ULTIMA THULE / AUDION #0
1979-1981 articles and reviews by Alan & Steve Freeman
A little bit of background....
This publication was issued as a magazine of 100 or so copies in 2007. This web version is reformatted and omits some graphics. The material here is written by Alan & Steve Freeman and featured in the fanzines Face Out and Neumusik. Face Out was a very home-made job, typed onto plastic templates and then printed on cheap paper using a Gestetner duplicator. Neumusik was an A5 low-tech photocopied publication, and many of the early issues are slowly fading away! Face Out's Chris Furse resurfaced in the 1990s for a while, having moved away from London. Another writer for Face Out: James Parker also resurfaced and has since written for Audion. Most of the other people involved have long disappeared from the scene it seems. David Elliot went on to work for the British Council and has been travelling the world since. He also wrote for Sounds and other mainstream music magazines and he also contributed to the first issue of Audion. We last met him at an Urban Sax event in London, and last we knew he was in Thailand!
From Face Out, issue 5 (August 1979)
HÖLDERLIN to HOELDERLIN
Hoelderlin are a group that we only recently found out about, who, on first listening, blew our minds. They are a classy rock group with a cosmic/folk touch and riveting viola work, and are easily on par with other groups in this class; for instance: Jane, Novalis and Satin Whale. Although at times they can resemble Genesis and Gentle Giant, they have managed to keep their own sound and original style.
The group were called Hölderlin when they first formed in 1971 at Wuppertal, West Germany. At this time they had a female vocalist, Nanny von Grumbcow, who sang in German. The rest of the group were: Christian von Grumbcow (guitars) and Jochen von Grumbcow (cello, organ, etc.), Peter Kassenberg (bass), Christoph Noppeney (cello, viola) and Michael Bruchmann (drums, percussion). The only album we know about is HÖLDERLIN'S TRAUM. Their style at this time was very much folk-rock. The next few years are a bit hazy, except that Jochen guested on Tangerine Dream's ZEIT playing cello.
Then in 1975 came the 'new' group, with a slightly changed name in Hoelderlin and a new approach. Nanny had left and so they now sung in English, they had now cut back on the folk sound bringing in a new cosmic sound, Jochen and Christian dropped the 'von'. For the debut album of this new line-up, Peter's brother Joachim joined on guitar, Christian took over lead vocals and Joachim switched completely to keyboards. The album itself is quite amazing, and highlights are Schwebebahn, a surging instrumental with layered viola work, and Honey Pot, which shows their brand of humour as a silly story about a man who collects honey pots, and imagines all the things he could do when he sells them, only to have his favourite item fall on his head. He then realises that 'this is not the way to happiness'. Deathwatchbeetle is a 17 minute epic with superb dynamics portraying the story of the insect in question. It is arranged perfectly and has a guest appearance by Conny Plank on synthi.
CLOWNS AND CLOUDS followed a year later. The Kassenberg brothers had left and been replaced by Hans Bäär on bass and guitar. Their style became more sophisticated, and Streaming (along with Phasing) on side two show new ideas coming out. At this time they were verging into similar areas as Grobschnitt (could it be that Hans Bäär is Baar out of Grobschnitt?).
In 1977, Christian dropped his role as vocalist/guitarist to concentrate on managing the group, writing lyrics, and designing album covers and the stage sets. Pablo Weeber joined as guitarist for RARE BIRDS, the next album. It has a similar formula to that used on CLOWNS AND CLOUDS. The title track has a very haunting feel, contrasted by the hurtling instrumentation of Necronomicon.
1978 sees the peak of Hoelderlin's career with the release of the amazing LIVE-TRAUMSTADT, There are 7 tracks on this album selected from their last 3 outings plus Die Stadt, a mind-blowing improvisation which really shifts. Here Christoph Noppeney shows that the viola is by no means a redundant instrument in rock music. Soft Landing has cosmic riffs that only Hoelderlin can produce.
HÖLDERLIN'S TRAUM, Pilz 20 21314-5, 1971
HOELDERLIN, Spiegelei INT 160.601, 1975
CLOWNS AND CLOUDS, Spiegelei 160.607, 1976
BARE BIRDS, Spiegelei 160.608, 1977
LIVE-TRAUMSTADT (DOUBLE) , Spiegelei 180.602, 1978
From Face Out, issue 5 (August 1979)
ELOY: a German rock legend
Eloy are one of the most consistent rock bands to have come out of Germany, instead of going 'commercial' or maintaining the same standard, Eloy have progressed through the years. The only other bands who have done the same have been Hoelderlin, Jane and Grobschnitt, who they can be classified along with sometimes. They were formed in the early 70's, and they released their first album in 1971. Until 1973, their history is not at all clear. The line-up at this time was bank Bornemann (guitar and vocals), Fritz Randow (drums and flute), Wolfgang Stoker (bass) and Manfred Wieczorke (keyboards, guitar and vocals). What is for sure is that they secured a contract with EMI-Electrola, who they have been with to this day, and promptly release INSIDE, which included the dynamic Land Of Nobody with some fantastic organ work from Manfred. This track is far superior to the Floyd's Echoes, which taps the same roots.
A year later FLOATING appears, and a guy called Luitjen Jansen replaces Stoker. This album is much more complete than INSIDE, containing the immaculate Light From Deep Darkness, which is the story of a land which has no light, until one day it does get light, and the citizens are astounded. As you may realise, Eloy's music is all about Science Fiction and mythology.
For the next album, Detlef Schwaar joined on lead guitar, which gave Bornemann more time to concentrate on his vocals. POWER AND PASSION is the first part of a two-part work concerning the life of Jamie. On this album, he accidentally goes back in time due to his father's experiments with time-eroding drugs, arrives in the year 1358, and has several experiences before returning to the present.
After this platter, the whole group splits up, with Wieczorke joining Jane. Unfortunately, the other members have disappeared from view, with the exception of Bornemann, who, having retained rights to the name Eloy, reformed the group with Jürgen Rosenthal (drums, percussion) from the Scorpions, plus Klaus-Peter Matziol (bass, vocals) and keyboard maestro Detlev Schmidtchen. This line-up has remained constant since. The next album, DAWN, closes the story of Jamie, telling of his supernatural experiences after returning to the present; a very eerie end to the tale perfectly brought over by the band in it's new guise.
In I977, Eloy turn into a cosmic rock group. The next platter, OCEAN, is all about the myths of Atlantis, and includes the epic Atlantis' Agony at June 5th - 8498, 13.PM, Gregorian Earthtime (what does it all mean?). To promote OCEAN Eloy went on the road and showed that they were the masters of Cosmo-rock (a good cliché - eh?).From this tour came the LIVE album which captures the moment perfectly whilst showcasing their development through the years. The epic Atlantis... is spread over side four, leaving Jane's Windows two leagues behind. (watch it, lads - Ed). This is the best Eloy album, and is highly recommended by us.
The latest release, SILENT CRIES & MIGHTY ECHOES, shows the group going even further into the cosmic field, even verging onto Tangerine Dream territory. It's uncanny that Force Majeure from the album of the same name is so much like Eloy, and both sets were recorded at the same time, or thereabouts.
We can only say GET INTO ELOY SOON.
ELOY, Philips 6305 089, 1971
INSIDE, Harvest IC 062-29 479, 1973
FLOATING, Harvest IC 076-29 521, 1974
THE POWER AND THE PASSION, Harvest IC 064-29 602, 1975
DAWN, Harvest IC 064-31 787, 1976
OCEAN, Harvest IC 064-32 596, 1977
LIVE (DOUBLE), Harvest IC 164-32 934/5, 1978
SILENT CRIES AND MIGHTY ECHOES, Harvest IC 064-45 269 1979.
From Face Out, issue 5 (August 1979)
BIRTH CONTROL 68-78
Birth Control were, from the start of their career, tipped to be one of Germany's top rock acts. They were originally formed in late '68 by Bernd Koschmidder (bass), Reinhold Sobotta (organ), Rolf Gurra (sax, vocals) and Egon Balder (drums). Egon left in 1969, and Bruno Frenzel (guitars, vocals) and Bernd Noske (drums, vocals) joined. With a lot of talk by Pope Paul about abolishing the pill and other forms of contraception, they thought that the name Birth Control would be an appropriate way of protesting against his ideas, and this move led them to be classed as an underground group. They did several club tours and Metronome records signed them up. Rolf Gurra left before they recorded their first album.
Shortly afterwards, Birth Control changed labels, joining the then new progressive Ohr label, who released OPERATION. The majority of the material was penned by Bruno Frenzel, and a straighter rock approach was used. This album has one drawback - the disastrous twelve minute Let Us Do It Now. The band then left Ohr and Reinhold left the band. Ohr promptly released a compilation including three previously unissued recordings, one being called Believe In The Pill, which gave the set its title. At this time, Hartmut Scheulgens (keyboards) joined, but he was soon replaced by Wolfgang Neuser (ex Mushroom), who brought a new influence into the group. Signing to CBS, they released the highly successful HOODOO MAN. Wolfgang's influence is highly noticeable on this album with his haunting organ work on Gamma Ray and the Hoodoo Man track. Wanting to progress more, he left the rock-based confines of Birth Control. The last original member, Bernd Koschmidder, also departed. Zeus B. Held (keyboards), Peter Foller (bass) and Dick Steffens (guitars) joined and recorded the aptly titled REBIRTH, which saw them moving into new styles again. The outstanding track is Back From Hell, with Noske showing off on Moog drums.
With a major tour lined up, in the spring of 1973, Dirk Steffens left, and after his departure they recorded a double LIVE album. The tour and album were acclaimed by the German rock press as 'The greatest rock show ever' (Musicmarkt), and they said 'The band blew it's mind - the audience did the same' (Musik Express). No wonder, because the album contains some of their best pieces, three of them as one-sided work-outs of their old classics.
All this success gave them a chance to experiment more on their next two albums, PLASTIC PEOPLE and BACKDOOR POSSIBILITIES. Both are concept albums concerned with the rut of life and how to get out of it (i.e. drugs, etc.). These are by far the best two albums.
After their release, Peter Foller left, to be replaced by ex-Message members Manfred von Bohr and Horst Stachelhaus, on drums and bass respectively. These form the current Birth Control line-up, along with Noske, Frenzel and Held. The INCREASE album soon followed, which previewed the more commercial sound found on the latest album, TITANIC.
In the period between these two albums, Zeus released a solo album called ZEUS' AMUSEMENT, a uniquely styled collection of tunes ranging from jazz-rock to solo synth.
For a full accurate discography, refer to The Crack In The Cosmic Egg book!
Face Out Ed's note: the CBS releases are not domestic product, being specially imported Dutch pressings under the auspices of German CBS. In other words, they are not deleted, having never been UK releases, just 'no longer available'.
Audion note: the BELIEVE IN THE PILL tracks mentioned are from singles.
From Face Out, issue 8 (March 1981)
1967 - Christian Burchard joined a rhythm 'n' blues band playing organ.
1968 - Joined the Mal Waldron Quartet as percussionist. Line-up also included Edgar Hoffman. Around this time, he was also playing with Amon Düül II along with Dieter Serfas.
1969 - After leaving the Düül he met up with Edgar again and, with bassist Lothar Meid, formed Embryo (Meid later worked with Amon Düül II, Passport etc.)
1970 - Line-up had changed a lot, now being Edgar Christian, John Kelly (British guitarist who was once in Ten Years After), and. Ralph Fischer (who was bassist in an early line-up of Between).
1970 - Recorded first album, for the Ohr label, called OPAL, in April of that year. Critics hailed it as 'a unique combination of Jazz, Rock, Blues and Soul'.
1970, June - Kelly leaves and is replaced by organist Jimmy Jackson. In September, they play at the Fehmarn Festival and the Pop/Blues Festival in Essen. Towards the end of the year, Ralph Fischer leaves, English guitarist Alfred Jones joins and leaves soon after, and Hansi Fischer (ex of Xhol Caravan) joins.
1971 - Record EMBRYO'S RACHE with Jackson on keyboards and two session musicians, Franz Botgen and Herman Breuer. Jackson departs in August for a stint with Passport. Later in the year, with a very fluid line-up, spent a lot of time in the studio recording what was to become STEIG AUS, not released until 1973.
1972 - Still in the studio, they recorded what would become ROCKSESSION. Again, not released 'til 1975.
1972 - Sigi Schwab joined (from Etcetera, Wolfgang Dauner's group) in March. Embryo had no record company by this time. United Artists said they would release an album, but only if Embryo would do something more "accessible". So they went on to record FATHER, SONS AND HOLY GHOSTS. In May, they toured Portugal and North Africa. The authorities wouldn't let them into Spain. Later on in the year, they had no money or label, so Christian hawked the STEIG AUS and ROCKSESSION tapes around the companies looking for the best deal. Brain took the tapes, and both records were released in 1973.
1973 - Jazz veteran Charlie Mariano (who had played with Stan Kenton, Charlie Mingus among others) was in the line-up and Dieter Mierkautsch (keyboards) joined in June. Embryo played their first UK gig in Reading, the 12th National Blues & Jazz Festival. In September, with a new contract, they record WE KEEP ON (for BASF).
1974 - New bassist Uwe Mullrich joins from Lokomotiv Kreutzberg, and soon afterwards, Embryo record SURFIN'. In October, the line-up falls to pieces during a Dutch tour, temporarily leaving Mullrich, Burchard and Roman Bunka as a trio.
1975 - Record BAD HEADS, BAD CATS, but have no contract.
1976 - Part of their German tour was recorded for the future live album. As a record deal didn't seem likely, and because of general disillusion with the 'business', Embryo linked up with Missus Beastly, Ton Steine Scherben and Sparifankal to make the co-operative April happen. April had to change the name to something else because of a legal wrangle (threatened) with a major over rights to the title. It became Schneeball, which has worked out very well (see attached - Ed). Later in the year, the LIVE album and BAD HEADS are released. In December, Embryo visit India and play with local musicians.
1977 - APO CALYPSO is recorded with new keyboard player Michael Wehmeyer.
1978 - Embryo don't do much else for the rest of the year except to help Schneeball records get bigger and better organised, although the label's policies remain unchanged.
1979 - Embryo organise a trip to the East, and arrange to have the event filmed and the music recorded. They set off in September. Originally scheduled for a 'few months, it lasted for nine. They played with local musicians in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
1980 - Upon their return, they begin to correlate the material, and recorded some new material in Switzerland (Sunrise studios) whilst the experience was still fresh in their minds. EMBRYO'S REISE, the album of the tour is released and documents various aspects of the music performed by the inclusion of a booklet.
EMBRYO DISCOGRAPHY: refer to The Crack In The Cosmic Egg book for full accurate info.
From Face Out, issue 8 (March 1981)
GURU GURU HISTORY
1967 - Mani Neumeier and Uli Trepte join Ireen Schweitzer. In October, record an experiment in mixing jazz with Eastern music, featuring Indian band Dewan Mothan Trio (an album was released in '69 called JAZZ MEETS INDIA).
1968 - Mani and Uli join Manfred Schoof quintet, but leave, shortly after (they wanted a more experimental environment). In the summer, Guru Guru Groove are formed (see tree). Played their first concert in August, at the Heidelburg Holly Mill Festival, playing stark free jazz with wild vocals from "Sax".
1969 - Guitarist/vocalist Eddy Nageli replaces Sax. Name shortened to Guru Guru and music becomes more rocky.
1970 - In Feb, American guitarist Jim Kennedy replaces Nageli, and introduces a psychedelic feel to the music. In April, ex-Agitation Free guitarist Ax Genrich replaces Kennedy, who mysteriously vanished, bringing a new rock feel to the band. In June, UFO was recorded, an album based on concert improvisations, it was released in August. A German Sounds reviewer wrote that UFO was 'heavy space music, with the sounds of UFOs flying and landing'; he also claimed 'they were the heaviest trio since Cream'.
1971 - Recorded second album, and appeared on TV programme Popmusik Aus Deutschland, with model UFOs flying over the stage. HINTEN was released in September, and reviewed in German Sounds as being 'acid space music with long improvisations' It also featured a track called Bo Diddley, which previewed the style they were to follow on the next two albums.
1972 - KÄNGURU recorded after signing with Brain. Uli departs before the final mix (see Spacebox). Album released in May. Just prior, Bruno Schaab joins (from Night Sun). KÄNGURU voted second best album of the year in German Sounds readers poll.
1973 - Recorded fourth album in Jan. It included Der Elektrolurch, which was made up from sections of their long concert opus "The Clown". Released in Feb. It is a lot more structured than previous efforts. On the 19th May, played at German Super Rock Festival at Frankfurt, and astounded the audience by doing songs as well as the improvisations. In July, Schaab was replaced by Hans Hartmann while they toured Germany. Hartmann played in many modern jazz groups. In between touring with a new comedy set, recorded DON'T CALL US, WE CALL YOU, which was released to mixed opinions in October. Mani described it as their Comedy album, and it was greatly influenced by their short stay in India during the summer, when they played with various Indian musicians. Later in the year, Guru Guru are voted second best band in Schallplatte readers poll.
1974: Jan - Genrich leaves to work on his own project, Heidelburg, and is replaced in due course by ex Eiliff guitarist Houschang Nejadepour. In May, DANCE OF THE FLAMES is released. NME reviewed it as 'absolutely spectacular music' (surely the kiss of death! - Chris). Houschang left a couple of weeks later, supposedly to pursue a solo project. Ex Gila Conny Veit joined in July. December - Conny and Hans pack their bags and go (not a nice thing to do just before Christmas).
1975 - A new Guru Guru arises early in the year, with Sepp Jandrisits on guitar and ex Kollektiv Jogi Karpenkiel on bass. In April, the famous (or notorious, depending on how you look at it) MANI UND SEINE FREUNDE was recorded with a whole host of guest musicians, including Kraan members and Cluster. Mani also helped out on Genrich's Highdelburg project. Later in the year, the wonderful Roland Schaeffer joined from Brainstorm, bringing a new jazz feel to the band.
1976: Feb - record TANGO FANGO, a more commercial album including piss takes of Samba, Tango music, etc. Also included the immortal Lebendige Radio (which includes "music for a new Germany" ?). In the latter part of the year, the line up begins to fall to pieces.
1977 - Sepp and Jogi depart during GLOBETROTTER sessions. New bassist Peter Kuhmstedt joins and is featured on one live track recorded at the Essen Brain Festival. A slightly different version (with an alternative mix, and longer) plus another track from this line up turn up on the double live album of the festival. In the summer went on a new tour gigging at all the major cities along with new guitarist Dieter Bornschlegel.
1978 - From all the live tapes accumulated, a double LIVE album was compiled, it featured new versions of Ooga Booga and Elektrolurch. In the summer the band fell to pieces yet again, leaving just Mani and Roland. A new line-up was formed including new members Ingo Bischoff (on a permanent basis this time!), Gerald Hartwig (ex Karthago) and Butze Fischer (ex Embryo). Also, with ten years having gone by and with the concept changed, Mani decided on a new name - the Guru Guru Sunband. Winter '78/'79, recorded HEY DU!. Also went on an American tour, with no album out to coincide. Two of the band members fled back to Germany at short notice mid tour, and it was a Couple of ex Kraan members who flew out to save the day (sighs of relief all round etc.)
1980 - Currently reported' as being 'resting between labels'.
GURU GURU DISCOGRAPHY: The original discography was rather sketchy, so see "The Crack In The Cosmic Egg" for an accurate listing!
From Face Out, issues 5, 6 & 7
Brainwaves... you may have missed
FULL HORN, BRAIN 1030, released 1973
Again, a very experimental band, this time utilizing a fusion of soft-to-heavy rock with a cosmic/Kollektiv approach.
The first track, Day Of A Daydream Believer, is an epic which draws (in parts) influences of early Message and Nine Days Wonder. However, the vocal treatments of one part resemble White Noise on their AN ELECTRIC STORM album. The second track Morning Sun is according to the title "for the charts". This is followed by Spots On You Kids, which starts off with the sounds of a fairground before build-up along the same lines as the opening track. The closer, And The Madness, is (as the title suggests) mad, with a jerky rhythm and hooters blasting off in the background ending nice and gently with a piece that could be Eroc (when he's being sane, that is).
A truly amazing album, highly recommended to people who like a little humour mixed in with their music.
I TURNED TO SEE WHOSE VOICE IT WAS
BRAIN 1003, released 1972
Gomorrha were an experimental band, and also politically-minded, singing about things that were happening around them: pollution, religion, commerce, etc. Their sound was raw, basic rock, interspersed with dynamic guitar and drifting organ.
The stand-out tracks are Opening of The Sealed Book (which has an unusual approach, with echoing background and astounding dynamics), and the title piece (which is entirely a different proposition, strongly resembling early Ash Ra Tempel and Amon Düül). Well worth getting, if you see it anywhere.
Lindner & Bohn
VOLL-BEDIENUNG OF PERCUSSION
BRAIN 1047, released 1974
This is an experimental album by Carsten Bohn (ex of Frumpy) and Wolfgang 'Zabba' Lindner (later of RMO), who are both drummers. Therefore, the album is mainly made up of percussion, exceptions being occasional choir and keyboards.
If you think that an album of this sort is a bit disconcerting, then this should make you think again. It consists of basically four movements showcasing the many aspects of percussion, and all four of them work very well. The unusual ingredient, the choir fits in perfectly.
Unfortunately, the album is rather short, clocking in at around thirty four minutes, but don't pass it by if you can find it.
GORILLA, Brain 1017, 1972
These are one of the early German heavy bands, but they were a bit different as they incorporated elements of jazz and blues. The outcome is like a. cross between Birth Control ('70-75) and Emergency only with more power.
You can see why they picked their name even on Natron, the first cut, with its jazzy format, acid lyrics and pure power. Possibly 2 of the best tracks are Hear What I'm Talking - a heavily percussive track with freaky guitar solos (similarities here to Gum Guru, Eloy, Nine Days Wonder) and Blind People, which is the most powerful cut on the album. It has excellent sax and gliss/echoed guitar work.
They have released another album called LADY PIG (Brain 1061) which is supposed to be even better.
KOLLEKTIV, Brain 1034, 1974
Kollektiv were, as the name suggests, a group incorporating collective ideas in a jazz-rock fusion. As with most of the groups working in this field at the time, the results were unusual. Take for example Rambo Zambo, which starts off with a layering of echoed flute building up into a piece resembling Embryo (circa STEIG AUS) with a very original, slurring guitar solo. Also Fosterlied, a totally avant-garde composition with stark vocals. The magnum opus is Gageg, which takes up the entire second side. This is an improvisation that goes through various phases while working on the chords g-a-g-e-g. Recommended to Embryo and Annexus Quam followers.
SAMTVOGEL, Brain 1080, 1974
Günter recorded this album ca. '74 on his own equipment, as he says. SAMTVOGEL should appeal to followers of Klaus Schulze's earlier work and that of Achim Reichel. Indeed, it turns out better than some of their music. Take, for example Wald which occupies the whole of side 2. It starts with echo-layered guitar rhythms building into a drifting, yet aggressive guitar soundscape; continuing through various phases. Occasionally the guitar is unrecognisable.
ERHOLUNG, Brain 1063, 1972
One of Germany's top guitarists, Reichel recorded this one for Brain after several releases on Zebra/Polydor. Aided by such musicians as Peter Franken and Jochen Petersen (who played with Cornucopia and RMO), Erholung is less avant-garde than his others moving more into a jazzier version of Günter Schickert's Uberfallig (and predating it - Ed.).
Excellent instrumental music to get into.
From Face Out, issues 7 (Nov. 1980) & 8 (March 1981)
IRON CURTAIN MUZAK Part 1 - Poland
We thought we would concentrate on three groups who have been connected with the more publicised Czeslaw Nieman. The Groups are SBB, Budka Suflera and Michal Urbaniak and they all have had albums released by Muza.
First then, SBB, which stands for 'Search, Breakup and Build'. They were formed on the 4th of February 1974. The three members, Antymos Apostolis (guitars), Jozsef Skrzek (bass, keyboards, Moog, vocals) and Jerzy Piotrowski (drums, percussion) have known each other for about 15 years. In 1969 they constituted the Silesian Blues Band who folded through lack of public appeal. After this they joined up with Czeslaw Nieman and recorded four albums with him. Their first record was (1) which was recorded on their first gig (4.2.74) and is reckoned to be their best. (2) was recorded in studio and was a very powerful platter. The stand out tracks being Nowy Horyzont, which starts off with solo piano gradually changing into a very powerful cosmo-rock piece with lots of guitar and Moog solos, it then reverts back to piano, and Wolsnosc Z Nami with droning organ plowing into heavy cosmo-rock again. This it keeps up throughout the album with interchanging guitar and keyboards solos. Their next platter (3) is a bit more relaxed and has more emphasis on vocals. The stand out track must be Pamiec W Kamien Wrasta, which starts with white noise, droning organ and voice. This changes into a classy rock piece which in turn changes into an instrumental passage reminiscent of Guru Guru's God's Endless Love for Men with a fantastic synthi solo to round off. (4) is again more relaxed than the last. Stand out track is Wolanie 0 Brzek Szkla which starts of with classy rock that gradually builds up to an instrumental piece and follows similar patterns to the others. For another point of view see F.O.2. (5) is more commercial as stated by Chris Furse in F.O.3. They are definitely a group to look out for.
Secondly, Budka Suflera. We don't know much about these except for their excellent album (6). The group comprises of Krysztof Gogowski (vocals), Romauld Lipko (bass, organ), Andrzej Ziolkowski (guitar) and Tomasz Zeliszewski (drums, percussion). On this album they are helped out by Czeslaw Nieman on Moog synthesizer. The album contains five tracks, the best being the 20 minute Szalony Kon which starts with a Nieman Moog intro changing into a Jane type rock piece which gets more rocking with an amazing Moog solo. This carries on for about 10 minutes and then changes into a bluesy piece resembling Collegium Musicum. We have heard, however (via "Stimme Der DDR" radio) that they have now done 7 LP's. So, look out for Budka Suflera.
Thirdly, Michal Urbaniak, who has worked under various group titles. The earliest we know about Michal is guesting in Nieman's backing group on Enigmatic. The Urbaniak albums we have are by three of his groups (7) is by Constellation, which is an avant-garde jazz album which sometimes drifts towards Embryo. The stand out track is Bengal which is a standard type piece of jazz-rock with Michal's violin soaring over the top, then Ursula Dudziak (Michal's wife) lets loose with some fantastic vocal work, which she builds into a rhythmic pattern and the rest of the group join in creating some very powerful avant-garde jazz-rock. The next album (8) is by Group and was released in Germany (where he first defected to). Valium is the best track which is in a similar vein to the Constellation album. It starts off with Michal's violin at its most avant-garde drifting into some more excellent vocals from Ursula. This then transcends into a more jazz-rock type format with violin and bass solos. Also on this album, Michal adds sax to his instrumentation. For (9) Michal is found in America with the likes of John Abercrombie and Larry Coryell. This album is, as the name suggests, a fusion of various jazz styles tinged with Ursula's vocals. It is also heavier than previous albums as the last track, side I Prehistoric Bird is like a heavy Passport but with the astounding vocals of Ursula. Past members of Constellation and Group have included Adam Makowicz (e-piano), Czeslaw Bartkowski (drums) and Wojciech Karolak (organs). On FUSION 3, Wlodek Gugowski (keyboards, Moog) guests, he has also played with Pekka on his Virgin release.
Well, that's it for Poland unless we pick up some other groups. Part 2 will be Czechoslovakia.
1) SBB (Muza SXL 1142)
2) Nowy Horyzont (Muza SX 1206)
3) Pamiec (Muza SX 1345)
4) SBB (Supraphon 1 13 2218 H)
5) SBB (Amiga 8 55 631)
6) Cien Weilkiej Gory (Muza SX 1264)
7) Constellation: In Concert (Muza SX 1010)
8) Group: Paratyphus B (Spiegelei 28-771-4U)
9) Fusion: 111 (Columbia PC 33542)
We also know of the following platters: Live Recording (Muza), Live (Spiegelei), Fusion (Columbia), Fusion II (Columbia), Ecstasy (Columbia)
Note: There is a Ursula Dudziak solo and also DRUMMERS DREAM by Czeslaw Bartkowski on Muza.
IRON CURTAIN MUZAK Part 2 - Czechoslovakia
For this article, we thought that we would concentrate on our three favourite bands from this country, and just have a summary at the end on other bands that we have come across.
First up is Collegium Musicum, who were formed sometime around 1969 or '70 by keyboard virtuoso Marián Varga. The earliest record of theirs that we own is KONVERGENCIE, their second. The line up at this time was Marián Varga (keyboards), Frantisek Griglák (guitar), Dusan Hájek (drums) and Fedor Freso (bass). The album is very influenced by Slovakian classical music, of which After Thousand And One Night Suite (side 2) is based on Rimjsky-Korsakov's ballet "Schererzade". The best cut is found on side 4, called Euphony. This starts in a classical mode that gives way to some of the freakiest organ work you will hear anywhere, very much like Irmin Schmidt of Can.
Their third release LIVE was recorded at Czech radio gigs on 22/23 July 1973 and consists of three fairly lengthy pieces. Stylistically Collegium Musicum underwent a great change, producing less experimental heavier music. This may be because of Frantisek leaving to form Fermata. Their fourth release (reviewed in F/02) has a totally new line up with Jozef Farkas (guitar) and Ivan Belák (bass); he replaced Freso who joined M.Efekt. It was recorded mainly live and has an excellent cut called Long Live Man, with lots of guitar. 1978 saw Freso rejoining, along with two new members in L'udovit Nosko (guitars) and Karel Witz (lead guitar). With this 5 piece line up and Varga now on synths as well, we get a more symphonic/classy sounding album in CONTINUO, which is a bit like a cross between M.Efekt and Pulsar. There are also vocals again, which adds a new dimension.
Their latest release sees them going to pot, or should we say pop. Only one track, an instrumental, sounds anything like the CM of old (seems the vocals took over). We should have known, because Varga recorded two albums in the meantime with Radim Hladik (M.Efekt) and Pavol Hamel (a pop lyricist), of which we heard #II and were really disgusted. So the future looks grim for CM unless Varga severs his relationship with Hamel.
The second group are Fermata, who were formed in '73 by Griglák (guitar, synth) from Collegium Musicum, Tomás Berka (keyboards) and Anton Jarro (bass). Up to their first album, they had recorded material for five theatre plays and two TV shows. Then they obtained a contract with Opus, for whom they have recorded all their albums. The first release had the inspiring title of FERMATA, with the addition of Peter Szapu on drums. Very much in the jazz rock vein, it has 5 tracks all working round a: theme improvisation - theme coda; such as Perpetuum II which is formed by a theme followed by improvised solos from percussion and synthesizer.
For their second record, they decided to go into the jazz medium more as they thought that they could enrich their technical sound. Also the line up was increased to five, with Peter Szapu leaving and Cyril Zelenak (drums) and Milan Tedla (violin) joining (for a review, see F/0 3, although we feel that Chris underrates it). Now to HUASCARAN, Fermata's most complete work. Again, there has been a drastic reshuffle. It tells the tale (in music) of two expeditions that attempted to climb Mount Huascaran. It's back to Chris (F/O 2) for a review of this exotic item. After HUASCARAN'S release, the group collapsed.
Two years later Griglak, along with Freso (ex CM and M. Efekt) and a couple of former sidemen, Berka and Olah, reformed Fermata. Musically, they had changed, using a bit more commercial edge and losing nearly all of the jazz influence along the way. They even sound a bit like Camel at times, so make of that what you will. We still recommend them, however.
The third and last group: Modry Efekt (known as M. Efekt, Blue Effect in English), were formed by guitarist Radim Hladik in 1968. At the start they were influenced by Anglo-American pop and blues music which is reflected in their first album, only one track of which is of interest to us. For the 2nd and 4th albums, Hladik decided to fulfill one of his ambitions, which was to blend rock music with a jazz orchestra. It works quite well on both records. The former is instrumental, whilst the latter has Lesek Semelka providing vocals. For a review of the 4th album, see F/O 2, where it is heavily criticised, although we think it is the better of the pair. For the 5th album, there are two versions, one with the track listings in Czech, with the other one having it all in English. This is another venture with jazz and features a guest appearance by Jazz Q's Martin Kratochvil (see F/O 2). SVITANIE was next, and we think it is their best to date, being more rock orientated than previous releases.
Prior to this album, Lesek had left to form Bohemia, who recorded just one album which was a blend of rock with jazz musics in a song type structure (reviewed in F/O 3). After this, Lesek rejoined M.Efekt. The latest release we have is SVET HLEDACU, with Lesek taking over vocal duties from Freso (now back with Fermata) and featuring the combination of two synth/keyboard players. They are going into the same spacey fields as Eloy and Pulsar. An unusual feature is the total lack of a bassist. So there you have it, one of the best groups from Czechoslovakia who have been consistently on the move musically.
Now, onto the summary, there are quite a few other groups that we have heard albums by mostly in the jazz/rock mould…
Jazz Q - Led by Martin Kratochvil, they have, to our knowledge, two albums out. ELEGIE is probably the better, but even so is very weak.
Klavasova Konklava - comparable with Jazz Q, they are, alas, not as good. Great emphasis on piano.
Impuls and Energit - are two connected groups with a few members forming a nucleus for both. These are both as above with Energit being the more interesting (see F/O 5).
Katapult are not jazz rock, but are heavy rockers in the mode of Deep Purple and Puhdys. Only one album released so far, which will interest lovers of Samson, Saxon type groups.
Footnote. We have not done anything on the Plastic People as we feel that we would not add anything to what has already been published in Aura, Eurock and Face Out.
n.b. The discography listed in this original article is very inaccurate, so it is not listed here. For a proper listing, refer to the Audion East Euro Discography publication.
As you can see from this issue, the Freeman's have an extensive knowledge of Euro/experimental music. They have also taken to swapping, buying and trading records under the name of Musiques Nouvelles. I would strongly advise anyone who has an abiding interest in anything of this nature to get in touch with them post. Submit wants/swap lists, questions/queries, further items of interest such as tapes for those records that you just can't find. Indeed, what the hell, just write in, even if you only want to say hello.
from Face Out, issue 6 (January 1980)
Ohrgasms... you may have missed
OSMOSE, Ohr 0MM 56.007, 1970
Formed in '67 as a free jazz-fusion group. OSMOSE was recorded after a world tour, and is a mixture of jazz/rock/cosmic music. Out of the four tracks, Seite 2 is the best. It starts with piano and a spicy backdrop building into a very rocking cosmo-rock piece (similar to some Ash Ra Tempel). Worthy addition.
Note: The review we submitted was in fact a lot longer than this, but Chris cut it down to fill in the end of a page!
Floh De Cologne
GEYER-SYMPHONIE, Ohr OMM 556.035, 1974
Floh De Cologne are one of the most bizarre and diverse groups to have come out of Germany. They are so uncompromising in their approach that very few people over here like them. The Flohs are basically a theatrical rock group who base their albums around political happenings.
This album is about Frederick Flicke and his life story. It is the most unusual album we have yet heard by them. Between the montages of voices the music ranges from rock to skiffle.
If you really want something different, try 'em.
from Face Out, issue 6 (January 1980)
Brave New World
IMPRESSIONS ON READING ALDOUS HUXLEY
Vertigo 6360 606, 1972
These are one of those old German groups who recorded one amazing album and the vanished into obscurity. Their style was very bizarre, comprising of elements of rock, jazz, classical and Eastern music. It's not possible for us to compare them with anyone else as we've heard nothing like it. Side 1 has 5 tracks, the second track is Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon...Ford, and is full of unusual ideas; weird, slurring drums, droning organ, haunting breathing sounds...the whole affect is quite astounding. Most of side 2 is taken up by The End, which works along similar lines with a backdrop of amplified Stylophone, chanting vocals and growling bass fiddle. All we can say is if you see it, buy it, as it is a very rare and hard to find album.
MOURNIN', Zebra 2949 004, 1972
MOURNIN' could be described as being the essential Heavy Metal album. The only member of Night Sun we know anything about is one-time Guru Guru bassist Bruno Schaab, who is also chief songwriter. All the tracks are excellent examples of what HM is all about. Stand out tracks are Got A Bone Of My Own, which starts of with phased guitar turning into a heavy boogie-ish rhythm (reminiscent of the Guru's on IV), and Living With The Dying, which is similar to the Scorpions, but heavier? Also included are some musical phrases which were to become Gum Guru trademarks. Come Down is the odd track on the album. It starts off with drifting organ and builds up into a classy rock track. Don't Start Flying sees the keyboard player changing to sax adding a slight jazz feel to the music. This is well worth getting hold of, especially if you're into Guru Guru and the background of their early members, but again is very hard to get hold of.
From Neumusik, issue 5 (August 1981)
Irmin Schmidt: FILMMUSIK (Spoon 003)
Irmin Schmidt/Bruno Spoerri: TOY PLANET (Spoon 011)
We've both been avid Can fans for some tine now, so you can imagine the excitement when we found out that Irmin was to release some solo work. To our surprise though, neither of the 2 platters turned out to be what we expected.
First is FILMMUSIK, which is a selection from 3 soundtracks. For ease of description we've decided to deal with each soundtrack as a whole. "In Herzen des Hurrican" (tracks 1,3,5 & 8) was recorded with a group format, Irmin being helped by Max Lasser (guitar), Peter & Walter Keiser (bass & drums respectively) plus a couple of appearances by Michael Karoli. All these 4 cuts sound amazingly like Can, circa LANDED. Irmin is generally low key in these pieces, leaving plenty of room for lots of guitar solos, as in Verfolfgung which is like a re-run of Vernal Equinox. "Der Tote bin ich" (tracks 2 & 4) was recorded by Irmin on keyboards & Bruno Spoerri on sax. These cuts are made up of simple sequencer rhythms & synthi overlays, with lots of room left for Bruno's excellent sax playing. "Messer im Kopf" (tracks 6 &7) is Irmin solo. The first cut is an E.F.S. for/of the koto: whether it was performed on the said instrument is left to the listener's discretion. The Titelmusik sees Irmin in full splendour as a multi-keyboard player; the most unusual aspect of this piece is that the lead instrument is piano, backed by synths (unlike Cluster for instance), conjuring up a sense of mystique that is quite compelling, and very unusual.
As diverse as this album is, it in no way can prepare you for TOY PLANET, which sets itself in a totally different class of music altogether. TOY PLANET is electronic music, of a very special kind you're not likely to have heard before. This album is innovative music, really fresh & new. In fact, we think it's so good that no one should be without a copy. But what's the music like? Well, it's very difficult to describe, but let's have a go. The album opens with The Seven Game; the sounds of birds, crickets & babbling brook (created synthetically) are attacked with strange percussive effects, after which a percussive rhythm fades in, followed by a bass line, synthi & low key sax solo on the right, then on the left Bruno adds a jazzy sax solo which completely changes the feel. At this point you have to convince yourself that you are not listening to a 6-piece group, that there's no guitar, bass or drums there - just keyboards, synths & a couple of wind instruments. Following on this is the title track, which embodies strange percussive sounds and a Ligeti-type choral backdrop which in turn is transformed into a totally strange rhythmic pulse. Nothing on this cut sounds normal, & the effect is totally overwhelming. After this you get three & a half minutes to recover with a piece called Two Dolphins go Dancing, which is a bit like an electrified Can with some jazz thrown in for good measure.
Turning the record over we have Yom Tov which is an E.F.S. of Swiss folk music (what else, when Bruno is Swiss!) sounding like it's being played on guitars & other string instruments, but of course it isn't. The final 3 tracks all run together, starting with Springlight Rite which unbelievably sounds like Steve Reich's ensemble jamming with Urban Sax - a totally incredible spacey sound. This transforms, via strange bubblings, clicks, haunting voices, into Last Train to Eternity, & as you may (or may not) expect has a heavy percussive rhythm resembling a train at full throttle. The sound of this piece hearkens back to the days of TAGO MAGO, when Jaki Liebezeit used to do that incredible drum work. The effect is to say the least, overwhelming. This peters off into a drone with sax (sounding like it's at the other end of a tunnel); then all of a sudden synthi trills & the now familiar chorale effect comes in to fill out the sound, as though a choir & orchestra had just entered the studio. This finishes off the whole spectacular affair with a feeling of heavenly tranquillity, whisking the listener into another world. Amazing!
From Neumusik, issue 5 (August 1981)
A Scan through the Swedish Scene
You may wonder what's so special about Sweden? Well, in that one country is a whole unique musical culture that tends to be missed by most people. This is mainly due to the lack of publicity, and that it's hard to work out what the groups are going to be like based on the sleeve (unless you can read Swedish!). One exception (in the progressive scene) is Samla Mammas Manna who have gained a lot of followers outside Sweden, due to their working as part of the "Rock in Opposition" collective.
Being that most progressive/experimental music is released on independent labels, very little gets over to this country. So, if it wasn't for people like Recommended, Paradox and Lotus, very little would be available elsewhere. In fact most of the material we will be discussing is reasonably easy to acquire.
Arbete Och Fritid: These are one of the most unusual lands you are likely to come across in Europe. Their music is impossible to categorise as they cover such a large area, ranging from Heavy Metal through to Cosmic dirges to strange arrangements of traditional folk melodies. Their first release for the MNW label is made up of these strange folky melodies. They seem to be able to do things to folk tunes like Popol Vuh do to Indian ragas. UR SPAR is a different kettle of fish, being one complete work recorded live in concert, it's a kind of minimalistic excursion with the strange instrumentation of violin, trumpets, bass, cello, guitars and percussion. Their most satisfying work is SE UPP FOR LIVET, a double album. This album is more diverse, delving deep into cosmic music at times and also into the minimalistic area explored by Tony Conrad and Faust, and of course the occasional Heavy Metal and Folky tracks. A warning must be given for the album SEN DANSAR VI UT as this is nothing like the other platters, being very straight renditions of traditional folk tunes - a bit like the Chieftains?
Archimedes Badkar: Drop the rock and add the jazz and electronics to Arbete's music and you will be close to the Archimedes' sound. They were a more consistent group, but alas, only stayed together long enough to record three LP's. BADROCK FOR BARN I ALLA ÅLDRAR and "II" (a double) were recorded around the same time, the former being more acoustic, the latter being more diverse, using electronic treatments on their instruments. Again, similarities arise with the Conrad & Faust album, even though the music is quite different. Their last platter TRE is a lot different being more percussive & a lot jazzier.
Anna Sjalv Tredje: Now these are in a completely different area from the above bands and sound like an old German cosmic rock band (i.e. elements of Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, et al). The music is some of the best electronic/cosmic music to come out of Europe for years. Excellent album called TUSSILAGO FANFARA.
Bla Taget: Don' t really know much about this band, except that they were formed in '68 and are supposed to be one of the innovating forces in Svenske music. They can be heard on a compilation album released by "Tonkraft", on which they sound a bit like Archimedes Badkar, and in fact one of the members has played with both.
Berits Halsband: As above we've only heard one piece by these, but based on this the sound is of what might well have been a very dynamic jazz-rock band.
Greg Fitzpatrick: A versatile keyboard player who generally works with other musicians. His best-known work must be SNORUNGARNAS SYMFONI, which he recorded with Samla Mammas Manna. This is a rock symphony, laden with pastoral guitar and synth work. BILDCIRKUS - a later work - also features a couple of Samla's musicians. This album is full of bouncy instrumentals to show off Greg's capabilities.
Forkladd Gud: Or, in English "God in Disguise". These are an improvising avant-garde Jazz unit who's music is pretty uncompromising. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Annexus Quam's BEZIEHUNGEN, but that's a different story!
Ragnar Grippe: An electronic and minimalistic musician who is quite unique. He has studied electronic music with people like Pierre Schaeffer and François Bayle at the renowned "Groupe de Recherches Musicales" in Paris. He has had commissions in Paris arid Stockholm, and built his studio in Paris. His first album ELECTRONIC COMPOSITIONS appeared in 1977, and could be described as being a more cosmic Stockhausen work with elements of rock. SAND is quite different, using constantly changing patterns of sound. Both of these albums are made on the most unlikely instruments - i.e. organ, percussion, guitar, recorder, piano and tapes.
Horselmat: These axe a jazz-rock group fronted by guitarist Janne Schaeffer, who produce thoughtful jazz-rock with lots of solos. They are still going nowadays, so there are probably a few albums about. There is an album called HORSELMAT but, although credited to Janne Schaeffer, we're not sure if it's this group or not. Anyway, they are reckoned to be quite big on the Stockholm club circuit.
Kornet: A versatile jazz-rock unit featuring keyboard player Stefan Nilson. They incorporate folky elements into their music giving an unusual angle not often found in bands of this genre.
Ralph Lundsten: Sweden's premier electronics/synth musician who has recorded at least 15 albums, but somehow remains hardly known outside his homeland, this is a real shame as his music is of such high quality. In the early days he used to work with Leo Nilson (who has also done a lot of solo work). They made an album called ELEKTRONISKT MUSIK which is very rugged electronics, sometimes comparable to Pandemonium or some of Cluster's early work. As time has gone by, Ralph's music has become more sophisticated. On FADERVAR he uses choir and organ along with electronics to create a harmonic and compelling album. SVIT FUR ELEKTRONISKT DRAGSPELL is a very bizarre work, being performed on electronic accordion and is a treat for anyone who has a fetish for harsh overload electronic music. MIDNATTSTIMMEN (or Midnight Hour) is a very haunting work, utilising vocal montages, eerie laughter, creaking doors - the works! Should have been the soundtrack for a horror film. UNIVERSE is more of a group project, featuring lots of well-known Svenske musicians, all from various backgrounds. The result is a cosmic album that is sometimes operatic, sometimes bizarre and even veering into Cosmic Jokers territory. Probably the best album to start with would be COSMIC LOVE. This is a compilation covering many of his styles.
Mount Everest: Yet another jazz-rock band, more into jazz than rock, however.
Plus Gaster: Now these sound like a more rock-oriented Arbete Och Fritid - well somewhere in that area.
Ragnarök: An excellent cosmic-rock group who stand alone with their dreamy/spacey instrumentals. A slightly obvious leaning on jazz - but only slight! - in the way that Vertø plays jazz. Notable similarities in Ragnarök's sound are definitely Ashra and sometimes Liliental or bits of Cluster, the overall sound though is very much their own.
Samla Mammas Manna: These are a group that shouldn't need any introduction to people who know the "Rock in Opposition" scene, for those who don't, the Samla's are a most adventurous and bizarre band - perhaps THE most adventurous in Europe. They started life as a kind of jazz fusion group, with lots of humour - mainly in the form of nonsensical vocals (obviously influenced by Zappa). Their music is compelling and unique. As Zamla Mammaz Manna they recorded an amazing album (double) of which the 1st LP sounds like out-takes from Faust sessions (is this where This Heat got their style?), the 2nd covers 2 styles, bizarre like a cross between Etron Fou, Zappa and the Residents, and dynamic rock improvisations overflowing with solos. They have now released a new album which should be worth checking out. Also they have appeared on Fred Frith's latest solo release GRAVITY. So there you have it; one of the best bands in Europe, and hopefully to play in this country again.
There are many other lands and artists operating in Sweden, but to deal with them in an article this size would be very difficult. Anyway, here's a brief summary:..
Bo Hansson has at least four albums of nice, easy instrumental music. Kenny Hakansson has released a guitar album that's best described as a folky-type music reminiscent of Michael Rother. He's also a member of Kebnekaise who have done numerous albums of folky rock music. They are good, but nothing to rave about. They sound a bit better live, however. Cosmic Overdose are the Svenske equivalent to the Human League, only more cosmic. Trettioariga Kriget are a sensible heavy rock land, closer to mid 70's German sound than the Swedish. The later addition of keyboards has given them a more melodic approach. Solar Plexus are nothing special, best described as soft rock with jazzy feel. Neon Rose are heavy metal (the Swedish Scorpions?).
There are also many electronic musicians in Sweden, but we've not come across any albums apart from a compilation. Good examples are Sten Hansson. Arne Mellnas and Jan Morthenson.
So there you have it, Sweden - a country with a healthy music scene. Why not try something out and see what you think? (What about ABBA? - Ed)
For further info on Samla Mamas Manna, Ralph Lundsten Bo Hansson, Trettioariga Kriget etc., see Eurock V2 n.5 - p.11. For a review of Ragnar Grippe's SAND see Face Out 7 - p.10
A few groups to steer clear of (all terrible) are; Peps Blues Band, Pugh & Nature, Hoola Bandoola Band, Trotsaldens Barn, Made in Sweden, Blue Swede, Eje Thelin Band, Bjorn Skiffs and Blabus, plus more...
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