Friday, May 22, 2015

Franco Battiato - 1974 - Clic

Franco Battiato

01. I Cancelli Della Memoria (6:07)
02. No U Turn (4:49)
03. Il Mercato Degli Dei (4:29)
04. Rien Ne Va Plus (2:40)
05. Propiedad Prohibida (5:18)
06. Nel Cantiere Di Un'infanzia (4:30)
07. Ethika Fon Ethica (3:51)

Franco Battiato / voice, piano, organ, VCS3
Gianni Mocchetti / bass, guitar
Gianfranco D'Adda / percussion
Juri Camisasca e Pietro Pizzamiglio / vocal effects

Franco Battiato / voice, piano, organ, VCS3
Gianni Mocchetti / bass, guitar
Gianfranco D'Adda / percussion
Juri Camisasca e Pietro Pizzamiglio / vocal effects

 Before Battiato went flying into the sun of mininalist avant prog... he gave us this absolute classic of an album. A dense ambient electronic album with some avant sections that hint broadly on where he would be heading in the years down the road. This album was the culmiination of his early electronic period. The avant hints that were dropped in Sulle Corde di Aries are even more pronounced here, and possbily more fully realized. A incredible album. Not being particularly into the electronic side of prog I can't vouch for what Battiato did in comparison to others. In creativity or quality for that matter. All I know is what my ears tell me.. and they tell me that I love this album. That coming from a person who really isn't into elecronic.. or for that matter... particuarly avant music. What that says about the quality of the music... it's as always up to the listener. Check it out though.. the guys at work sat around today and listened to it.. and really dug it. Maybe it isn't just me after all hahaha.
The album opens with the celesital I Cancelli Della Memoria. The long opening is punctuated with saxophone with some rather earie piano. The pace picks up and with a repetive synth pattern underneath a elecric piano then fades to nothing. I was hooked upon the first listen of it and ready for what followed. With an album so against the grain of what are your normal listening habits.. that can make all the difference in whether you can enjoy.. or even continue to listen to an album. The same tone and style continues in the second song 'No U Turn' this time with Battiato's fabulous voice (though with the vocals recorded backwards). Il Mercato Degli Dei follows next with an extended accoustic piano intro. It fades away and the accoustic piano comes back with some etherial synths over top of it. Rien Ne Va Plus is next up. Here we have the first appearence on the album of the avant element of Battiato. Sounds of women laughing, footsteps, etc. are mixed with strings, Battiato speaking, Very much a sound collage of sorts.

A synth drone introduces the next song Propiedad Prohibida. A synth bass tone takes over with strings over top of it. A new synth rhythm takes shape about half way through that is an effective change of pace. Again the strings play over top of it. Nel Cantiere Di Un'infanzia follows and is much in the same vein as the first tracks.. eithereal, celestial and yet vaugely haunting at the same time. The album closes with Ethika Fon Ethica is another musical collage that is has nods to continental European classic music and arabic music.

A fascinating album and one that an openminded progger might find interesting. You may like it as well.

Franco Battiato - 1973 - Sulle Corde di Aries

Franco Battiato 
Sulle Corde di Aries

01. Sequenze e frequenze (16:22)
02. Aries (5:26)
03. Aria di rivoluzione (5:01)
04. Da Oriente ad Occidente (6:32)

- Franco Battiato / lead vocals, VCS 3, guitar, piano, calimba
- Gianni Mocchetti / guitars, mandola, vocals
- Gianfranco D'Adda / percussion

- Gianni Bedori / tenor sax (2)
- Jane Robertson / violoncello (3)
- Daniele Cavallanti / clarinet, soprano sax (3)
- Gaetano Galli / oboe (4)
- Rossella Conz / soprano (1)
- Jutta Nienhaus / recitative vocals (3), soprano (1, 4)

 Franco Battiato started his career in the mid sixties as a beat singer. In the early seventies he turned to progressive and released some interesting albums like "Fetus" and "Pollution" then, with "Sulle corde di Aries" (On Aries' strings), he began to turn from progressive to pure avant-garde. None the less this album is absolutely worth listen to since here the experimental passages are well balanced with more melodic parts. The line up features Franco Battiato (lead vocals, synthesizer VCS3, guitar, piano, calimba), Gianni Mocchetti (guitar, mandola, backing vocals) and Gianfranco D'Adda (percussion) plus many guests that contributed to enrich the sound.
The long opener "Sequenze e frequenze" (Sequences and frequencies) blends dark experimental sounds with oriental influences; hypnotic and unusual "filtered" soar after more than two minutes and seem like be floating on a "flying musical carpet" while evoking memories from the childhood... "In summer our teacher taught in her garden / I used to sit on a little wall looking towards the sea / Every now and again a ship passed by...". Then vocals give way to suggestive percussion patterns and to other experimental sounds. Quite interesting, even if for someone this track could seem too long (sixteen minutes!) and in the end a little bit boring?

On the instrumental "Aries" you have more experimental sounds, percussions that seem to imitate a horse-ride and a jazzy sax outro. The atmosphere is ethereal and spacey. Well, Aries is the first sign of the zodiac and in some way it well represents this bold and futuristic track.

Next comes "Aria di rivoluzione" (Air of Revolution) that in my opinion is the best track on this album. Hidden and painful memories seem slowly coming afloat... "In that time in Europe there was another war / There were no songs but alarm hooters...". Here Franco Battiato's lead vocals in "Arabic style" perfectly interact with the voice of Jutta Nienhaus (the singer of the German/Italian band Analogy) who recites some verses in German taken from "Genossen, wer von uns wäre nicht gegen den Krieg", a poem by the German "Liedermacher" Wolf Biermann (in German) on an evocative musical background. Policemen trained against the people get drowned in the crowd storming through the streets like a raging river... My generation wants new ideals / I've already felt the revolution in the air / I've already heard who will be shot down"?

The final track "Da Oriente ad Occidente" (From the East to the West) is like a musical journey from East to West, from Oriental influences to jazzy sounds? "Away from this darkness the future ripens / The sky is without clouds / Father please, let me set off"?

Franco Battiato - 1972 - Pollution

Franco Battiato 

01. Il Silenzio Del Rumore (2:48)
02. 31 Dicembre 1999 - Ore 9 (0:20)
03. Areknames (5:07)
04. Beta (7:25)
05. Plancton (5:03)
06. Pollution (8:49)
07. Ti Sei Mai Chiesto Quale Funzione Hai? (3:35)

- Franco Battiato / vocals, synthesizers VCS3
- Ruby Cacciapaglia / piano, synthesizers VCS3 and VCS2
- Gianfranco D'Adda / drums,
- Mario Ellepi / guitars, synthesizers VCS3, vocals
- Gianni Mocchetti / bass, synthesizers VCS2, vocals

Somewhat in the line of his debut album, Franco Battiato did make an interesting second record without falling into the trap: making a duplicate or making a negative film of his "successful" (all things considered) debut work. With an interesting citrus artwork, this album like most of his early ones have disputable production values (in terms of quality of sound, but musical choices also) as Massara and Tissico had butchered Capsicum Red beforehand, but here the job is correct, if far from perfect. Needless to say that the Artis CD reissue is straight from vinyl, since we hear two distinct pops and a few more crackles, and they're lucky that Mr Kellogg has never heard of these albums or else the lawyers would have a field day. But enough complaining, because what we have here is n highly original (and totally whacked out) album that goes opposite of the vast majority of Italian prog of those years. For this Pollution FB's group have lost their "sound makers" and gained two more musicians also doodling with the VCS3 synths.

Starting on a very shaky symphonic orchestra line (Silenzio), then suddenly shifting into a basic electric guitar punkish strumming, underlined by a gloomy organ (ORE 9) and ending in thunder-like sounds, Battiato like to lose his listeners from the start. Not that the music makes much sense so far, and one has to wait halfway through the third track Areknames for the album to really start: just as the canon chant praising Arek's names (I tried ;o))), the album takes a turn for the better and gains comparison with Fetus. The start of the 7-min+ Beta is an incredibly weird Terry Riley-esque atmosphere until Franco's piano pulls a line that even Rick Wright would've loved to claim his own. Needless to say that D'Adda's drumming sounds like Mason and the whole thing has a great Floydish scent: this track would not be out of place between Saucerful and Atom Heart Mother.

The flipside start on the Plancton track, on which hearing, Terry Riley would've sent his lawyers (busy law firms keeps the organized crime in business) and is a goodie and the best of this side of the slice of wax. The almost 9-min title track is clearly the album's centrepiece (but not the highlight, imho), starting on waves sounds and sounds of waves (clearly the VCS3 is the album's star instrument) for a long stretch before dissonant Battiato guitars and out-of-tune choirs and weird cheap "Moog-like" sounds and other odd ditties.. Bubbles sound announce the very quiet and closing track, which could emanate from Umma Gumma, except for the irritating sobbing sounds heard throughout.

Mostly FB's early albums have kept enough charms for progheads to keep listening and starters to discover, but Pollution like many other of his early albums have not aged well, partly due to disputable production. Still worth discovering and the odd spin now and then, though!!

Franco Battiato - 1971 - Fetus

Franco Battiato 

01. Fetus (2:39)
02. Una Cellula (2:55)
03. Cariocinesi (1:59)
04. Energia (4:31)
05. Fenomenologia (3:51)
06. Meccanica (6:11)
07. Anafase (5:36)
08. Mutazione (2:58)

- Franco Battiato / synthesizers, VCS3, strings, vocals
- Sergio Almangano
- Gianfranco D'Adda
- Alberto Mompelio
- Gianni Mocchetti
- Elisabetta Pezzera
- Riccardo Rolli

Franco Battiato is one of the most successful singers in Italy. He began his career as a "light" singer, recording a few singles. In 1971 he started his particular journey through experimental music, recording his proggiest issues: "Fetus", "Pollution", "Sulle corde di Aries". Some very atmospheric parts and some very melodic songs make these records worthwhile, along with musical references to the arabic culture and italian folk that will surface from time to time in all of his following output. His next records are gradually more and more experimental, exploring minimalism and culminating with "L' Egitto prime delle Sabbie", with two long pieces based on hardly one note and its harmonics. Very difficult, I can´t recommend this period to anyone but music scholars or any Stockhausen students. After this, came a great change of direction.
From "L'era del Cinghiale Bianco" to "Mondi Lontanissimi", these are pop-rock records, but very interesting (and even commercially successful) ones. Especially the lyrics, sometimes very deep, sometimes ironic, full of references. He starts singing in many different languages, even within one song.
With "Fisiognomica", Battiato started walking towards classical music, using orchestra on some songs and composing a couple of operas. "L'Imboscata" and "Gommalacca" are rockier than any of his previous works. The latest has a shy return to prog and experimental, yet for a wide audience.

This is the best progressive soloist in Italy and now is very popular. I recommend "Fetus", "Pollution" and "Sulle corde di Aries", a kind of trilogy and one of the Italian prog highest moments.

 After some singles in a melodic, commercial style, in 1972 Franco Battiato took a more challenging musical direction for his first full length album on Bla Bla Records blending Italian melody with experimental electronic sounds. The result is "Fetus", a concept album written in collaboration with Sergio Albergoni and producer Pino Massara and recorded with the help of a team of skilled musicians featuring, among others, Gianfranco D'Adda, Gianni Mocchetti and Sergio Almangano. According to the liner notes, this album is "completely dedicated" to Aldous Huxley and his works, in particular to Brave New World, a novel which anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and operant conditioning that combine to profoundly change society. It's subtitled "Ritorno al mondo nuovo" (Return To The New World) and features a provocative, controversial art work by Gianni Sassi.
The opener "Fetus" is a short track in three parts that begins just by vocals and sound effects evoking the heart-beat. The lyrics depict the feelings of a baby who slowly takes shape in his mother's womb... "I wasn't born yet / And I could already feel the heart-beat / Even before my birth / I could feel that I was born without love...". On the instrumental middle section synthesizers come in describing the mystery of life flowing in the veins of fate, then an acoustic guitar arpeggio introduces an almost mystical atmosphere.

The following "Una cellula" (A cell) features a dreamy mood while the lyrics conjure up images from a future where time gets blurred... "My cells will change and my body will have a new life... We will travel around the sun, faster than light / As time-machines against the will of Time...".

"Cariocinesi" (Mitosis) is a strange, swinging track that every now and again reminds me of the Quintette du Hot Club de France of Stephan Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. The music and lyrics describe in a surreal way the magic of the process by which a cell, which has previously replicated each of its chromosomes, separates the chromosomes in its cell nucleus into two identical sets of chromosomes, each set in its own new nucleus, a process that is maybe blind or just "enlightened by a memory without past...". But beware! Chance can alter the process leading to unpredictable effects.

"Energia" (Energy) begins with the voice of some little children in the background and the reprise of the theme of the middle section of the title track. Then Franco Battiato's vocals come in and draw some reflections about the role of chance in the reproductive process... "I have had many women in my life / And in every room I left some of my energy... If a child would be aware that he was born by chance among thousands of occasions / He would understand all the dreams that life can give / And he would live with joy all those illusions...".

"Fenomenologia" (Phenomenology) begins with a strummed acoustic guitar and a dreamy mood... "My mental action is uncertain / The voice is marble and concrete / I live in spite of myself / It's hard to get the control / There's fog around my eyes / The outlines are getting blurred / I've already forgotten my dimension / Unknown forces are tearing me from myself...". Then a second part follows introduced by strange percussion patterns while the vocals repeat the DNA formula. The track ends with a reprise of the third part of the title track

"Meccanica" (Mechanics) is darker and begins with synthesizers in the forefront that bring a sense of tension. Then an acoustic section follows and the music and lyrics depict a laboratory where the genes of love are manipulated to shape a new form of life featuring mechanical eyes and brain, a plastic heart and a synthetic taste. On the final section you can hear the voices of the astronauts of the Apollo 11 and Bach's "Air on a G string".

Next comes the ethereal "Anafase" (Anaphase). Anaphase is the stage of mitosis or meiosis when chromosomes are split and the sister chromatids move to opposite poles of the cell, but in this case the lyrics and music conjure up an interstellar journey. Some spaceships take off towards the immensity - Will man colonize new planets?

The conclusive "Mutazione" (Mutation) seems to suggest the answer for the previous question... "Millennia of sleep have cradled me and now I'm back / Something has changed / I can't see any signal of life / Nonetheless I can feel it / The are some vibrations / I can't say what my eyes are going to see / Perhaps some bodies of stone / I feel them coming...".

Well, on the whole an interesting album with a concept half-way between science-fiction and spiritualism!

Cheval Fou - 1970 - Cheval Fou

Cheval Fou 
Cheval Fou

01 Mercury messenger
02 Kheops
03 Etna
04 Hannibal
05 Meteorites
06 Isthar
07 Actreids
08 Crusades
09 Dans L'oeil De L'oeil
10 Birth
11 Marion dreams
12 Laser Sunset
13 La Fin De La Vie...

Jean-max Peteau: guitar, voice
Stephan Rossini: drums, voice
Michel Peteau: guitar, voice, sax

I do not have information on this French group, this CD is a first live edition of recordings (repetitions or concert) between 1971 and 1975. Music planing between Gong and The Cosmic Jokers.

The last track "La Fin de la Vie" is an hypnotic trippy masterwork.

But you won't find any of the restraint or gentility of French Impressionism in the work of the many early seventies freak-rock bands that proliferated as a Parisian parallel to contemporaneous experimentation in Germany. Red Noise, Mahogany Brain, Ame Son, Fille Qui Mousse, Cheval Fou, Crium Delirium, Nyl; these guys were about extremo rock insanity, and they knew how to bring on the noise apocalypse as furiously as any of your Amon Duuls or your Guru Gurus, make no mistake.

Recorded between 1970 and 1975

To read the music pages of the Village Voice these days, or else Spin, Rolling Stone, The Wire, The New York Times, Alternative Press,Option, Magnet, Raygun, and, well, you get the point -- just about every organ of respectable pop discourse lately, is to come across piece after piece perpetuating the tired old anglo myth that the French can't rock. Gets my ire up, that. That the mainstream of American and British rock criticism finds the idea of European rock ridiculous (unless it's German, of course) -- or else is simply unaware of its existence -- isn't a new phenomenon, but it's surely less defensible than ever in the present age of readily available CD re-issues and copious documentation of the myriad rock and avant-rock scenes that criss-crossed the continent from the late sixties though the early eighties.

The French have always gotten the worst of this haughty neglect, and have had their noses rubbed repeatedly in asinine, reductionist stereotypes, the salient point of which is that the French are traditionally far too dainty, delicate, cool and graceful to really rock properly. Flimsy and demonstrably silly charges such as these are in the air once again due to the love affair now underway between the usual critics/suspects and the French electronic pop duo Air, whose album Moon Safari -- a rather tepid and studiously chintzy set of tunes decorated with Vocoder, Rhodes and Moog, indistinguishable for long stretches from Love Theme From Starsky and Hutch -- has turned on the reviewers by wedding the gooier, pornier aspects of trip-hop with precisely the kind of knowing irony and breezy flair the French are allegedly born to. But for heavens sake, this is a country that produced Genet and Lautreamont, not just Yves Montand and Alain Delon, and the history of its rock music shows it.

So partly for the hell of it, largely to make myself feel better, and lastly but most virtuously to lead the curious novice in the direction of the creme de la creme, I've put together a brief but wide-ranging introduction to a number of the dominant Franco-Rock styles of (mostly) the seventies, since that was the most fertile, febrile time for imagination and innovation in continental rock. Due to the potentially overwhelming nature of such an enterprise, and because I don't intend to write a book here, the descriptions will be rudimentary. For further reading in English on many of these bands, I recommend consulting back issues of Audion magazine (whose publishers are apparently at work on a book on the subject), Expose magazine, and both catalogues put out by my own mail-order company, New Sonic Architecture. Hmm, well, where to begin? Many French bands of the seventies can trace their roots back to a set of overlapping scenes centered on particular bands: Magma, Gong, Heldon, and Art Zoyd are among these seminal ensembles. Another way of starting is to go back to the original progressive rock bands of Great Britain and trace their influence on the dozens, maybe hundreds, of bands that sprouted up in the very early seventies. A few of these British bands had a far greater impact than the others. Soft Machine, for example, was not only among the primary catalysts for the initial explorations of Christian Vander's Magma -- the one French band, besides the Anglo-French Gong, to enjoy widespread recognition of late -- but spawned a number of bands, such as Moving Gelatine Plates and Rhesus O, that took their experimental jazz-rock template for granted and produced remarkable variations upon it. These bands would in turn inform the fresh conceptions of later bands like Carpe Diem, Dun, and Neo.

Other bands, most prominently Ange and Atoll, but with eventual followers such as Mona Lisa, Grime, Synopsis, and Orion, brought their individual perspectives to the dream-like theatrical fantasias of early Genesis, producing dramatic and ambitious suites that may or may not be improved for some by the incomprehensibility of their lyrics. It shouldn't have to be pointed out -- but it does have to be, altogether too frequently -- that this sort of thing, shorthanded as "symphonic rock" by many, was not about elves and fairies, did not require a working knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons to be enjoyed, and was, despite its complexity and occasional conceptual overreach, very much about rock'n'roll. At least listen to Ange's Caricatures before you knee-jerk your negation.

Ah, but I'm getting overheated. Two other British bands that had notable, if fewer, French disciples were Pink Floyd and King Crimson. Three of the most tantalizingly beautiful records of the seventies were produced between 1975 and '77 by Pulsar, whose lush and gloomy grandeur owed just enough to the Floyd of Atom Heart Mother and Wish You Were Here. Slightly similar to Pulsar, but equally reflective of the also vital folk-rock scene of the time, was Pentacle, whose acoustic guitar and Moog reveries rival the Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Vantine for sheer loveliness.

Without King Crimson, it's hard to imagine the birth of such nevertheless singular bands as Shylock and Arachnoid, who between them produced three of the angst-iest, angriest, and most sinister records of the non-Zeuhl (Magma) French rock world. Fripp-derived guitar parts, tortured and caustic or soaring breathtakingly, run riot on these records, but are joined by diverse keyboard sonorities and stunningly syncopated drumming in compositions substantively different from what one would expect from Crimson.

The Canterbury, especially Hatfield and The North, had a pronounced influence on many of the post-Magma bands, but there were few bands in France that directly embraced and embodied the echt-British Canterbury style of whimsical, jazzy progressive rock. Cos were the most impressive exception: their first few albums are of a piece with the best Caravan and Hatfield material. Gong are a bit of a special case due to their multi-nationalism (Allen's really an Aussie after all), but the soberer, oozier side of their patentedly zany space-rock is definitely on display on the Carpe Diem and Dun records mentioned earlier. And that more or less does it for the seminal British influences on French rock.

Some other styles for which British acts are well known were in fact co-developed internationally. The most obvious example is Rock-In-Opposition, a movement with a number of important French practitioners. Etron Fou Leloublan, Albert Marcoeur and Art Zoyd were all at least as fundamental to the creation of R.I.O. as a social force and as a musical style as, say, Henry Cow were. Art Zoyd's first recordings date back to 1969; from there the band moved gradually from frenzied psychedelia to the ultra-menacing, nightmarish chamber-rock of Zoyd's first proper album, 1976's Symphony For the Day When the Cities Will Burn. Marcoeur and Etron Fou traded in less claustrophobic but no less bizarre versions of avant-rock, each reflecting to differing degrees the influence of Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. The skewed song-craft of Etron Fou's last few albums eventually inspired a whole school of French bands, including Debile Menthol, Begnagrad, Nimal, and L'Ensemble Raye, some of which remain active.

Peripheral to the French R.I.O. sound and scene were a number of more hermetic, lo-fi, and home-brewed bands -- ZNR, Klimperei, and the solo artist Pascal Comelade especially -- that shared an affinity for small gestures of queer, quirky loveliness, relying on miniature compositions centered on piano, primitive electronics and wind instruments to convey a wistful, humorous charm that the likes of Air can only dream of. The spirit of Les Six composers Poulenc and Milhaud are unmissably present on these artists' records.

But you won't find any of the restraint or gentility of French Impressionism in the work of the many early seventies freak-rock bands that proliferated as a Parisian parallel to contemporaneous experimentation in Germany. Red Noise, Mahogany Brain, Ame Son, Fille Qui Mousse, Cheval Fou, Crium Delirium, Nyl; these guys were about extremo rock insanity, and they knew how to bring on the noise apocalypse as furiously as any of your Amon Duuls or your Guru Gurus, make no mistake.

Marshalling the feral intensity of the freak-rockers, and harnassing it to large-scale compositional structures derived from Stravinsky and Orff, was the self-assigned task of Christian Vander, founder of Magma. Even if you've not heard Magma -- who in their latest incarnation are set to play two shows in the U.S. this year -- you've probably heard of them, and I won't say much about them, except that besides their own formidable oeuvre they bear paternity for a rather immense and internationally influential genre of post-Magma French rock and jazz-fusion known as Zeuhl. Many but not all of these bands featured former Magma members, but each is in some way marked by Magma's essential aural imprint, whether it be in the harmonic chromaticism, the signature bass-sound, or the quasi-Wagnerian bombast of Magma's vocals. At any rate, a short list of the best French Zeuhl bands might go like this: Zao, Shub Niggurath, Paga, Eskaton, Honeyelk, Eider Stellaire, Potemkine, and Weidorje. There are plenty of others, not to mention all the solo albums released by Magma members.

Occasionally overlapping with Magma's membership was that of the last band to be dealt with here, electronic rock pioneers Heldon, whose seven albums (until the recent reunion, which is expected to produce a new one) ascend from throbbingly amorphous guitar-and-synthesizer buzz-drone epics to dazzlingly precise sequencer-driven juggernauts. The constant throughout (maybe I should've mentioned these guys when I was talking Crimson) is Richard Pinhas' heavily Fripp-indebted guitar tone, searing and arctic and taut. Pinhas has also released a series of brilliant solo records, often setting the guitar aside in favor of a purely electronic approach.

Sketchy and superficial as it is, this brief primer sure ain't gonna help the expert, but if even one reflexive Franco disser deigns to open his or her ears and rethink a baseless prejudice, well, I've gone and justified my squallid little life once again, miracle of miracles. Now then, does anybody have anything mean and unjust to say about Italian rock?

Beaver & Krause - 1969 - Ragnarok

Beaver & Krause

01. Ragnarock
02. The Fisherman
03. Circle X
04. Dill Picolo (Try Not to Twitch)
05. Dr. Fox
06. Moogy Blues Funk
07. As I Hear it
08. 33rd Stanza of a Hymn to Sancho Panza
09. Fountains of the Dept. of Water & Power
10. Changes
11. Interplay

Released the year after 'The Elektra Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music', Beaver and Krause’s somewhat misleadingly titled 'Ragnarok: Electronic Funk' (which remains unissued on CD) is one of the ultimate cult moog gems. Seconds into the opener I ditched my vain search for hardwired approximations of Bootsy licks to settle back and marvel at this unusual and intriguing LP. Armed with the knowledge that Beaver and Krause were both Dr. Robert Moog’s west coast sales representatives and expert Moog programmers (rigging it up for, amongst others, The Doors and The Monkees; for Mort Garson’s early moog LPs; and – as I later found out to squeals of delight (yes, mine) – the soundtrack to Nic Roeg’s 'Performance'), it might be easy to dismiss 'Ragnarok' as a mere industry demo if it hadn’t the ability to stand so firmly on its own two feet. Given the LP’s breadth of scope, it could conceivably have been subtitled 'The Limelight Guide to the Moog Synthesizer', but comes across more like highly advanced library music for an as yet undreamt-of 21st century.

In terms of sheer ambition, the title track (which opens the LP) has something in common with some of Walter Carlos’ more adventurous work of the early to mid-1970s such as ‘Geodesic Dance’ and ‘Timesteps’. Sandwiched between this and the ominous organ-like spirals, elliptical twitters and subliminal voices swirling at the turbulent epicentre of ‘Circle X’ is ‘The Fisherman’, Krause’s unfussy, lilting guitar ballad which the moog lifts out of the realm of the ordinary with gently placed burbles and delicate counterpoints. ‘Dill Piccolo’ takes apart and rebuilds the moog as a clownish, carnivalesque tumble of moving parts and mechanical tricks, preparing the ground for ‘Dr Fox’ and ‘Moogy Blues Funk’, the LP's most off-the-scale spikes in eccentricity. The cartoonish lyrics of the former allude rather obliquely, I suspect, to Dr. Moog and his ‘...freakin’ brain box...’, and for maximum wobble, the sleeve notes suggest headphone devotees don their cans, so I did ... brrrrr. You should too.

Neither recognisably bluesy nor funky, ‘Moogy Blues Funk’ (which opens side 2) is instead an absurdist hillbilly romp which kisses an irreverent if sweet-natured goodbye to Bob’s visions of classical respectability for the Moog while wrenching open the paddock gate through which Gil Trythall’s bizarre moog hoedowns would eventually trot. Another series of abrupt and unexpected musical about-faces brings us the gorgeous and all-too-brief ‘As I Hear It’ and riding on its coat-tails, the scalding, stuttering acceleration of ‘33rd Stanza of a Hymn to Sancho Panza’, a minor, pin-you-to-the-wall masterpiece that makes speculation about what stanzas one through thirty-two might sound like almost unavoidable. ‘Fountains of the Department of Water and Power’ pretty much does everything it says on the pack, with cycles of fluid, cascading motifs welling up from within a polished utopian muzak. ‘Changes’ and ‘Interplay’ – both taken from a film score entitled ‘Breakthrough’ – close the LP. ‘Changes’, as the title might suggest, morphs from meandering downbeat exercises in harmony and counterpoint to chilly isolationism within the space of three-and-a-half minutes, and still finds room inside for a stately electronic fanfare. The additive structure at the heart of ‘Interplay’ blossoms into a variegated six-part invention that could easily be mistaken for something else Walter Carlos might have done in the late 60s or early 70s, and as the needle finally drifts into the run out groove, it dawns on me how far you can go in just one LP. Frequently unique, often exquisite, and more than a little bit bonkers here and there, 'Ragnarok' deserves every last bit of its rarefied cult status. When I die, I want mine buried with me, please.

Beaver & Krause - 1968 - The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music

Beaver & Krause
The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music

01. Peace Three 3:08
Signal Generators
02. Sine Waveform: Slow-Motion Audible Example 0:05
03. Sine Waveform: Composition 0:50
04. Sine Waveform: Harmonic Synthesis 0:33
05. Sine Waveform: Non-Harmonic Synthesis 0:37
06. Sawtooth Waveform: Slow-Motion (Negative- and Positive-Going) 0:12
07. Sawtooth Waveform: Composition 0:34
08. Rectangular Waveforms: Slow-Motion Audible Example (1/8-1/2) 0:28
09. Rectangular Waveforms: Composition (Using 1/8, 1/7, 1/3, 1/2) 0:35
10. Triangular Waveform: Slow-Motion Audible Example 0:05
11. Triangular  Waveform: Composition 0:20
12. White Sound Composition 0:13
Control Generators
13. Transient Generator, Amplitude, Frequency, and Timbre Modulation in Slow-Motion 0:08
14. Sequential Voltage Sources, Composition 1:55
Frequency Modulation
15. Keyboard Control: 12 Tone 0:32
16. Keyboard Control: Quarter-Tone (One Real Octave = 2 Keyboard Octaves) 0:40
17. Keyboard Control: Ditone (Four Real Octaves Played in Keyboard Range of One Octave) 0:31
18. Keyboard Control: Portamento: Ribbon Control 0:23
19. Ribbon Control 0:30
20. Periodic: Vibrato (S) (Speed Increases as Pitch Rises) 0:28
21. Periodic: Sine-Higher Frequency 0:27
22. Periodic: Sawtooth-Swept 0:38
23. Periodic: Rectangular 1/2 - Swept (L2) 0:32
24. Periodic: Triangular - Swept 0:31
25. Periodics Combined: 3 Square Waves at Different Frequencies 0:28
26. Periodics Combined: 3 Triangular Waves at Different Frequencies 0:37
27. Periodics Combined: 4 Different Waveforms (2L), (2N), (2V), (2S) at Different Frequencies 0:48
28. White Sound 0:12
29. Transient: Up an Octave, Back to Pitch 0:17
30. Transient: Up a Third, Back to Pitch 0:07
31. Transient: Down an Octave, Back to Pitch 0:09
32. Transient: Down a Third, Back to Pitch 0:13
Amplitude Modulation
33. Keyboard 0:13
34. Ribbon  Controller 0:10
35. Periodic: Tremolo 0:25
36. Periodic: Sine-Higher Frequencies (S Sweeping S) 0:47
37. Periodic: Sawtooth (Negative- Positive-Going Swept) 0:20
38. Periodic: Rectangular (L2) Swept 0:28
39. Periodic: Triangular-Swept 0:50
40. Periodics Combined: 4 Square 0:44
41. Periodics Combined: 3 Triangular 0:23
42. Periodics Combined: 4 Different - S, N, L2, V 0:23
43. White Sound 0:38
44. Transient: Slow 0:08
45. Transient: With Rising Pitch 0:15
46. Transient 0:14
Ring Modulation
47. Sine Waves: Series of Sub-Audible Constants 2:00
48. Sine Waves: Tune in Parallel 0:40
49. Sine Waves: Tuned in Opposite Direction 0:30
50. Sawtooth 0:33
51. Rectangular (L2) 0:39
52. White Sound - With Fixed Filters Selected 3rd Octave 0:25
53. White Sound - Tuned Filters: Broad 0:43
54. White Sound - Tuned Filters: Sharp 0:25
55. Low-Frequency Sawtooth - Tuning Through Harmonics 1:05
56. Composition: Tuning Through 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 16th Harmonics 0:50
57. Swept With Ribbon Controller 0:40
58. Periodic: Sine-Timbre Vibrato Effect 0:25
59. Periodic: Sine-Variable Rate and Depth 0:36
60. Periodic: Sawtooth (Descending and Ascending) 0:50
61. Periodic: Rectangular (L2) 0:25
62. Transient (Sawtooth With Transient Controlled Filter): Decreasing 0:12
63. Transient (Sawtooth With Transient Controlled Filter): Increasing 0:10
64. Transient (Sawtooth With Transient Controlled Filter): Up and Down 0:09
65. Transient (Sawtooth With Transient Controlled Filter): Down and Up 0:08
Tape Delay
66. Single Repeat 0:13
67. Multiple Repeat 2:55
68. Peace Three (Recap) 3:08

Beaver & Krause were a musical duo made up of Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause. Their 1967 album The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music was a pioneering work in the electronic music genre.

Beaver introduced Monkees singer-drummer Micky Dolenz to the Moog, which became a featured instrument on the fourth Monkees album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., and Beaver himself performed on one track, "Star Collector" in 1967. In addition, he led workshops at the Beaver & Krause LA studio attended by a who's who of film composers and session keyboardists of the time.

In June 1967, Beaver and Krause set up a booth at the Monterey Pop Festival, demonstrating their newly purchased electronic synthesiser, one of the first constructed by Bob Moog.

Thanks to their demonstrations of the Moog at Monterey, Beaver and Krause also introduced the instrument to a number of other leading American pop acts including The Doors, Simon & Garfunkel and The Byrds, helping to create the vogue for the Moog that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Krause introduced the instrument first to Sir George Martin, producer of the Beatles, and then to George Harrison during Harrison's 1968 visit to California while producing the Apple artist, Jackie Lomax. He used it to generate his 1969 free-form solo Electronic Sound album for Apple Records' spinoff label Zapple, with the first side of the disc consisting of not only Krause's composition, but also his performance – one that remained completely unacknowledged and uncompensated for.

In 1968, Beaver and Krause released an album for Mercury Records imprint Limelight Records, Ragnarok, then released a series of three albums for Warner Brothers Records, In a Wild Sanctuary (1970), Gandharva (1971) and All Good Men (1972), effectively creating both the electronica and New Age musical movements.

It's hard to imagine now, when the synthesizer is a dominant instrument in popular music, as well as film soundtracks and commercial jingles. But back in the late 1960s, it was a new, exotic creature, one that few musicians owned, and even fewer knew how to play. Among the very first to master and popularize the sounds of the Moog synthesizer were Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause. Their debut album, The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music, was something of a primer for the sounds the instrument could make. Though largely devoted to demonstrations of specific sounds, it ended up making far more of an impact than the usual instructional record did, enjoying healthy sales and helping to spread the use of the synthesizer within the music industry.

    Beaver and Krause were introduced to each other by Elektra records founder and president Jac Holzman, who was looking to use the synthesizer in an astrological concept album the company was producing, The Zodiac -- Cosmic Sounds. They were in some respects an unlikely pair. Beaver, a conservative Republican, had been doing sound effects for movies. Krause, more than a decade younger, had been in the Weavers briefly in the early 1960s, as well as a folk duo with Bonnie Dobson; he'd also done some free-lancing at Motown, and studied electronic music at Mills College in Oakland. But the two hit it off, and after demonstrating the Moog at a booth at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, they found a lot of work contributing to both rock albums and films. It was while sitting together with Krause on a plane ride to the Monterey Pop Festival, in fact, that Holzman conceived of the idea for The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music.

    "We felt that any number of companies represented possibilities," responds Krause today when asked whether Elektra was felt to be a natural home for the duo's first album. "But Jac, at the time, seemed to express the levels of creative energy, imagination, and interest unmatched at that moment by any of the other A&R reps. On the other hand, with the exception of the deal he made with the Doors, he had a reputation as being one of the stingiest in the business, evidenced by his $2000 advance to us. Despite the fact that the album was on the Billboard [Classical] charts for 26 weeks, we never received a dime of royalties to this day."

    Adds Bernie, "Neither Jac or us had a clue what we were doing and what the potential market was, although Jac apparently had a gut instinct about it. Paul or I certainly weren't thinking in those terms. Our objective was to get the information out there about synthesis of sound and new definitions of music that resulted from its introduction (i. e. music = control of sound)." The information wasn't solely contained on the vinyl. The double LP was accompanied by a scrupulously notated 16-page booklet, described as a "syllabus" in the introduction, that Krause wrote to detail signal generators, voltage control, modulating, filtering, synthesis of sound, and studio equipment's role in the recording and live performance of electronic music.

    "I am an inveterate technophobe and was completely daunted by the Moog when we got it," explains Bernie. "The text, which mostly I wrote, comes from long one-on-one sessions with Paul, as he struggled to come up with new terms to better and more simply explain the art and craft of synthesis. I took the cassette recordings of those sessions and reduced them to the text in the booklet almost as a class paper by which I learned to grasp and apply the concepts. The reasoning: if I could explain and do it, any fool could. Paul had a tendency to obscure the concepts he didn't understand by framing them in obtuse and arcane terminology. Knowing of his tendencies in this direction, I constantly had to ask questions to get clarification on all those points until we came to a consensus and clarity."

    As for how the sounds on the album were selected and recorded, "We went through each module on the Moog, one by one, and explained the functions inherent in each. The sounds themselves were selected from the four possible outputs of the oscillators (sine, triangular, continuously variable rectangular, and sawtooth). From these, either individually or in combination, we selected and used the sounds as examples. The only challenge of Moog synthesizers at the time was the relative instability of the oscillators, which tended to drift in pitch. So we constantly had to retune the machine. Otherwise, no problem."

    Most of the two-disc set's four sides were brief, less-than-a-minute tracks sonically illustrating numerous examples of electronic sound, subdivided into sections documenting "signal generators," "control generators, "frequency modulation," "amplitude modulation," "ring modulation," "amplitude modulation," "ring modulation," "filtering," and "tape delay." Even with the numerous individual tracks, and the many bands of silence separating them, the album's running time is on the short side for a double LP. Krause confirms this was done to help ensure that the sonic range of the sound was as full as possible, as longer vinyl LP sides tended to cut down on that quality when they were mastered. "We and the mastering folks were not sure how the more robust signals of the synthesizer would affect the limits of track width and depth, so we purposely kept it on the short side," he elaborates. "Also, this was the first release to use Dolby noise reduction during the recording process. And finally, it wasn't a 'listening' type of album."

    Indeed, there was but one actual electronic composition, "Peace Three," which opened and closed the record. In a lengthy April 1968 review of the LP, The New York Times singled out "Peace Three" for special praise, effusing, "Thoughtfully simple both on paper and to the ear, 'Peace Three' goes along pleasantly in a quasi-pop style, appearing at the start of the first record relatively unadorned then repeated at the end of Side Four in an embroidered version. An excellent idea, and one that might have been explored further, since most listeners who show any interest in such a record will be capable of following simple musical notation." As to why there weren't more compositions on the record, observes Bernie, "For some reason, now long forgotten, we did not feel that this particular album should be a compositional showcase for our work. Some of that type of effort appeared on [the late-'60s album Beaver and Krause did for Mercury], Ragnarök and for future titles like In A Wild Sanctuary."

    Elektra was no stranger to experimental recordings, even though it was known mostly as a folk and rock label. In addition to the aforementioned Zodiac, the company had issued numerous sound effects LPs. Even by the standards of those previous ventures, however, The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music was unclassifiably different. "It was odd, off the wall, and way out of the box," says Krause. "But, because of Holzman's extraordinary level of credibility at the time, pretty much anything he put his hands to turned to some kind of positive result." As recording artists, Beaver and Krause would continue to develop their pioneering sounds in unexpected ways over the next few years, not for Elektra, but usually for the Warner Brothers label -- a journey that can be followed on Collectors' Choice Music's reissues of three subsequent albums by the duo. -- Richie Unterberger

Anima - 1977 - Monte Alto

Monte Alto

01. Monte Alto   
02. Piano Toscana   

Drums, Zither [Fuchszither] – Limpe Fuchs (tracks: A)
Horn [Fuchshorn], Bass [Fuchsbass] – Paul Fuchs (tracks: A)
Piano – Limpe Fuchs (tracks: B)

"Based around the married couple Paul and Limpe Fuchs, the group Anima, also known as Anima-Sound, was one of the most radically avant-garde and creative groups to emerge from the thriving Krautrock scene of Munich at the end of the 1960s. In fact, their improvised atonal sounds and unconventional instrumentation is much closer to the spirit of experimental free jazz than anything remotely close to rock music. The Fuchs began in the late '60s as part of the counterculture at the time. Adding to the conventional instruments such as drums, bass, and cornet, as well as wordless vocal yelps and screams, they created their own homemades, like the Fuchshorn, Fuchszither, and Fuchsbass to further enhance the strangeness of their structure-less music. A 1970 appearance of them in an X-rated exposé movie, Sex Freedom in Germany, finds Limpe, naked except for black body paint, banging away on drums and Paul on various inventions creating musical anarchy. Anima-Sound's first album, Stürmischer Himmel, was recorded in a 1,000-year-old cottage and released by Ohr Records in 1971. That summer, they also played the Ossiach, a three-day outdoor festival organized by famed Austrian classical/jazz pianist Friedrich Gulda that included Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd. By then, Gulda had become close friends with the Fuchs and even joined them on their next few albums, including Anima released by the Pilz label and Musik für Alle, both of which came out in 1972. During the next few years, the Fuchs would often tour with Gulda and make guest appearances on his records as well. "Anima" continued to release records of their eccentric music, from the double It's Up to You in 1974 to Monte Alto in 1977. Recorded between 1978 and 1982, the double LP Der Regt Mich Auf/A Controversy included new bandmember Zoro Fuchs, son of Paul and Limpe, on drums. This same lineup of the three Fuchs is also on the double album Bruchstucke für Ilona, recorded in the summer of 1985 and released later that year. By 1987's Via, Anima had become Limpe Fuchs' solo project. She continued this solo career after that with an album every several years in a similar vein to the Anima records, with a high emphasis on creativity."

Anima - 1972 - Anima


01. Meeting in the Studio 20:35
02. Anima - Live 27:25

"The music contained herein is totally improvised. Nothing has been premeditated or decided beforehand. All of it is dedicated with to you all !

When we started playing music it was a kind of protest. We protested against needs and against Classical and we really wanted to shock people and now it’s not necessary, all is possible. You have thrash, you have punk you have house music, you have noise. I think the future musician has to show silence. Sometimes when I stop in the concert it’s so intense to have a silence in between. This is the main possibility for musicians in the future. It will be hard for a musician when he says to an organizer ‘I am a musician and I play best when I play silence.’"
Limpe Fuchs interview with Polyphasic Recordings.

Anima Sound - 1971 - Anima Sound

Anima Sound 
Anima Sound
(Musik fur Alle)

01. N Da Da Uum Da (17:34)
02. Traktor Go Go Go (17:15)

- Limpe Fuchs, Paul Fuchs / All instruments, electronics and effects

Relying on elements of sound collage and free-improv jazz, Anima-Sound creates a disorienting and often creepy atmosphere on their debut. Though the instrumental interplay isn't at the level of many other krautrock bands, the group's dedication to the bizarre - through studio fuckery, often-yelped wordless vocals, and a seamless suite structure that moves from place to place with no discernible connecting threads - creates a work that is singular among the many disparate sounds coming out of Germany in the early 1970s. It's not hard to see why this group made their way onto the Nurse With Wound list - this particular brand of free-form madness is extremely similar to the sonic canvases forged by Stapleton & co. nearly a decade later.

Stürmischer Himmel was pastoral, this is industrial - the biggest difference between the two would have to be in terms of atmosphere. This album is more reliant on electronic sound effects e.g. making the vocals sound robotic and applying a flanging effect on the drums. You know you're stuck in 1971 when you keep hearing flanged drum solos! But this album is more than a mere product of it's time - "Traktor Go Go Go" genuinely includes some proto-industrial throbby throb! And with a title like that it sounds like a Gerogerigegege song...

Anima Sound - 1970 - Stürmischer Himmel

Anima Sound
Stürmischer Himmel

01. Show Mää Show (9:55)
02. It Loves Want To Have Done It (2:50)
03. Feel Like A Bone (6:04)
04. How To Dream - You (6:39)
05. The Weather (12:09)

- Limpe Fuchs and Paul Fuchs / All instruments and effects

ANIMA (ANIMA SOUND / ANIMA MUSICA), a German experimental / avantgarde / folk music duo founded by a sculptor Paul FUCHS (horns, voices) and his partner Limpe FUCHS (percussion, voices), had burst upon the early 70s Krautrock scene and launched two official releases. This "Stürmischer Himmel", released in 1971 as their debut work, definitely notifies us of their innovative music tribalism and experimental crossover between human beings and animals upon the soundgarden. There are five tracks, each of which can be divided in some pieces, but I guess it may be nonsense we go into details about each piece. Let me say this whole album should be one world of mixture, constructed by such an intriguing duo.

Anyway what a mystery. Always wondering why I can get quite relaxed under such an experimental / quirky sound cloud. Sounds like they should be in a mind-altering state formed either by their meditative tribal sound stream or by some hallucinogenic agents (especially the former I believe) and they sang or shouted flexibly as though they'd got animalized or got possessed by animal spirits. Suggest they should have got completely deaf whilst playing for this album (or on stage). Yes their horn section and percussion were pretty simple and straight indeed, but they might squeeze their "mind expanded fully" into their soundscape I imagine. Sometimes quiet and gentle, and sometimes enthusiastic and crazy ... the two animalized naked humans could give freedom of expression perfectly.

In conclusion, they played "rock" definitely. "Rock" can be defined as rebellion / invasion against the existing music scene. They'd completed this "rock" creation under such a hallucinogenic trip, what a fantastic matter really.