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Amon Düül II - Yeti CD (album) cover

YETI

Amon Düül II

 

Krautrock

4.04 | 327 ratings

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4 stars Not a bad intro to Krautrock - but tails off a bit towards the end

A masterpiece of Krautrock, treading the line between improvised jams and well thought-out composistions - and even finding time for some more conventional songwriting to provide a balance. The balance, however, is tipped in favour of those jams on side 2, which tend to get a little tedious on repeated listens, hence I am docking the full Masterpiece point.

"Soap Shock Rock" is a wonderful slice of psychedelia, using a conventional song structure and, *gasp*, strong melodies, with great textures enhanced by a good production. Around 4 minutes (presumably the change to "Halluzination Guillotine" - the times given above seem inexact) we get a change that fully demonstrates ADII's mastery of the psychedelic jam - this doesn't just noodle around the same themes ad nauseam, but explores textures with well thought-out punctuation giving breathing space.

ADII enter a really nice groove then develop it, each instrumentalist putting in work that contributes to the overall team effort, building and layering, stripping back and even diving into new themes. I find some of the male vocals to be a little on the "silly" side - but nothing as bad as Daevid Allen at his worst.

Interesting textures and sounds are pushed to the fore - we get violin melodies winding around the voices, odd rattles and delicate guitar motifs providing complexity in texture, with Middle Eastern flavours being constantly hinted at behind the almost Romany gypsy flavour of the violin.

A recapitulation of the opening bars wraps things up nicely.

This is something many modern so-called experimental bands could learn from - improvisation and experimentation isn't just about jamming and playing the first thing that comes into your head, it's about being able to improvise as part of a group, and collectively produce new musical sounds whilst being sensitive to the music you are creating and observing (even if not following) its rules.

"She Came Through The Chimney" starts like a typical psychedelic song a la Kaleidoscope, etc, replete with bongos, but with better production. When the violin makes an appearance around 1:00, it sounds more like a wind instrument, then it is layered and effected some more for good measure - and the remainder of this short piece explores this texture some more, meandering into practically white noise territory, but remaining generally chilled throughout. Nice!

We sit up with a start from the intro to "Archangels Thunderbird", which is a great rocker which feeds into a terrific riff, with imaginative guitar work, an unpredictable feeling yet strong vocal melody, and some wicked little effected interludes. This all adds up to a great little song that sits in a really good headspace and plays odd tricks with time!

"Cerberus" has a strongly rhythmic almost Flamenco feel to the start, with a flurry of acoustic guitars and tambourines, later joined by the (slightly predictable but welcome) bongos. I'm getting flavours of the Incredible String Band - minus the really wierd stuff that tends to spoil some of the ISB's material. Some might find this repetitive, but those people are missing out on the almost hypnotic mantra that is being built, as the texture morphs to mean electric guitar and bass, and the kit enters sensitively. The excitement is built, then drops... you really want this to develop into something huge after this, but sadly it doesn't.

Happily, we get "The Return of Ruebezahl" instead - a strangely short little ditty presumably dedicated to the Ruebezahl of the Giant Mountains in the Czech Republic - a legendary figure known as Krakonos in Czech. Ruebezahl allegedly means "counter of turnips" in German, and was a character capable of great good and evil - many local people agreeing that Krakonos is a personification of the forces of nature.

There's a legend that he once decided to amuse himself by counting the turnips in a field, and the local people ridiculed him for this. In order to escape the humiliation from the villagers, he ran off and hid in the mountains, where his spirit remains to this day, ready to spring a surprise on the unwary. Will it be a nice surprise or a nasty one? That is up to Ruebezahl.

ADII play around with time in this short piece, a striding riff motif surrounded by swirling guitars and underpinned by a driving rhythm. But too short!

"Eye-Shaking King" starts off with an eye-shaking intro. The riff that follows borders on the bizarre, but makes sense when the drums and bass enter to give some perspective. It's kinda more of the same but different... then it changes around 1:24 into the first of many really odd vocal sections. The main riff to which the band return could have been written by Pink Floyd... except that it wasn't...

ADII do some more of their brilliant exploration of the material, the guitar soloing away seemingly impervious to the changes of riffs and textures below. It's a bit noodly, but it all stays in key, and you realise that the guitar solo is but a part of the overal texture rather than an ego-fest. This is nicely topped off with an eye-shaking finale.

"Pale Gallery" begins with some wonderfully odd textures built up with layers of keyboards and guitars with all the top and bottom EQd out. This really is a quite unique sound, then we get guitars dive-bombing around it. Forget so-called "Post Rock" - this is real experimentation with music - ADII have the enviable touch of being able to maintain a sense of coherence within the music even while keeping it unbridled.

"Yeti" continues this, with more great spacey sonic structures, hanging crystalline in space - maybe hurrying in slightly too rapidly with the percussion for my taste, but building up in a kind of "Saucerful of Secrets" way, with many sounds that remind me of the Floyd classic, but also some really great ADII touches.

The problem with this kind of improvisation is that the overall picture that is being built up by the music can so easily be lost in the blink of an eye - a mistimed guitar run, a wrongly anticipated fill on the kit, a bass line that just gets lost, poorly chosen keyboard sounds, riffs that go on too long - that kind of thing. ADII kind of sit slightly over the bleeding edge with Yeti, where all the pitfalls I mentioned loom their troll-like faces over the bridge, but somehow ADII keep it together. The expected jam comes around 6:00 after a build up that lasts more than 2 minutes. It may be ADII, but it's still essentially a garage jam. Most enjoyable a few times, but you won't be revisiting this part of the album as much as the earlier material, as it simply doesn't offer anything new on the whole.

OTOH, if you just want some psychedelic aural wallpaper for a slightly more up-tempo chill-out session, this is perfect. The sound is great, the rhythms driving and constantly ebbing and flowing, with some nice sonic changes and the textures are nicely swirly.

Yeti Talks to Yogi is more of the same but different... didn't I already use that phrase? More intense and darker, with tunnels of keyboards shimmering around bass and guitar textures, flitering through to a drum solo of sorts - the soloing is kept sympathetic to the feel of the improv, and brought back again to allow the instrumental textures to build. It does, however, wander around uncertainly in circles for a while - maybe one less chillum would have worked wonders for the imagination here? Around 4:30, a vocal brings everything back to life again and we ride in this territory to the end.

"Sandoz in the Rain" is more improv, but starts with a nice acoustic guitar/bongo/flute Eastern flavoured section, joined by meditative vocals and violin, creating a unique texture with hints of Gong. This is kind of spoiled slightly when the guitar picks up the rhythm, but after this moment of exuberance, the meditative feel returns nicely.

The improv ends with the exuberant passage, which I'm not altogether happy with, and certainly stops me from feeling any remorse at having to dock the Masterpiece point from what is a superb album of Krautrock with a great "feel" and wonderfully "hippy" sounds.

If you're considering getting into Krautrock, you could do worse than start here. A most excellent addition to any prog music collection.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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