Monday, April 10, 2017

Michael Rother - 1979 - Katzenmusik

Michael Rother 

01. KM 1 0:33
02. KM 2 4:06
03. KM 3 0:25
04. KM 4 3:09
05. KM 5 3:58
06. KM 6 2:41
07. KM 7 3:33
08. KM 8 2:22
09. KM 9 4:20
10. KM 10 6:40
11. KM 11 3:03
12. KM 12 5:06

Michael Rother - Guitar, Electronics, Producer, Cover Photograph
Jaki Liebezeit - Drums
Conny Plank - Producer, Recording

Anyone acquainted with the career of Michael Rother will know what to expect from the former Krautrock trailblazer's third (and best?) solo album: more of the same sunny, uptempo guitar minimalism, with toe-tapping assistance from CAN drummer Jaki Liebezeit and another dynamic production job by the celebrated Conny Plank.
And even if you're not on the Krautrock bandwagon you'll have to admit his credentials are impressive. He was briefly a member of KRAFTWERK, in their early, experimental days (between the first and second "traffic cone" albums)...was one half of the classic Krautrock duo NEU!...teamed up with the legendary electro- pioneers Mobius and Roedelius to form the group HARMONIA...recorded an ambient album in collaboration with ENO...and since 1976 has been a solo artist renowned for his melodic sensitivity and intimate guitar sound.

Rother's third solo effort doesn't stray very far from the template he patented on his first two albums, with lots of blissfully overdubbed guitars arranged in ear-pleasing patterns over a laid-back but unrelenting motorik beat (which a veteran Free Jazz noisemaker like Jaki Liebezeit could play in his sleep). And like some of the best German music it gets a lot of mileage out of precious little material. The first eight tracks here, simply titled "Katzenmusik 1" thru 8", rework the same basic theme in several different variations (including an evocative "backwards" version), separated by short, ambient interludes and one gentle, typically gorgeous ballad.

"KM 9" through 12" (Side Two on my sadly scratched original vinyl) offer more variety, but in the often willfully repetitive soundworld of Krautrock that's a relative term, isn't it? "KM 11" is the highlight here, maybe because Liebezeit's disciplined drumming is a little more adventurous, or perhaps it's the fullness of the studio effects, subtly updating some of the guitarist's early NEU! experiments.

Any of Rother's first three albums would make a good introduction, but this one has by far the best sound (later efforts would actually downplay his distinctive guitar playing in favor of more keyboard-based electronics). I suppose it goes without saying that if you've heard one Michael Rother album you've pretty much heard them all. But on the other hand, if you've heard one, why not hear them all?

Katzenmusik is the third studio album by the German solo artist Michael Rother. It was released in 1979 and includes the single "Katzenmusik 9" b/w "Katzenmusik 2".

The album was recorded between March and July 1979 in Germany at Rother's own studio in Forst and Conny's Studio. Receiving positive reviews the album was released as an LP in 1979 before it was re-released by Polydor in 1982. The album was issued on CD in 1990, and then reisused again in 1993 with bonus tracks and having been remastered. The artwork for the album was designed by Rike with photography by Ann Weitz and Rother himself.

Rother recorded Katzenmusik in conditions that were similar to his debut and second studio album, working again with Neu! and Harmonia producer Conny Plank and augmented with Jaki Liebezeit from Can on drums. Aside from Liebezeit, the entirety of the album was written and performed by Rother utilising guitar and electronic instrumentation.[1] Rother reduced the palette of instrumentation and wrote the album essentially as a suite in two parts.[2] Instead of clearly differentiated tracks the twelve pieces are variations layered around four different five-note melodies that recur either as single string statements triple-track or stark chords supporting them.[2]

The album was the final collaboration between Rother and the producer Conny Plank. Plank had produced with the exception of Harmonia's debut 1974's Musik Von Harmonia, all of Rother's albums including his work with Neu! and Harmonia. Rother worked as his own producer on his subsequent studio albums.

Katzenmusik was first released on Sky Records as an LP in 1979. The album has been re-released several times, again as an LP on Polydor after Rother joined the label in 1982. In 1993, Rother secured the rights to his back catalogue and re-issued all of his solo albums with bonus tracks and remastered sound on his own label, Random Records.[3] In 2000, Rother re-issued all of the albums again in partnership between Random Records and BSC Music.[3] Expanded editions include the 1993-era tracks "Sweet Retro", "Doppelstern" and "Schlangentanz". The album has since been released in the US on Water Records and as a heavyweight 180 gram LP on the 4 Men With Beards imprint.

Katzenmusik marked the third and final collaboration between multi-instrumentalist Michael Rother and producer Conny Planck, as well drummer Jaki Leibezeit, on loan from the group Can. Essentially a suite in two parts, Katzenmusik remains Rother's opus. It's an enchanting, entrancing, swirl of colors and simply pronounced melodies that's at once powerfully majestic and esthetically sublime. Rother's multi-tracked guitars ring from the plaintive to the screaming in the upper registers, layered around four different five-note melodies that recur either as single string statements triple-track or stark chords supporting them. Through it all, in a middling yet even-handed pace, is drummer Jaki Leibezeit, playing his version of the Motorik sound (the one created by Rother and Klaus Dinger in the band Neu! a few years before) in 4/4 time with little to no variation. Rother's re-harmonizing of his original melody throughout the piece in various segments has a mirroring effect over its 37 minutes; it's as if we are taken into the nether-side of his composition and feel its various spaces and textures from all angles. Still, no matter how deeply wound the composition gets, its theme is very simple, and therefore always draws the listener closer to its euphoric chiming and whispering. Rother could very well have titled this album "Blue Sky Music," because despite the appearance of such on the cover, this music seems to be soaring there all on its own. If we just draw near, his glorious language of emotion and tenderness will carry us along too. Katzenmusik cannot be heard too many times. Artists usually get this close only once in a lifetime. Michael Rother has gotten close to this with many of his albums, but this one is singular in its achievement, a perfect melding of taste, dynamics, pace, melodic invention, and emotional and spiritual honesty, all woven into the spirit of rock & roll.

Michael Rother - 1978 - Sterntaler

Michael Rother 

01. Sonnenrad 6:01
02. Blauer Regen 3:09
03. Stromlinien 8:11
04. Sterntaler 6:46
05. Fontana Di Luna 6:39
06. Orchestrion 3:40

Michael Rother - Guitar, Piano, Bass, Vibraphone, Hawaii-Guitar, Synthesizer, Strings
Jaki Liebezeit - Drums
Conny Plank - Producer, Recording

Aufgenommen Sept-Nov '77 in Forst & Connys Studio

Sterntaler is the second studio album by the German solo artist Michael Rother. It was released in 1978 and includes the single "Sterntaler" b/w "Sonnenrad".

The album was recorded between September and November 1977 in Germany at Rother's own studio in Forst and Conny's Studio. Receiving positive reviews the album was released as an LP in 1977 before it was re-released by Polydor in 1982. The album was reissued on CD in 1993 with bonus tracks and having been remastered. The artwork for the album was designed by Rike with photography by Ann Weitz.

On completion of Flammende Herzen his debut solo album, Rother re-teamed with Cluster members Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius and former-Roxy Music member and solo artist Brian Eno to record a third Harmonia album in Forst in 1976. The studio sessions were productive but the recordings were left unreleased until November 1997 when they were released as Tracks and Traces and credited to 'Harmonia 76'.

Rother recorded Sterntaler in conditions that were similar to his debut, working again with Neu! and Harmonia producer Conny Plank and augmented with Jaki Liebezeit from Can on drums. Aside from Liebezeit, the entirety of the album was written and performed by Rother utilising guitar, bass guitar, piano, synthesizer and electronic percussion.[1] Rother also used Hawaiian slide guitar and synthesized strings, evident was an increased used on synthesizer for the main melody lines on a number of compositions most evident on the title track and an ambient drum-free approach on "Blauer Regen".

"Fontana Di Luna" was later re-recorded in 1990 as "Morning Sun", a song that was recorded in collaboration with Station 17 on their self-titled début album in 1990. Station 17 is a project that gives disabled people the opportunity to work as an artist in music, movie and video.

Sterntaler was first released on Sky Records as an LP in 1978. The album has been re-released several times, again as an LP on Polydor after Rother joined the label in 1982. In 1993, Rother secured the rights to his back catalogue and re-issued all of his solo albums with bonus tracks and remastered sound on his own label, Random Records.[3] In 2000, Rother re-issued all of the albums again in partnership between Random Records and BSC Music.[3] Expanded editions include the 1993-era tracks "Lichter Von Kairo", "Patagonia Horizont" and "Südseewellen (Extended Dance Remix)". The album has since been released in the US on Water Records and as a heavyweight 180 gram LP on the 4 Men With Beards imprint. The 2000 edition runs a little slower than the original LP, whilst a 2007 edition runs faster.

This was the NEU! guitarist’s second and finest solo album. Joined on both records by Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit and co-produced by Rother and audio guru Conrad Plank, it’s a purely instrumental album of six songs precisely overdubbed to perfection. Rother is credited with a battery of instruments (guitar, piano, bass, vibraphone, Hawaiian guitar, synthesizer, strings) but it’s not the least bit muddled, fussy or overdone. As far as solo albums go, this is about as uncluttered as they come, and nothing overstays its welcome. The contents are so light and pleasing yet so incredibly hook-ridden, he could’ve recorded each of these six tracks as an album side apiece and they’d be in no danger of ever becoming the least bit boring. Small children and animals will delight to this record probably as much as you. “Sonnenrad” opens with the first of many melodies, the main riff soon bursting in like the first rays of a promising morning, as an unhurried exercise of parallel and contrasting guitar lines coexist in this peaceable kingdom. “Blauer Regen” is a gentle though just as forlorn cousin to NEU!’s “Seeland,” percussion-less save for sparsely hit cymbals all muted into hollow incantations. Rain begins to fall over the love-lost guitar line as the water drips from the drains outside. The rain then gets phased and faded at the same time, followed by the almost looser relative of the first track, “Stromlinien.” Liebezeit holds up a steady beat, natürlich, as the FX-ed Rother guitar lines are all double-tracked alongside harmony synthesizer runs. Here, the NEU! automotive groove is given a far more relaxed treatment and you get to see the countryside as overhead trees pass above an open convertible made for two. It breaks down into a slight respite with everything faded down into a low valley, but it reappears at the other side of the mountain, refreshed and going for it, as the double-tracked riff re-enters once more. It’s an insidious melody where you don’t hear the repetition -- you just sense the pulse behind it. Soon string synthesizer and massed guitar lines collect on the horizon as Liebezeit switches to just hi-hat in the phased fade out.

The title track, “Sterntaler” opens side two with a gentle synth melody as the sparest rhythm line creates plateaus until a robust, lightly-fuzzed double track guitar emerges to the surface with a slow melody that builds with every note -- a phenomena common to Rother’s guitar approach, and not too many others. Ahhhh...then the centerpiece of the whole album, “Fontana di Luna.” Phased cymbals and a slow tempo drum pattern begin as low synth and tinkling chimes flurry together to frame the most beautiful track on the album. Here Rother plays echoed vibes as lightly-struck percussion resound over Rother’s backseat snatches of guitar melody that pick up where the vibes trail off, like gentle foreplay on a warm Mediterranean night. Phased, phased rhythm generator appears in the vibe-less bridge, like a reminder of last night’s activity in the morning sun. The vibe and guitar/cat and mouse melody is then reintroduced, and chase each other playfully for the remainder of this atmospheric and spacious love vibe-out. “Orchestrion” is just that: an orchestra of overdubbed bass generator and controlled guitars running rampant over a spry drum pattern through all manner of effects from Plank’s studio. More guitar melodies are introduced--delicate ones as well as the reoccurring dense fuzz ones like rearing steeds, all reigned in by the genius that is Michael Rother. This album stands alongside his work with NEU!, Harmonia and his “Zuckerzeit” associations as final proof of not only of his vast instrumental facility, but his keen ear for both melody and arrangement -- which on this album are about as vast as the aural vistas he captures so perfectly.

Michael Rother - 1977 - Flammende Herzen

Michael Rother 
Flammende Herzen

01. Flammende Herzen 7:02
02. Zyklodrom 9:36
03. Karussell 5:22
04. Feuerland 7:04
05. Zeni 5:09

Michael Rother - Guitar, Electric Piano, Bass, Synthesizer, Organ, Electric Percussion, Producer
Jaki Liebezeit - Drums
Conny Plank - Producer, Engineering

Recorded June - September '76

Michael Rother (born 2 September 1950 in Hamburg, Germany) is a German krautrock musician, best known for being a founding member of the band Neu!, and as a short-lived member of the band Kraftwerk.

Born in 1950, Rother was educated in Munich, Wilmslow (England), Karachi, and Düsseldorf. He also resided in Pakistan in the early 1960s where he was exposed to Pakistani music that would influence his own music in the late 1960s and early 1970s. From 1965 Rother played in the band Spirits of Sound, from which other members would later go on to join Kraftwerk (Wolfgang Flür) and Wunderbar.

Rother is a multi-instrumentalist (primarily guitar and keyboards) who, along with a catalog of several solo albums starting in 1977, is best known for having co-founded the German group Neu! with drummer Klaus Dinger (five albums between 1971 and 1996), and his collaborative efforts with Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius (aka Cluster) under the name Harmonia (two albums, one in 1974 and 1975, with later 1976 sessions recorded with Brian Eno; the studio tapes for the latter disappeared but were found by Roedelius two decades later; he remixed the tapes and released the results as Tracks and Traces in 1997; Rother was the main producer for the version re-released in 2009). Rother and Dinger were also in a short-lived version of Kraftwerk in 1971, with Florian Schneider, during a time when founding member Ralf Hütter had temporarily left the band. (This version of the group was filmed during an appearance on the German music show Beat Club, which has been available sporadically on VHS and DVD.)

Beginning in the late 1970s, Rother began issuing LPs under his own name: Flammende Herzen (1977), Sterntaler (1978), and Katzenmusik (1979) all featured drums by Can percussionist Jaki Liebezeit. Further releases included Fernwärme (1982), Lust (1983), Süssherz und Tiefenschärfe (1985) and Traumreisen (1987). Rother regained the rights to these releases in the late 90s, and re-released CD versions of them, all of which contained bonus tracks, usually in the form of then-current remixes of original album tracks. Along with these reissues were a best-of compilation, Radio, and a new release, Esperanza (1996). His most recent album; Remember featured vocals (a first for Rother's solo work) and was released in 2004.

On 1 July 2007, Rother joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers for a live jam at the end of their concert in Hamburg. Together they played for nearly 25 minutes in front of 35,000 people.  In November 2007 he toured with Dieter Moebius (another member of Harmonia) as Rother & Moebius.  On 27 November 2007, a Harmonia reunion concert was announced for Berlin, where they performed together live for the first time since 1976.

In 2010, Rother played five shows in Europe with Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and Tall Firs guitarist Aaron Mullan (who played bass in the trio). This group, known as Hallogallo, performed the music of Neu! live for the first time in many years. They also played the ATP New York 2010 music festival in Monticello, New York and Incubate 2010 in Tilburg, Netherlands in September 2010. In December 2012 Rother performed the music of Neu! and Harmonia at the ATP festival in Camber Sands, England, accompanied by the Berlin-based band Camera. In November 2013, he performed at the final UK holiday camp edition of ATP.

In 2015, Rother recorded scores for the German film Die Räuber (The Robbers) by Paul Cruchten and Frank Hoffmannand the German TV film Houston by Bastian Günther.

Flammende Herzen is the first studio album by the German solo artist Michael Rother. It was released in 1977 and includes the single "Flammende Herzen" b/w "Karussell". The music was used the following year to soundtrack Flaming Hearts. It was Rother's first solo venture after having recorded five albums prior as a member of Neu! with Klaus Dinger and Harmonia with Cluster.

The album was recorded between June and September 1976 in Germany at Conny's Studio. Receiving positive reviews the album was released as an LP in March 1977 before it was re-released by Polydor in 1982. The album was reissued on CD in 1990, before being re-issued again in 1993 with bonus tracks and having been remastered. The artwork for the album was designed by Rike with photography by Christian Rabe and Ann.

Following the disbandment of Neu! having released their third studio album Neu! '75 in 1975, Rother worked again with Neu! and Harmonia producer Conny Plank on his first solo album. Jaki Liebezeit from Can augmented Rother on drums. Aside from Liebezeit, the entirety of the album was written and performed by Rother utilising guitar, bass guitar, electric piano, organ, synthesizer and electronic percussion.In contrast to Rother's work with his former groups, the album was completely instrumental instead based around his guitar.

On completion of the sessions Rother re-united with Cluster members Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius and former-Roxy Music member and solo artist Brian Eno to record a third Harmonia album in Forst in 1976. The studio sessions were productive but the recordings were left unreleased until November 1997 when they were released as Tracks and Traces and credited to 'Harmonia 76'.

Flammende Herzen was first released on Sky Records as an LP in 1977. The album has been re-released several times, again as an LP on Polydor after Rother joined the label in 1982, then as a CD on Polygram in 1990. In 1993, Rother secured the rights to his back catalogue and re-issued all of his solo albums with bonus tracks and remastered sound on his own label, Random Records. In 2000, Rother re-issued all of the albums again in partnership between Random Records and BSC Music.  Expanded editions include two versions of the title track recorded in the 1990s, "Vorbei (Flammende Herzen - Chill Remix 1993)" and "Flammende Herzen - Film Remix 1993" with Joachim Rudolph on drums, bass, and co-remixing. The album has since been released in the US on Water Records and as a heavyweight 180 gram LP on the 4 Men With Beards imprint.

Michael Rother was the guitar and keyboard playing half of the groundbreaking Krautrock group Neu, and earlier, a founding member of Kraftwerk. Flammende Herzen (Flaming Heart) is his first solo album, recorded by and produced by Conny Plank in 1976 and issued at the dawn of punk in 1977. Flammende Herzen is, in a sense, the complete and utter flowering of a vision Rother held from Kraftwerk through his work with Klaus Dinger in Neu and through his short-term collaboration with Moebius and Roedelius in Harmonia. Rother's signature guitar sound is twinned with an analog delay, the simple mechanical or "motorik" percussion all wound around simple, yet transcendent, melodies that are nearly anthemic in their strident execution. With percussion assistance from Jaki Leibzeit of Can, Rother crafts a driving, soaring ride into the sonic abyss that is rich with melody and rock & roll rhythm. For Rother, music is a thing filled with light, and tracks such as the title, "Zyklodrom," and "Karussell" feature a cylindrical weave of electronic and organic percussion, opaque but insistent synthesizers playing chord progressions, and, of course, acoustic and electric guitars either chiming in single- and double-string Brucknerian motifs or churning on two or three chords hypnotically into the ether. While some of the themes presented here later became the foundation for a ponderous kind of new age disc music, there is plenty of spaced-out psychedelia and churning rock & roll ellipsis here ("Feuerland") for fans of early Krautrock. This remains one of Rother's strongest and most visionary records.

Harmonia - 2015 - Documents 1975

Documents 1975

01. Tiki-Taka at Harmonia Studio in Forst (6:26)
02. Live at Onkel Po in Hamburg (9:12)
03. Proto-Deluxe at Harmonia Studio in Forst (4:30)
04. Live at Fabrik in Hamburg (11:38)

- Dieter Moebius / synthesizer, electronic drums (3 & 4), nagoja harp and vox (1)
- Michael Rother / guitar (except 3), synthorchestra (1 & 3), electronic drums (1 & 4), cymbals and vox (1)
- Hans-Joachim Roedelius / electric piano, organ (2 & 4), vox (1)
- Mani Neumeier / drums (2 &4)

In the '90's, long after their heyday, and shortly after the close of the post-punk era in which they were first deified, the krautrock bands found themselves the darlings of various music collectors as well as EDM producers looking for inspiration. It was this climate that saw, for one, Harmonia getting their day in the sun, with "Tracks and Traces" dropping in '97, finally allowing their sessions with Brian Eno to be listened to by hordes of hungry fans. Surprisingly, though, it would take longer for some of their other archival material to surface - a collection of live recordings only surfaced in 2007, and only now have we this collection. These tracks represent the carefully recorded and preserved high quality tapes of a one Asmus Tietchens, a massive fan of tapes, Cluster, Neu, and Harmonia from Hamburg who recorded two live shows Harmonia did with Mani Neumeier of Guru Guru on drums in 1975 at different clubs in that city, and who also got his hands on rare tapes of Harmonia studio tracks from the same year. They have now been released in limited amounts to the listening public.
The first studio track, "Tiki-Taka", is a unique beast in the Harmonia discography, a dark track filed to the brim with skittering instruments, including a never before or since used by them nagoja harp. This alone makes "Documents" a revelatory release, showing a never before seen part of the supergroup's creative consciousness. Its studio cousin is "Proto-Deluxe", a standard though as usual fun and relaxing cut of theirs. The other revelations come from the live cuts, which merge their electronic styles and experiments with psychkraut jamming that compares to live Floyd and the first Ash Ra Tempel album. This is another very different side of the band. Altogether, this is a revealing and excellent little collection, proving once and for all the varied, versatile, and enduring creativity of these legendary musicians.

Harmonia - 2007 - Live 1974

Live 1974

01. Schaumberg (10:45)
02. Veteranissimo (17:26)
03. Arabesque (5:20)
04. Holta Polta (15:01)
05. Ueber Ottenstein (9:30)

- Michael Rother / guitar, electric percussion, piano & organ
- Hans-Joachim-Roedeius / electronic organ & piano
- Dieter Moebius / synthesizer & electronic percussion

Releases information
Recorded : Live in concert 23rd March 1974 Penny Station in Griessen,Germany

If you know those old electronic rhythm devices such as you´d find on old organs - that snuffle and chug like a puffing steam train, then look no further if you want to know how this sounds applied to music.

Harmonia was a German trio consisting of Michael Rother off legendary Krautrock band NEU! and the 2 electronic wizards from Cluster Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius. One could almost call this a super group, if these guys were better known to the world outside of Germany and the few Krautrock connoisseurs out there.

As the title suggests this record was cut in 1974, and luckily so because all 3 musicians here was at the very top of their game. None of these tracks feature anywhere else in their discography (at least to my knowledge), which means that you get 5 sparkling new tracks. On top of this, the sound quality of this release happens to be vibrant and warm, and by the flick of the switch - with eyes closed - ready for a mind movie, you´re transported back in time to this tasty and imaginative gig. This is serious headphone music, and it helps big time if you can picture the Penny Station in Griessen Germany filled with long haired freaks and folks sitting on their jackets smoking, drinking, tripping doing their very best to escape the earthly bounds of the floor.

All of these tracks sound improvised with blowing ambient synth landscapes that consistently prowls the airwaves like soft and delicate wolverines in flight. Together with Michael Rother´s spacey and lingering guitar work, the music takes on an effervescent characteristic, that makes the music soar and glide in and out of psychedelic terrains and electronic currents.

It is a boat ride just as much as it is a train journey, - a realistic musical adaptation of a trip through the swooping autobahn on a huge robotic vessel. The music is cradling and motorik laden, but still a long way from being gentle and sedate. It feels determined like a commercial ferry ploughing through the streets headed for its home harbour. Just like German engineering the rhythm boxes showers this release in a very conform coating, but that only ads to the mystery, as to why this album sounds so free.

If you enjoy your music psychedelic, chugging, minimalistic, improvised and hypnotic, then you could do worse than this fine record, which is a fine example of a journey well spent on your bottom. Your head on the other hand has been places, where objects move like echoing slow lightnings through the skies, and your senses feel heightened and crisp like a metaphysical conductor licking the rail road tracks in sheer exuberance.

Despite their short existence, Harmonia was a supergroup of the German Krautrock era whose influence is still felt over 30 years later. The band consisted of former Kraftwerk and NEU! member Michael Rother alongside the members of Cluster (Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius). Together, these three musicians set out to create hypnotic rhythmic minimalist improvisations that would become the blueprint for techno and rave music decades later. With interest in Harmonia's music rising to the surface once again as well as a recent reunion concert held in their homeland, the band has dusted off an excellent unreleased live recording from March 1974. Despite it being close to 34 years old, the sound quality of this hour long performance is stellar and shows just what the band was capable of doing before a live audience. The emphasis throughout this concert is primarily on rhythm and improvisation with a primitive drum machine up front and center . For the uninitiated, the majority of this CD may sound like a record continuously skipping but for those who are fans of Harmonia and the members respective bands (Neu! and Cluster), this is an absolute treasure and a must. Rother's guitar work throughout this CD is amazing as is the quirky keyboard and synth lines coming from the fingers of Moebius and Roedelius. Also, there isn't one bit of applause to be heard between each piece performed (although there is some chatter heard in the background on some tracks) - a testament of an attentive and focused audience. With this said, Harmonia's Live 1974 disc is an historic new classic from this legendary band. This disc combined with their two studio discs (as well as their short-lived collaboration with Brian Eno) makes for an excellent open-minded listening experience. While the music itself is from 1974, it is still full of freshness and newness as if it were played yesterday. So, without any further delay, I highly recommend this CD. It's a classic piece of German Krautrock and electronic music from the height of the era.

Harmonia - 1997 - Tracks & Traces / Harmonia 76

Tracks & Traces / Harmonia 76

01. Vamos Companeros (4:34)
02. By The Riverside (9:30)
03. Luneburg Heath (4:56)
04. Sometimes In Autumn (15:52)
05. Weird Dream (6:41)
06. Almost (5:30)
07. Les Demoiselles (4:02)
08. When Shade Was Born (1:33)
09. Trace (1:33)

- Michael Rother / guitar, keyboards, drum-machine
- Dieter Moebius / synthesizer, mini-harp
- Michael Roedelius / keyboards
- Brian Eno / synthesizer, e-bass, voice, lyrics

This first posthumous release of Harmonia is a real curiosity, since it takes the original trio and rubs them with Brian Eno, another electronic "touché-à-tout", and this record is the sound of their clashing together. Recorded in 76 (this is a bit of a surprise to me: I had no idea Harmonia lasted this long), it comes in the m(most likely) closing days of the group, even if the back cover of the album claims this was the first meeting of Eno and Harmonia. Released under an interesting Roedelius painting artwork, it was recorded in the Harmonia studio in an undisclosed 76 date, the release date being 96.
Musically, this doesn't sound like the light and superb debut album, but more like the death throes of the group, or at least the most difficult time of a diarrhoea. Actually many of the tracks on this album are experimental, the same way Popol Vuh or the pink-era Tangerine Dream was, but this was 5 years before this album's recording date. Maybe this is part of the reason why the album was not released at the time: it would've sounded anachronistically out-of-date back then, something that such musicians simply couldn't afford, since they were at the peak of the electronic avant-garde. If Harmonia had been the clash of Moebius & Roedelius' experimental Cluster sound with Rother's metronomic Neu sound, it only lmooks like the trio gets completely blocked by Eno's aerial and ambient sounds. There are times where the foursome does manage a little something enchanting (the track Almost) but somehow they can't seem able to elevate it to something that would equal the group's first album. Elsewhere there are some vocals sung by Brian and the lyrics are from him, but it's nothing memorable. Apparently this first meeting will be the only one under the Harmonia name and Eno will work with the Cluster pair for another three albums into the late 70's, but without Rother.

An unlikely release that I've only discovered a decade later as I'm revisiting the Kluster-Harmonia oeuvre, one that gives a little more depth to the group's works (along with a live album of much more recent release), but overall it will not affect the project's overall impact on the electro-pop music to come, which their cross-country rivals Kraftwerk will soldier on. No Harmonia unconditional fan should miss this album, but lesser enthusiasts like me, will be happy to have heard the album and once understood its content, then lay it to rest for a few decades.

Harmonia - 1975 - Deluxe


01. Deluxe (Immer wieder) (9:45)
02. Walky-talky (10:35)
03. Monza (Rauf und Runter) (7:07)
04. Notre Dame (4:15)
05. Gollum (4:35)
06. Kekse (5:35)

- Mani Neumeier / drums, percussion
- Roedelius / keyboards, vocals, guitar, percussion
- Dieter Moebius / keyboards, vocals
- Michael Rother / keyboards, vocals, guitar, percussion

Harmonia is a collaboration between 3 of Krautrock most important creator, Moebius(Cluster), Roedelius(Clauster) & Rother(Neu!). Unfortunately, they made only 2 album, Musik Von Harmonia(1974) & Deluxe(1975) there is a 3 one but not release long after the band was over. It's a shame because the 2 album made by Harmonia are amongst the best album made in Germany during the 70's.

It seems like I'm in the minority of people who really like this album, I like Deluxe so much that I can listen to it in loop for hours without being tired of listening to the same music over and over. The first time I heard it was a very cheap MP3 version that a friend of mine got me from the internet. I didn't like it and was very disappointed because I really like their first one and also, I'm a big, big fan of Krautrock. Since I disapprove illegal downloading and have a enormous CD collection, I had to have that one legal, even if I didn't like it that much. I had their first one so I had to have the second one, for my Krautrock collection. I finally found the remaster version.

I'm glad I bought it because? It's amazing what a CD with a good sound can change your perception of music your already know and didn't really getting it. I finally got it, it's a cross between the best part of Autoban by Kratfwerk, Hallogallo by Neu! and anything by Clauster. I was looking for an album like that ever since I became a fan of the album Autoban by Kraftwerk and found that their other album, has good as they might be, are more techno than anything. Since my discovery of Krautrock, I knew I was gonna find it, the album. In fact, I found 2, one is Can Future Days and the other, Deluxe by Harmonia. I was surprise to find that it's not as popular of an album in PA that I tough it would be, so I may be in the minority here but, If you like electronic Krautrock, you should try it, you might never know, It could be a winner like it did to me. So I gladly rating it 5 stars, Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music, at least for me it is.

Harmonia - 1974 - Music Von Harmonia

Music Von Harmonia

01. Watussi (5:55)
02. Sehr Kosmisch (10:50)
03. Sonnenschein (3:50)
04. Dino (3:30)
05. Ohrwurm (5:05)
06. Ahoi! (5:00)
07. Veterano (3:55)
08. Hausmusik (4:30)

- Roedelius / organ, piano, guitar, electronic percussion
- Dieter Moebius / synthesizer, guitar, electronic percussion
- Michael Rother / guitar, piano, organ, electronic percussion

Before to start a fruitful career in solo, Michael Rother integrated Cluster's side project called Harmonia. Initially formed by Hans Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, the band had the intention to go further in ambient music approach. Rejecting a great part of the experimental side of Cluster's music (I & II), they recorded "Musik von" in 1974. Michael Rother who produced the same year Cluster's zukerzeit, collaborated in Harmonia for guitars, ambient synth parts. With rather discreet appearances of the band on stage, the promotion of "Musik von" failed to attract the attention of the public. Musically the compositions stay obscure, consisting of complex, "avant-garde" pieces made for electronic gadgets, organs, including drum machines, repetitive pulses. The atmosphere is "abstract", sometimes "cosmic" but still melodic. In 1975, the trio recorded its seminal "Deluxe" with the participation of Mani Neumeier (Guru Guru) on drums. The album was produced by Michael Rother himself. With new, various compositional ideas, inventive synthesized sounds and Rother's guitar signature, this album is more relaxed, light than the previous one. Historically it remains a pre-ambient electronic standard. Brian ENO who is fascinated by the music of Harmonia joined the musicians on stage during a concert at the Fabrik Club in Hamburg.

He finally collaborated with the band in 1976 for their last album "Harmonia 76- Tracks & traces". The music is clearly into ambient, "aquatic", dreamy atmospheres with floating synth effects, repetitive guitar lines. ENO wrote the lyrics and provided some synth parts. After Harmonia's dissolution, Brian Eno will work with Roedelius & Moebius for several personal albums ("Cluster & Eno", 1977/ "Before and After Science", 1977 / "After the Heat", 1979).

Cluster tended to produce their best work when collaborating with other musicians, as their brilliant work with Brian Eno proves. This 1974 work with Michael Rother of Neu! is another example of musicians bringing out the best in each other - Rother brings a sense of structure to Clusters sometimes aimless soundscapes, while Cluster add a warmth of feeling that is sometimes absent from Rother's work (for example side 1 of Neu! 75). There's also a slightly ramshackle feel to the whole affair - the rhythm is supplied by drum machines that probably weren't state of the art even in 1974, and the whole thing was recorded in a home made studio in an old farmhouse on partly home made equipment, so despite the exclusively electronic instrumentation there's an almost bucolic feel to much of the album.
About half of the album displays an obvious Neu! influence in the form of rhythmic, repetitive pieces with Rother's guitar upfront, whilst the remainder is the more atmospheric proto ambient style of music which was Cluster's trademark. This is neatly illustrated by the first two tracks - Watussi is built around a loping rhythm track with Rother's guitar and Cluster's synths chasing each other around and across the relentless pulse of the drum machine. Serr Kosmich, on the other hand, is barely audible at times - a slow beat underpins some extremely low key electornis, with occasional brief clusters of notes surfacing for a few moments. At times it's barely audible, almost as though the backing track was based on the breath and heartbeat of one of the members. This pattern continus through the remaining shorter pieces on the album. Although some form of beat is present on all tracks, the relentless motorik of Klaus Dinger is notably absent, and for the most part the rhythms are more relaxed than on Neu's albums. It's also odd that the final track is called Hausmusik - perhaps Harmonia were about 15 years ahead of their time.

Musik Von Harmonia may sound slightly dated today, but the ideas behind it and the sense of adventure that permeated the sessions are as fresh as ever. There was more to 70s German music than Can, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, and this album is a good place to start exploring.

Kraftwerk - 2015 - Ruckzuck: Live in Soest 1970

Ruckzuck: Live in Soest 1970 

01. Introduction / Stratovarius 16:44
02. Ruckzuck 10:41
03. Heavy Metal Kids 9:48
04. Improvisation 10:42

Live at Stadthalle, Soest, Germany, Winter 1970

Drums – Klaus Dinger
Flute – Florian Schneider
Keyboards – Ralf Hütter

As is the case with KISS or The Ramones, there’s a set uniform and aesthetic innately attached to Kraftwerk: red shirts, ties, and slacks. Still, they couldn’t have always dressed like they worked at the same electronics store, right? There had to be a period in their history when they were working out the creative kinks. Now, thanks to rare footage unearthed by Dangerous Minds, we get a look at the group’s earliest incarnation as seen via their television debut.

In the winter of 1970, Kraftwerk, who had just formed earlier that year, appeared on the German music show Rockpalast. As it is one of their most early appearances, the band looks wildly different than their iconic image. Not only are they rocking long hair and leather jackets, but the lineup itself might be entirely unfamiliar. Here, founding members Ralf Hütter (playing organ) and Florian Schneider (on the flute) are joined by drummer Klaus Dinger, who would depart the next year to form NEU! alongside Michael Rother.

More than looking like a Deep Purple cover band, Kraftwerk’s sound is leagues away from the “severely teutonic synth pop” they’d become known for in the late ’70s/early ’80s. Though still decidedly Avant garde, their music is a distinct version of very early proto-punk, utilizing jagged, almost angular keys that alternated between chirps and wails, rather menacing drum parts, and a flute was more grating then light and soothing. The “sweet and wistful” Tour De France this was definitely not.

Here’s some more background info on the performance from the German public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk (translated via Google):

In 1970 – its founding year – were Kraftwerk, although already an avant-garde band, their sounds were still exclusively handmade. In songs like “jiffy” or “Stratovarius” they experimented with distorted sounds of flute and Hammond organ. But the monotonous beat and cool arrangements foreshadowed, in which direction their sound would develop only a few years later.

Rockpalast shows for the first time the Soest concert from 1970 in full length at the power plant as a trio (Ralf Hütter – Hammond organ, Klaus Dinger – drums, Florian Schneider-Esleben – Flute) occurred and astonished faces left behind. An absolute rarity then, and a treat for music fans.

Got to say they were a damn sight more interesting live back then than now...

Kraftwerk - 2006 - K4

K4 (Live On Radio Bremen)

01. Heavy Metal Kids 7:55
02. Stratovarius 15:34
03. Ruckzuck 19:21
04. Vom Himmel Hoch 15:24
05. Rueckstoss Gondliere 11:25

Drums – Klaus Dinger
Flute, Electronics – Florian Schneider
Guitar, Electronics – Michael Rother

Live at Gondel Kino, Bremen, Germany, June 25, 1971

When the first Kraftwerk album came out, the line-up was long-time stalwarts Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider joined by drummer Klaus Dinger. Dinger had played drums on side B of the album, replacing Andreas Hohmann who had drummed on side A. This line-up definitely played live as there is TV footage of them but when they went to do a tour, the line-up was now Floria Schneider and Klaus Dinger joined by guitar player Michael Rother. For reasons unknown, Ralf (who, ironically, is the only original member in Kraftwerk these days) had left the band.

Whilst once this line-up was the subject of obscure footnotes, thanks to the Youtube age and their appearance on German TV, everyone has seen this line-up playing their one original song, the unreleased “Rückstoß Gondoliero” (sometimes known as “Truckstop Gondolero” because the TV announcer got it wrong). Just in case you haven’t, though, here it is:

An old bootleg circulated of this era that featured the audio of above performance alongside some very rough and ready audience recording of this line-up playing three songs that may or may not be off the first Kraftwerk LP. Then, just a few years into the 21st Century, an astounding new recording arrived onto the world wide web – a lovingly remastered professional radio recording of the lost line-up. It is fair to say, the tatty old audience recordings were instantly obsolete.

The release emerged with an interesting tracklist, but no explanations as to how the titles were chosen. The opening track is listed as “Heavy Metal Kids” an intriguing title but one that begs the question is this just the bootlegger referencing how heavy the music sounds or were Kraftwerk referencing William Burroughs? One thing is certain, it is heavy. It starts with with a repeating, deep sickening lurch of guitar, electronics and drum thud which picks up in pace until suddenly Rother does a massive Sabbathesque guitar chord of doom and Dinger breaks out into a slomo stomp. Rother begins to riff it along while Florian’s electronics seem to be duelling with him.

I have baffled a few music experts in my time with this one by playing the game “You know all these musicians very well, who are they?” and nobody has passed that one. That is because you are seeing a radically different side to all of the musicians. Rother is simply way heavier than anything he ever did subsequently. Dinger is slower. While Florian may be doing a similar line in electronics to “Kraftwerk 1”, the simple fact that he is involved in this is enough to throw people off the scent. As the track builds up to its frentic, fast climax, all you can do is lie back in wonder and awe that this is Kraftwerk.

From herein, the tracklisting given is a simple K and a number. So, “K1” comes next and starts off with some kinda wah-wah ish guitar electronics interplay and then builds up into a fast pace rock stomper. The cocky rock swagger of it is is quite astounding. Rother’s guitar playing is still as skilful and intricate as ever but just heavier and more rocked up. Thanks to the professional stereo sound we can really hear this details which were muddied on the previous audience taping.

Florian really is a backseat passenger a lot of the time on this one, squiggling his electrics while the other two just rock the fuck out. Some sources put “K1” down on the track listing as “Stratovarius”, the second track off the first Kraftwerk album. To be honest, while it may be derived from that song, it is so far removed from the original (bar the electronic wig-out finale and a little bit of melodic similarity in some of the riffing) that it is hard to relate it as anything other than a passing nod to its origins. This is not that Kraftwerk, baby. The crowd go wild.

The next track came from the source with the title “K2 (Ruckzuck)” and the audience cheer in delighted recognition as Florian plays that iconic, floaty flute riff. For the first time it starts to sound like Florian’s gig and then Dinger smacks out a heavy drum roll and Rother’s nabbed the riff for this guitar. Florian is sat in the back again. It’s not too hard to see what the future held for this line-up. The original album version is just short of eight minutes but this one nearly clocks up twenty including two false stops which trick the audience into early applause.

Its fair to say, they have them in the palm of their hands this night and the crowd begins a delirious chant of “Kraftwerk” over and over. “K3” begins with a bit of riffing from Rither and a frentic stomp off of Dinger. Florian joins in with more of the power station electronics. Pretty soon it starts to sound like the Rother we know from Neu! with those widescreen scenic riffs. Klaus still feels less motoric than we remember him but is still a thumping great rock drummer. They build it up and up in pace, until Dinger is crashing around madly and Rother is doing riffy rock doodles like the clappers. It really is bang your head time.

Then it suddenly goes into a weird breakdown, slows to a crawl and roars its way along to a staggered conclusion. Some later online tracklists credit the song as being “Von Himmel Hoch” or “Rückstoß Gondoliero” but bar Florian’s growling electronics towards the end, there is nothing here of either song

The last track, “K4”, is a strange beast. Florian plays what sounds like an electric violin and the Rother/Dinger juggernaut goes along at a slower but heavy and steady pace. The same sources that misidentify other songs on here claim this to be “Rückstoß Gondoliero” or even an early version of “Autobahn” but that is just wishful, wistful bollocks.

Florian’s change of instrument makes him higher in the mix and makes this feel like a proper trio gig at last. He takes the lead with some beautifully wild string work over the stoner rock groove of Rother/Diner. The swagger on this one is startling, just try sitting still while it’s blasting through your speakers.

And that is it. After the tour, they went into the studio and tried to capture the live act on record but there were creative tensions and the recording was aborted. Florian hooked back up with Ralf to make the more sedate “Kraftwerk 2” and Rother/Dinger formed Neu! The rest is rock n roll history. This is just a footnote, but a damn fascinating one and a lot of fun to boot.

Kraftwerk - 1974 - Autobahn


01. Autobahn (Highway) (22:30)
02. Kometenmelodie 1 (Comet Melody 1) (6:20)
03. Kometenmelodie 2 (Comet Melody 2) (5:44)
04. Mitternacht (Midnight) (4:40)
05. Morgenspaziergang (Morning Walk) (4:00

- Ralf Hütter / vocals (1), electronics, synthesizers, organ, piano, guitar, electronic drums, co-producer
- Florian Schneider / vocals & vocoder (1), electronics, synthesizers (Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, EMS Synthi AKS), flute, electronic drums, co-producer
- Klaus Röder / guitar, electric violin (4)
- Wofgang Flür / electronic drums (3)

- Konrad Plank / engineer

Kraftwerk's fourth album was their first international success, and the first to feature what was to become their trademark sound. For all its status as a landmark in the development of electronic music and as a conceptual masterpiece, it was actually neither of those things; it was the last Kraftwerk album to feature conventional instruments (although they were very much secondary to the synthesiser and electronic percussion) and only the epic title track can be considered conceptual. It was really the work of a band in transition, and heralded the arrival of two key players in the band's development over the next few years - drummer turned electronic percussionist Wolfgan Flur and sleeve designer and occasional lyricist Emil Schult.
The title track evolved from a journey down the autobahn in a grey mercedes with a tape recorder picking up the sounds of the traffic. Kraftwerk's hommage to the enormous highways criss crossing Germany's industrial heartland was considered controversial in some quarters. The autobahn was a legacy of the Third Reich, an episode in recent history that German popular culture had so far avoided confronting. This was a good indicator of what was to come - Kraftwerk were always aware of the darker, more sinister aspects of the high tech, industrial world that they wrote about, and their work was full of ambiguity, subversion and ominous warnings. The piece itself combines found sounds with a motorik beat (something they had in common with Neu!, who had worked with Kraftwerk shortly before this album) and almost classical melodies. The 'fahn fahn fahn' refrain (it means drive drive drive) is a sly nod to the Beach Boys, and bits of guitar and flute add a human element to the almost robotic feel of much of the track. As other reviewers have noted this track is hypnotic and trance like, and it actually feels like you're driving a brand new car on a new, perfectly smooth motorway.

The second half of the album is purely instrumental, and shows a gift for melody that had only been hinted at on earlier albums. Kommetonmelodie 1 is rather sombre, but segues into the gorgeous part 2 which is light, breezy and melodic. Mitternacht is another low key piece, and the album ends with an almost folky piece played on flutes and recorders (the last time purely acoustic instruments would feature on a Kraftwerk album).

Kraftwerk's prog credentials are debatable, but they were a crucial part of the German electronic music scene of the 1970s and remain hugely influential cross many genres to this day. Few bands have combined lyrics, melody, rhythm and visual imagery so intelligently and to such great effect, and they should be considered essential listening for any open minded music fan.

Kraftwerk - 1973 - Ralf & Florian

Ralf & Florian

01. Electric Roulette (Elektrisches Roulette) (4:19)
02. Mountain of Sound (Tongebirge) (2:50)
03. Crystal (Kristallo) (6:18)
04. The Bells of Home (Heimatklange) (3:45)
05. Dance Music (Tanzmusik) (6:34)
06. Pineapple Symphony (Ananas Symphonie) (13:55)

- Ralf Hütter & Florian Schneider / vocals, keyboards (Farfisa organ, Minimoog, EMS Synthi AKS, vocoder), string & wind instruments, drums, electronics, production

- Konrad "Conny" Plank / engineer

Their self-titled third album is still the neglected stepchild in the greater Kraftwerk discography, overshadowed on one side (even today) by the raw Krautrock grunge of their earlier 'traffic cone' albums and on the other by the international success of "Autobahn". The namesake duo refuse to even recognize it anymore, and to date have never sanctioned an official CD release, frustrating many older fans in the process.
And yet it was the first Kraftwerk album to formulate anything resembling a genuine group identity. The original cover photo shows the genesis of that immaculate Kraftwerk image, embracing an ironic caricature of German efficiency that would go a long way toward selling the band around the world. Ralf still wore the shoulder-length hair of a precocious chemistry professor, but how many young musicians in 1973 were dressed and groomed as neatly as Florian, complete with nerdy musical lapel pin?

Clearly this wasn't the same team of counterculture vandals who fabricated buzz-bomb attacks on their self-titled debut LP. But for the time being the two were still in the process of shedding their primitive Krautrock epidermis. You can hear it in the crude attempts at real melodic figures, and in the punchier rhythms of "Kristallo" and "Tanzmusik". The latter in particular was a brightly laminated road map to a lucrative future: the most upbeat tune so far in their rapidly evolving catalogue, and yet still disarmingly German (if that isn't an oxymoron).

And then there's the (almost) side-long "Ananas Symphonie", an evocative tone poem to swaying palm trees and undulating native girls, strikingly out of step with other German music trends at the time. The track doesn't really arrive anywhere after nearly fourteen minutes, but like the whole album it can be a very pleasant journey, and for Ralf and Florian the song was another confident step away from the labored Teutonic experiments of the past.

Maybe the two were later embarrassed by the low-tech clutter of their home studio, as it appeared in 1973 on the album's rear sleeve. Or maybe turning their collective back on the past was a calculated ploy to increase the cult appeal of those anomalous early efforts. Either way it's a shortsighted attitude: the sleek computer world of future Kraftwerk wouldn't look the same without the man-made nuts and bolts of makeshift analog albums like this one.

Kraftwerk - 1972 - Kraftwerk 2

Kraftwerk 2

01. Kling Klang (17:36)
02. Breath (Atem) (2:57)
03. Current (Strom) (3:52)
04. Coil 4 (Spule 4) (5:20)
05. Wave Lenght (Wellenlange) (9:40)
06. Harmonika (3:17)

- Ralf Hütter / organ, electric piano, bass, rhythm machine, bells, harmonica
- Florian Schneider / flute, violin, guitar, bells, electronic Fx

- Konrad "Conny" Plank / co-producer, engineer

Kraftwerk 2 marks an increase in electronic experimentation under the Kraftwerk name. Some of this album comes off as sounding like random synth-foolery that they just released for no clear reason, but it all seems to work together as a whole, in my opinion. The starter track "Kling Klang" is more of the krautrock that was present on the previous two albums, but with only slightly more electrical elements and it really is a very mellow song that sounds like a direct precursor to Autobahn. But the rest of the album is pure experimentation.
After the first track, "Atem" might be frightening (definitely was the first time I heard it) and is essentially the sound of a breathing robot. In case you didn't know, robots aren't supposed to breathe. There's no music in this track at all... just harsh, windy, robotic breath. "Strom" is very doomy and industrial sounding ambient set at a sludgy pace. "Spule 4" is lonely, quiet, and abrasive sounding industrial sound effects from afar, and "Wellenlange" sounds like the exact same track except set at a longer duration. "Harmonika" ends the album with sad and lonely robotic sounding synth-harmonica experiment that is soothing and reminds me of later tracks like "Ohm Sweet Ohm" and "Kommetenmelodie 2".

I'm aware that my description of the tracks on this album must seem extremely unappealing, but this album has an extraordinary "junky" feel to it that is hard to come by. It is definitely an odd and experimental album, but fans of avant-garde music should find enough to enjoy about this album. I highly recommend this dark, industrial, post-krautrock junk experiment to anyone daring enough to dive into it.

Kraftwerk - 1970 - Kraftwerk


01. Retreat (Ruckzuck) (7:47)
02. Stratovarius (12:10)
03. Megaherz (9:30)
04. From the High Skies (Von Himmel Hoch) (10:12)

- Florian Schneider / flute, violin, electric percussion
- Ralf Hütter / organ, Tubon synth
- Andreas Hohmann / drums (1,2)
- Klaus Dinger / drums (4)

- Konrad "Conny" Plank / co-producer, engineer

Remaining one of the most influential bands in the history of popular music, we mustn't forget that KRAFTWERK typical sound is the result of many years and decades of experimentations, continuous works and researches in the possibilities offered by the acoustic, electronic and rock instruments.

In 1968, the two original members (Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter, two longstanding friends) formed ORGANISATION. The famous German producer Conny Plank helped them to record their first album "Tone Float". Historically this album figures among the first albums released in the Krautrock genre, next to recordings from CAN, AMON DUUL, TANGERINE DREAM. The tone is floating but above all largely dominated by long, free improvisations, mixing organs, electronic experimentations with acoustic percussions.

During the year 1970, R. Hutter and F. Schneider dissolved the band to form KRAFTWERK whose name means power station (in German). Klaus Dinger and Andreas Hokman join the band and record an album called "Kraftwerk". Very minimalist, the record's cover is a perfect illustration of a repetitive music made of sound manipulations, punctuated by the flute and the electronic organ parts. The atmosphere is slightly "garage", a bit noisy, sometimes ethereal and spacey (Megahertz). At this time, the band's reputation remains discreet, despite a certain success. One year later in 1971, Klaus Dinger leaves the band to form NEU! with Michael Rother. "Kraftwerk 2" is released the same year and pursues on the way defined by the previous album (a lot of experimental guitar parts, distorted sounds, repetitive rhythms, gradual process.).

In 1973, Florian Schneider decides to put the stress on electronic percussions and contemporary sound researches. "Ralf & Florian" marks a turning point in the band's career. The melodies and the sound used begins more and more pop orientated despite that the recordings strive to bring to the fore the talent of Schneider and Hutter as musicians. In 1974, a new start announces the creation of the "Kling Klang" studio; a small laboratory entirely devoted to advanced electronic researches and investments in new synthesisers. In the album "Autobahn" the Mini Moog and others synthesisers supplant definitely the improvisations and the aleatoric experimentations.

With captivated and very efficient melodies this album is the first of a long commercial success for the band. The band's members settle down, Wolgang Flur, Karl Bartos, Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider constitute the quartet of the classic period to come. The Kraftwerk's computer world is in work and in progress with great classic and successful electronic albums as "Radio Aktivitat", "Trans Europe Express" and "The Man Machine". The band's musical creativity is now highly recognised world wide. These albums reach the band to the summit of its career. With one accord the media and the public considered that KRAFTWERK created a new musical genre, the electro pop music. After this impressive commercial period, KRAFTWERK pursues a total immersion in technological musical theories. In 1981 is released "Computer World" which devotes a cult to the machines, computers and the numerical society. The sound of the album is one more time very cold, repetitive, rhythmically surgical and electronic. After the release of "Electric Café" in 1986, the musical team stops during a short moment. The band occasionaly appears in many festivals before to re-launch a commercial career with the album "Tour de France Soundtrack" in 2003.

The frequent comparisons to Can are about the closest you're going to get to any similar sounding music. Kraftwerk define their own space with every album - and yet, with the debut, there is something deeply rooted in 1970s rock, despite the apparent synth overload.
This is not full-blown electronica, as in actual fact, there are no synths - but the mix of organ and electronically effected acoustic/electric instruments makes for a very pleasing and retrospective texture.

"Ruckzuck" takes a minimalistic approach, and grows small textural ideas - this is not the type of Progressive Rock that blares "I'm Brilliant - Stand In AWE", but the type that draws you into a very intimate zone - a personal, unfolding voyage into inner and outer space simultaneously.

The trick is to try to follow all of the individual lines at once - it's nearly impossible. Following individual lines defeats the objectives of the music, and would fool the casual listener into believing that this is somehow simple or even nonsensical. It is actually a band that is tightly integrated with a common vision of the direction of the music - bordering slightly on the insane.

This is clearly evidenced in "Stratovarius", which begins with a sequence of ever- straining dischords, reminiscent of an orchestra tuning up. Eastern flavours creep in, and then someone walks off... once that oddity has passed, pizzicato madness starts to set in, but settles into a groove quite quickly, underpinned by detuned bass and a really cool drum beat that twists and turns, assisting the music in its build-up in a section that clearly has its roots in Krautrock/psychedelia.

The pizzicato returns around 7:30, marking out what appears to be a 3rd section to the piece. Indeed, this feels more like a new piece in the same style rather than the continuation of the existing piece - but that doesn't matter too much, as the style is given some continuity with violin flavours in the texture - I'm assuming that this is what "Stratovarius" is referring to; the use of violin and doctored violin sounds as textural leitmotif that goes beyond the original sound of the instrument.

A 4th section begins unmistakably with the use of a mournful bowed violin sound - whether it's acoustic or electronic is somewhat obfuscated by the clever overlays, but it's a great build-up that superficially may seem repetitive, but Kraftwerk have a great handle on minimalism and understand where to tweak the sounds to provide maximum dramatic growth.

"Megaherz" follows, and again, the dry Kraftwerk humour shows through, beginning with deep, throbbing bass sounds (in the herz arena, but lots in terms of ambient quantity...). This is gradually layered with dissonant washes of what appear to be synth in a wonderfully atmospheric way, that makes me feel as if I'm staring down some kind of electronic hole in the space-time continuum... This drops away to a gentle and pastoral flavoured section, beautifully floaty, with the occasional dischord to counterbalance any saccharine in the sweetness of the surrounding textures. Shimmering metallic sounds indicate the gentle growth of the piece, providing a kind of alarm to new possibilities. Time seems to stand still.

This piece is a perfect example of how ambient music can be written, with attention paid to the character of the music, and instrumental decoration kept to a minimum - virtuosity is provided in the treatment of the instrumental textures, some of which are processed through various effects, others of which are effects produced by different methods of playing the instruments.

"Vom Himmel Hoch" rounds off the album nicely - another near-perfect composition for what it is. There are moments in here that remind me very strongly of the more "floaty" parts of "Dark Side of the Moon" - almost as if Pink Floyd lifted the sections from around 3:00...

The Krautrock "freakout" that follows shows a fabulously creative set of imaginations at work, with sounds that are disturbing and edgy, and reminiscent of the tape collages of Karlheinz Stockhausen, and the easy yet disturbed groove that brings the piece to a close is strongly predictive of the Ozric Tentacles.

It's quite apparent that the engineering and effects processing is just as important to the success of this album as a coherent and very progressive work of art as the playing of the band itself, which is another thing that this album has in common with "DSOTM".

As a summary, an absolutely fabulous work of art - I would say stunning for a debut, but that wouldn't be strictly true, as Hutter and Schnieder released an album called "Tone Float" under the name of Organisation. This is a decidedly more exploratory affair, with none of the hallmarks of a band having mastered its sound that "Kraftwerk" shows. A real Power Station of ideas and highly recommended.

Organisation - 1970 - Tone Float

Tone Float

01. Tone Float (20:46)
02. Milk Rock (5:24)
03. Silver Forest (3:19)
04. Rhythm Salad (4:04)
05. Noitasinagro (7:46)

- Florian Schneider / alto & electric flutes, electric violin, tambourine, triangle, bells
- Ralf Hütter / Hammond organ
- Butch Hauf / bass, percussion
- Basil Hammoudi / glockenspiel, bongos, conga gong, musical box, vocals
- Fred Monicks / drums, bongos, maracas, cowbell, tambourine

- Konrad "Conny" Plank / producer

The first LP collaboration between the two visionaries who would go on to found Kraftwerk is a bit like the first Tangerine Dream LP, in that it bears little resemblance to their later electronics-dominated work and is closer to "traditional Krautrock". The Organisation album is basically instrumental, heavily oriented towards improvisation, features lots of hand percussion and shows more jazz and psychedelic influence than anything Kraftwerk would ever do.

The 20 minute long title track begins with bells, drums & assorted hand percussion. The initial feel is very free-jazz-like, in fact it reminds me very much of Archie Shepp's band with Bobby Hutcherson in the mid-60's (if you got rid of the saxophone!) Eventually a groove is established on "bongos" (some kind of hand drum anyway) and danged if it doesn't remind me of the "Deutscher Cha-Cha" rhythm that Kraftwerk would later incorporate into their music via drum machines (I've never found Kraftwerk to be particularly danceable -- theirs is more of a "funk for the head" not the body.) After chilling out with some ambient electronic wind sounds, Hutter's organ begings to swell with polyphonic drones that sounds quite a bit like Miles Davis' work on the Yamaha organ in the mid-70's. The drum kit whips things into a loping pompous psych jam for a bit, then it breaks down again to a 2-note bass figure accompanied by tambourine as the organ returns for some jazzier modal noodling. It builds back up to something like "krautrock" again before mellowing into a flute-led jam with a faux-"middle eastern" vibe. Schneider's distinctive flute playing includes percussive blowing much like on Kraftwerk's "Ruckzuck" as well as harmonic overtones that recall Roland Kirk and the tasteful occasional use of an analog delay effect. The thing builds in intensity one last time (including a Salsa rhythm on the claves!) before ending with some Stockhausenesque "treated percussion" sounds.

Next track (beginning of side 2 if you've got the LP) is "Milk Rock", the most "rock" song on the album featuring a steady beat, choogling krautbass and percussive Hammond organ riffing (think Lonnie Liston Smith.) Schneider plays his flute through some sort of electronic effect that had me convinced it was actually a moog for a while -- the giveaway is when he starts the harmonic overblowing thing again (the technique where you can get more than one note at a time out of a wind-powered instrument, like Coltrane, Shepp, Kirk, et. al. used to do -- moogs are monophonic and only play one note at a time.) At any rate, this track reminds me of some of the more oddball and jazz-oriented stuff Stereolab has done in recent years.

"Silver Forest" could be described as "ambient jazz rock from space." It's slower and majestic and features some ethereal gong work.

"Rhythm Salad" is about what you'd expect from the title, though it begins with some analog delay feedback that is the most blatantly "electronic" sound on the album. Otherwise it's basically a free-form percussion jam, quite good for what it is and with some neat stereo panning effects. There is also a little subliminal off-mic chanting from someone in the group, whoever it was was probably just "feeling it" while recording. It climaxes when the drum kit comes in to play an Elvin Jones-ish "solo" over the top of all the other percussion instruments.

"Noitasinagro" sounds a bit more derivative than the other tracks to me, Hutter's organ having a "cathedral" quality that recalls VDGG's Hugh Banton (at it's best) and Iron Butterfly's Doug Ingle (at it's worst.) You've also got Schneider droning away on electrified violin much like John Cale on the early Velvets records (though not as obnoxious) until he starts playing "raga style" (the electronics give the violin a sound like some Asian instrument, I think it's called an Oud?) Another one of the odder moments on this track is some "ah-ah-ah" freakout vocals. It ends with some overblown church organ claptrap that sounds like a jazzier version of the climax of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida".

The CD reissue on Crown Records includes an 11 minute bonus track, "Vor Dem Blauen Bock" (roughly translated: "Before The Blue Horse" -- I've also come across this track in bootleg form under the title "Truckstop Gondolero.") This is not actually an Organisation track, but a 1971 live recording from the Beat Club TV show by a short-lived trio version of Kraftwerk, consisting of Schneider plus Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger (the two guys who would split to form NEU! -- Hutter was not in the band at this point.)

"Bock" begins with a bunch of Stockhausen electronic sounds before Rother starts playing a guitar riff that sounds just like his work with NEU!, and once Dinger starts up the "motorik" beat it's practically indistinguishable from a NEU! tune like "Negativland". Schneider plays along first on electric flute, then electric violin but the Rother-Dinger axis totally dominates. It's not hard to see why those two left the band to go do their own thing, the basic NEU! blueprint is fully on display already here in 1971.

In conclusion, "Tone Float" is practically a must-hear for krautrock afficianados, in particular the CD reissue with the rare (and dare I say "historically important"?) Kraftwerk/NEU! track. However the album could well disappoint Kraftwerk fans who are exclusively into the "electronica" thing.

The Knack - 2007 - Time Time Time

The Knack 
Time Time Time

01. Who'll Be The Next In Line?
02. She Ain't No Good
03. It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)
04. Time Time Time
05. Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?
06. Red Hearts
07. Stop!
08. Younger Girl
09. Save All My Love For Joey
10. Take Your Love
11. (Man From The) Marriage Guidance And Advice Bureau
12. Dolly Catcher Man
13. Lights On The Wall
14. Back In The USA
15. That's My Desire
16. Bring It On Home To Me

Paul Curtis [Paul Gurvitz] (guitar)
Brian Parrish (guitar, 1965-66)
Mick Palmer (bass, 1965-66)
Graham "Topper" Clay (drums, 1965-66)
Gearie Kenworthy (bass, 1966-67)
Louie Farrell (drums, 1966-67)
Tim Mycroft (keyboards, 1966-67)

Taking their name from Richard Lester's swinging London classic The Knack and How to Get It and their sound from the Kinks, the Knack captured a certain vibe from mid-'60s Britain -- which isn't quite the same thing as making an impact at the time. One of the charms of the Knack is that they were so of their time that they don't quite transcend their time, yet they evoke it, which is why Time Time Time: The Complete UK Singles (And More) 1965-1967 is enjoyable even if it isn't quite memorable. What's striking is indeed how much they sound like the Kinks circa Something Else; unlike the equally Kinks-obsessed Turquoise, who delved deeply into The Village Green, there aren't many signs of wry whimsy here -- there's nothing but lean, hard-hitting, hooky pop. Which isn't to say that the Knack only reworked the driving rock & roll of "Who'll Be the Next in Line?," the Ray Davies song they covered and which opens this collection. They could branch out, as on the terrific "Time Time Time," which glides along on swirling guitars and harmonies, a piece of pure '60s pop that still can thrill. They rarely reached this height, but they did nice covers of the Lovin' Spoonful (both "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?," which they pumped up with fuzz-toned guitar, and "Younger Girl"); "Save All My Love for Joey" is a pretty nice slice of soft, string-laced pop; "Take Your Love" is bright, crystalline pop; "(Man from The) Marriage Guidance and Advice Bureau" plays as if the Hollies tried to write a Dylan song instead of just singing them; and Paul Gurvitz's pair of originals, "Dolly Catcher Man" and "Lights on the Wall," are very good, propulsive British psychedelic pop, suggesting the potential of Gurvitz as a songwriter. These moments are a little fleeting on Time Time Time, as they're surrounded by perfectly fine but mildly forgettable period pieces, but they're the reason for '60s collectors to check out this likable band.

In well over 40 years in the music business, Paul Gurvitz has done practically everything connected to fame except achieve it himself. He’s produced hit makers like Jodi Watley and the Fat Boys. As a musician, he and brother Adrian played in Ginger Baker’s most highly regarded post-Cream project, the Baker-Gurvitz Army, not to mention on two solo albums by Moody Blues drummer Graeme Edge. The Gurvitz brothers were also the driving force behind two of the most renowned late ‘60s/early ‘70s hard rock obscurities, Gun and the Three Man Army.

Gun, in fact, had a sizable UK hit in 1968 with “Race With the Devil”, which has since been covered by Houston Fearless, Black Oak Arkansas, Judas Priest, and Girlschool, among others. And before they were Gun, they were the Knack.

Not to be confused with the “My Sharona” guys on Capitol, the mid-‘60s California band that also recorded for Capitol, or even the ‘60s Argentinean beat combo known as the Knacks, this Knack hailed from Britain and started life as the Londoners in 1965, debuting with a rather ordinary single pairing covers of Elvis Presley’s “That’s My Desire” and Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” while playing an extended engagement at the legendary Star Club in Hamburg, Germany.

Renaming themselves the Knack after a Richard Lester movie upon returning to the UK the same year marked a turning point for the band, who went on to record six mostly solid singles over the next two years.

The a-side of the first was a gritty cover of the Kinks’ “Who’ll Be the Next in Line”, but the real excitement was on the flip, a stellar cover of the Clique’s “She Ain’t No Good” with strong Beatlesque harmonies. The Clique, incidentally, were not the US band who had hits later in the decade, but an obscure British beat band—though that obscurity didn’t prevent the Knack from covering yet another Clique song on their next single, “Time Time Time”, which was done as adeptly as the previous outing. The a-side, a beat remake of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’ “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)”, was almost as good, featuring a brief-but-nifty guitar solo (presumably by Gurvitz).

Unfortunately, the quality of the first two releases didn’t translate into sales, and the band was dropped by Decca—leading to four singles of varying quality for Piccadilly. Their commercial desperation manifested in passable but ordinary covers of two Lovin’ Spoonful hits, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?” and “Younger Girl”, and a lament of unknown origin called “Red Hearts”, but their quest also produced a first-rate harmony pop tune in “Save All My Love for Joey” (Joey being a girl). The buoyant beat of “Stop!” was also worthy, if perhaps out of date in the changing musical environment of 1966, a description that also fits their final single from 1967,  “(Man from the) Marriage Guidance and Advice Bureau” backed with the band’s only released original, Gurvitz’s “Dolly Catcher Man”. Both the acoustic Rubber Soul-like pop of the a-side and the dreamy pop of the flip showed maturity, but with the rest of the UK dropping acid and/or plugging into fuzzboxes, it was hopelessly anachronistic, and being on a faltering label didn’t help.

The Knack, however, did branch into psychedelia on Gurvitz’s excellent (and previously unreleased) “Lights on the Wall”, a huge step forward from 1967 that signaled a new direction for the band. But with membership shuffling that ultimately brought in Adrian Gurvitz on guitar and Louis Farrell on drums as Paul switched to bass, that direction would be taken up by the rechristened Gun, not the Knack.

Gun were indeed the better of the two bands, but the Knack’s Time Time Time compilation is worth a listen for anyone seeking to dig deeper into British beat.

Really great compilation! Find it!

Adrian Gurvitz - 1980 - Il Assassino

Adrian Gurvitz 
Il Assassino

01. Borrowed Beauty 5:55
02. Seventeen 4:22
03. Movie Picture 5:03
04. Hit Man 5:00
05. Movie Picture Theme 0:37
06. She's In Command 6:10
07. New World 4:21
08. Crying To The Night 5:32
09. Heat 3:44

Musical Assistance, Backing Vocals – Paul Gurvitz
Producer, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Music By, Lyrics By – Adrian Gurvitz

Adrian Gurvitz's third studio album follows the style of its predecessors. A decent, contemporary music creation with a few flaws here and there, but undoubtedly attractive. Not well-known to the average pop collector, this work includes nine melodic tracks. There is a groovy jam (''Borrowed Beauty''), a pop/rock composition (''Seventeen''), a beautiful instrumental (''Hit Man''), two dance-pop tracks (''She's In Command'' and ''Heat''), another short electronic instrumental (''Movie Picture Theme'') based on the sound of the piece with the same title (''Movie Picture''), a funky tune (''New World'') and a rockish melody (''Crying To the Night''). Not outstanding, by means of production, this is a smooth, beautiful LP that is surely worth the try if you are interested in listening something different. Also, one more thing that makes this album even better, is Gurvitz's awesome guitar.