Tag Archives: Krautrock

May 4th – August 2nd, 2016 (Twenty first “week”)

Almost three months since the last entry. For what it’s worth, I think I finished listening to all these records almost a month ago, but writing something substantial about them required more time. Also, school as well as other things had gotten busy. I don’t know why I’m explaining myself to… myself.

Sort of strayed a little bit from Krautrock. There’s Joy Divison here, as well as Autechre and Plaid, and Chuck Brown. I think the next “week” will have more Kraut in it.

1. Kraftwerk – Autobahn [1974]

I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I’m reading David Stubbs’ Future Days, which as you can guess from the name, is a book about krautrock. I’ve been trying to listen to the music of the bands he talks about as I’m reading the book, and some of them I’ve been familiar with, but now he’s spending a lot of time on Autobahn which I never listened to before in its entirety, so that’s why I’m here.

I listened to the title track before, maybe it was a decade ago, and I wasn’t impressed with it, even though the refrain (fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn”) has been in my head since.

It’s interesting to read what Stubbs writes about the motivation for Autobahn, like how it’s Kraftwerk’s version of an idyllic Germany (or even the whole world?). I don’t know how much I buy into all of it, but I will say that the track Autobahn definitely gives the feeling of driving on an empty highway. What’s funny is that on this first listen, Autobahn is my least favorite track. It’s good, but the second side of the record is a lot more interesting to me, and things really come alive in Kometenmelodie 2 onward.

2. Tony Konrad – Four Violins [1964]

Almost self-explanatory from the title. Four distorted electric violins that drone and sound mostly like screeching doors. I like the droning part of it, but it’s hard to sit in front of the speakers and listen to four screeching doors. If I stand far back, or do something else when this is in the background, then it becomes easier to listen to, and sometimes it sounds like bagpipes playing and not violins. However, I’m right in front of the speakers as I’m writing this, and there are are subtle changes that I’m not sure I’d catch if I were in the kitchen making food.

This is a recurring theme in a lot of the avantgarde music I’ve been listening to. On one hand, it’s tough to sit in front of the speakers for 30-45 minutes and listen to the music because it’s literally not an easy listen. But then if I step back and avert my attention to something else, I also lose a lot of the subtlety of it.

3. Tangerine Dream – Alpha Centauri [1971]

Alpha Centauri came right before Zeit and it is very obvious that it is the precursor to Zeit. It has a lot of the same elements that Zeit has – slow buildups and eerie melodies, a lot of synths, and very few actual drums. It’s not as epic as Zeit, but it’s a good alternative when I don’t have the time to listen to all of Zeit.

4. Stereolab – Not Music [2010]

This record, like Transient Random-Noise, etc. was a slow burner. The first few listens didn’t leave any impressions on me. It was neither good or bad. It was mostly long (still is). But now I’m starting to open up to it and things are clicking.

This record is whimsical – a lot of toy-ish and retro sounds and noises, but at the same time the songs themselves are serious, so it doesn’t sound like Jean-Jacques Perrey, but definitely has his sonic influences. I think this band has found a musical niche and have been exploring it since then. What I mean is that I don’t think they’re straying very far from where they started. If you listen to Transient Random and Not Music you would know that it’s the same band, where with some bands you wouldn’t know, because the circles around their origins are much wider.

5. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures [1979]

My familiarity with Joy Division is anecdotal. I remember watching the live video of She’s Lost Control (you know which one) maybe 10 years ago, and I was totally into it. Then I listened to the record and that song sounded nothing like the live version. I don’t know if that alone turned me off to the rest of the record, or if it’s the fact that the record sounds similar is what turned me off to it. Anyway, here I am again listening to it a decade later.

Even now as I listen to it, I think that the production detracted in some ways from the songs. I like the production, and I know it was revolutionary (still is in some ways), but it reigned in the aggressiveness of some of the songs. It works for some, like New Dawn Fades, but it totally messed up a song like She’s Lost Control. The production makes the album a slow burner for me, because it takes me a while to uncover the songs under Martin Hannett, but at the same time I enjoy his radical ideas for a rock band.

6. Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers – Bustin’ Loose [1979]

So the other day my wife and I were watching TV and then this commercial comes on and it has the best groove, I jump out of my seat and ask her to rewind and she’s like “Uhh, that’s Nelly’s Hot In Herre”, and like yeah I think I heard it before, but don’t really know it. So I spent a few days listening to Nelly’s Hot in Herre, and then I moved on to the song that sampled it, and that’s Chuck Brown’s Bustin’ Loose.

So Bustin’ Loose, the song, is awesome. The record is almost split between ballads and more up-tempo grooving songs. I like the up-tempo songs better because the slow stuff isn’t hitting the spot for me. It’s not like a slow Curtis Mayfield song. The up-tempo ones are good, but keep in mind that they’re not hard hitting grooves. They’re more mellow. Still a good record that I should listen to a couple more times, I think.

7. Kratwerk – The Man-Machine [1978]

I accidentally skipped over Radio-Activity and Trans-Europe Express (I’m going to go back to them), and it’s amazing to hear the difference four years made in this band. This record has less experimentation and more songs, as in verse and chorus and singing (although sometimes vocoderized).

The last two tracks, Neon Lights and The Man-Machine, are more experimental and “meandering” like the old records, and for now, after listening to this record once, I prefer them over the songs.

8. Plaid – The Digging Remedy [2016]

Can’t find an angle with this record. I have stuff to write, but I don’t think I get this record. It’s not an abstract record, so it shouldn’t be hard to get – I just don’t. Here’s what I have:

The only other Plaid record I know is Double Figure, which is fifteen years old, but I don’t feel like The Digging Remedy is that different. Some songs on this new one sound like they could have been made during the time they made Double Figure. The songwriting and a lot of the sounds they get (even though their process now is different) are the same. This disappoints me a bit because I keep holding every record to this ridiculous bar that it has to be groundbreaking. This record isn’t groundbreaking, and it has a few good songs (Do Matter, CLOCK, Yu Mountain, Reeling Spiders), but these songs don’t pull me back like a bunch of songs on Double Figure did. I think if it had more songs that I deemed good I probably wouldn’t complain about how innovative it is (or isn’t).

 9. Autechre – Tri Repetae [1995]

I read this interview with Autechre a few weeks ago, and it made me want to keep delving into their discography. These guys are cool. I like how they can talk about what they do without being “my art” kind of people. It’s a good interview to read if you’re at all interested in electronic music and how it’s made today.

I picked this record because in the interview they say how the one before it was the first “weird” record they gave Warp, and Warp loved it and it sold, so then Tri Repetae is where they let loose and do whatever they want. At this point I’ve listened to this record at least ten times, and I still don’t have something substantial to say about it. I like the sounds. It’s very intricate, like a painting with million little details. I also enjoy how some of the sounds are annoying. “Here’s this high pitched buzz/rattle that maybe not everyone is going to like”, but it’s interesting. The tracks themselves don’t floor me. I do like Leterel, Stud, and Rsdio, but the rest leave me ambivalent. It’s frustrating because I like a lot of the sounds and I keep constantly feeling like I’m just missing something crucial. So I want to keep listening to it, but it’s also over an hour long.

10. Can – Soundtracks [1970]

My first listen to this record left me bitter. It didn’t sound like a Can record! It sounded like schmaltz except for maybe a couple of songs. So on my second listen, along which I was writing this entry, I came in trying to defend that bitterness.

The first song is from the movie Deadlock and has the same name. It’s actually a pretty good song that maintains the Can-ness that I’m used to, but it’s pretty short compared to their other songs like it. Tango Whiskeyman, the second track (also from Deadlock), is where I’m reminded of my bitterness. It’s got good groove, but the actual melody is very schmaltzy. Then the chorus comes in and I’m really surprised that they went for this low hanging musical fruit. I tell myself that seeing how two of them were students of Stockhausen and one was a free jazz drummer, it was probably a conscious choice. The song does have a good break in the middle, though. The last song, She Brings the Rain, is also very out of character of Can. It’s a faux jazzy ballad that has no place on a Can record. I mean, I get that that was their thing – they were experimenting and seeing if they could do something like a jazz ballad and make it sound interesting. It’s fine, but I’m not into it.

The only reason I bring up these two songs that I’m not into is to circle back to my previous bitterness – the record is book-ended by them and that’s probably what left a bad taste in my mouth. But most importantly, I think I had a sprout of personal growth here. I didn’t like the record at first and I started writing with the intention to defend my dislike, but then halfway through listening I realized that maybe I just wasn’t listening very closely the first time around. So instead of defending my position before, I decided to open my mind. Cool.

So why is this record great? Because of all the other songs. Mother Sky is a perfect and quintessential Can song, and the others are succinct Can songs. I can see why some people think of it as the best Can record. (I disagree and would probably go with Tago Mago, but that’s for a different post on a different blog.)

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February 11th – March 2nd, 2016 (Nineteenth “Week”)

Got this one done pretty quickly! I actually finished listening to all the records on Friday, February 26th, but took some time to re-listen to things and edit. There’s more krautrock here and some more music that is a little out there, as well as totally “normal” stuff, like Liz Phair.

1. Chris Walla – Tape Loops [2015]

I’m not too familiar with tape loops music. I listened to the four Ambient records Eno did, and that’s pretty much it, and that’s the extent of knowledge I have when it comes to ambient music. I should actually listen to the Eno records again because it’s been a while.

I really like the idea of tape loops. Looping in the digital realm seems like cheating. It’s a lot more impressive when there’s a machine that can be tricked into playing the same section of tape over and over, and I like how the loop goes outside the machine and through everyday objects in the studio (or home). Chris Walla’s record is interesting to me from this aspect (and he talked about the technical side of recording it and making the loops in Tape Op #111). Musically, I find it hard to relate to, partially because it sounds a lot like Eno’s ambient records, and in fact Walla said in that Tape Op interview that one track is actually him trying to reverse engineer an Eno piece.

I only listened to it once twice so far. In an interview I watched with Terry Riley he said that loops reveal more of themselves and change the more you listen to them. So far it hasn’t revealed much, and a part of me wonders if the fact that he made it with old technology (tape) cornered him into making something that’s already been done.

2. Conrad Schnitzler – Con [1978]

This entry is edited [June 16th, 2016] from how it was originally posted.

It took me a couple of listens to start understanding this record, and since those couple of listens I’ve listened to it probably 20 times. There’s something about this record that even if you don’t initially get it, you want to go back to listen to it. For me, I think what kept drawing me to it was the sounds. It just has really amazing electronic sounds, so I kept going back to listen just for the way it sounds more than anything. I think that the sounds are still my main fascination with the record, but I also enjoy the rhythms and melodies in here.

Schnitzler was in Tangerine Dream (briefly) and in Kluster, and originally I thought this record will sound like Cluster (because Cluster was Kluster minus Conrad Schnitzler), but that doesn’t make sense. Kluster sounded nothing like Cluster, but at the time I initially wrote it, I barely got Kluster. It wasn’t until recently that their records started to click for me. So the point of this detour is to say that Con is actually a continuation of Kluster’s music more than it touching on anything Cluster did. Con is an abstract record, and the tracks don’t have a clear theme. There are melodies and beats, but they are sparse and they’re not meant to drive a song as much as they’re there to drive a feeling or a moment. I’m not sure that makes sense. When I first heard the record it actually reminded me of Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon (see Week 11) in the sense that both are broadening the musical vocabulary. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that musically similar.

3. Tangerine Dream – Zeit [1972]

This entry is also edited [June 16th, 2016] from how it was originally posted.

Originally I said that I couldn’t figure out what to write about this record, and to be honest, I still don’t. I have listened to this record multiple times, but it’s a double album and I don’t always have the time to listen to it all in one sitting, so I end up not listening to it as much as I want.

Musically, I don’t know what to call it. It’s not the krautrock of Neu!, or Can, or Faust, or Kraftwerk. I’m not sure what people mean by kosmische musik (“cosmic music”) but my feeling is that this record falls into this category. The best way I can describe it right now is that this record is like watching a storm. It’s like being somewhere very open, like a field, and watching a storm slowly heading towards you. At first it’s just an image from afar, but then the winds are getting stronger, then the sky is turning grey and the light turns a different color. Then it seems like it should start raining at any moment and maybe there’s a bit of a drizzle, but all of a sudden the storm is gone. It takes a turn right before getting to where you stand and goes in a different direction. That’s what this record feels like to me. There’s a great, long build up, but it’s not really building up to anything big or pompous, it just takes a turn and quiets down.

There’s not a lot more to say about this record except that the instrumentation is pretty cool. No drums (I’m pretty sure), just a bunch or synthesizer and something like four cellos.

4. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville [1993]

I read an interview in an old TapeOp with Brad Wood who recorded this record (produced it too?) He worked with a lot of Chicago rock bands that I like or are related/similar to bands I like. Anyway, it was a cool interview, and I decided it’s finally time to check out Liz Phair.

From what I understand, the record is a response to Exile on Main Street (which I never listened to), a very 90s response in the way the songs are written, recorded, and the way her voice sounds. It didn’t really grab me on a first listen (it’s also very long), but after listening to it I was humming a few songs, so there’s that.

I want to say that I’ll listen to it again, but it is very long, so I doubt it would happen. I do like Liz Phair’s voice, though.

5. La Düsseldorf – La Düsseldorf [1973]

La Dusseldorf is Klaus Dinger’s band (he was in Neu!) with his brother. Of all the krautrock labeled records I’ve been listening to recently, this one jives with what I always thought is considered kraut the most. It’s similar to Neu! but a little more rocking and goofier, but not as intricate.

I’ve listened to it two or three times and I can’t tell if there’s anything else that will reveal itself or if this is it.

6. Ash Ra Tempel – Ash Ra Tempel [1971]

Amboss starts off sounding like Tangerine Dream’s Zeit (see above), but then it turns into a “freakout” jam, or whatever you want to call it. Essentially, it’s a 15 minute guitar solo, and while I love guitar solos, this one is a little uninspiring.

Same thing with Traummaschine, the second track. Starts abstract and ominous, and then after 10-15 minutes there’s the long guitar solo again.

7. Damaged Bug – Cold Hot Plumbs [2015]

This record was mentioned in a thread about krautrock a while back (different from the one I was referring to in the Conrad Schnitzler entry), and I listened to one song and was intrigued.

I would describe this as “current krautrock”. There are other influences in here, some of them I can’t put my finger on exactly, but the drums are all motorik or a variation of it, and every song has a synthesizer playing along. However, the sounds they’re getting, especially out of the synths, are leaving me a little cold. I feel like they went with the first sound you could get out of a Mini Moog. I feel like it would be a whole different record if the sounds were more messed up.

I will have to revisit this one a few more times for those other influences to kick in.

I’d like to mention here that I listened again to Stereolab’s Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements again, and man oh man, I really dig it now. It didn’t click the first few times I listened, but I’m totally in now. I just thought I’d mention it here since I consider Damaged Bug to be modern/current krautrock, and so is Stereolab.

8. Manuel Göttsching – Inventions for Electric Guitar [1975]

I was talking to a friend about how I’ve been listening to krautrock and early electronic music and he suggested I check out Manuel Gottsching’s record New Age of Earth. As I was looking Gottsching up, I saw that he was in Ash Ra Tempel and that he also made the record I’m writing about right now – Inventions for Electric Guitar. Being someone who’s always interested in music that pushes the guitar further, I decided to check Inventions first.

Inventions for guitar is a good way of describing this record. The guitar playing itself isn’t different (and he’s not doing any prepared guitar stuff), but the processing of the guitar – lots of delays and loops and arpeggios, that is different. It’s interesting but I’m also conflicted about it. First, the sounds are sounds you could get out of a synthesizer, and like I said the playing isn’t different than “regular” playing in any meaningful way.

Musically, I don’t know if you ever played around with a guitar and a looping pedal, but it’s easy to corner yourself into boring patterns, and that happens a lot on this record. However, some moments are cool, like from 12:30 until around 17:50 in Pluralis. Quasarsphere as a whole is pretty good.

9. Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry – Symphonie Pour Un Homme Seul [1950]

This is a musique concrete record, and if you don’t know what it is, then go read on Wikipedia because it’ll do better job of explaining it than me. Basically, it’s music that is composed with found sounds and existing music, so essentially it’s a collage. I think it’s easy to discredit it from today’s perspective, because we can record whatever, and then load it into whatever DAW and organize it the way we want. However, this record came out 66 years ago, and all they had were mono tape machines, so it took a lot of foresight and tape splicing to put together each piece. I don’t think it’s wrong to call that composing. It’s just that they were composing with already existing sounds.

Even though this isn’t my first exposure to musique concrete, it is the most avant-garde record I have ever listened to. What makes it so extreme for me is that I cannot follow the narrative. I don’t even know what is the narrative! I think music always has narrative, and this idea is very instinctual (just thought of it) for me and not something I can put into words yet, so I won’t even try. But anyway, music always has a narrative, and it’s not the lyrics or a narrative the listener can follow like a story. It’s something about the song that keeps it propagating. Sometimes I start listening to something and I want to know where it’s going, because the narrative seems interesting and I’m not familiar with it. Sometimes I start listening to something and I know where it’s going so I turn it off – the narrative is boring. With this record, I don’t know what is the narrative, but I believe there is one for two reasons. One is that from what I read Schaeffer was a smart guy, so he probably didn’t just whip something together without giving it much thought. The second is that the technology of the time was so limiting that there’s no way someone could compose something like this without a clear idea of what they’re doing.

I think that intent is what separates avant-garde from fake avant-garde. Everyone can hit random keys on a piano and say “here, I made an avant-garde recording”, kind of like Mirror Father Mirror. You can program a computer to do that. But when there’s intent to stretch boundaries, and there’s a particular process for stretching those boundaries, then it becomes interesting.

So yeah, no idea what the narrative is here, but I’ll keep listening.

10. Perry and Kingsley – Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Spotlight On The Moog [1971]

As I was finally getting Stereolab last week, I read about about Transient Random-Noise Bursts and it mentioned something about this album. I think they sampled something from it. Anyway, I know some of Jean-Jacques Perry’s music so I jumped in.

This is electronic music in the sense that it’s music being played with synthesizers. The actual music, though, isn’t different from pop music of the time, and in fact most of the tracks on the record are covers of famous songs. This is the same criticism that the west coast synthesizer people (San Francisco Tape Music Center) had for Wendy Carlos’s Switched on Bach. Playing classics on a synthesizers isn’t expanding music.

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.

Seventeenth Week: December 27th, 2015 – January 2nd, 2016

This is the last week of this thing, at least for a while. Essentially, it boils down to me only moving forward and listening to new stuff once or twice, but not getting to dig in deeper. I also don’t get to listen to stuff that I know and love and just want to listen to again. Scaling down from 10 records to five made the “project” very do-able, but it didn’t make other music-listening any easier.

I initially started this project/blog because I felt like I wasn’t listening to enough new music. I got a little jaded with the stuff I know, and I knew that there’s a lot of music out there that I don’t know, so challenging myself to actively listen and explore new music was a great solution, and it literally opened up my horizons.

I became acquainted with 140 records, all of them I listened to for the first time in the past 17 weeks. Now is the time to go back and listen to them and get to know them very well. A week or two break won’t be enough to do that, because of the same life limitations that make it difficult to listen to 10 (or 5) new records every week. If I ever reach that point again where I only listen to stuff I know and I get bored with it, then I’ll start listening to five new records every week.

I should say, though, that writing about what I was listening to enhanced the listening experience, and I was getting a lot more out of one listen than I would otherwise. It also helped cataloging things in my head, and having a record of my thoughts on them helped me not forget them. So I’m going to keep writing about new records I listen to, and maybe publish a post when I listen to five or ten new ones.

If you’re one of my friends who kept checking on this site every week (or whenever), then thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to read. If you stumbled on this website and you took the time to read it, then thank you, too.

1. Ron Carter – Third Plane [1977]

Saw this at a record store for $7 and figured that a record with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams can’t be bad.

It’s not bad, but it’s not what I hoped it would be, which is funk inspired jazz like Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters stuff. Instead it’s these three dudes jamming on what sounds like Real Book standards. In fact, when I said to my wife “I don’t know about this record” she said “yeah, it’s perfect for background music” (she was doing some work).

The second side is a little better.

2. Terry Riley – In C [1968]

Absolutely gorgeous and relentless. Nothing like I ever listened to before, although there are similarities between it and some Philip Glass works. It’s going to take me a while to decipher this whole thing, but it’s really incredible.

3. Kluster – Zwei-Osterei [1971]

This record, like Klopfzeichen, is very avant-garde compared to Cluster, and I like it more than Klopfzeichen. it’s pretty amazing to hear the change between the two group. You could say Cluster is almost pop music compared to this stuff.

Anyway, not much to say about this record, other than that it’s more a collection of sounds and truly minimalist. There’s also a lot of spoken word, but I have no idea what the guy is saying because it’s in German. I think I heard Hiroshima at one point, so maybe WWII?

 4. Harmonia & Eno ’76 – Tracks and Traces [2015]

I bought the new Harmonia box set (don’t worry, I had a gift card for about half of it and sold some records). It has all the material that Harmonia ever released, pressed on vinyl, and this record, along with a few extra tracks is in there. I decided to write that the year is 2015 because it does have some extra tracks (I’m listening to it with the extra tracks).

It’s a pretty fun record so far. Very ambient-y, more than Deluxe or Musik Von Harmonia in my opinion. I find that around that time in the 70s, that was Eno’s thing – always try and turn things into ambient music. It’s not bad, but so far I think that is kind of holding Harmonia back. I’m also only on the first side, so I’m holding off on any real judgement.

The fourth side of the record is really strong with a couple of excellent tracks – When Shade was Born and Aubade.

5. Stereolab – Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements [1993]

I like this record better than Dots and Loops. It’s more experimental (kind of) and has motorik, and the songs are overall better. However, at a little over an hour it’s a bit too long. Going to put this one on more often than I will put Dots and Loops probably.

 

Sixteenth Week: December 20th – 26th, 2015

1. Thoughts Detecting Machine – Work the Circuits [2015]

Thoughts Detecting Machine is Rick Valentine who was in Poster Children, who I don’t really know very much about. He plays everything himself (guitars, bass, programmed drums) and performs it all by himself too – just him playing guitar and singing, and a computer as a backing band. The first time I saw him live was pretty incredible and I bought his EP immediately. I’ve since seen him two more times and it didn’t have the same effect on me. One time I thought I was just watching someone look at his computer and play guitar, and the third time fell somewhere between the other two performances. Anyway, I bought this LP.

It’s alright. It’s a similar production and songwriting like what’s on the EP I have, but the songs aren’t as good. I think one song was at the level of the EP, but (of course) I only listened to it once, so maybe some things haven’t just sunk in yet.

2. Anthony Braxton – Creative Orchestra Music 1976 [1976]

This is an interesting record. It’s a mix of bebop and carnival music with some free improvisation. Some songs (like the first one) even have bebop solos. I like this mix of straight ahead and free stuff. It makes me appreciate both more.

3. Stereolab – Dots and Loops [1997]

Another band I’ve been meaning to check out for a while. I think it’s happened more than once that I’d hear this cool song and ask what it is and be told it’s Stereolab, so here I am listening to what I think is their most successful album.

It’s kind of lounge-y, a little like Jamiroquai but not as coked up (the first couple J records were great!). It’s also a long record, and those are always difficult the first time you listen to them. I think I need to listen to it where it’s more in the background than almost the sole thing I’m focused on, get used to the songs and see how I feel about it.

4. Can – Soon Over Babaluma [1974]

Did these guys jump the shark? Possibly! In terms of sonics they’re maybe being more innovative than the previous records, but the songs are kind of meh.

5. Cluster & Eno [1976]

You know who’s playing on this record.

Only listened to it once and I’m not feeling it. It’s more ambient than the stuff Cluster was doing, and sounds closer to “modern” electronic music than 70s electronic music. I feel like it’s more about sounds than actual songs, but at the same time it’s different than the Kluster record from last week. As always, I’ll give it a few more listens, but I don’t have any hopes that they’ll reveal much.

Twelfth Week: November 15th – 21st, 2015

I’m making some changes! From now on I’ll listen and write about five records every week. Five is the minimum, maybe I’ll get in one or two more, maybe not. Probably not. I’ll write more about it below my writing about these five records that I listened to, so scroll down if you’re interested.

 

1. Neu! – Neu! [1972]

I think this record is the embodiment of Krautrock, which  is a funny thing for me to say considering I just listened to it and only recently started delving into Can and Kraftwerk. However, I had a peripheral knowledge and understanding of Krautrock, and what I mean is that this record is full of that drum beat that I’ve always associated with Krautrock, and the slowly evolving simple musical idea.

It took a few listens for me to warm up to this record, mostly because I felt like the songs don’t have enough variation. I know, it’s silly because I just say that the slow progression is what makes this the embodiment of Krautrock, but sometimes I feel like it’s too slow. Anyway, after a few listens Hallogallo started revealing more of itself to me.

I think the tracks that shine the most for me right now are the last two parts of Jahresübersicht. Part 2 is great for its jet sounds, the slowness, the speeding up or slowing down after the breaks, and the jet sounds (really, a guitar) harmonizing with the bass around 5:10. The harmonizing is pretty sweet. Part 3 is great for its intensity with the weird, quiet, and strained singing. I absolutely love it.

2. Neu! – Neu! 2 [1973]

This record sounds like they were forced to make another one but didn’t have enough material. For instance, one song, Super, is there in three different speeds – 16rpm, 33rpm, and 78rpm. Neuschnee is there in two speeds. A few other tracks sound like collages and I’m fine with that, but it doesn’t seem to serve a purpose. Reading the Wikipedia entry for the record, it seems like they ran out of money and just reused the songs from side 1 in side 2 (hence the speed up/slow down).

Anyway, the first side is still cool and enjoyable, but this record doesn’t hold a candle to the first.

3. Can – Ege Bamyasi [1972]

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Vitamin C before, but it wasn’t Can’s version. Maybe in a movie? I don’t know. Anyway, it’s my least favorite song on this record. And in general, I’m not into this record as much as I’m into the others. It’s got some good moments and everyone brings their A game, but the songs are just not that great.

4. The Impressions – Keep On Pushing [1964]

Curtis Mayfield’s first (?) band. I think it’s interesting to hear the similarities between this stuff and his later stuff, like Roots, Curtis, and Superfly. For instance, his guitar playing is exactly the same. On the other hand, the songs themselves aren’t as good as on those three records. It’s a fun record to dance too, though, and I did like Amen. Or at least it stands out more than the rest.

5. The Impressions – People Get Ready [1965]

Similar thing to Keep On Pushing, but I wasn’t hearing as many callbacks (callforwards?) to later Curtis Mayfield records. There’s a lot of soul music out there, and it’s all good in the sense that it’s pleasing to listen to, but most of it isn’t mind blowing or making me come back to it. Also, I only listened to this record once, so I may be jumping the gun with these assumptions.

 

As far as scaling down to five: Five is more manageable than ten. Ten means it’s more than one record a day, and I actually don’t get to listen to as much music on the weekends, so 10 a week is actually 10 in five days, which is two records every day. It might be cakewalk for other people, but it’s tough for me. In the past few weeks I was stressing over listening to all 10 records every week, and I felt like I wasn’t giving each record as much attention as I should. I also wasn’t getting to listen to stuff I already know. So basically, the whole thing was starting to shift from being something that is fun to do and exposes me to new music, and into being a chore. I don’t want this to be a chore. I want it to stay fun. Also, week 12 was supposed to be last week, but I didn’t get to listen to all of the records from week 11 until halfway through week 12.

Yeah, it’s a little defeatist. I started with 10 records! High and mighty! Now I’m down to five. I’m fine admitting defeat. It’s all for the fun of it. I just want to listen to new music. I want it to be enjoyable. If I’m miserable because I’m stressing over whether or not I listen to enough music, then it’s missing the point completely.

I’m keeping the Ten Records a Week address. It’s got all the ten records weeks, and no one really cares about the address.