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Neu ! - Neu! 2 CD (album) cover

NEU! 2

Neu !



2.97 | 145 ratings

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4 stars Well, my first review on this site and it happens to be Neu! 2. Actually, not just 'happens', as I registered specifically to review this album, as it seems to have comparably few positive reviews. I can understand why, as until today I had also accepted the whole 'band ran out of money, album full of filler' argument and never really paid attention to this album, even though I've long since fallen in love with Neu! 75, as well as Hallogallo and Negativland from the first album.

However, I just listened to this album attentively several times and was amazed, in particular by side 2 which usually seems to be regarded as the 'throwaway' one. Side 1 contains the obvious classic Fur Immer, which builds on Hallogallo, smoothing out the production and pointing the way towards Neu! 75, while also adding more powerful rhythm guitars at various points. Excellent track! The following two short atmospheric pieces are, to my ears, the weakest on the album, although Spitzenqualitat does demonstrate interesting production techniques, as would later be used by many a post-punk group, while Gedenkminute gives an ambient interlude in which to pause for thought... The final piece on the side, Lila Engel, seems to be the earliest of Neu!'s real proto-punk works, with the second half in particular layering the guitar and various effects into a real wall of sound, developing into a powerful, almost vicious piece.

But really, it's the second side I wanted to discuss. Basically, this side consists of the A and B-sides of Neu!'s Super/Neuschnee single, two 78 rpm 'remixes' of these two tracks, two tape manipulations of other Neu! tracks, and one 16 rpm 'remix' of Super. The two singles in their original form are both classic Neu!, on a par with the best tracks from Neu! and Neu! 75. I even prefer these to anything on side one, as they seem to condense all of Neu! best qualities (driving rhythms, melodic guitar improvisations and loops, strange vocals, interesting production techniques, distorted proto-punk rhythm guitars) down into 3-4 minute gems. The two 78 rpm versions seem to push this concentration even further, turning Neu!'s motorik beat into a hyperspeed electronic rhythm. While the music of these two tracks is 'the same' as the original singles (with minimal tape manipulations), these manipulated versions have a very different and original sound. While it was obviously possible to play recordings at increased speed earlier, Neu!'s music seems eminently suited to this than, given its repetitive, driving nature and lack of melodical vocals/choruses (thus avoiding the 'chipmunk effect'). While I certainly wouldn't want to replace the originals with these versions, they do add another dimension to the songs (and are only a minute or two long anyway).

As for the other tracks, Super 16 has become slightly well-known from kung fu soundtracks (including Kill Bill) and listening to it here one can see why: it definitely has an ominous dramatic feel which is totally absent in the original. This seems to be at least partly the result of tape manipulations adding sound effects on the slowed-down version. Unlike the 78 versions, this one is pretty much unrecognisable compared to the original Super, thus also making an interesting addition to the album. That just leaves the two tape manipulations. Hallo Excentrico! is the more interesting of the two, using varied tape speeds to achieve an unnerving, ghostly effect. Cassetto is only lesser for being more repetitive, and containing strange gaps of silence. The music itself could easily be the backing for a lost My Bloody Valentine single, with the tremolo achieved via tape instead of directly via guitar.

So all in all, an experimental album on which pretty much all the experiments are successful. The effects themselves were not totally original in a prog/rock context at the time, for example varying tape speed was used to great effect in Kevin Ayers' 1969 track Stop This Train (Again Doing It). Nonetheless, combining them together into a kind of experimental 'suite' on side 2 only serves to emphasise the possibilities for using tape manipulation/etc in music production, making this album an important influence on many later musicians and producers. Well worth paying more attention to!

4.5 stars from me!

AenimaUK | 4/5 |


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