Friday, 22 July 2016
"Neu!" by NEU! [featuring MICHAEL ROTHER and KLAUS DINGER ex Kraftwerk] (2001 Gronland CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...
"...Ich Mein Berliner...Em Sorry...Dusseldorfer..."
Back in the M&S Cream Cakes calorie haze blizzard of 2010 (a pre heart attack fat-git in-joke for the boys at Reckless) - I was duly blown away by a VARIOUS ARTISTS compilation called "Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Musik 1972-1983" put out by the mighty Soul Jazz Records of Soho's Broadwick Street (links Berwick Street and Wardour Street in the West End of London).
Soul Jazz had done probably hundreds of 2LP compilations covering a multitude of genres – Reggae (Studio 1 specialists), Soul, Latin, Salsa, Dance, New Age, Avant Garde and even the Funky side of Country Rock. But they were impressively the first to nail a decent representative 2CD and 2 x Vinyl Doubles for that most sought-after of genres 'KRAUT ROCK'.
Having worked in Reckless Records (round the corner from them on Berwick Street) for near on 20 years - in the last ten of those two decades we'd become inundated on a weekly basis with Dance and Funk 'young uns' interested in a decent 'Kraut Rock' compilation - with most being amazed that prior to 2010 there really wasn't anything we could point a finger at. And with German and British Spoon, Brain and United Artists label LPs increasingly impossible to find in any condition - "Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Musik 1972-1983" turned up just in the nick of time (they even did a second volume of it to just as much acclaim). In my endearing and yet magnificent benevolence – I promptly awarded this genius and beautifully presented compilation with a ‘Reissue Of The Year’ 2010 award (the Queen called me shortly afterwards to congratulate me on my kindness and Irish good taste).
Pride of place on Disc 1 of that iconic Volume 1 was "Hallogallo" by NEU in all its droning ten-minute glory – a band formed after MICHAEL ROTHER and KLAUS DINGER left Florian Schneider and KRAFTWERK to their own devices in 1971. And that's where this frightfully cool 2001 CD reissue comes in. Once more my musical travellers unto the 'sonderangebot' (if you know what I'm saying)...
UK released May 2001 - "Neu!" by NEU! on Gronland CDGRON 1 (Barcode 5024545344929) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 1972 album and plays out as follows (45:44 minutes):
1. Hallogallo (10:07 minutes)
2. Sonderangebot (4:50 minutes)
3. Weissensee (6:42 minutes)
Side 2 is called "Jahresuberblick"
4. Im Gluck (6:52 minutes)
5. Negativland (9:46 minutes)
6. Lieber Honig (7:15 minutes)
Tracks 1 to 6 are their debut LP "Neu!" - released summer of 1972 in Germany on Brain/Metronome Records BRAIN 1004 and October 1972 in the UK on United Artists UAS 29396. All songs written by and all instruments played by MICHAEL ROTHER and KLAUS DINGER.
The 16-square foldout inlay is a dreadfully disappointing affair - reproducing the hand-written inner gatefold of the original LP and the pink 'Neu!" logo - and nothing else. In fact you can't even read the hand-written details because they're done in a semi-faded fashion. We're told the CD is Remastered in London in 2001 - but not by whom or where. The audio is very good overall but on tracks like "Lieber Honig" – it has to be pointed out that the hiss levels are unfortunately very prevalent. I suppose in keeping with the ‘mystery’ surrounding this most influential of German bands – we get no details - but I can't help feel that this is a lazy reissue when it would have been so much better to have Rother and Dinger cough up some juicy Dusseldorf freudenberger facts about themselves and their musical processes thereby enlightening us all after ‘our’ four decades of subliminal hero worship...
"Neu!" opens its Kraut Rock account with a winner in "Hallogallo" (apparently no one seems to know what it means). You get ten minutes of droning brilliance that builds and builds into a sort of trance-like groove – the kind of hooky foot-tapping chug that sends Trance and Dance Kids into ecstasy. The band acknowledged the importance of the track when they reformed in 2010 to do gigs under the name 'Hallogallo 2010'. The go-to Remaster Wizard and Ace Audio Engineer for all things Prog (Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Tull) – Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson recorded a short but sweet cover version of "Hallogallo" during PT's 1996 sessions for their "Signify" LP which eventually saw the light of day the following year on the B-sides/Demos compilation "Insignificance". But after the prolonged high point of the opener - the near five-minute sound effects noodle that is "Sonderangebot" comes as a disappointing piece of filler - swirling drum symbols and warbling synth notes that emulate winds in the Sahara - but just not as refreshing.
Things are immediately brought back into superstar focus with the drums and guitar treatment brilliance of "Weissensee" - seven minutes of what feels like German Blues with a Kraftwerk tinge. "Weissensee" is the album's other masterpiece - a sort of slow head-nodding drone that's incredibly musical - guitars floating in and out in - distorted but controlled fuzz tones - the kind of thing that would turn up on a mix tape and have punters asking after it.
Like Side 1 - Side 2 offers us a mixture of the great and the dated. "Im Gluck" (which I think means 'I'm happy') opens with sloshing water like some Tangerine Dream album on Virgin Records. Voices then mumble and giggle as if on some punt on the river when the droning guitar starts to creep in and take over. It's hissy for sure throughout - but once those guitar notes that to become musical as the song moves forward - it feels weirdly magical. "Negativland" is probably the most challenging track on the LP - mad guitar sounds wailing and panning across your speakers - it's also the best-sounding track on the CD (Californian band Negativland took their name from this track). "Lieber Honig" is hiss-laden and features rather silly and forced vocals that sound like the man needs a good cry and be done with it.
So there you have - half genius - half waffle - but man the good stuff is so damn cool. And you can feel the album's seminal influence on everyone from U2 to Radiohead a full 44-years after the event - which is truly impressive. They went on to release only two other albums in the UK (both in gatefolds) - "Neu! 2" in September 1973 on United Artists UAG 29500 and "Neu '75" in May 1975 on United Artists UAG 29782 - but like The Stooges first two LPs (1969's "Stooges" and 1970's "Fun House" on original Elektra 'EKS' labels) - I've seen British-pressed copies of these records maybe two or three times in 45 years of collecting. Hell - United Artists UK even tried "Super" b/w "Neuschnee" from "Neu 2" as a UK 7" single in a 'Picture Sleeve' - but I've 'never' seen a copy of it and its £25+ Record Collector Price Guide rating is well underrated in my book...
In 2016 - Germany's NEU! retain their allure and mystery and engender ever-growing amounts of 'Godlike' analogies.
I don't know if the good Lord herself would agree with all of those assessments - but this overlooked and at times utterly brilliant album should be the place where you start your journey to the 'gluck' side of the force...