Thursday, 24 March 2011

That term

It was always going to come into the book at some point and I wouldn't be doing my job properly if I didn't make some reference, even in passing, to that term. What? I hear you say. I'm referring to "krautrock", the tag so often given to the generation of German musicians whose work came to prominence in the late sixties and early seventies. Last weekend I wrote a section and, with a little help from my friends, have managed to pinpoint what I believe to be the very first use of the phrase. Perhaps understandably many of the musicians whose works are given the label aren't very keen on it and I will be going into a bit more detail about this in the book. Manuel Gottsching's music took a fairly radical new direction in 1974, absorbing the influence of the minimalists and from what I understand he doesn't regard his music from that point onwards as belonging to the so-called "krautrock" genre.

This is a fair point, given the style of the Inventions for Electric Guitar album. With it's hypnotic, cyclical patterns of sound it is in most respects fairly far removed from those early Ash Ra Tempel albums or anything by The Cosmic Jokers for that matter. From 1974 onwards Gottsching never really revisited those very early years musically, preferring instead to pursue fresh areas of exploration with many of his projects. This discussion leads very nicely to the point at which I will be picking up my pen again this weekend. I am well on my way towards completing a section about the Inventions album.

....and this, in turn leads on to my next topic: Did any of you manage to hear the wonderful Sitzkissen-Konzert, broadcast on Byte FM last weekend? This vintage show from 15th November 1975 featured the Ash Ra Tempel line-up of Manuel, along with Lutz Ulbrich. The opening section was reminiscent of the Inventions for Electric Guitar album and showed just how well the duo meshed together, their guitars weaving around each other to great effect. On listening to the show it struck me how brave they were to attempt to play live in this intricate style when even the smallest of mistakes would be exposed. The fact that the audience were prepared to listen so quietly and patiently to this introspective music without cheering, shouting or talking over the top of it also points towards a different time.

With it's dramatic organ sounds the second part of the concert was stylistically comparable with L'Hiver Doux from Le Berceau de Cristal, recorded during the same year. The performance concluded with a third piece, the style of its gently flowing sequencer line later re-explored for Hausaufgabe (1978, featured on The Private Tapes) and Tempus Fungi (also 1978, from The Making of...).

The Sitzkissen-Konzert was excellent and I hope that Manuel will at some point decide to give it the CD release it richly deserves.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Sehr kosmisch

I've just finished writing a section of the book about Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser and the Cosmic Jokers. With recollections of the period at Ohr Records and its spin-off labels supplied by Harald Grosskopf and Stephan Kaske of Mythos there are some fascinating insights into the rise and fall of Kaiser's cosmic music empire.

Reviews for the Cosmic Jokers albums have been particularly hard to write, possibly because the music made by the band is so difficult to pin down. The style of the album reviews throughout the book in progress have tended to mirror the type of music that I've been writing about. With this in mind it is hardly surprising that the notes for the Cosmic Jokers albums are...well....sehr kosmisch, really. I'm rather hoping that alongside the pop art album sleeves by Peter Geitner they capture just a little of the kitsch, the colour and the wonder of the unique music made by this fantastic but short-lived band but that's for you to decide.

To write about music so out there without seeming even more out there has been challenging but also a lot of fun. More soon....

Friday, 4 March 2011

One wedding and a little Nightdust

Hello readers. Firstly I want to apologise for being largely absent from this blog for so long. As previously mentioned I've been busy getting married and the organisational process for this has taken up the majority of my spare time for the last 3 or 4 months. Here I am with my lovely wife, Vicky, on what was a wonderful day.
Our honeymoon was in Dahab, near Sharm El Sheik. On arriving in Egypt the first thing that struck me was the forbidding, hilly landscape of the Sinai Desert. I fully expected to see flat expanses of sand but many of the vistas look like photographs from Mars.
I think I had caught the sun a bit when the photo below was taken. This was shortly after a camel ride and shortly before the Sun went down on an evening that we spent stargazing out in the desert. With no light pollution it was simply amazing.

The holiday also consisted of snorkeling around corals (thankfully a shark free experience, although I was admittedly a little nervous) and a visit to Saint Catherine's Monastery where Moses is said to have seen the burning bush.
The picture below was taken outside the monastery.
Tomorrow I intend to continue where I left off with the book and I will be writing again with high hopes for the forthcoming year. This really is the last lap and by the end of the year, all being well, I should be a long way towards completion of the project. After all of this time I can't wait to share it with you.
...and so, whilst anticipating the forthcoming reissued Ash Ra Tempel CDs, I pick up pen and when I return I promise that there will be less about me and more about the book. Back shortly...