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(97:37 2CD, Fruits de Mer Records)
Prolusion. 2012 appears to mark one of the most ambitious years for the enthusiast vinyl-only label FRUITS DE MER Records. Hot on the heels of their "Sorrow's Children" homage, it's time for an even more ambitious undertaking: celebrating the 40th anniversary of the cult label Brain Records by releasing a double LP with contemporary versions of more or less well known and regarded compositions that are generally sorted under the Krautrock description.
CD 1 (47:58)
LINEUP / TRACK LIST: 1. Eroc: Intro 0:40 2. Johnny Vines: Waterfall (Jane) 4:12 3. Earthling Society: Paramechanical World (Amon Duul I) 5:12 4. Jay Tausig: Surrounded by the Stars (Amon Duul II) 5:50 5. Electric Moon: Madrigal Meridian (Tangerine Dream) 5:05 6. Anla Courtis: Trans Europe Express (Kraftwerk) 2:30 7. Vibravoid: Nearby Shiras (Kalacakra) 6:04 8. Palace Of Swords: Lila Engel (Neu!) 2:19 9. Saturn's Ambush: I Want More (Can) 2:44 10. Frobisher Neck/HSBW: Silver Cloud (La Dusseldorf) 5:23 11. Dead Sea Apes: Ruckstoss Gondoliero (Kraftwerk) 7:59
Analysis. The krautrock description is among those that will find many people unaware of progressive music scratching their heads, and I've come across quite a few that either feel that the artists described as such rather should be placed within other subgenres of progressive music over the years, and quite a few who feel that many of these artists don't really belong within a progressive context at all. Be that as it may be, bands generally regarded as belonging to this part of the art rock universe remain popular and influential even today, many with a larger following or sphere of influence than other progressive artists active at the same time, disregarding the giants of the genre, obviously. For contemporary artists, to render their own versions of this material will of course pose challenges of their own. Among the most major will perhaps be to have their renditions accepted by the hardcore enthusiasts, where one generally tends to find people who either subscribe to the notion that the cover version should follow the original to all extents and purposes, and another faction that will be disappointed if it doesn't come across as distinctly new or revitalized. Without having intimate knowledge about all the originals, my impression is that the 10 bands at the first half of this double vinyl production have fared very well indeed. Johnny Vines' version of Waterfall comes across as a heavy symphonic piece more than anything, with a rich organ motif supported by steady beats and nice interaction with the driving guitar solo that hits it at the end. Earthling Society's take on Paramechanical World sounds like more or less an early version of Hawkwind on a serious trip. Jay Tausig's take on Surrounded by the Stars is a loosely put together psychedelic construction that gradually assembles into a rich arrangement gradually getting more compact and energetic, featuring Mellotron and violin motifs aplenty amidst the distanced vocals and psych-dripping guitar motifs. Electric Moon's Madrigal Meridian is a richly arranged futuristic excursion with layered synths and keyboards aplenty, while Anla Courtis uses melodic-oriented noise cascades and dampened to the point of extinction drum patterns for a very special take on Trans Europe Express. Vibravoid's version of Nearby Shiras is done by way of a massive wall of sound with a frail flute solo on top, whispered ominous vocals and an array of psych-dripping guitar details, while Palace Of Swords serves up a severely minimalistic, machine-like take of Lila Engel. Saturn's Ambush is next up, a haunting version of I Want More, minimalistic, ominous and almost robotic in a futuristic manner. Frobisher Neck and Heads South By Weaving join ranks to craft a massive sonic array with an accordion-oriented motif central in their otherwise organ and Mellotron dominated wall of sound and psychedelic details, and at last Dead Sea Apes finishes the first half of this double LP with a loosely constructed set of psychedelic oriented layered guitars and droning textures slowly joining ranks to become an increasingly compact and energetic psychedelic excursion that drops back to the initial phase again after just over 6 minutes, slowly unravelling into emptiness. Ten songs and one introduction that all are fairly interesting, some of them very much so, with a varying degree of creative freedom applied to these pieces. Well made compositions in their own right, and, in my opinion, some superb variations on classic material. Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder it is said or the ear in this case, so opinions will most likely be divided, depending on your view of the originals, as well as how much or not this particular type of music is enjoyed.
CD 2 (49:39)
LINEUP / TRACK LIST: 1. Language Of Light: Mushroom (Can) 5:31 2. Black Tempest: Bayreuth Return (Klaus Schulze) 6:32 3. Zenith Unto the Stars: Mantra II (Popol Vuh) 4:54 4. Temple Music: Negativland (Neu!) 7:32 5. Vert-x: Dino (Ash Ra Temple) 4:48 6. Frobisher Neck: Schizo (Harmonia) 4:39 7. Electric Orange: Lied an Zons (Arno Clauss) 6:16 8. The Bevis Frond: China (Electric Sandwich) 9:27
Analysis. The second part of the "Head Music" constellation of Krautrock classics explored by contemporary artists doesn't quite manage to sustain the quality of the first part as I regard the eight pieces at hand here. While the first half had quite a few superb renditions, none of the items on this second half manage to quite reach that level as I experienced them. A strong production by all means, but not quite as superb as the first half. Language Of Light opens the ball with a purebred electronic take on Mushroom, with softly hammering synths catering for the rhythms and gliding, fluctuating synths for the melody component, flavored by dark toned voice effects and some dissonant sounds in a mostly elegant package reminding quite a lot about Tangerine Dream. Black Tempest's take on Bayreuth Return is a creation sharing the electronic approach, on this occasion a dark brooding backdrop with an ongoing plucked guitar motif and atmospheric voice effects applied occasionally in the second half. Zenith Unto the Stars covers Mantra II, utilizing a machine-like repeating rhythm effect and a sleepy female voice as main effects, with noise interruptions followed by slight additions to the arrangements where a resonating psych-dripping guitar motif in the final phase is the most noteworthy alongside an ongoing glockenspiel inspired detail. Temple Music is up next with Negativeland, a repetitive affair based around a steady bass and drum foundation first backed by a dark, twisted dampened guitar based motif and then a lighter synth based one, the two combining in the final phase of the song. Vert-X blazed through a dark and energetic space rock take on Dino, one of the highlights of the second half of Head Music, and Frobisher Neck's delightfully soft, symphonic exploration of Schizo, complete with careful dissonant effects, is another stunning sonic experience. Electric Orange's contribution is an odd one, most likely in character with the original Lied an Zons, based around a man telling a story in German backed by steady bass and big sounding drums, flavored by a dampened dark-toned and twisted guitar motif. And following a brief energetic psyched out and freaked out interlude a few minutes in the song returns to this setting. The Bevis Frond ends this production with China, an elongated, repetitive workout with a steady bass and drums foundation supporting two psych-dripping guitars soloing, with an occasional massive drone coming and going throughout.
Conclusion. If you enjoy reworked versions, and some of them are rather superb in quality, then "Head Music" is one you most likely will desire to get hold of – if you can get it that is. It's been sold out from the label in record time, so any copies that may still be available will have to be sought out in second hand stores and on ebay.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 24 & 25, 2013
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