Achim Reichel was part of The Rattles, a German pop/beat band who had a 1969 hit with “The Witch”. It’s an edgy late psychedelic single that’s worth checking out (if you like that kind of thing).
After going solo, Reichel immersed himself in exploring the magic of guitar effects, releasing a number of albums through the 1970s under the band name A.R. & Machines.
The first of these was called Die Grüne Reise (The Green Journey) and came out in (Northern Hemisphere) Spring 1971. It’s interesting stuff. Part cosmic krautrock improvisation, part avant-garde experimentation, some of which has a kind of Halloween spookiness to it. The guitar work is never less than interesting, however. Interesting enough that late last year I succumbed to the lavish boxed set covering Reichel’s complete catalogue.
Spring of 1971 was a good time for progressive rock in Germany. The first Ash Ra Tempel album appeared, featuring another talented and influential guitarist. This time it was Manuel Göttsching (who also notably appears on the Cosmic Couriers LPs).
A copy of the original LP on the Ohr label being well beyond my means, the CD has had to suffice. Having said that, the 2011 re-issue of Ash Ra Tempel was remastered by the guitarist and sounds excellent. It’s a trippy album that, despite beginning dreamily on both sides, is not as soporifically spacey as might be imagined from the reputation Göttsching built as a pioneer of echo-laden soundscapes and long, pulsing instrumentals. Partially that is down to the contributions of Klaus Schulze on drums and synthesisers. Schulze’s early work is about as far from new age fluff as you can get. Two extended pieces, one per side, is what you get here, both offering propulsive space-jams and moments of drifting beauty.
The third release in this krautrock trilogy is the third LP by avant-rockers Amon Düül II.
Tanz Der Lemminge (Dance of the Lemmings) shows how confident the band had become. A massive double album, it groups the pieces into suites, each with a title. The opening salvo consists of four tracks making up side one’s “Syntelman’s March Of The Roaring Seventies”, which, given it was very early in 1971 at the time of recording, demonstrates the impatience of the musicians to get on with the decade.
Like their previous album—the storm front of Yeti—this is a big work. Like the previous year’s double LP it also includes an extended improvisation that fills side three: “The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church”. Who said those chaps lacked a sense of humour? Actually, the track titles are a hoot; my favourite on Tanz is “Dehypnotized Toothpaste”. At this time Amon Düül II produced a particularly German style of psychedelic rock that is simultaneously trippy and muscular.
A fourth from the same season of ’71 is Operation by Birthcontrol. Formed in 1968, the band made a kind of heavy prog that bears more resemblance to Spooky Tooth or early Deep Purple than to any of the bands discussed above.
The album caused a considerable stir on release, not because of the music but due to the cover’s satirical swipe at Pope Paul VI and his vehement anti-abortion stance. Roman Catholics across Germany were outraged, or confused, or both. In Britain, hoping to avoid accusations of bad taste, they issued Operation with a different cover.
I was going to stop there, but perhaps we’ll move briskly on from that, um, artwork and drop one more Deutsche Schallplatte from March 1971 while mentioning another previously covered (like Yeti) at Vinyl Connection.
There is a tendency to shove all German indie music into the krautrock category irrespective of its style. Trips + Traume is a wonderfully trippy record of cosmic folk-rock, sung in Deutsch, that—despite the slightly alarming ‘bad trip’ cover—delivers a warm, friendly joint of lyrical and melodic music. There are lots of influences—singer-songwriter, German folk, acid folk, medieval acoustic—but it all drifts past so pleasantly you will think you understand the lyrics.
Finally, a brief mention of Tangerine Dream’s second album, Alpha Centauri. This is a classic of early electronic music and has been lauded in these pages here.
Oddly, despite visiting the country half a dozen times and living there for a year, only two of these were actually purchased in Germany: Operation and the Witthüser and Westrupp, both from Zweitausendeins in Frankfurt. It is possible that a limited supply of Deutschmarks was to blame.
Tschüss, meine Freunde!