The purpose of Part One of our Top 10 Krautrock Rarities was to move beyond the usual classic albums from the past. We decided to save the gushing platitudes about the usual suspects (Can’s Tago Mago or Faust IV) for someone else. That’s a concept that has been done again and again and again. Just as we have retreated from any focus on those massive “super-deluxe” reissues or the limited-edition colored vinyl “rarities” that are being manufactured and sold to the public. Often, these extravagant packages feels like so much product; manufactured rarities or investments looking for future profit. Truth is, most of our readers already have a healthy obsession with the discographies of Neu! or Can or Kraftwerk. The real appeal of German experimental music has always been the depth and influence it has had across the globe. And with all due respect to American Jazz, it is the experimental music movement that emerged from the Zodiak Free Arts Lab in 1968 that has changed the way musicans create sound and music. (Which was exactly the objective that Conrad Schnitzler, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Boris Schaak had in mind).
With this second edition, (Even More) Krautrock Rarities, we have endeavored to (again) take a look into that bottomless cavern of experimental sounds, and follow the path to the most obscure and difficult albums. The music that has largely been overlooked or neglected. But more importantly, The Vinyl-Dreamscape seeks these adventures (musical and otherwise) because we are interested in knowing more about the music and otherwise. And if you want to come along for this journey, there is always a place for a fellow traveler. We hope that our choice of rarities or obscurities looks beyond the usual vintage or country or city or location most would expect. Our goal is to liberate music from the magazines, websites and museums that appreciate records as if they are science experiments; studying the music carefully with their creepy protective MOFI sleeves. Instead, let’s burn those institutions to the ground. (Even More) Krautrock Rarities will highlights both contemporary albums and a few older, liberated pieces. We hope you enjoy what has been found. One final note: Don’t make too much of the sequence of these albums. In other words, Yoshinori Sunahara’s Lovebeat isn’t our least favorite album on the list. Nor is Wolfgang Bock’s Cycles our favorite.
10) Yoshinori Sunahara / Lovebeat / 2001: Sunahara’s Lovebeat is at just the right intersection between techno, house and post-punk and Krautrock. What could have been an album full of unsatisfying compromises, turned into an instant electronic masterpiece back in 2001. At first, the experimental roots of Conrad Schnitzler and Klaus Schulze may be difficult to hear for anyone new to the topic. But repeated listenings will open those innocent eyes. Make no mistake; Lovebeat is electronic music that sounds like the bastard child of Kraftwerk and Neu!. Krautrock is at the foundation of the dance and hip-hop created by Yoshinori Sunahara. Unlike most music created for the club, Lovebeat washes over the listener with real emotion and, oddly, humanity. As if all those yesterdays had never happened; the beats and melodies forming a lush, pillowy softness in the back of your head. And like a good opium buzz, the music gently explodes and spreading throughout your entire body. Only Lovebeat brings much more to the party then pleasant, intoxicating dance music. Sunahara knew eactly what he was doing when he built these magnificent soundscape; this is music that will surprise the listener at each turn. Eventually revealing hints of danger and darkness. Soon we realize that this sweet sonic-candy hides a earthy, dystopian core. Lovebeat is a highly complicated and rewarding album that will unfold gradually each time you return. An album that shouldn’t be missed. Highly recommended.
09) Michael Rother / Fernwarme / 1982: Fernwärme is the fourth studio album by guitarist and songwriter Michael Rother. One of the more well known musicans to emerge from the German experimental music movement of the 70s. Rother is perhaps best known for his early work as a member of Neu!, Harmonia, Cluster and Kraftwerk. Recorded in 1981 while Rother was working at his own studio in Forst, Germany. Fernwarme was his first solo album to NOT use the drumming skills of Can’s Jaki Liebezeit or have any production assistance from Conny Plank. Rother giving himself complete artistic control over the album’s direction; taking a less immediate and more individualized path for the music. Rother often found himself alone in the studio, building an album that is more reflective and refined then anything he had previously done. Unfortunately, many fans seem to overlook Rother’s work after his third solo album (Katzenmusik). And that’s a big mistake. On Fernwarme, he leaves behind the most obvious meditative qualities of his earliest sound; Fernwarme focusing on more muted and textural themes. The earthy keyboard tones taking the preeminent role. In the end, we have an album that mixes Rother’s alway present ambient atmosphere with the colors and style of a new decade. A beautiful record.
08)Gila / Free Electric Sound / 1971: Gila shouldn’t really be on this rarities list. The album’s not really an overlooked gem. But Gila’s Free Electronic Sound is so good, we needed to include the record anyway. For those pulled towards the more mainstream western rock music; just stop reading now. Gila’s music is a mix of unholy sources; imagine an occult ceremony taking place on a planet ruled by Hawkwind. The album is broken into six separate titles that play together like (mini) movements of sound; the first two (Side One) will satisfy those looking for something strange and different but not too different. The acid-rock, guitar buzz dominates the entire sonic atmosphere. These are the visions of true psychedelic warriors planning their cosmic attack. Gila pulling influences from a strong pedigree of bands; Hawkwind, Ash Ra Temple and Pink Floyd (Atomic Heart Mother). Eventually, the space journey becomes a full blown DMT trip on Side 2. Instantly you hear the difference; as the most primal and ritualistic aspects of music come forth. Taking us back to the very origins of our pre-human need for music and the bloodlust of ceremony. Fires blazing high into the night sky. Gila speaking in unknown tongues to our now forgotten gods. The band using a pulsating percussion to bring the last four tracks to an illuminating and satisfying climax. (Anyone taken by the music of Agitation Free should investigate Gila…immediately).
07) Dopplereffekt / Neurotelepathy / 2022: As part of the notorious Motor City electro-music club, the duo of Gerald Donald (aka Rudolf Klorzeiger) and Michaela “To-Nhan” Bertel; Dopplereffekt have used countless names and labels to obscure their true idenities from the public. This veil of secrecy extends beyond their public peersona. Secrecy is a way of life; and a useful tool to achieve both their cerebral and musical advancement. Taking their core fascination with the machine-man drive and mixing it with the more comtemporary power of Techno and House music. Dopplereffekt is re-defining the origins of music for the NEXT 50 years. On Neurotelepathy, Herr Klorzeger appraoches the music conceptually with the optimism that humanity has a future and the pessimism that the likely outcome will be a nightmare of corporate slavery. Crisp, glitchy electronic rhythms and beats push through the angular melodies. Touching on everything from Neu! to Ashra to Heldon. Blurring the lines with a post-astetic sound that burns like a frontal attack from Richard Hell and Television.
06) Roedelius & Hauddwolff / Nordlight / 2018: Here’s a left-handed choice released on the Curious Music label. Even in semi-retirement Hans-Joachim Roedelius seemed determined to create music using the most abstract sounds from the natural environment. A quick look at his discography reveals the pivotal role Roedelius has always played to developing the avant-garde spirit of German experimental music. His career defining work with Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia is at the very foundation of the entire movement. On Nordlight, Roedelius collaborates with Carl Michael von Hausswolff; a Swedish artist who uses found-sounds and cassette tapes to investigate the cryptic messages found in nature. Enlighting and unsettling, the four tacks on Nordlight take full advantage of the nocturnal noises that are all around us. The music of a silent night; the nightmare of a world trying desperately to speaking directly to each of us. This is a listening experience that stays with you; touching upon a forgotten communication with our living environment. But be prepared. These treasures won’t give themselves without an effort. These types of textural recordings can be surprisingly person and emotional. And the ghosts you will find lurking between the grooves will be more recognizable than you think. Some listeners may find themselves much closer to a ritualistic experience then bargained for. Nordlights is music that should be experienced only with the most serious consideration. Either alone or with someone who finds comfort in long periods of thinking silence; Or let’s say it another way; these waves of cold, environmental sound have the ability to turn against you body and mind. The music will expose your hidden lies. Cold skin warmed only by the living warmth of your own flowing blood. Nordlight is an important experience if you are prepared. One last point, there is a solitude and cleansing that will happen; the elements of water return us to our core of strength and self-awareness. High Recommended. But be careful.
05) Floh De Cologne / Rockoper Profitgeier / 1971: Often compared to Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, Floh De Cologne released their first album (Vietnam) of anti-war protest songs in 1968; the music and lyrics a full attack of the imperialism of the war in Vietnam. This group of radical left-wing students wanted to continue to use their music as a platform to satirise capitalist, consumer culture in Europe and America. Froming an alliance with Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser, founder of the Ohr record label, Kaiser agreed to produce their next album: Rockoper Profitgeier (1971). However, even with Kaiser‘s help. Floh De Cologne plays at the shallow end of the Krautrock spectrum; relying on old blues riffs to get the fire started. And it doesn’t really get interesting until the political slogans start to fly. Although it must be said, even these “radical” protests can sound somewhat lackluster today. Floh De Cologne is an interesting but deated artifact from an age when questioning authority was encourage on the left. Very different then the conformist attitudes that seem to dominate 2022.
04) Canaxis 5 / Technical Space composer’s Crew / 1969: An album that is perhaps best known for the marijuana endorsing sleeve art; Canaxis 5 is another case of an extreme left-field choices for our thoughtful little list. Canaxis 5 is the only studio album by the Technical Space Composer’s Crew; which consists of Can‘s bass player Holger Czukay and producer/engineer Rolf Dammer. Of course everyone understands the talents of Czukay. Can wouldn’t exist without his skills. And, in many ways, Canaxis 5 is his first solo album. On the other hand, Rolf Dammers role is less clear; operating strictly as assistant project manager. Dammers’ helping to keep this studio project on track as the different ideas rolled in from his partner. Meanwhile, Czukay was busy finding and recording thousands of found sounds; recordings that seemed completely disconnect and abstract (to an extreme). Together the studio partnership gradually pulling together the music from all the snippets of sound. A fasinating album; Canaxis 5 redefines the boundaries of Krautrock. Any resemblaince to rock music is left behind in a sea of tape-loops. Are these musicians having a joke? Intentionally messing with your head? Are they laughing with us? Or at us?
03)Cybotron / Enter / 1980: Krautrock via Detroit Techno? This album is the strangest “techno” album carrying the moniker; Cybotron was an Detroit-based group formed by Juan Atkins, Richard 3070 Davis and John “Jon 5” Housely in 1980. Cybotron recording a number of important singles in the electro-groove style; Alleys of Your Mind, Cosmic Cars and R-9. Electro-groove came about with the demise of disco music at the end of the 70s. But Cybotron was a unique breed. Pulling influences from techno, afrofuturism and German experimental music. Most notably, Kraftwerk; the robo-futurism is perhaps the most noticeable aspect of their music. However, unlike the optimism of Kraftwerk’s view, Cybotron saw a desperate and totalitarian future. (Remember, by 1980 Detroit was at the depths of an economic and culture decline. Truly the city was and is a contemporary dystopia). We encourage you to sample the music of Cybortron; this was groundbreaking music in 1980. Behold what became of Kraftwerk and Neu! when their sound hit the hard realities on the streets of the world’s first post-industrial city.
02)Slift / Ummon / 2020: Here we have another French band reconnecting the old Paris-Berlin alliance of Heldon; a soaring, high octane stoner-rock / space-rock attack. This is music that blends the organized chaos of Tangerine Dream’s Electronic Meditation with metal and psychedelic influences; although at their core Slift will likely appeal to those looking for a more traditional hard-rock sound. Certainly nothing wrong with that concept, if it’s executed well. Slift combines their rock-odessy vision with chaotic experimental passages that incorporate one new idea after another. And it’s the trio’s fresh ideas and youthful enthusiasm that bring us back to the album again and again. Enjoy.
01) Wolfgang Bock / Cycles / 1980: The Berlin School of electronic music originated in West Berlin in the 1970s. An offshoot of the Krautrock movement, Berlin School combines elements of ambient with repitious use of sequencer riffs that pulsate rhythms of sound. In fact, the sequencer often plays the role of percussion, since actual drums are rarely used. The adventurous sound is, of course, very closely related to the Krautrock sound. But Berlin School takes the music in a slightly more melodic direction but also uses atonal sound to push the music in extreme ways; Tangerine Dream or Vangelis. Produced by legendary musican Klaus Schulze, Wolfgang Bock’s Cycle is an album that takes full advantage of this melodic openness. Cycle capture the feel and atmosphere of a lonely, Nortic night. In much the same way Eddie Jobson’s Theme of Secrets (1985) constructed massive, desolate soundscape; beautiful but icy and cold. The remarkable, stoic beauty forever preserved yet without the warmth of human lust and passion. On Cycles’ Wolfgang Bock finds an odd balance between that stoic beauty and the warmth of creating music that touches both emotionally and intellectually.