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Xhol Caravan / Xhol - Electrip  CD (album) cover

ELECTRIP

Xhol Caravan / Xhol

 

Krautrock

3.37 | 37 ratings

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Certif1ed
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Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Not Xohld on this one...

So I'm idly flicking through my reviews wondering if I've missed any letter of the alphabet, and X stands out - and, luckily for me, I've just acquired a copy of Electrip by Xohl Caravan, the better to increase my knowledge of early Kraut bands.

This isn't the usual stoke up a number, pass the funny pipe and see what drops out stuff - there's a definite method in the madness, and that, sadly, kills a lot of it for me - it's not what I expect from this type of music, and it reduces it to sounding like a bunch of musicians who should know and do much better.

To start with, we have Electric Fun Fair. This begins with a predictable waltz in the style one might associate with a carousel... actually, it appears to randomly start with someone flushing the toilet. I'm afraid I'm not really sold on the humour here, however... the musicians have got the textures right, but the lack of intricacies in the music tell it like it is - and the switch to a 5/4 jazz-rock style improv complete the picture, and it's not really one of a funfair - that's just lip service in the title. Oh, and the 5/4 swing in the jazz improv does make it sound like a variation of Brubeck's famous number, in case you were wondering.

Just when things are getting all too predictable, the music is broken down in a very interesting way - but this sadly gives way to perhaps the cheesiest thing I've ever heard from this musical scene. I know children are often told that the moon is made of cheese - but frankly, cosmic cheese is not for my crackers.

A more rocking groove takes over, and the organ goes off on a raga tip - and the whole descends into a noisy section that is much more like it, but soon returns to the jaunty fairground sound of earlier to bring the piece to a close.

You can tell that the band have thought about it and planned it out in some detail - and to my ears, that's entirely what's wrong with it. I like Kosmische music that really goes off on one, gets deep into the soul of the groove, follows it, tears it apart, layers it up and above all, FEELS where the music is going, rather than attempts to shove it into some pre-ordained and completely de-fleshed skeleton. Maybe that's just me.

Pop Games features a pleasant but slightly irritating ditty on the sax - which fortunately gives way to a pleasant improvisation over a single chord. I say fortunately... however, this drones on somewhat with little direction for a couple of minutes before some tension is built and we change to a pre-composed riff, which is striking in its potential for soundtrack music.

Then, around 2:55, it finally starts to get interesting - a drum solo, or rather, a percussion solo takes over, with small tuned instrument bursts giving a nice avant-garde feel, reminding me of Moonchild in places. This builds into another improvisation riff with a Doors go jazz flavour. The bass and drums get a kind of Ozric Tentacles thing going on, while vibes, sax and keys noodle around creating a spacey, Hawkwind-like texture - a couple of years before Hawkwind took this direction.

Next up is some jazzy funky goodness in All Green (reference to Al Green, perhaps?), which is of considerably better quality than the previous offerings, providing an interesting journey in a space that's mellow, with just enough tension at the edges to provide energy in the Doors-style keys.

A descending riff takes over, but is slightly overdone, then the music is slashed into with more aggressive keys, and a Pink Floyd moment strips the piece back momentarily. The drumming here is interesting, turning the beats upside-down and inside-out in turns, mushing it all up - but again, I feel it's all a bit too drawn out, before the descending riff returns and dissolves into chaos, which is where the piece should have ended - but, as a pattern forms, the band decide to resurrect the first theme and play with it a little bit - but not enough for it to be particularly interesting or warrant a re- showing here.

Raise Up High is a 17-minute+ spectacular... or would have been had we not been treated to some Jagger-alike vocals over music that sounds like the Doors meet a simlified version of Jethro Tull. These aggressive vocals really switch me off, and the music noodles around uninterestingly underneath them. Cries of Wooh!!! do not help proceedings, and the end of the piece suddenly seems a long way away... The improv here is not up to the quality of earlier tracks, and the bass is out of tune - hang on, there must be something nice to say about it.

Nope.

With lyrics like Baby, baby, I say I'm feeling better, I know it's not just because of the weather, we're on to a real loser, and only 4 minutes have passed of this monstrosity. Yawn.

Skipping through, I discover a breakdown at 6 minutes with some nice spacey bleeps and whistles from keys and sax that give the feeling of an ending. But no. It's so-called free jazz, where everybody plays what the heck they like with no regard to anyone else.

Suddenly, this is cut across with a reversed drum beat and more aimless noodling before a heavy riff threatens to build. This is sounding promising - but more like a new piece than a continuation of the old one. The bass is particularly irritating, noodling around, out of tune, with little regard for the build-up, and it all falls apart very disappointingly into more noodling that really gets on my nerves with its zonked-out lack of concentration.

We get approximately 9 minutes more of this - the bass player particularly noodling away around the same tired old lines, until we're treated to a harpsichord-alike solo for the final 45 seconds.

Hmm. One of the worst, most self-indulgent pieces I've ever heard in this genre - and that's saying something.

Walla Mashalla is vaguely interesting with its African chanting over more directionless noodle, but that's it - a very disappointing ending to an album with a poor start, but some real moments of inspiration somewhere around the middle.

As to the bonus tracks, Planet Earth sounds like the band were going for a hit single. A quirky one, with an odd vocal melody that leaps through uncomfortable (but effective) intervals, and a catchy backing, but single material nonetheless.

So Down was probably slated as the b-side of the single - a lightish jazzy/bluesy flavoured number, with vocals steeped in vibrato, and a nice swing.

In short, only worth owning if you need to have a complete collection of the earliest music in this scene - there's lots of Psychedelic rock from 1969 and the preceeding 2 years that has better improv, experimentation, virtuosity - and above all, soul.

There are some very good moments, but you have to go through a lot of dross to get to them. On balance, this album is only really for collectors and fans of Kosmiche music.

Certif1ed | 2/5 |

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