Rehashed #1 with NEU!
So I’ve decided to start something new here at Slumberjack. REHASHED will be series where I’ll take a second, aged look at one amazing album. Simply stated, it’s a micro review of a sonic jem.
-To start, let’s visit Germany, the Krautrock heyday and the (hugely) influential work of Klaus Dinger and Michale Rother, known together as NEU!
REHASHED: NEU! 1/2
After splitting from electronic pioneers, Kraftwerk, Dinger (drums) and Rother (guitar) formed NEU! in Düsseldorf in 1971 after recording sessions from Kraftwerk’s debut wrapped. The first, self-titled NEU! (rhymes with “toy”/German for “new”) album, mainly full of ambient, experimental swirls (see “Im Glück”) fell below the rader after it’s release on Brain Records (remastered 20 years later thanks to Astralwerks), but did succeed in introducing the world to a new sound. The Motorik beat, a then-coined term by journalists to describe the 4/4 timing heard on early Kraut records (like on Neu!’s “Hallogallo”) was only part of what made the sound innovative.
Apart from the combination of psychedelia and prog rock, Neu!’s sound evoked a greater sense of movement, flow and density then was coming from other (and equally as amazing) Kosmische bands like Can or Cluster (who Brian Eno would later contribute with). The innovation continued into their second, soaring, Conrad Plank-produced (Can, Kraftwerk) album Neu! 2.
Opening with the mammoth, 11:18-minute “Fur Immer” (later covered by Dungen), Neu 2 from 1973, starts with ten seconds of silence until cracking into a water-rushing Motorik beat and jangle guitar-line sounding like something coming from us Americans five years prior (keep in mind that most of Germany at this time had no clue about other countries musical outputs. As a result the Kraut/Kosmische sound was in fact truly innovative). A textbook example of what made the band innovators, the track, consisting of four parts, ebbs and flows under swirling synth buzzes, a punk feeling, and an ever-so-steady increasing beat until the first bridge at 2:36 drops the track back into a lazy, guitar hum, happening again just shy of the 6:00 mark and the 9:00 minute mark. The track fades out as it starts, with the mechanical sounds of a guitar drone ending with a sample of crashing waves on a beach.
NEU!- “Fur Immer” (MP3)
Apart from the storming entrance with “Fur Immer,” Neu 2 was one of the first attempts at the traditional remix idea. The widely-known story goes that after purchasing a range of new instruments out of excitement over LP 2, the band ran out of funds to finish the second half of the album, and therefore (quite intuitively), decided instead to take the previously-released “Neuschnee” single (b/w “Super”) and rework it, through a varied amount of effects, tape machines and speeds, thus creating, what Dinger would later claim as a forerunner to the modern “remix” idea (although the format just as much comes from Jamaica’s early Dancehall scene and—as it relates to dance music—from Tom Moulton and his invention of the disco 12” single in the early 70’s). Front-loaded as it could ever be, Neu! 2 might not play so much like an ‘album’ that its predecessor did, but almost holds its own thanks mainly to its first side.
The band followed up 2 (after Rother put Neu! on hold and joined Harmonia) with the six-song, Neu! ‘75 which includes, (apart from “Fur Immer”) some of my favorite of the Düsseldorfer’s tracks, “Isi,” and the starkly different, near proto-punk drawl of “Hero.”