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A.R. & Machines - Echo CD (album) cover

ECHO

A.R. & Machines

 

Krautrock

4.03 | 44 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Discipline, structure, and focus. If that's what you adore about progressive rock, run like hell from A. R. & Machines. If, however, you prize prog's ability to wash over you with waves of weirdness until your astral form winds up light years away from your physical body -- perhaps having forgotten that said body ever existed, you know man, in the really real sense -- then Echo may be the lost classic that you've been waiting for.

This is especially true if your soul happens to respond to the unique conjunction of cosmic forces that resulted in a seemingly infinite universe of obscure vinyl treasures between roughly 1966 and 1977. Germany didn't have a monopoly on spacey pagan psychedelia by any means, but there's enough of a concentration of unrestrained genius in that extended circle to assure that most of us are still rediscovering the many facets of Krautrock at this late date -- and, it must be said, the same probably goes for many of those who made the music to begin with.

I don't know that Achim Reichel (let alone Herr Schultze) ever takes a spare hour and a half to revisit Echo. He may (like the vast majority of my esteemed prog contemporaries and probably the world at large) only think of Echo to dismiss the album as an incoherent and self-indulgent soup of delay effects and cryptobabble. Fair enough, but I've tasted a lot of bad soup, and even more bland soup, and this is neither of those recipes.

For one thing, the music is genuinely but non-specifically evocative -- one of the essential keys to the gate of transcendence, so to speak. It'll put you on the road without really suggesting a direction, but this is no spineless New Age ambient wallpaper; Echo will assert itself on a regular basis to give your mind something unexpected to work with.

The minimalist, minor-key repetitions have the same moody trance-inducing quality of Cluster and Eno, but with an acid rock foundation rather than an ambient synth framework. Einladung (Invitation) is all about guitars and drums.. and water, and drawn-out flange sweeps. If I say the word 'cave', am I forcing my authority on the chaotic freedom of your mind's drift, man?

It's sometimes hauntingly beautiful, too, and surprisingly powerful.

And it gets funky like only Krautrock can, taking all of the acid dance freakout fun of Velvet Underground meets swinging London meets Haight-Ashbury and turning it into a cosmic party cruise attended by Teutonic stewardesses. And then Carlos Castaneda appears, with pre-electric Marc Bolan as his spirit guide, and everything disappears into the forest primeval. And you're STILL only on the second song, Das Echo Der Gegenwart (The Echo Of The Present). Lucky for us, the present was 1972, which was a far more timeless present than our current future, which so much more quickly slips into the past.

If you haven't given up by the point that Das Echo Der Zeit (The Echo Of Time) arrives, you're in for a Throbbing Gristle of a treat. Never has there been such difficulty telling novelty from consistency. Baby voices and more layered, echoed guitars. Native chanting and drumming. Comus enters a chrysalis and emerges as Aphrodite's Child. All of the seats were occupied (by layers of echoing sound).

To be fair, the musicians are pretty tight for all of their looseness, and the sections and transitions possess a lot more dynamic discipline and distinctiveness that it seems. This stands out from a slew of psychedelic-era concept albums that amount to little more than throwing sounds at the wall to see if anything sticks. Speaking of which... I hate to make enemies, but I'd rather hear the 43 minutes of Das Echo Der Zukunft (The Echo Of The Future) once a week for the rest of my life than EVER hear Tubular Bells again.

Das Echo Der Vergangenheit (Echo of the Past) is probably my least favorite, due to the disjointed a cappella / spoken section -- but it may be your MOST favorite, especially if you have a fondness for RIO and / or experimental composers of the Charles Dodge variety. It's certainly not out of character with the rest of the album, at any rate. And the symphonic conclusion threatens to take us out on a surprisingly Alpine soundtrack note, until the shimmering and ringing drones of pure ambient bliss soothe our eternal night of lucid discovery gently back into the sunlit sleep of waking.

Rare, beautiful, weird, and utterly immersive in a very unique way.

James Lee | 4/5 |

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