Thursday, July 6, 2017

Minus Two - 2010 - SWF-Session 1972

Minus Two
SWF-Session 1972 

02. Differences - 9:05
03. First Romance is - 12:42
04. the Welcome For You - 7:22
05. Differences (Live) - 4:56

Günter Kühlwein - Hammond organ, vocals
Walter Helbig - drums, percussion, vocals

What Germany was really good at was producing keyboard/drum duos like the one presented here.Minus Two came from Viernheim near Mannheim, a music project formed by keyboardist and singer Günter Kuehlwein and drummer Walter Helbig, both playing in 1971 (time of Minus Two's formation) in local groups, Kuehlwein had also appeared as a guest keyboardist in Dzyan's self-titled debut.As with many acts of the time they failed to create a proper album, but had the chance to record a session at SWF Studios, which was released in 2010 on Long Hair Music.

The only true instruments in the album is a Hammond organ and a drum kit, so what music could produce such a formation else than jamming organ-driven Psychedelic Rock with Classical and Jazz touches, akin to E.L.P., THE NICE or BRIAN AUGER'S OBLIVION EXPRESS.They sound as a clone of compatriots SIXTY-NINE, but they appear to be a very tight duo with Kuehlwein often displaying his GREG LAKE-like voice.The music varies from organ masturbations to extended psychedelic backgrounds with a romantic atmosphere to powerful Classical-like Rock with many interludes and preludes, eventually leading to dynamic fanfares with a drummer having a rather jazzy-spiced style of playing.As a result the music is far from boring, it comes in dramatic, poetic and virtuosic fashions in about equal doses, the jamming parts are typical of a Kraut Rock band of the time and the absence of bass is hardly notable due to the very rich organ enviroment.On the other hand all these keyboard/drums duos presented Experimental Rock at its deepest form, 30 minutes of music are long enough to capture the formation's free musical spirit, but any minute beyond this sounds like an excess.All tracks were recorded at SWF Studios except the last one, ''Differences'', which was a shortened, live version of the already presented piece, recorded in the Baden-Baden area.

After Minus Two Heblig was involved for a brief time in Nine Days Wonder's and Aera's line-ups, while Kuehlwein became a music lecturer, participated in several albums as a guest and collaborated with many Americans Jazz and Soul musicians.

Hammond organ orgasms with jazzy drumming craziness in a supertight but hardly essential offering.Recommended for lovers of keyboards, old-styled psych manifests and virtuosic plays.

Perhaps a better title would be He's the Keyboardist, I'm the Drummer. The keyboard-and-drums lineup will probably make you think of Billy Joel's Attila, whose only record was described by AMG (in a ridiculous moment of hyperbole) as the worst album in the history of recorded music. Minus Two, I'm glad to say, do not come close to those depths. 

There's just something slightly absurd about the concept of a duo consisting only of a keyboardist and a drummer. They both look pretty bummed out on the cover, maybe they're thinking "we could have been lawyers or doctors but instead we're a keyboard and drum duo that nobody's heard of". It also sounds pretty funny when they both put on high pitched voices and start scat-singing at once. 

Even though there are only two instruments there is absolutely no self-indulgence. There's not a single drum solo chucked in for the hell of it, the drums are far more impactive in their skilful supportive role. The keyboard playing is inventive and melodic - dig that sizzling solo at the start of "Welcome For You"! It's a testament to their skills as songwriters that the near-13 minute epic "First Romance" doesn't even contain any extended solos! The sad thing is there's probably some poor sod out there whose first romance was soundtracked by this very song...

Will I listen to this again any time soon? Probably not. But for 37 minutes of German prog-jazz this is very entertaining. And slightly absurd too, which is all part of the fun (did I mention the silly lyrics?). Another draw would be this album's status as a genuine obscurity - it seems pretty much all lost Krautrock/Prog gems have now been unearthed, but not this one! Maybe the world is scared of a keyboard and drum duo, I dunno.

The last track is live on stage, which hints that there might be more to come from this band - 3 disc live boxset, maybe?



  2. Apparently none of the reviewers quoted above have heard of Hardin & York?