Category Archives: Krautrock

Jaki Liebezeit, Butch Trucks RIP

 

As we come to the end of the first month of the year, rock’s rhythm section has already taken two great hits.

Jaki Liebezeit 1938 – 2017

My first exposure to the music of Can was in 1970 when I heard their debut LP on an import records radio programme. The DJ felt strongly about the album and even featured the side-long track Yoo Doo Right. I was immediately a fan of the incredible sound that this band could make.

After a stint as a jazz drummer with the Manfred Schoof Quintet, Jaki Liebezeit went on to become one of the four core members of Can. The other members were Hoger Czukay (bass), Irmin Schmidt (keyboards) and Michael Karoli (guitar). Czukay and Schmidt had both studied with avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen and Karoli was a rock guitarist. This made from an eclectic mix of musical influences.

When Liebezeit locked with Czukay’s bass groove, the duo would go on to create an unstoppable force. With this power behind them, Schmidt and Karoli could dive-bomb around the rhythm to create a unique sound.

Jaki would say that his style was an attempt to be “monotonous.” That was far from the case. It was a hypnotic rhythm which was both simple and elegant in its approach.

From the driving beat of Mother Sky (Soundtracks) to the subtleties of Bel Air (Future Days), he could paint a stunning background with which the other members could overlay a foreground of unique and brilliant sounds.

Jaki Liebeziet would go on to play with many other musicians like Brian Eno and also with his own Phantom Band.

He sadly passed away on January 22 due to complications of pneumonia.

Butch Trucks 1947 – 2017

Butch Trucks was one of the founding members of The Allman Brothers Band in 1969. From the start, the band was feature two drummers.

Trucks was the steady backbeat of the rhythm section. He was paired with Jaimoe (Jai Johanny Johanson) who added an array of complimentary percussion that would flesh out the backdrop for the band.

Live recordings like the Allman’s classic Live at Fillmore and tracks from the subsequent Eat a Peach showcased the amazing synchronicity between the two players. It would be difficult to imagine the sound of the Allmans without the two of them locked together with a single driving purpose.

Butch Trucks died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on January 24.

Recent Arrivals: Discus & Leo Records

Martin Archer – Storytellers (Discus): Over the years, Sheffield-based musician and composer Martin Archer has issued several albums of music with various groups of musicians but, it’s a rarity to see something come out under his own name. This recent project is certainly a fine time to toot his own horn (so to say) as it’s another one of his excellent offerings.

Over the course of two CDs spanning nearly 2 1/2 hours, six “books” are related in suite form. Each book revolves around movements around a common theme. They feature performance by the full band as well as sections designed to highlight specific soloists.

Each book weaves its own tale which winds its way from start to finish with sparkling dexterity among the musicians. What seems to make this music really gain an extra dimension of life is the fact that almost all of it was recorded live in the studio by the group. There is very little done in the way of subsequent overdubbing of parts. This process has resulted in a sound which harks back to some of the best recorded jazz works from the past. Top marks, indeed!

Sergey Kuryokhin – The Spirit Lives (Leo): As mentioned in the liner notes of this set, Leo Records was the first record company to issue the music of Russian composer/musician Sergey Kuryokhin which was smuggled out of the Soviet Union. It seems only fitting that they have decided to issue this recording of a live performance celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his passing.

Recorded in July 2015, this set contains both an audio CD and DVD. The works are performed by Alexei Aigui & Ensemble 4’33”. The sixteen works contained in this performance show the breadth and scope of Kuryokhin’s catalogue of work.

The arrangements by Aigui which incorporate jazz and classical players brings the music a powerful scope. The strings build and sweep to propel the music to wonderful sonic heights as the jazz ensemble bob and weave a tapestry of sound.

There are even moments when the music rocks out with near Status Quo guitar riffery in pieces like Tragedy, Rock Style.

This is an essential document which truly does justice to the legacy and memory of the late Sergey Kuryokhnin.

 

Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth

Hot on the heels of Jon Savage’s book 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded comes another book which focuses on a specific year. David Hepworth’s new book is entitled Never a Dull Moment – 1971: The Year That Rock Exploded. Whereas both of these books share a similar format in that the months are used as the twelve chapter of the books, that is where much of the similarity ends.

Both writers present stories about music of the year within a framework consisting of the cultural, social and political climate of the time. However, Savage’s book is around 25% music and 75% social conditions contrasted with Hepworth’s 90% music and 10% cultural framework. (For a more in depth look at Jon Savage’s book, please check out my article elsewhere on this blog.)

For his book, Hepworth generally begins each chapter with an overview of the times. This is followed by several stories about artists, songs, albums, producers etc… on whom he focuses his direct attention.

He begins his journey into the year by relating the fact that it began with the official dissolution of The Beatles. So, 1971 was the first “post-Beatles” year after the conclusion of the ’60s.

Since Carole King’s Tapestry was one of the biggest breakouts of the year, he explores her place in the blossoming world of the singer/songwriters of the year. These include people like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and Carly Simon. He also talks about one of the most enduring figures of the time who made little inroads in the way of popularity at the time – Nick Drake.

By way of the Rolling Stones, he relates stories about the release of Sticky Fingers as well as the band’s excursion to France to record the following year’s sprawling double album release – Exile on Main Street.

The state of music coming from the African American community is explored with tales of Motown label boss Berry Gordy Jr. and his stable of artists including Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. He also writes about Isaac Hayes as well as American TV host/producer Don Cornelius who brought Soul Train into the living rooms of the youth.

Producers like Ken Scott and Glyn Johns hook up with David Bowie and The Who respectively and breed the top albums Hunky Dory and Who’s Next. These were both milestones in the careers of the artists in 1971.

We also learn how producer Tom Dowd convinced the Allman Brothers Band to ditch the distracting horn section which was being used during their series of dates at the Fillmore East. This helped the band turn the corner and produce their double live LP set At Fillmore East which is still regarded as a classic today.

There are tales of Led Zeppelin, Roxy Music, Harry Nilsson, Don McLean, Frank Zappa, Black Sabbath, The Beach Boys, T. Rex, Big Star, Rod Stewart, Carpenters and even a name-check for German Krautrock pioneers Can.

Festivals were also the order of the day in 1971 as the long-lived Glastonbury Festival got its start. There are also other tales of (much) less successful events such as the Weeley Festival and the disastrous Celebration of Life Festival in Louisiana.

1971 was also the year that the first rock concert charity event was organized by George Harrison. The ups and downs of this new type of venture venture are examined.

Reading through this book reminds the reader about so many watershed moments that occurred in the music world at the beginning of the 1970s. To a generation accustomed to auditioning the latest sounds via the internet with the click of a mouse, these times music seem like some ancient distant land. Music fans used to find themselves reading about interesting music and, if they were lucky, being able to catch some of the sounds on an adventurous underground FM radio station. It was a time when people congregated at record stores and took in the artwork and liner notes of the LPs filling the bins.

I was there… and it was damn fun!

Classic Rock? In my day it was called New Releases! 

 

 

 

Tony Conrad 1940 – 2016

On March 22nd, The Guardian ran an article about musician and filmmaker Tony Conrad which encapsulated his long career and was a lead-up to the April 1st Big Ears Festival in Knoxville. Scarcely a week later, it was reported that Conrad would not be able to make the appearance due to health concerns. On April 9th he succumbed to prostate cancer.

Back in the early 1970s when I first started getting interested in avant-garde and minimalist music, the name Tony Conrad crept into the text of many books that I read. I knew that he was associated with La Monte Young and his Theatre of Eternal Music (AKA The Dream Syndicate) but, was not able to source any recordings. At that point in time, the only photo that I’d seen of him was simply a shadow of a figure playing a violin projected on a curtain.

I knew that he recorded and LP with the German group Faust but, even though I could find the Faust albums, that certain record always seemed to elude me. It wasn’t until the days of CD re-issues that I finally managed to obtain a copy.

I was also aware of Tony Conrad’s film/video work which I was finally able to view courtesy of youtube. His main area of focus for many years was film.

Fast forward to 2010 and I find myself (as half of the duo Transmorphous Sound Ensemble with Richard Moule) booked to play at the LOLA Festival on the same bill as Tony Conrad.

For his performance, Conrad used his Long String Instrument to create a wonderful cloud of sound. After his performance, Richard and I were lucky enough to get to hang out with Tony and chat. It was a quite surreal moment for me as we listened to this iconic musical figure who had once only existed to me as a photograph of a shadow.

To discover more about Tony Conrad’s work, I recommend doing a search on youtube. There are several clips there including some very interesting interviews.

There is also a book which Tony himself recommends entitled Beyond the Dream Syndicate: Tony Conrad and the Arts After Cage by Branden W. Joseph.

Here are a few photos which I took of Tony performing at the 2010 LOLA Festival here in London, Ontario.

Dieter Moebius (Cluster): 1944 – 2015

Dieter Moebius was one of the founding members of the avant-garde experimental trio known as Kluster who formed in Berlin in the late ’60s. Along side fellow artists Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler, they produced a trio of records which were abstract sound collages.

After the departure of Schnitzler (who was also a founding member of Tangerine Dream), the remaining duo re-branded themselves as Cluster. In this incarnation, the duo produced several recordings of wonderful minimalist electronic soundscapes.

In the early 1970s, new music from German began filtering into the UK. The sounds of Cluster along with Can, Amon Duul II, Tangerine Dream, Neu! and Kraftwerk began to make inroads outside of their native land.

One person whose ears were opened to these sounds was Brian Eno. He subsequently recorded albums in collaboration with the Cluster duo.

Both Moebius and Roedelius recorded many solo albums over the years. They also continued to work together as well as joining Neu! guitarist Michael Rother as a trio called Harmonia.

The sounds made by Moebius and Roedelius not only made an impact on a new generation of electronic music artists in the 1970s but, continue to be felt to this day.

In the early 1980s, I was half of an electronic music duo called M104 along with Werner Albert. The greatest compliment that we received about our music was that we were the Canadian version of Cluster. Enough said.

Obituary at The Guardian website.

 

Future Days by David Stubbs

FutureDays-book

Subtitled “Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany” this book takes the reader on a journey through the heady days of the German experimental music scene from the late sixties into the seventies.

Stubbs begins with a lengthy prologue which traces the social developments of the country through the 20th century. This is done to provide a perspective on what was to come after the Second World War.

After he has established the state of the minds of the German youth through the sixties, he then relates the stories behind the major groups who began creating experimental music.

Full chapters are devoted to some of the best known bands in what was termed “Krautrock” such as Amon Duul, Can, Kraftwerk and Faust. He later explores the “scenes” happening in areas such as Berlin.

He finishes by discussing newer music as well as the influence of the German music on specific musicians (David Bowie) and musical scenes (post punk).

For those not intimately familiar with this music, it may serve as a good introduction to stir up some curiosity. For those of us who are already quite well-versed in the genre, there are still some facts that are revealed that may be new to us.