promote this album with live gigs and everything else one would assume goes hand in hand with a music career, - Slapp Happy remained somewhat obscure at the time of this release. It's kinda sad, especially when you start to listen to this riveting and unassuming debut album simply called Sort Of......Slapp Happy. The meaning behind the title escapes this listener, but what does shine through in the most charming way, is the feet thumping, psychedelic whiskey shooting straightforwardness of this thing. Sure, you probably saw the RIO avant sticker applied here on PA, and thought to yourself: "Ahhh it's one of those unlistenable albums with people playing drainpipes and castrated frogs.... Count me out!" - upon running screaming in the opposite direction. Such thinking is pure madness though, and if anybody out there is reading this review and maybe even feels on the fence about this sort of music - or just think they've pigeon-holed the entire genre by listening to a couple of albums from Zappa and Henry Cow, I urge you to take a chance with Sort Of. It could well be your introduction into a world of shiny things with teeth.

Having said that, you could be lead into thinking otherwise, as Sort Of sports a couple of big hitters inside the more experimental side of rock music. 3 members from Faust lend a helping hand in this recording - and you also meet a young Peter Blegvad who back then sounded far more occupied with dirty gritty hard rock, than what he later got associated with. Finally there's the tiny pixie named Dagmar Krause, who sings like a female version of David Surkamp. Allrighty then....

The thing is - this debut is far from being an avant garde release. It's only in the details you hear traces of what was to come. The Faust input feels strangely in line with the surrounding psychedelic blues rock n' folk style, and if I didn't know any better, I'd say it sounded like a quirkier Big Brother with Janis singing from the insides of a helium bubble.

The crunching spillonking guitar antics of Peter Blegvad are what's running things here. Often coming off as a distorted blues man, he propels this venture forward with a steadfast easy digestible Chuck Berry lick. Much of what you hear wouldn't feel out of place in a Woodstock setting, where the rhythm n' blues framework got stretched to fit whatever agenda put on the menu, whether that was the Latino spicings of Santana or the hippedi hop pop of Sha-na-na. On here, you are faced with the German lineage of the blues. What the Amon Duuls proposed to do with it - that underground gelatinous raw blues feel, even if you won't find much in the way of free-form composition or amazing LSD freak-outs on Sort Of. The sound is very much an echo of the psychedelic blues rock happening in the late 60s.

It's first when you dig a little deeper that you start to hear those quirky bits. The side of the record that screams for unorthodox measures and iron fisted koalas. Like I mentioned earlier, it is indeed a subtle shading to the proceedings, but it helps pull the album up from the everyday blubber of 1970s blues rock. It's in the spastic percussion touches that continue to embellish the music throughout the album. Something that Faust were masters at. Just hearing the drums on some of these tracks makes me think of the wilder side of Ginger Baker. Keeping a straight beat without implementing the high hat or snare drum like they were meant to is a very hard thing to do - especially when the track you're supposed to be backing is a rockabilly tune with a severe need of a 1 and 4. Yet on here it works, and does so beautifully and with refined subtlety. What? We're talking about Faust here - aren't we?!?!?!

This is what sets the album apart from other such psychedelic blues rock affairs of the time: unusual backing ornamentations like a twittering saxophone, bar-room piano, mumbling snuffling percussions, unorthodox drumming and the unique vocals of Madame Krause. For those of you who've heard horror stories about this woman's vocal chords, don't believe any of it! She's as charismatic and powerful as she is integral to this band's sound. The minuscule traces of German accent that lie at the tail-end of her phrasings are abnormally beautiful, and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way, and just so you know: I usually despise accented vocals. Furthermore, she doesn't even sing that much on this debut. Blegvad belts out his booming blues voice just as frequently, and the flip flopping effect of the Minnie Mouse tinged psychedelics of Krause and the big meaty elk booms from Blegvad match perfectly the music surrounding them.

Sort Of is far away from being representative of this band's future career, but it is a wonderful meeting between the States and Europe. This is where the blues fuelled psych rock dances with the quirkier side of the European avant garde eccentricities, yet without ever loosing it's natural heritage.