Ruckzug to Neu!’s “Pastoral Psychedelicism”
14/02/2013 2 Comments
“Boy, to put Neu! into words – the drummer was playing in a way that when you listened to it, allowed your thoughts to flow; allowed emotions to come from within and occupy the active parts of the mind, I thought. It allowed beauty to get there. The guy had somehow found a way to free himself from the tyranny of stupid of blues, rock – of all conventions that I’d ever heard. Some sort of a pastoral psychedelicism.”
Is there any higher praise than Iggy Pop, describing Neu!’s achievements and influence while opening a coconut with an electric drill?
Yes, it’s Iggy Pop and he is drilling into a coconut with an electric drill
Just listen to the track “Hallogallo” from Neu!’s 1971 debut album. The ‘motorik’ beat is utterly and completly hypnotic. Neu!’s debut album was released 41 years ago during a period of revolutionary ferment in German society and musical development. They were trying to create a completely new music, partly as a reaction to having start again after Germany’s near-annihilation in WW2. And above all, to go forward without slavishly following American or British musical forms.
The BBC documentary, “Krautrock: The rebirth of Germany” gives an outstanding overview of why and how (though unceasing experimentation) a small group of German musicians created the template for modern music. Even if the words “experimental German music” strikes fear into your heart, watch this documentary :
When asked what he remembers of that time, Damo Suziki, lead singer of “Can” and self-described “nomad, traveller and metaphysical transporter” says, “Actually I don’t have so much memories because that time I was quite stoned,” These guys were cool then and are still cool, today.
Interestingly, Michael Rother (guitarist) and Klaus Dinger (drummer) before they formed Neu! were part of Kraftwerk during its early guitar phase. This brilliant track “Ruckzug” (trans. Retreat) bootlegged from a session at Bremen Radio in 1971 features them on drums and guitar. It showcases a different kind of Kraftwerk to the purely electronic collective who are currently playing their entire back catalogue in London, but have strangely omitted these tracks from their past. Are they embarrassed at once having had used funky electric guitar?
The entire Bremen concert can be downloaded here from Filefactory.
Michael Rother (who has aged magnificently) was back on the road in 2010 with two friends, Sonic Youth’s drummer Steve Shelley and the Tall Firs’ guitarist Aaron Mullan. Their modern re-working of Neu!’s original tracks are another treat.
“Hallogallo” performed in 2010
Many of these ‘Krautrock’ bands remained prophets without honour in Germany, but were incredibly important in influencing a host of British and American artists incuding David Bowie, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, Joy Division, Radiohead, PiL and Red Hot Chilli Peppers who acknowledge their debt to these visionary artists.