This is a new blog written by Richard Foster who will take us on a diversion from the er, joys of Newcastle United and football and into the unchartered territories of the author’s musical tastes. Some of you won’t like it and some of you will. If you don’t like it, just move on without hoying your toys out of the pram.
A new series bringing you alternative music: whether unreleased, new, from the vaults, by genre… from anywhere and by anyone in fact. Just as long as it’s different to what you normally get to hear.
Richard Foster writes for TF, the Quietus, Louder than War, and Vice (NL). For over a decade he was editor of online music magazine Incendiary Magazine. He lives in the Netherlands and is currently writing a history of Dutch punk and post-punk. Fave all time club? The Riverside.
1 – Krautrock
Like many middle aged men “into music” I consider myself the world’s biggest bore on Krautrock. There’s something about the music made in Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s that is forever giving and (whisper it) exciting. Something that can really be pinned down. Since the mid 1990s (after Julian Cope wrote Krautrocksampler, the book that effectively rescued and revamped this particular music) whole forests have been cut down to provide the paper for academic studies and popular literature on this subject. And wholly new scenes have been formed on nicking things from the original bands the world over. Funnily enough, many Germans still find this fascination with this homegrown music a baffling foreign craze.
In terms of acts, Kraftwerk are a household name and possibly the most influential “white” pop band alongside the Beatles and Abba. Tangerine Dream are another well known name. You probably know about David Bowie’s fixation with this scene too. And since the ‘90s many have come to know and love Can, Neu!, Faust and Amon Düül II. (I remember the very first Spoon label reissues and some originals of Can’s LPs being on sale at Volume Records in the late 1980s. That says everything about the deep musical knowledge that crept around the city back then).
Note! This overview has no Can (and related solo projects), Faust, Harmonia, T-Dream, AR & Machines, Conny Schnitzler, Neu!, Cluster, Amon Düül and Amon Düül II, Günter Schickert, Embryo, Cosmic Jokers, Guru Guru, Popol Vuh, German Oak, or Ash Ra Tempel. BUT obviously I stick these names in here so you can cruise around the net and find out what shakes your tree. I decided to pick five dear favourites that may have passed you by outside this list. If you knew nothing of this music, be warned, it’s long and trippy with bags of attitude, with lots of weird ‘70s electronic and guitar experiment along the way.
Witthüser and Westrupp
Eccentric folkies and makers of two German language acid-folk LPs. Not something for the likes of John Bishop or 5Live’s George Riley for sure. But 1970’s Trips und Traüme (Trips and Dreams) and 1972’s Der Jesus Pilz (The Jesus Mushroom) are fabulous and out-there German language folk records that contain mad tap-room ballads about trips, smoking joints with English hippies, wandering round the countryside and (so I’ve been told) explaining the inherent psychedelic nature of the Bible. The cover of Der Jesus Pilz shows our heroes tripping through space courtesy of some huge (magic) mushrooms. What’s not to like?
Conny Plank and Dieter Moebius
These are two funny slacker records – and certainly ones to check out if you like weird electro. Legendary producer Conny Plank (there’s a film about him soon) teamed up with Cluster’s Dieter Moebius to make these two quirky slices of bedroom electro in 1978 and 1981. The records are a bit like Cluster’s in style, but not as sentimental or classical. The opener on Rastakrautpasta, ‘News’, is a slobbering messy beast that goes absolutely nowhere, and that’s the charm. Material’s ‘Conditionierer’ is half Jonathan Richman, half electro. Whereas ‘Tolkühn’ is a dizzy slice of lo-tech trance. You’ll probably think they’re shit.
La Düsseldorf (Thomas and Klaus Dinger)
Two chippy, working class brothers from Düsseldorf and (for me) the makers of some of the greatest music from Germany. I could list loads of their music here: but I will go for two examples. Klaus Dinger (co-founder of Neu!) produced three untouchable LPs from 1976 to 1981 with his band, La Düsseldorf. Think rock and roll meeting drawn-out electro mantras, a mix of sugar-coated pop and abrasive electro punk. The LPs Viva and Individuellos are fabulous examples of Schlager punk, But I think the first LP, La Düsseldorf is as near perfection as you get. On track two you get Düsseldorf’s home crowd thrown in. Play loud.
Younger brother Thomas made some tremendous mood music, too: his band 1-A Düsseldorf cobbled up this classic drone – ‘Olala’.
The guitarist in the legendary Neu! and Harmonia. But I’m not going to pick those (amazing) acts as they should already be a staple of your record collection. I’m going to talk about his solo work which – from his debut Flammende Herzen right up to recent LPs like The Great Adventure – is superb in places. Rother’s still on the road and you should go and watch him. I really like his LP dedicated to cats: Katzenmuzik (the titles are KM1, KM2, etc. those Germans, thorough, eh?). A reflective and sparkling record set over Can’s Jaki Leibezeit’s steady beat. The backwards track on the LP comes on like a Stone Roses B side 10 years early..
Imagine. A gargantuan double LP recorded in a Berne basement in 1973. The band is made up of Krautrock supergroup Ash Ra Tempel, folk loons Witthüser and Westrupp, various musicians from (crappy) folk rock band Wallenstein, and the celebrated Swiss gipsy mystic and Tarot card diviner Walter Wegmüller. All are vibing off the ideas disseminated by Doctor Tim Leary and his gang. And (according to legend) everyone gets fucked up on acid before they record. Not for the faint hearted but if ‘Die Welt’ ISN’T the best bit of slow burn, “third eye” funk outside of Sly Stone’s back catalogue I don’t know what is. Wegmüller got so into the whole thing that he designed a complete new set of Tarot cards for the LP.
RICHARD FOSTER – Follow on @incendiarymagazine