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Erlkoenig - Erlkoenig  CD (album) cover





3.28 | 41 ratings

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4 stars What can be said about this little gem?

This is one of the rare obscurities that is actually worth tracking down!

It's a hard album to analyse, principally because it is Krautrock at it's most raw; clearly (early) Pink Floyd inspired, but with snippets of other bands, like the Doors, Amon Duul II and Hawkwind thrown in for a heavy keyboard and guitar-driven outing with more evidence of improvisation than composition, yet a strong coherence to the almost random seeming structures that lends a unique vitality to the music that overrides the underlying simplicity.

To that end, I will not attempt any kind of academic analysis, as to do so would be, well, so academic.

"Erlkoenig Impression" begins with a tasty introduction of Mellotron and drums that instantly sparks that Prog Rock feeling. It then dives into one of those riffs that just makes you think "Oh no - what are they thinking!". It kind of reminds me of the Doors in some ways - but in a very naff way. It's worth going through, however, as this album just gets better and better. The next quiet section, which reminds me a little of early Genesis paves the way nicely for a high-intensity section reminding me of early Floyd - with maybe a hint of the James Bond theme tune. then a piano driven section - the ideas come rolling and tumbling, but rarely completely tangentially; always making some sort of bizarre sense. We return to the gentle "Genesis" section and back to the "high intensity Bond" section and onwards and backwards to the initial "Doors" section via some nice improve and well orchestrated changeovers.

"Tomorrow" follows this, and we get some vocals for the first time. These are of a reasonable quality and nicely mournful. The keyboards produce some nice classically inspired melodies, and the arrangements are full of doom-laden drama. I get flavours of the Beatles "Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite", then a wild drum solo is unleashed, seguing gently into a piano driven section with the classically inspired melodies, and some odd but effective chord changes to break it all up. The jump from piano back to organ is a bit startling, but we can make allowances for the cheap production. The return to the vocal section is loose, but inspired.

"Thoughts" is 9 and a half minutes of Krautrock bliss - a nice organ intro feeds into a winding guitar part drenched in wah wah and detuned to perfection. Wonderful Iron Butterfly meets the Doors with an injection of hi engery stuff. Each band member keeps absolutely sensitive to the musical direction, no more and no less. IN other words, no groundbreaking music or virtuosic fireworks - but boy, does it rock!

The structure is a kind of ABC, ABC, ABC, DE, with plenty of organic flow from one section to another and re use of thematic material producing a cohesive whole that feels much shorter than it is.

A wonderful retrospective intro kicks off the next section, which is another piano-driven affair that goes on to work out a Russian-sounding melody fragment, which feeds into a relaxing jazz-influenced section that develops nicely through the pianists' playing around with the original tune and taking it to some wonderfully introspective levels. This segues into a kind of fanfare, which sets up expectations for a more rocking interlude, but Erlkoenig play with this expectation, teasing expertly, building up, dropping down, then eventually settling into a jazz-influenced groove with "Classical" overtones - a kind of flavour of what Renaissance could have been like if they'd only dropped the silly pretentious Bach and Beethoven quotations. The next section begins with a sitar-sound from the guitar, which creates a subtly different mood and texture, but no less dark and moody.

Side 2 begins even more strongly with "Castrop-Rauxel"; a drums and Hammond crash give way to a rippling Hammond lick, joined by the guitars and stretched out before the very Barrett/Floyd vocal entry. Again, the backing has flavours of the Doors and Iron Butterfly, but Erlkoenig develop it their own way, via a nice funky drum beat reminiscent of Can. The atmosphere is sensitively built towards the next vocal entry.

The overall structure is very simple - but very elongated to the point of obscurity, and subsequently it's Erlkoenig's working of the material that grabs the attention rather than the content. And it's all good. Good enough to be far greater than the sum of its parts - in other words, this is not rock music for the over-analytical, but drift-along progressive psychedelia. it's Krautrock in its neat form!

We could go on picking and picking at the music, and observe the same kind of constructions at work, the same influences throughout - but that would be to miss out on the overall beauty of the work and the ultimate success of four musicians in bringing their musical minds together and creating something unique and progressive that just gets better and better as it progresses.

The music is badly (cheaply) produced, and the musicians very loose - and right at the very edge of their abilities, but the charm remains throughout, and the ideas flow thick and fast. This is a great addition to any collection of prog rock, and a perfect door into Krautrock that is highly recommended especially to fans of Pink Floyd's early material, Hawkwind, the Doors, Iron Butterfly and Amon Duul II. There are even moments of Shocking Blue in here among other tasty treats!

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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