Ruckzug to Neu!’s “Pastoral Psychedelicism”

 “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.”

Michael Rother on the “Hallogallo 2010” Tour © Jon Pareles

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

The entire New York concert can be heard here, or as individual tracks, here. And here’s a great live recording from their performance at Primavera Sound, 2010, from WFMU radio.

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.

Iggy Pop, Coconuts, Motorik beat and German experimental music. The future happened forty years ago. Enjoy it all.

3 Responses to Ruckzug to Neu!’s “Pastoral Psychedelicism”

  1. You caught my interest with this. I have a long history in music and am heavily infuenced by German electronic music.

    • Mango says:

      Glad you liked it. The BBC documentary really opened my eyes to how incredibly fertile and influential those musicians are. There’s so much good stuff to choose from – I don’t like prog rock stuff, but Neu!’s work is really something special. Have you downloaded and listened to the Kraftwerk bootleg “Radio Bremen” tracks?

  2. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit myy comment didn’t show up.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writting all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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