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Neu! - Neu! 2 CD (album) cover

NEU! 2

Neu!

 

Krautrock

2.96 | 91 ratings

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Syzygy
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Neu! 2 is an album that is often dismissed, mostly because of what was on side 2 of the original vinyl release. It's pretty much mandatory to parrot the story that Neu! ran out of money before finishing the album, so they decided to record their single at different speeds to fill the second half. While this is true up to a point - they really did blow most of their recording budget on the first half of the album - it's a mistake to dismiss the second half of the album entirely.

But first, side 1. The album opens with the brilliant Fur Immer, which starts at the wrong speed (a foretaste of what was to come later on) before settling down into the best and most hypnotic of Neu!'s motorik grooves. There's a definite resemblance to Hallogallo from their previous outing, but here the sound has been processed and refined to perfection; repetitive and ever changing, minimal yet full of detail, it's often referred to as their finest moment and with good reason. For 11 minutes achingly minimal guitar lines intertwine over washes of keyboards and the pulse of Klaus Dinger's perfectly judged drumming. This fades into the drums-and-reverb experiment of Spitzenqualitat, which somehow maintains interest for almost 5 minutes, before a brief soundscaping interlude leads into Lila Engel. This is a slice of motorik proto punk, which was the first example of the sound that Klaus Dinger would explore further on side 2 of Neu! 75 and then with La Dusseldorf, and an insanely catchy piece it is too.

And so we come to the second half of the album. The first thing to point out is that both sides of their one and only single are included here, accounting for about a third of the side's playing time, and both Super and Neuschnee are well up to Neu!'s usual standards. Neuschnee compresses the glacial beauty of their longer pieces into just under 4 minutes and does so highly effectively. Super is a more raw piece, showcasing Klaus Dinger's proto punk sensibilities the way that Neuschnee sets the tone for Michael Rother's side of Neu! 75. These 2 tracks are essential pieces of Neu!'s output, and justify the second half of the album on their own.

The two sides are also played at different speeds, from the sound of it on a cheap and nasty mono turntable, and it is these experiments which cause all the controversy. Back in 1973 this was by no means an obvious ploy; scratching, turntablism and plunderphonics all lay several years in the future, although Kraftwerk had used tapes played back at half or double speed on their second album, so there was some precedent for what they were doing. The obvious solution to filling the album would have been either a 15 minute jam, possibly with a guest musician or two, or a long drum solo from Klaus and a lengthy axe workout from Michael. In an interview with Mojo at the time that these albums were reissued, Klaus Dinger said that they had always planned to 'beat up the record player', and careful listening reveals that there was more going on than just random filler. When the two sides are played at 78 rpm, in addition to the usual distortion we also hear the needle skipping and what sounds like the record player being shaken. In both cases the whole track is played at the wrong speed. This is not the case with Neuschnee 16, which could have filled the missing space on its own - instead the experiment is cut short after three and a half minutes. Two other tracks are included; Cassetto sounds like a Neu! track being played back on a cheap cassette player whose batteries are almost flat, while Hallo Excentrico sounds like the master tape is being wound manually across the heads while some studio chat goes on in the background. On these two tape experiments it's not entirely clear what the source material is, although the title of Hallo Excentrico indicates that it may be Hallogallo.

And are the experiments any good? The 78 rpm tracks are short and to the point, while the 16 rpm track has a fascination of its own - hearing Dinger's drumming in slow motion is remarkably effective. The tape experiments are more of a trial, although they're not wholly without value. Neu! always had an experimental side, and too much thought went into the second half of the album for it to be dismissed as mere filler. The problem is that there's just too much of it, and some of the tracks drag on for too long. Had one or two other fully realised pieces been included, snippets of the tape and turntable experiments could have been interspersed to great effect. As it is, the distorted tracks take up a third of the album's playing time and are often included back to back, making for a slightly indigestible sequence.

Neu! 2 isn't quite a lost classic, but it comes close. Two thirds of the album is strong, original material that stands up well against the rest of their output, and taken on its own terms their experimentation on the second half of the album is occasionally successful and quite innovative. Cautiously recommended to lovers of the experimental side of Krautrock.

Syzygy | 4/5 |

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