Neu! - S/T
Ever since the legendary recordings of German greats Neu were reissued in 2001 by Astralwerks, I have been continually blown away and have found new moments of discovery each time I drop the needle. It all started with their first release, Neu!, released in late 1971 on the massively influential Brain label.
Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger started Neu in 1971 after fallout from their early days in another German legend, Kraftwerk. Apparently, their work ethic and temperament didn’t gel with Florian Schneider so the duo started working with producer Conny Plank on something new in Hamburg.
Their new sound must have felt like a line in the sand. While it doesn’t seem like the various Krautrock bands were totally cognizant of what each band was doing, it does seem like there was some kind of competition to reach further, to be on the cutting edge of what’s next. Neu is certainly that. Dinger introduced, and basically invented, a new, propulsive and continuous style of drumming in which a 4/4 drum pattern was repeated with little variation. It came to be known as “motorik” though Dinger referred to it as his “Apache beat.” Combined with Rother’s transcendent and languid guitar, Neu’s sound was minimal, psychedelic, massively hypnotic and unlike any group of their day.
The first cut on Neu1, “Hallogallo,” is regularly thought of as their trademark, standout track and for good reason. Dinger’s seamless drumming and Rother’s swirling, backwards guitar is perhaps one of the most beautiful and transfixing songs in music. Talking music, in it’s entirety! Rother and Dinger show such a fine sense of restraint and leave plenty of space letting each song breathe and resolve effortlessly. “Weissensee” encapsulates this as Dinger eases back on the kit while Rother weaves wah-wah and fuzz guitar between the pulses. The pace this time is more deliberate, however the placement and the timing of it all seems note perfect. “Negativland” is the major departure on Neu! with Dinger using his Japanese zither (koto), to usher in a noisier element for a temporary reprieve from the serene “Im Gluck.” It’s a shocking juxtaposition as jackhammers run headlong into a menacing bassline prepared by Rother before Dinger serves up heavy doses of distorted and reverberated koto noise.
Neu! is a classic, ESSENTIAL, LP for everything it presents, and everything it doesn’t. The sound is revolutionary for its approach and technique but also because of its simplicity. We know that Brian Eno would become aware of Krautrock and come to Germany to record with Harmonia (which included Rother) which in turn, may have indeed influenced his development of the ambient genre. It’s hard to believe that Eno wasn’t exposed to tracks like “Im Gluck,"Sonderangebot" or “Lieber Honig” and not been moved by their minimalism. Along with the motorik holiness of “Hallogallo” and “Negativland” plus the aforementioned austerity of the quieter tracks, Neu is an absolute stunner. If you’re new to German progressive kosmiche, aka Krautrock, this should be at the top of your list. And Neu ‘75 right behind it! (Dom)
Check out an excerpt here.