June 23, 2011

Michael Rother of Neu! - one of the pioneering bands in the evolution of German Progressive Rock.

Someone mentions the genre Krautrock to me I always think of bands like Scorpions or Lucifer's Friend - German headbangers and practitioners of heavy metal who more or less mirrored what was going on in the U.S. and UK without too much innovation. Sure, there were groups like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream who were making inroads Internationally through their music being used in film soundtracks. But they always felt sterile to me, more about creating precise sounds and precise rhythms with not a whole pile of emotion going on (leading one to characterize Germans in general as rather cold and detached). It was bands like Neu!, Can, Guru-Guru and Faust I always thought were the innovators and part of that massive wave of Progressive/Electronic/Experimental music that took the German music scene in a whole different direction and influenced countless musicians throughout the world as a result.

Ironically, it was Michael Rother and Thomas Dinger, founders of Neu! who came from Kraftwerk in the first place and conceived this new genre, along with the soon-to-be-legendary Conny Plank who supplied direction and his innovation to make the whole thing work and become the platform that it did.

Strangely though, Neu! did not achieve the massive popularity their former bandmates Kraftwerk did at the time and I think this lead some to believe Neu! was a failure. The opposite proved to be true. Wheras Kraftwerk, who were certainly good at what they did, struck the fancy of the mainstream for a little while. Neu! managed to get under most listeners skin and become almost an unconscious influence, as is evidenced by their 1975 masterpiece Neu! '75.

Tonight's track is the second cut off the first side of the original vinyl album. Seeland is a seven minute meditation that unfortunately a 16bit embed player can't possibly do justice to. But you'll get an idea and hopefully an inspiration to check out the rest of this album, and their other material which has been reissued and gaining a whole new audience.

Neu! gives you some idea of just how much was actually going on in music during the 1970's that was not connected with the mainstream and how much it has maintained a level of freshness and attraction today that mainstream and top-40 music of that time hasn't in retrospect.

It just happens like that. I believe it's called being ahead of your time.

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