Tag Archives: Faust

August 3rd, 2016 – April 22nd, 2017 (Twenty second week)

This one took a while, maybe the longest gap between entries so far. I actually cheated and listened to other records that I haven’t included here but will include in the next post, if there is one. I’m feeling unsure about this whole thing again. First, it’s very self-indulgent and not interesting to anyone but me. I know I’m doing this for myself, but it’s hard to shake the thought that it doesn’t need to be online. I’m also doubting the efficacy of it. First, it took me almost a year to listen to ten records (well, a bit more, but you get my point), so is it actually urging me to listen to more records? At the same time I also went beyond my self-imposed ten records a “week” limit and listened to other things I haven’t written about yet.

I think that after the initial rush of actually listening to 10 records every week, this blog became a way with which I’m cataloging what I listened to. The idea is that I can go here and read about records and see what were my impressions of them because sometimes I really don’t remember. If I really liked a record or really didn’t feel a record, and I don’t remember that, then I have reason to put it on. The issue, though, is that I almost never check this site to find out what records I should listen to again. Another problem is that writing the entries takes a while. It’s just so much time and I find myself wanting to spend this time on other things, which is because I don’t have the need to express myself in this way about records I listened to.

So is this thing over? Maybe. Right now 220 records in almost two years seems like a pretty good accomplishment to me.

1. Conrad Schnitzler – Rot [1973]

“Holy crap!” was my reaction as soon as I put this record on because the sounds are just so incredible, full of clarity and focus, and beautiful and weird both at once. He creates suspense, anticipation, and progressions with just sounds, no melodies to help the pieces evolve.

What I really like about this record, and I think Con is similar in this way, is that it’s timeless. It could have easily been made today and no one would have thought it sounded dated.

Rot predated Con by a few years, and I think it stands on its own. However, it’s a lot more abstract than Con. I think I listened to Rot 20 times now, but I can’t really sing anything out of it. Of course, I would recognize it if it played somewhere else, but there’s really nothing that I can grab onto to remember the record, hum it to myself, or anything like that.

2. Faust – Faust [1971]

I’m going backwards. I started with Faust IV which was their last record, then to So Far, and now to their first record. It’s interesting hearing their progression in reverse.

This record is more jam-y and kind of psychedelic. It seems obvious to me from listening to it that they were into a lot of British bands of the time, but a lot more experimental than any of those bands were. There are little drones, stuff that sounds a bit like collage, weirdo vocals, synthesizers, and spoken word.

I read a review of Faust IV before that sort of called it their mainstream record compared to the records that preceded it. I see where that reviewer came from, but I disagree. Faust has longer stretches of noise/experimentation, so naturally it’s a more difficult listen, but experimentation isn’t measured in length. I think experimentation has to do more with how far the artist goes outside of their comfort zone, and whether or not they’re doing something that was done before. Artistic experimentation is a personal thing and Faust IV has them doing different, new things. Faust IV has them moving completely outside the British psychedelia thing.

3. Conrad Schnitzler – Blau [1974]

My first thought was that this record is more musical than either Rot or Con, which in my mind it’s a bit diminishing but I really shouldn’t think of it that way. Blau is just easier to follow because there are identifiable intervals and melodies that don’t sound like transmissions from another planet. The end of the first track has a guitar!

Where this record really shines is the bonus tracks. Even though I had access to them, I didn’t listen to them at first because I try going by how the record was originally released. However, one time I let it keep playing and I was absolutely hooked. I think it’s fair to say that like the “actual” record these tracks are also musical, but at the same time they’re a lot more radical. Just like Rot this record definitely sounds like it could have been released today.

4. Suicide – Suicide [1977]

A couple of years ago I was talking to my friend about cats and he told me one of his cats is named Frankie Teardrop. So I asked what or who he named him after, and he played me the Suicide song. I asked if that’s how the song just goes for 9 minutes and he said “yeah”, so I replied “yeah, I got then idea then”. Now that I think about it, that’s probably when he stopped liking me very much.

It’s kind of funny that that was my attitude three years ago. Not sure why. I like this record, and I like Frank Teardrop, but I honestly haven’t listened to it a lot. Probably because it’s so intense.

5. My Bloody Valentine – Glider [1990]

I read an interview with Brian Eno on The Quietus before his latest record (The Ship?) came out. He listed his favorite (or recommended) records and this was one of them. I listened to Loveless before and it didn’t grab me, but that was easily 10 years ago.

When I put it on my wife looked at me and said “what is this? pop music?!” and yeah, the first song is like that. The second, Glider, is awesome noise, err, collage? Or maybe a collection. Then a couple more songs that are more like what I remember Loveless to be like, except that I now like it. The ghost-like vocals (especially the ones sung by a woman) are hitting a spot for me, but I think what really does it for me is that the band sounds like one instrument. Like one human played all of them at once. All of it – vocals, bass, guitars, drums, feedback – the band gels together real well.

There’s something comforting and predictable about this record. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but it’s almost like I know where the music is going. It’s not a bad thing, even though I think I’m making it sound like it is. I think I’ll just have to keep listening. Thanks, Brian!

6. Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen [1968]

Leonard Cohen died at the end of 2016, and I started writing this entry in 2017, but I actually listened to this record last summer before Leonard Cohen died.

I never really listened to Leonard Cohen before. I heard Hallelujah, of course, but that was it. I heard some of his songs on WZRD here in Chicago and I liked them immediately. I went ahead and got this record (one of the songs they played was Marianne). I like it, but I find that I feel about the folk revival the same way I feel about hardcore punk, which is that the genre was really saturated. I think that the folk revival had more finesse to it, but at the end of the day it’s a man or a woman with an acoustic guitar singing songs, and I like it, but I don’t have the need to listen to every folkie. I do, however, think that folk has more to offer because the singers usually have pretty unique voices. Also, some folk musicians evolved when the 60s expired – like Dylan and Cohen did. I should also say that I don’t feel this way about actual folk music from before the Great Depression.

So where does it put me when it comes to this record? I don’t know. I like the songs and the lyrics seem good (I never really “get” lyrics), but I don’t desire to listen to it often or a all.

Yeah, this entry isn’t saying much.

7. Silver Apples – Silver Apples [1968]

The first thing I noticed is the compact, succinct drums. The drums sound like loops or a skillfully programmed drum machine, because there’s little to no variation between one bar to the next. On Program, a four minute track, the drums are exactly the same for a minute before there’s a drum fill. Then it’s the same beat with a bit of accents on the snare. It really is like a drum machine where the accent has been turned on for the snare hits, but you know, with a beating heart. It’s interesting that this was happening here in 1968 while at the same time Jaki Liebezeit was working in Germany on similar of minimalism and repetitiveness of the rhythm.

The tone generators do a lot more than I thought they could. What I mean is that I have heard of the Silver Apples before and knew what they were about, so I formed this idea that it’ll be very primitive in terms of the notes and sounds. It’s not like it sounds like a synth, but it doesn’t sound rudimentary either.

I have talked before about how I experience music differently when I sit in front of the speakers vs. when I do stuff around the house. That’s about how much attention I’m paying to the record, but with this one, there’s no way one can experience it when not being in front of the speakers. This record is panned like a lot of 60s records, but it has this really psychedelic, trippy effect here. I actually felt a bit nauseous at times.

 8. Fire! – She Sleeps, She Sleeps [2016]

Fire! is sort of a supergroup that I’ve only recently heard of even though they’ve been making records since 2009.

I spent some time thinking about if this record is “new” or not, and I know it’s stupid and is a problem that’s plaguing me, but what can I do. At least it makes me listen to things more intently. Anyway, yeah, I think it’s new.

They create an atmosphere in each song in a way that I don’t think I hear often. Part of it is the recording, which is exquisite, and makes me feel like I’m in the room where they recorded. But it’s also something about the timbre of the instruments and how they blend together. Instruments drop in and out and let others take over, but at the same time no one is ever claiming all the space that was given to them.

It’s free jazz but it’s not pummeling the listener like a Coltrane record could. Mats Gustafsson creaks and howls, but he’s also following a tangible melody and not cramming a million notes in. The guitar is also unconventional to free jazz – no virtuoso solos or disjointed ba-bee-boop solos, and no too many chord changes when accompanying the rest of the group. The guitar player sort of just spits out sounds that add to the atmosphere.

Lastly, the drums. Very choppy but at the same time flowing. Beautiful beats.

9. Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity [1975]

I think this might be my favorite Kraftwerk record so far. I like all of them, and they are all different, but I like what this one establishes. The tracks are beautiful and kind of sound like German folk songs but with synthesizers and drum machines instrumentation. There are “space” sounds. There are odd sounds. It’s a little experimental. Their singing is great. They essentially talk with a bit of a tune in their voice, but also none of them is a “singer”.

Unfortunately, not all the tracks on this record are like that, onlyRadioland and Ohm Sweet Ohm. The rest are shorter, and either more experimental and “weird” or more, eh, bubble-gum-y?

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about this record, at least for now.

10. Joy Division – Closer [1980]

This record is the sole reason why it took me so long to finalize this post. I actually finished listening to all these records way before 2016 ended, but I had and still have a hard time connecting with this record, or Joy Division in general. It’s not that I think that Joy Division were bad, but that the mood of their music is very specific and I never find myself in that mood. I also noticed that whenever I listen to them I’m a little hungry and their music makes me desperately hungry.

I like most of the songs on this record with the exception of a couple, but the thing for me is that at first they weren’t memorable. What happens often when I listen to music is that it either wows me as I’m hearing it, so then I want to hear it again because I remember that it blew my mind (for instance, Conrad Schnitzler records did that), or that a couple songs get in my head and I went to listen to them again. With Closer, none of the songs wowed me or got stuck in my head, so there was never something that was driving me to listen to it again other than feeling like I should listen to the record so I can write about it. It’s only now, April 2017, that I woke up in the morning and had Twenty Four Hours and Decades in my head, and that’s because I listened to Closer last night in order to familiarize myself with it further.I’m still conflicted when it comes to their “sound”. The records sound awesome, but their sound also places them in that time period. Moreover, it was Martin Hannett’s sound and not theirs.

 

 

March 3rd – May 3rd, 2016 (Twenieth “Week”)

Exactly two months! I didn’t plan for that to happen! I actually finished listening to all these record maybe two weeks ago, but didn’t have time time to write about them until now.

So far this is working really well for me. I get to listen to a lot of new music while going back to stuff. There’s no rush, but there’s always the motivation to find more new music.

1. Faust – Faust So Far [1972]

I’m writing this as I’m listening to this record a third time. It’s not as catchy as IV, which isn’t to say that IV is poppy! What I mean by catchy is that IV has more songs, and they’re weird songs, but they’re songs. So Far has fewer “songs”, and it’s mostly sort of jams that are reminding me American psychedelia. So my point is that it’s not as easy to get hooked on this record as it was with IV. Also, I think that the “songs” songs weren’t as good.

One thing I noticed is that they use I’ve Got my Car and my TV in Faust IV (Picnic on a Frozen River, Deuxieme Tableaux), but it’s way goofier here.

 2. Morton Subotnick – The Wild Bull [1968]

I re-watched I Dream of Wires a couple of weeks ago and I really enjoyed hearing Subotnick talk about the first Buchla and some ideas he had (and still has) about music. He didn’t just want to expand the vocabulary of music, but also to make music accessible to people who aren’t musicians. He talks more about these ideas in this interview. The video is great, but it’s worth anyone’s time to read the full text.

As far as the record itself, it continues what he started with Silver Apples of the Moon. Definitely broadening the musical and sonic vocabulary, but I think this one might be a tiny bit more approachable in the sense that there are more rhythms and sometimes even melodies. The beginning of Part B is great in that sense, but the whole record is fun to listen to. Also, full sonic spectrum on this record. Ridiculous low end and a lot of popping high frequency noises.

3. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – Self-Titled [1963]

This is a Facebook recommendation. From the way people talked about it, and I think phrases like “opened my mind” were thrown, I thought this will be a very different record – free jazz, but maybe bridging the gap between what people view as jazz and free jazz. I thought also that Johnny Hartman is a piano player, but he’s a crooner. That probably tells you what kind of a record this is!

Because I totally misread the conversation about this record, I was a little disappointed that this is an easy-listening/soft jazz record with crooning vocals, but it’s been growing on me with each listen. The solos are pretty good, and Johnny Hartman has an amazing voice, although the crooning definitely puts a time-stamp on the whole thing, so I enjoy the solos a lot more than when he sings.

4. Tangerine Dream – Atem [1973]

I keep wanting to compare this record to Zeit, and that’s unfair. I mean, they probably didn’t try to make the same record again, and why would they? But still, Zeit is amazing, and I want more of it, but not exactly more like it. Also, these two records were released a year apart.

Zeit has certain finesse to it that Atem is lacking. Zeit builds up so slowly, almost excruciatingly slow, but there’s always enough progression to keep the listener hooked. It’s kind of difficult to explain this without listening to Zeit. The timbre of Zeit is also unique, because the cellos mix in with the synths to create this one complex sound. Atem has interesting elements, but it lacks the finessed progression and timbre uniformity. The title track has a lot of layers that are introduced at once and feel detached from one another, but not in the sense where they don’t fit, but in the sense that they don’t intertwine as well as they do on Zeit.

The rest of the record has a lot of what I always call “sounds of the forest” (did I use that before? probably), and those sounds truly do sound like sounds from a forest, and it’s cool because it was new back then, but I feel like there’s not a lot behind it. I might be wrong in saying this, but I think they might have gotten caught up in the equipment and lost track of the music. They play a lot with where sounds are panned, and there are weird sounds on, and a lot of synths, and it all amounts to something, and that something isn’t bad, but also doesn’t really floor me.

(God damn, this turned into a review AND a comparison to Zeit.)

5. The Necks – Vertigo [2015]

These guys are playing Chicago this week (not the week when this post will finally be finished), and I never heard of them before so I decided to check them out.

My understanding is that their performances and records are just them continuously improvising for about an hour without a predefined theme. Or maybe there’s a theme that they know about, but the point is that the listener doesn’t hear a melody or a chord progression that is then improvised on. However, they do resurrect themes within the piece, but never in a reprise kind of way. Even though it’s all improvised, musically it’s not jazz, unless we broaden the definition of jazz, and it’s actually kind of closer to krautrock.

EDIT: I saw them live. It was really good and a much different experience from just listening to the record. The drummer was really fun to watch. He never once played a beat or hit the snare with a stick. During the second set he played the hihat in a way I never heard anyone play it. He was sort of riding it but was getting these crazy resonances out of it. A truly unique drummer. Both sets were different from each other and different from the record, and I really won’t do it any justice by trying to describe it. I also take back what I said about it being jazz. This is what jazz sounds like in 2016. It’s improvised, it has the same instruments that jazz music has (bass, drums, piano), so I’m calling it – it’s jazz.

6. Eliane Radigue – Vice Versa, etc. [2009]

If my understanding is correct, Eliane Radigue made those pieces for an installation. Later she pressed a few copies of it, and in 2009 they were reissued as a 2xCD thing.

These pieces are described as “feedback on magnetic tape”, and what I believe this means is that she fed one tape machine into another, and then back into the first, so they naturally started oscillating and feedbacking, and she was controlling it with input/output level potentiometers on the machines. At least I think that’s what she did. Basically, it’s a drone.

I like that it’s a step further from Western music, and I like the way it sounds, but it’s impossible to listen to it while doing anything else. If I don’t let myself be enveloped by the music, then a lot of the minute details are lost. I’m also not sure it makes sense to always sit through all eight of the tracks, because while they’re somewhat different, they’re still conceptually the same, so I keep thinking, “what did she achieve in one track that she didn’t achieve in another?”

I decided to try and answer that question so I googled this record, and I stumbled across a Pitchfork review of it. In it it says that the eight pieces are really one piece, played at four different speeds, and backwards, and that Radigue meant for the listener to choose the order of the pieces and which ones to play together. So, yeah, I totally missed the point!

(I gotta try and mix and match the pieces!)

 7. Popol Vuh – Hosianna Mantra [1972]

I only listened to this record once, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s kind of vanilla, and doesn’t fit with any of the krautrock I listened to so far. It just doesn’t sound very experimental. For instance, the first half of the record is guitar, piano, and sometimes a female vocalist. The guitar is playing sort of blues-y stuff, the piano is, eh, I don’t know, doing its mellow thing, and the singer is la-di-da-ing over it. She’s not pulling a Renate Knaup (who later joined Popul Vuh). If krautrock is counterculture music (which it is), then this record sounds like a later Pink Floyd record more than anything. I guess it’s neither Schlagger or American or British “blues” rock, but it’s also not pushing the envelope, really.

Maybe it’s a matter of expectations, and that soured my opinion. Maybe now that those false expectations are out of the way I’ll get what this record is about.

8. Charlemagne Palestine – Strumming Music (For Piano, Harpsichord, And Strings Ensemble) [2010]

Charlemagne Palestine is another musician I’ve been meaning to listen to for a while now, and after the Necks’ first set (see earlier in this post), I was talking to my friends who also went and one of them mentioned how the piano playing was reminiscent of Charlemagne Palestine. That was enough to get me to try and check him out.

I’m not sure how to describe what’s going on here, so I’ll start with the basics that can be figured out with googling. There are three tracks and they’re all in the same “style”. However, the first track is solo piano played by Palestine himself, while the second is harpsichord (not played by CP), and the third is played by a string ensemble. All the pieces, of course, were written by Palestine, which is weird because I thought Palestine improvised more. Also, I have no idea how one write a 50 piano piece like the one on this record. Anyway, the piano piece was recorded in the 70s and I believe it was released on its own, and this reissue (and maybe a few earlier ones?) include the other pieces.

So the solo piano piece is ~52 minutes long and it’s an incredibly unique slice of music. Even though the Necks were sort of similar in some ways, the two are still quite different and Charlemagne Palestine sounds just as fresh to me. Yet, I still don’t know how to describe what’s going on there. If you ever listened to music that was done with loops that are going in and out of phase, then it kind of sounds like that, except it’s not loops and he’s playing everything himself live. There are a lot of resonances going on and just sitting in front of the speakers I start hearing things that aren’t there. At times it sounds like there’s another piano playing, but then when I shift my focus I can tell that it’s only one piano.

Like I said earlier, the other two tracks are similar, but they don’t hit the mark quite as well as the solo piano piece.

9. Laurie Spiegel – The Expanding Universe [1980]

As my interest in krautrock is splitting into minimalism, I asked a friend to recommend some minimalist music. He recommended Laurie Spiegel’s The Expanding Universe.

Spiegel created all these tracks while she worked at Bell Labs in the 70s, but I’m not sure at what capacity she worked there (programmer? music/technology researcher like Max Matthews?), but she created these four tracks, and a bunch more that came out when the record was reissued in 2012.

Musically, I really like this record, but the sounds drive me nuts. What I mean by that is that the synthesizer sounds are all very cliche, and almost 8-bit sounding. I’m sure this was by design because Laurie Spiegel doesn’t look like someone who would consider the sounds as an afterthought, but it is really grating to my ears. The last track, The Expanding Universe, has better sounds although they’re also a bit cliche. It is also my favorite piece on the record (original issue, not the reissue).

10. Tony Conrad with Faust – Outside the Dream Syndicate [1973]

Tony Conrad just passed away and I had no idea who he was until now, so I asked a friend to recommend a few of his works. He said I might find his with collaboration with Faust self-indulgent, but I still had to check it out because it’s with Faust. His description was, “you know ‘It’s a Rainy Day’ from So Far? so imagine that, but slower and with a violin drone”. It’s a pretty good description,because it is similar in that way to “Rainy Day”, but it’s so much more than just that. There are subtle changes in the drums and bass, and the violin playing is quite amazing – obviously inspired by the Tanpura that’s used in Indian music, but different enough where I don’t think it’s just some dude trying to play classical Indian music.

The second track, From the Side of the Machine, offers more variation in the drumming and bass playing than the first, all the while still maintaining violin drones. Oh man, this track also has a lot more weird noises that just pop up on either side of the stereo all of a sudden. It kind of feels like they were warming up with the first track and then jammed this one out. Yowza!

I think that the similarity between this and Faust (what I know of their catalog) ends with the drum beat, but from what I know about them, it seems like this was absolutely up their alley.

January 3rd – February 10th, 2016 (Eighteenth “Week”)

I’m back, but in a different configuration!

The idea now is that I’m going to write about 10 records I never listened to before, but this time there’s no time limit. So it’s ten records a month? two weeks? three and a half? two months? These ten took a little over a month to listen to. I hope to keep this pace, or maybe even listen to more every month. We’ll see. I’m just happy I found a way to keep motivating myself to listen to new stuff while also taking the time to listen to music I already know and like.

 

1. Ravi Shankar – Improvisations [1962]

I became interested in Indian music, not sure how or why, but I realized I should check out this  stuff. So I heeded some advice and got this record.

I think I’ve been exposed to some elements of classical Indian music through Western music (not the Beatles), so this is outside my “comfort zone” but also familiar at the same time. Speaking of familiarity and exposure through Western music, John Fahey totally “lifted” the first song, Improvisations on the theme music from ‘Panther Panchali’, for On The Banks Of The Owchita from the Dance of Death and Other Plantation Favorites. However, what he does with it is different enough that both his version and this one are original sounding and interesting to me.

The second track has a western jazz band backing Ravi Shankar, and I find it a little distracting. My cat digs it, though.

2. Curtis Mayfield – Got to Find a Way [1974]

I wasn’t very excited about this record on my first listen. It’s a little more schmooze-y than Curtis and Super Fly and that takes a while to get used to. Also, the first song, Love Me (Right in the Pocket), kind of loses direction after a while. It’s an amazing song, but maybe it could have been five minutes instead of 7?

Overall this record is definitely a lot more “baby let’s turn the lights real low” than all the other Curtis stuff I’m familiar with. It almost feels like that’s his response to Let’s Get It On, or something, but it’s still Curtis, which means it’s some of the best music out there.

3. Curtis Mayfield – Sweet Exorcist [1974]

The first time I listened to this one, I liked it more than Got to Find a Way. Now I’m not so sure. Again, it’s Curtis Mayfield. He was one of the best song-writers, producers, arrangers of our time. This record, though, sounds a little more like “generic” funk and soul. I’m not sure exactly how to explain it, but it’s very different than his other records (particularly Curtis and Super Fly)

4. Ravi Shankar – Ragas & Talas [1964]

It’s tough to talk about this music because I don’t have the language to do so. I have no references and things to compare it to. In this case I can compare it to Improvisations, so I’ll do that. I think it’s a little more hardcore than Improvisations, just in terms of length and the playing. There’s no jazz band backing him here (even though it was just on the one track), so maybe it can be thought as a little more out there.

At the time of editing this post it’s been a few weeks since I listened to this record. It was a weird time. I got really into Indian music for a few days, listened to these records a few times, and then fell of the wagon. I need to revisit them and listen to more Indian music in general.

 5. David Bowie – Young Americans [1975]

This Bowie’s faux-funk/soul record. It was recorded in Philadelphia with soul and funk musicians, one of them was the drummer for Sly and the Family Stone!

Bowie himself described this record very well by calling it “plastic soul” and saying, “the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey.” Pretty much. It’s not a bad record, but it doesn’t have the same emotional impact as the music it’s trying to imitate. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, and I think that the idea of plastic soul is actually cool, and I like “cold” things that groove (like electronic music), but somehow this doesn’t hit the mark in the way I hoped it would. I think that maybe Bowie didn’t commit enough to either direction. It’s not “plastic” enough to be this cool fusion that I was hoping for, and it’s also not soul enough to be, well, soul.

6. David Bowie – Low [1977]

This is a cool record and in some way it’s more eclectic than his records I’ve listened to thus far. He definitely dropped the “show-tune” sounding songs and moved on to stuff that is pretty weird, like Warszawa, and even the happy, peppy A New Career in a New Town is a departure. I like it, but I think some of the other songs take me a little while longer to warm up to because they don’t sound as fresh now as they probably did back then. What I mean is that so much stuff is still directly influenced by it, so it kind of sounds like something I have heard before, even though I think he was the originator.

7. David Bowie – Lodger [1979]

When I first listened to this record I thought it’s the weakest Bowie record I listened to so far, and it might be the weakest, but it’s still very interesting. He maintained some of the “pop sensibilities” from his glam years, most notably in Fantastic Voyage and African Night Flight, and that made the record start slow for me. Then Move On has some elements that kind of throw you off, like the backwards vocals; they totally make the song for me. Red Sails almost sounds a Neu!, and D.J. sounds like a Talking Heads song, which is probably why I thought it sounded familiar.

The more I think about it compared to Low, I think that he definitely went back to the pop stuff. It’s pop songs an experimental wrap, because there are weird elements all over and no guitar solo is “normal”, but then none of the songs totally commits to weirdness like Warszawa or A New Career in a New Town from Low.

8. David Bowie – Heroes [1977]

The last (for me) in the Berlin trilogy.

A lot of stuff on this record sounds like a precursor to the 80s, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Some songs are great, like Heroes (check out the NPR interview with Tony Visconti where explains how they got the guitar to sound the way it sounds), V-2 Schneider, Moss Garden, and Neukoln. So basically, half the record is spectacular.

9. Amon Duul II – Phallus Dei [1969]

I listened to Amon Duul II before, but it was maybe 10 years ago and I don’t remember much of it.

Amon Duul (I and II, I think) get labeled as krautrock, and I don’t know if I hear it in the first track, Phallus Dei. It sounds mostly psychedelic with heavy emphasis on improvisation. The next entry about Faust IV has me writing about what I think is krautrock. I didn’t want to move it here, because I didn’t think of it when I was listening to this record and writing about it.

I hear more krautness in Kanaan, but you know, this doesn’t sound like Neu! and it also doesn’t sound like this next Faust record. The rest of the record sounds to me more like an anomaly to what I consider Krautrock. More in this below.

10. Faust – Faust IV [1973]

Why did no one turn me onto krautrock in my youth?

The first track, Krautrock, sounds to me like the intersection between Can, Cluster or Harmonia, and Neu! There are a lot of similar ideas, like what I like calling the “jet” guitars, and the fuzz-wah on the guitars. There’s some of Can unruly-ness, and the beat, which is a tambourine and slightly percussive and repetitive synthesizer line makes me think of Harmonia and Cluster. Now there’s drums playing a variation of motorik and that’s pretty awesome, too, although I wanted more of the “just” tambourine beat.

Skinhead sounds like it is meant to parody skinheads. It’s obvious from the first few seconds of music and made even more obvious by the lyrics. It’s kind of a joke-y song, but still has interesting elements to it.

Jennifer makes me think of what makes krautrock krautrock, other than being music that was made by German bands. I always see certain elements of the music being used. For instance, people say that it’s the synthesizers and motorik. But a lot of bands of the time had synthesizers, all the prog bands did! And I take motorik to mean a very specific drum beat (snare on the 3, hihat on all four, kick when there’s no snare), or a variation of it, which is what you hear in Neu! but other krautrock doesn’t necessarily have it. The first and most obvious characteristic of krautrock is that they don’t care about traditional song structure. There’s no verse or chorus, they just riff on the same idea for 10 minutes. Then the bigger characteristic is that the music is some form of minimalism. There are a lot of instruments playing – bass, drums, guitars, keyboards, percussion, vocals, but they all play something that is simple and repetitive. For instance, the drums are super stripped down, all simple beats with almost no fills, and when there are fills they too are simple and subdued. So the result is music that is complex and slowly changing, but every element of it is simple. Contrast that with prog where the music is complex, rapidly changing, and every instrument is playing something that is very complicated. Another difference is the way the synthesizers are played. In prog, it’s one sound and the player is playing it like a piano. In krautrock, it’s one note and the player is playing with the sound. And another is that in krautrock they’re not afraid of manipulating stuff after it’s been recorded – editing or messing up with the playback, where in prog everything is supposed to sound like one continuous performance. Lastly, I noticed that a lot of these bands love having two songs in one track. There’s the longer song, which is the main song, and then when it ends, they just tack a slightly weirder, shorter passage to it. Jennifer has it, as well as almost every song on this record. I don’t know if they got that from psychedelic music (I’m mostly thinking of Pink Floyd’s first couple of records), or if it’s unrelated, but yeah.

Taking into account Phallus Dei, I think the best way to describe what krautrock is to say that it’s German experimental rock from the late 60s to the mid 70s.