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Amon Düül II - Yeti CD (album) cover

YETI

Amon Düül II

 

Krautrock

4.04 | 333 ratings

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Pnoom!
4 stars In all honesty, I must say that I am shocked. Shocked that the majority of reviews for this album are not justified by a written review, and that the average rating of these ratings-without-reviews is over a full star higher than those of ratings with reviews (keep in mind that ratings-without-reviews are weighted less heavily than ratings backed by written reviews, which are, in turn, worth less than reviews by collaborators). Shocked that this album is given a cold reception on a site dedicated to progressive rock music. Shocked that I am just the second registered forum member (and first collaborator) to give this album the full five stars it deserves. This album is clearly a masterpiece of Krautrock, but it is truly much more as well. It is a masterpiece of all music. Very few works ever reach the heights of Yeti (in fact, I can only think of two: CAN - Tago Mago and Magma - Mekanik Destructiw Kommandoh).

Speaking of Tago Mago, this album automatically draws comparisons to that album. In my mind, Tago Mago and Yeti are the two defining Krautrock albums, but that's not where the similarities die. Both are double albums, with one album full of *accessible* material (but still quite difficult) and one full of experimental improvised madness (and, in both cases, the madness is found on disc two). Thankfully, however, the similarities end there. The music of the two are radically different. CAN is full of strange psychedelic jams with huge emphasis on drumming and Damo Suzuki's inimitable and indescribable vocals, while Amon Duul II take a more psychedelic hard folk rock approach to their music. Yes, the drumming is still a huge highlight (as is the case for much Krautrock), but we are also treated to delectable guitar riffs and passages you'd never find in CAN music.

Before I get into the album more deeply, let me present a brief history of Amon Duul II. They and Amon Duul I (a band I have not yet come to discover) were originally joined as one commune, called Amon Duul. This was a political, anarchist commune that protested German government, improvised music, and overdosed on psychedelic drugs. A pleasant combination, to be sure (and I'm only half-joking as I say that, given how the music of at least this one offshoot turned out). The commune split into two factions, one wanting to focus on the political side of things, one on the musical end (Amon Duul II being the musical faction). Legal battles over who would get to keep the original name and who would have to stick a "II" on the end of their name ensued, and Amon Duul II, the musical faction, came out on the losing end. At that point Amon Duul I engaged in a large jam session which produced four studio albums (only their album Paradieswarts Duul - widely regarded as their best - came out of a different session) and then focused on politics. Amon Duul II, meanwhile, endured multiple lineup changes and went on to produce such wonderful albums as Phallus Dei, Tanz Der Lemminge, Wolf City, and, of course, Yeti.

One thing we need to get past is that this album is experimental. There is nothing wrong with this, and indeed, it can be a huge bonus for the music, as noted by fellow prog reviewer Corbet, who said, in describing this album, "when Germans get experimental, the heavens rejoice." I can't speak for the heavens, but I can speak for myself, and to me, there is nothing better than experimental Germans. Far from being the "abominable album," as Easy Livin suggests in his (admittedly well-written) two star review, Yeti is an excellent example (and indeed, perhaps the best example, behind Tago Mago) of why I consider Krautrock my favorite style of progressive rock. I will grant Easy Livin the point, however, that this album is a monster. It is indeed a monster of an album, but only in the sense that it was innovative and groundbreaking and stood for so much and did so much new that only a monster of an album could possibly maintain itself with all that content. With Yeti, Amon Duul II capture a wide range of styles, all of them interesting (and all heavily tinted with psychedelia), ranging from the soft and mellow She Came Through the Chimney to the hard rocking Archangel Thunderbird, from the folksy Cerberus to the 34 minute improvisation extravaganza of Yeti/Yeti Talks to Yogi and Sandoz in the Rain.

Yeti opens with the mini-epic Soap Shop Rock, perhaps the greatest song they ever recorded. It is a fourteen-minute odyssey in four parts, ranging from accessible, almost straight rock to insane violin passages, complete with stoned vocals about burning sisters (presumably something to do with protest and anarchy, as was the case with most of their non-instrumental songs). Trippy guitar is ever-present on this track as it races between ominous, brooding sections and pounding rock, sometimes noodling (but only in a good away), sometimes completely focused, and always essential. This song essentially defines the entire idea of a "krautrock freakout" (in my mind the very best part of Krautrock), insane, crazy, strange, and ultimately appealing. There are traces of hard rock here, but all focus should be put on the song as a whole, and not the individual styles in encompasses (of which there are many), for it truly gels as a single piece of absolutely stunning music. This might be more than just my favorite Amon Duul II song (already quite an achievement); it might just be my favorite song of any band (and if it isn't, it certainly comes very, very close).

This song was the entire side one of disc one of the original album, and based on my description of it, you'd certainly be right to worry that they might have trouble following it. Thankfully, this potential disaster never comes to pass, as, starting with She Came in Through the Window, we are in for a wild ride the rest of the way. She Came in Through the Window is a soft and mellow instrumental that provides *some* relief, though is still crazy in its own way. It is probably the weakest song on the album, but it's still amazing, and this only speaks volumes about the quality of the remaining songs.

Of these remaining songs, excluding the sidelong improvisations, Archangel Thunderbird is among the best (along with Cerberus and Eye-Shaking King). It contains vocals about god-knows-what which greatly enhance the track, which is built around an amazing hard rock riff and some great drumming (and even a drum "riff"). This song is as close as the band will ever come to being "catchy" on this album, though even then, it's not at all catchy, for, while the music might grab you on some levels, the vocals are such an acquired taste that it would never make it mainstream (which I doubt they would have wanted in the first place). Also, keep in mind that anything I say about this song or any song on this album that sounds like a negative I mean as a plus, because there is nothing wrong with this album as I see it (hence the perfect masterpiece rating).

Cerberus is right on the level of Archangel Thunderbird. It revolves around psychedelic folk and serves as a hypnotic and infectious instrumental that anchors the album as a classic. You can sample the song on this site, and I strongly advise you do, for if you like it at all you will like this album. Also, keep in mind that while it sounds great out of context, it sounds unbelievably awesome in context. For its finish, it takes on a marvelous hard rock nature with great twin guitars that is one of the single greatest moments on this album (not surprising, considering that this is among the greatest songs on this album that is among the greatest albums).

The Return of Ruebezahl is a short track, fairly repetitive, that captures an excellent hard rock sound for the minute and a half or so it deigns to stick around, serving as the perfect transition between Cerberus and Eye-Shaking king. Like most of the songs on the album (the only exceptions being Soap Shop Rock, Archangel Thunderbird, Cerberus, and maybe, just maybe, Eye-Shaking King), it only works in context, but that's no sin.

Eye-Shaking King opens loudly, featuring great twin guitar work and Amon Duul II's traditional stoned vocals. Like Archangel Thunderbird and the latter part of Cerberus, as well as The Return of Ruebezahl and parts of Soap Shop Rock, this album shows Amon Duul II's penchant for a mix between hard rock and Krautrock, a combination they perfected with this album. Also, they show that they can use repetition well enough that it prevents the listener from drowning in a wave of "progginess" while still keeping things interesting enough to hold the prog listener's interest. This tendency loses the interest of the mainstream audience because of uncommerciality, and it loses the prog rock audience for the exact same reason. Because, even for prog, this is uncommercial stuff.

After Eye-Shaking King, we have only one more song before we reach the apex of the album, the inimitable Yeti/Yeti Talks to Yogi. This song, Pale Gallery, is apparently a shortened version of the song (perhaps it was extended live, I'm not sure), and, like The Return of Ruebezahl, is another "only in context" song, which, I will say again, is not bad at all (just look at Yes' Fragile album, where most of the songs only work in context).

And now it's time for Yeti. The album alone is one of Krautrock's - no, one of MUSIC's greatest achievements, but even that could not prepare me for disc two. Even though it's improvisation, it feels as if every moment was planned, that's how perfect it is. Another reviewer pointed out, and I will, too, that many musicians need to realize that improvisation isn't playing what you feel like playing, it's playing what will work with what your fellow musicians are playing. Many jam bands never quite realized this, and their music ended up, not surprisingly, as an unlistenable mess. Amon Duul II, on the other hand, perfectly grasped this concept, and it shows. When I first bought this album, I mostly listened to symphonic progressive rock and the big names of prog (Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Jethro Tull were my favorites), and while I was starting to enjoy Tago Mago, it was all I could do to get into this album. In fact, after my first listen to Soap Shop Rock, I stashed it away for quite some time, sure I would never make it through the improvisations. How blissfully wrong I was. As far as you can call it an epic, Yeti is among my favorites. I don't want to say too much about the song itself, because you really have to experience it to "get it." It can't be force fed to you with a spoon; you must open your mind and let it in.

The same goes for Yeti Talks to Yogi (essentially Yeti part 2) and Sandoz in the Rain (the only improvisation with vocals). I simply cannot force them upon you and hope you understand. I can only present them to you and leave you to choose whether to accept them or not. If you choose to accept them, you will be able to form your own opinion on them. If not, you will dislike them for the sake of disliking them. Some people might prefer gold removed from its natural environment, processed and reprocessed to get out all "impurities" (I refer to symphonic progressive rock), but with Krautrock, and with these thirty-four minutes of improvisation especially, we see gold in its natural form, we see it in context, and that, ultimately, makes it much more enjoyable for me.

There's not much more for me to say about this album, other than that I cannot recommend it highly enough. This is an album everyone ought to own, for it is a landmark of Krautrock. Perhaps it isn't the best way to get into Krautrock, but, in reality, with genres like Krautrock, Zeuhl, and RIO/Avant Prog, there really is no easy way in. You must choose to dive in without having had a chance to dabble your toes. At first, the genre will probably seem cold, but you will soon warm up to it, as I have done. Yeti may be approaching the deep end, but I will say that it was one of my first Krautrock experiences, and I haven't left the pool yet. It's a good life when there's a Yeti to keep you company.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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