Review: Karakorum – Beteigeuze

Karakorum - Beteigeuze

I’ve been on a German prog rock streak for some time now, and recently I was introduced to a contemporary act called Karakorum, whose sound, actually, is not that contemporary considering that they produce music which is a mixture of vintage prog, psychedelic rock and Krautrock.

“Beteigeuze” is Muhldorf quintet’s debut full length album, although the group released a self-titled demo album which included the three lengthy suites that “Beteigeuze” is made of. For the purpose of this release, which is available as a vinyl from Tonzonen Records, the band has reworked the three “Beteigeuze” tracks and offered a strong effort for everyone who is nostalgic for old-school 1970s inspired progressive rock.

The swirling organ of Axel Hackner and the smooth, melodic tone of guitarists Max Suchorghuber and Bernard Huber dominate the sound. The songs per se feature many fine melodies, and the suites are well constructed, with no unnecessary or redundant parts, and what is probably more important, they all flow and feel as one. The lengthy instrumentals between the sung pieces are pleasant, but complex.

“Beteigeuze” is an intense and impressive jam with lots of good themes and tight solo passages. This may not be an album overflowing with originality, and the band’s overall sound is similar to very many other bands of the mentioned era, but the overall good songwriting makes “Beteigeuze” a worthwhile album of great German progressive rock.

Get the album from Tonzonen Records.

Karakorum are on Facebook and Bandcamp.

New demo from Ezekiel Graves/Gravaphone

artworks-000087721505-fnusjh-t500x500Ezekiel (Zeke) Graves has a new demo out under the name Gravaphone.  Graves’s music, which I’ve reviewed on the pages of Progarchy before (https://progarchy.com/2013/11/15/chthonic-journey-by-ezekiel-graves/) emerges from his North Carolina upbringing but is also informed by deep soundings of electronic music, British folk, and Krautrock.  I saw him perform this song live a few months ago, accompanied by a Fender Rhodes and fiddle, which gave the song a unique coloration, but I like what he’s done with it here as well, made it darker, spare, and electric.

https://soundcloud.com/gravaphone/new-state-demo

Billy News–Krautrock Rerelease

 

For Immediate Release

Purple Pyramid Records To Reissue Seminal 1971 Debut Album By Krautrock Legends Brainticket ‘Cottonwoodhill’ On CD May 7, 2013

Warning! Only listen once a day to this disc. Your brain might be destroyed!

 

Los Angeles, CA – Much to the excitement of Krautrock fans and music collectors worldwide, Purple Pyramid Records will be reissuing the seminal 1971 debut album and psych-groove masterpiece by legendary Brainticket titled ‘Cottonwoodhill’ on CD May 7, 2013. Featuring full digital remastering for superior sonic clarity and packaged with extensive liner notes by music historian Dave Thompson!

Brainticket is the brainchild of Joel Vandroogenbroeck, a Belgian based in Switzerland who grew up studying classical piano before switching to jazz. He received the Art Tatum prize as “youngest jazz pianist” at the tender age of fifteen, and was soon touring around Europe and Africa. By 1967, Joel was still playing jazz but he found new inspiration in the sounds emanating from German Krautrock artists Amon Duul II, Can and Tangerine Dream.Under the influence of these groups, Joel and guitarist Ron Byer recruited drummer Wolfgang Paap and formed the trio that would become Brainticket. The group’s 1971 debut album ‘Cottonwoodhill’ immediately ran into a storm of controversy for its association with psychedelic drugs. The album came with a warning label that insisted you should “Only listen once a day to this record. Your brain might be destroyed,” which led to the album being banned in several countries including the USA.

From then on, Brainticket’s reputation as a band of experimentalists at the forefront of underground, avant-garde music had been solidified. Following the death of Bryer, Joel began exploring electronic sounds, moved to Italy and met an American woman named Carole Muriel. A pair of Swiss musicians, guitarist Rolf Hug and bassist Martin Sacher, followed and the group released 1972’s ‘Psychonaut’. A rock opera collaboration with Academy Award winning film composer Bill Conti (‘Rocky’) followed before Joel began work on a new Brainticket album based on the ‘Egyptian Book of the Dead’. The new album, ‘Celestial Ocean’, told the after-life experience of Egyptian kings traveling through space and time, from the desert land to the pyramids. Released in 1973, the album was hailed as the definitive Brainticket experience and earned the band their greatest acclaim.

Joel has continued to explore new creative avenues over the decades, releasing two more albums under the Brainticket moniker, including 2000’s ‘Alchemic Universe’. Recently, he teamed with Cleopatra Records to release the first ever Brainticket box set, ‘The Vintage Anthology 1971-1980’, a 4-disc compilation containing the complete first three albums along with several rare recordings. The box set is a celebration of Brainticket’s enormous contributions to electronic and ambient music that would provide inspiration for progressive bands from Emerson Lake & Palmer to Yes as well as modern acts such as Radiohead.

Joel recently discussed Brianticket with writer Dave Thompson, “We were not a group, we were a place where creation was made and this place was Cottonwoodhill, even if it was never mentioned in the later albums. Besides myself trying to keep this together, every recording has different people. In general, it did work to our advantage. There was an encounter, an inspiration, a production and after that everyone went away on his own path. I believe that this concept is what made Brainticket so original as we never were the ‘perfect concert band.’ We had something different to offer.”

They still do. In 2012, Brainticket went out on the road, touring the US with a set that reached all the way back to these magnificent beginnings. And when he was interviewed at tour’s end, Joel was still flying high. “At the start I didn’t believe that this would be possible, but I can say now that this was one of my best experiences with Brainticket. New blood flew in my veins. I was invited all over the place and the concerts were a huge success. People my age that were still huge fans of Brainticket mixed with young generations that wanted to learn from me, what I knew, and experience what I had done with music. It was like a dream. A space rock invasion!”

And now, with the re-issue of Brainticket’s debut album ‘Cottonwoodhill’, fans can experience where it all began!

Advice… After listening to this disc, your friends won’t know you anymore!

To purchase Brainticket’s Cottonwood Hill CD: http://www.amazon.com/Cottonwoodhill-Brainticket/dp/B00BSHYWMQ/ref=tmm_acd_title_popover

For more information: http://brainticketband.com

Press inquiries: Glass Onyon PR. PH: 828-350-8158, glassonyonpr@gmail.com

Krautrocksampler

I first became familiar with Julian Cope’s music through his being associated with other cracked heads who worked in the wake of original famous British acid casualty Syd Barrett. He first came to prominence in the late 70s and early 80s, as singer for the Teardrop Explodes, one of those bands, like Simple Minds and Echo and the Bunnymen (contemporaries and both of which Cope alternately respects and dismisses in his excellent autobiography Head On), that at the time were constantly being compared to the Doors. I never got this point of comparison, though others couldn’t let go of it, to the point that Echo and the Bunnymen couldn’t either, to their detriment.  Following the collapse of Teardrop Explodes, Cope went solo and slowly seemed to disintegrate, Syd Barrett-like, into pastoral psychedelecisms.  Then came Peggy Suicide, a double album with a refreshed and matured Cope confidently leading his long-suffering and new fans on a garage pop narrative of environmental and political disorder at the twilight of the century.  It’s a masterpiece and I became a fan, seeking out his old records (Fried, the most immediate Barrett knock-off, became a favorite) and keeping a line on him.  I moved to New York in 1995, and one day I was browsing the book section of the Virgin Record Megastore in the heart of Manhattan, and happened upon Krautrocksampler by none other than Julian Cope.  I knew next to nothing about the genre, although I owned a Can compilation and had heard of some of the groups, like Popol Vuh and, of course, Kraftwerk.  But sheesh, I thought, this has to be good.  It was a beautiful, compact book, with glossy full-color photos and text everywhere.  The cover, as I later learned, was the same image adorning Amon Duul II’s album, Yeti.  I put down my $10 and walked out with a copy.  I couldn’t put it down.  Cope was a passionate writer, and this, a passionate subject for him, bubbled with enthusiasm, humor, serious asides, and deep observations.  I could see him writing it and not being able to keep up with the flood of thoughts and emotions.  Over the next months I spent hundreds of dollars on import CDs of krautrock legends, some of which, in Cope’s patois, was shite, some of which glimmered with genius.  I left New York considerably wiser, and considerably poorer, as regarding krautrock.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m in North Carolina, again perusing the music section of a book store, this one at UNC Chapel Hill, when I spy the Modern Antiquarian, by none other than Julian Cope.  Apparently in his spare time, Cope developed another passion, for British stone circles, becoming something of an authority.  Inspired, I got on Amazon thinking I’d find it cheaper, and I didn’t.  I think it may have already been out of print. And, as it turned out, so was Krautrocksampler.  The kicker was that people were selling their used copies of Krautrocksampler on Amazon for over $100.  Sheesh, I said again, if only I’d bought two copies.  Then I found the link below, and sold my copy for $175 (I am not kidding).

http://www.swanfungus.com/2006/10/krautrocksampler.html

You might call this copyright infringement, and “swanfungus” is quick to note the out-of-printness of the book, something Cope doesn’t seem to care about anymore, as his reason for posting.  I call it a public service.  The best book on music I have ever read.

Yeti – Amon Duul II

It’s easy to over-think the meaningfulness of German rock (Krautrock) of the late 60s and early 70s, especially since its image has always been somewhat cerebral and cold in itself. Too much from the head, not enough from the crotch, some have complained. Its players meant for it to be “head” music certainly, and all that implies – there was an intention to the music, a commitment to experiment and improvisation sparked by the intellectual and chemical freedoms of the 60s. But at its best Krautrock conjured a mood distinct unto itself, which in its post-WWII teutonic heaviness could be as threatening and scary as any music ever made, and in its experimental innocence also convey a warmth and humor that speaks to the soul. The album Yeti does both these things. Amon Duul II’s second record is a double-album monument of dark European soundscapes that possess a Led Zeppelin heaviness without an over-reliance on the blues or a dependency on rock cliches. The hard riffing has a much more exotic, eastern European or central Asian tone, and the improvisatory tenor, no matter how edited the music might have been in the end, contributes to the feeling that this is NOW music, that this music is happening in the present. Made in 1970, it could be straight out of any time in history. It’s as heavy as Beethoven, as Gothic as, well, the Goths, as free from the restrictions of language as Can, as art-y as Roxy Music, as punk as you think you are, and ROCKS in its way like the most electric god of all time. So yeah, it’s music that’s actually worth thinking about.

I wrote this review of Amon Duul II’s mighty “Yeti” in 1999, three years after purchasing the Japanese import in New York City (at Other Music, then across from Tower Records, a David and Goliath story if ever there was one) for not a crazy amount of money but more filthy luchre than usual for a CD. It ripped my musical head off my shoulders.  I’d been toting around Julian Cope’s classic Krautrocksampler (rarely has so little done so much for so few — we krautrockistas are few and far between) for a few months, and was finally purchasing some of his recommendations, many of which were back in print in small runs precisely because of this book. I’d walk the 80 or so blocks back to my apartment, roll a cig (a habit long abandoned, and not without some regret), and listen.  Then sometimes I’d wander across the Park to the Museum and stack up the visual on top of the aural.  I don’t think I did that with Yeti.  As its title suggests, it is indeed a monster.  You need to be laying down.

German rock became Krautrock kind of after the fact, like lots of things in pop culture —  valued down the line as a historically easy grouping.  Amon Duul II was a motley collection of Munich musical dissidents, the ones who kept playing their instruments after the rest of the commune (Amon Duul) got lost in the trip.  Luckily, the ones who stuck around were all stellar musicians, operating on the fringes of the jazz and classical avant garde — they’d show up again in various groupings of Popol Vuh, Embryo, and other Munich-based bands that pushed the limits and resisted definition.  English musicians would float through — Dave Anderson from Hawkwind stayed for three years — and there IS a Led Zeppelin comparison here: the bigness of the production (for 1970, the drums and bass are nicely separated and very spacious, something maybe only Black Sabbath and Zep were really doing, i.e., bringing heavy production to heavy music), the playing is fluid but not without spontaneity’s imperfections (Jimmy Page’s contribution to rock guitar and what kept Zep fresh can be heard in the guitar/violin interplay here), and the music’s composition balanced with improvisation is its real skin and bones.  Yeti was Amon Duul II’s second album — their first, Phallus Dei, is another story — with various members contributing to the original Amon Duul’s music as well (beware though, the original group’s records are trippy, scattershot, undisciplined affairs with flashes of brilliance but extended periods of over-indulgence).  A double album, it alternates between extended, suite-like proggish pieces (“Soap Shop Rock”), shorter instrumental drones (“Cerberus”) and anti-pop pop constructions (“Archangels Thunderbird”).  The album is capped by the title track, a long jam that manages not to disappear into its own navel gazing — not an easy task.  If the Allman Brothers grew up teutonic, the longer bits of “Fillmore East” would sound something like this.  The vocals on the record are all over the map, used for effect as much as relating narrative.  Renate Knaup’s voice conjures Grace Slick on “Archangels Thunderbird,” while the demented howl of “Eye Shaking King” is truly frightening.  Amon Duul II would go on to make a bunch of records, some pretty good, some overrated.  I think this is their real highpoint, where they built the template they’d continue to follow.  There’s a knife-edge here, a balancing act, that is palpable.

So 13 years after I wrote that review on Amazon you can buy Yeti there as a digital download for 8.99. Awesome.  But if you do I hope you bring to it the one thing so easily missed in downloading music: the element of ritual.  Give it space, give yourself room.  Be prepared.

Here’s the shortest track on the record, “The Return of Ruebezahl.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sg67exWYxYw

— Craig Breaden