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


A.R. & Machines


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5 stars after a very promising debut, Achim Reichel didn't take his time to bring forward his masterpiece (probably due to the enormous band he was backed up by). Actually the familliar Klaus Schulze name is strage in the line up, because no one has ever witnessed Schulze "singing" on stage or elsewhere (he himself admits not even having used a microphone on stage for quite some time) - but it wouldn't surprise me if he touched some keys during the production...

actually Schulze inspiration in the album itself is more than just a coincidental appearance of his name on the line-up. The tracks are lengthy, one piece per side -only with the exception on side two, and those being two half-side-long tracks- and the music builds up just in the fashion Schulze would later employ. The difference is in the number of instruments used, and the variety of music. Schulze usually relies on the same type of instrument (at least in his '70's releases) and builds up without much change in tempo. A.R. on the other hand starts with the guitar (an obvious missing piece in Schulze's music) and gradually adds other instruments, until they blast altogether.

Yet another similarity with another prominent name of Schulze's own scene, indeed, a long time friend of Schulze himself, is Manuel Göttsching. And this similarity would go on for another couple of albums, actually even the last two pieces of A.R's concise catalogue bear similarity, if not much evident.

This album and the next two are absolute necessities for Krautheads. Warning: you may not appreciate the album's status as a masterpiece if you're not already into the aforementioned artists (along with Ash Ra Tempel) and other definitive bands of the genre, such as Can, Amon Düül, Tangerine Dream etc. It is a masterpiece in its own genre, that is, Krautrock. If you're looking for a symphonic rock masterwork, look elsewhere...

Report this review (#87296)
Posted Tuesday, August 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars A True Kraut Meisterwerk

Echo was my first taste of A.R. and the Machines as well as one of my introductions to the Krautrock scene. At first listen I was a bit skeptical, since the Kraut samples never did much for me, but after a few spins Echo really started to hit me and I loved it. This is the album that sparked my interest in Krautrock, which I'm really getting into at the moment. Although an odd place to start because of its obscurity, Echo really is no less accessible or original than the Kraut giants of Can, Neu!, Amon Duul, etc.

This is the second of the five A.R. and the Machines studio albums, and my favorite so far. The "A.R." in the name comes from band leader and guitarist, Achim Reichel. A.R. and the Machines were Achim's Krautrock band, who were formed at the birth of prog. Before this he was in The Rattles, a Beatles-esque band and Wonderland, who made psych/pop music in the late '60s. After playing with "The Machines", Achim left the prog scene in the mid '70s for a solo career to create pirate shanties and Deutschrock.

Compared to the debut, Echo is much more spacey and experimental. It is a double LP, which often brings about mixed opinions, but this album keeps its momentum on all four sides. The five songs flow smoothly, never moving too fast or too slow and never becoming too overbearing like some Krautrock might. "The Machines" are brought to life by Achim Reichel's unique "echo" guitar style, which is more evident than ever here, possibly inspiring the name of the album. One thing I absolutely love about this album are the occassional orchestrated bits, which add a lot of emotion and diversity. The vocals are Kraut-esque, especially on the last song where there is over 5 minutes of pure vocal experimentation and chanting. At first I didn't like this part at all, but eventually I grew to enjoy it, although probably my least favorite part on the album it's still great. The sound quality could be much improved, but I think that's the fault of my CD copy which seems like a straight-up vinyl rip. If I had $200 lying around, I'd order the vinyl copy which I'm sure sounds worlds better.

In conclusion, this album is sheer brilliance and essential to any fan of challenging music, especially Krautrock fans. Requires several listens to grow (doesn't most good music?), and when it does... VERY ethereal music, total masterliness!

Report this review (#124019)
Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is quite a masterpiece and a very lucky find. This was one of the most rare prog albums i have bought but well worth the search. The only place i could find it was on Doug Larsons imports. AR and machines is similar to Ash Ra Tempel, cosmic jokers, and Tangerine Dream in their style but the added bonus of some spacey psychedelic lyrics are a true treat that make AR such a joy to listen to. The sound scapes are beautiful and sure to take you on a glorious trip. I would go so far as to say AR and machines is the best spacey drawn out sound scape band in the krautrock genre (which places it at the top of all sound scape bands). If I listened to AR before all of the other aforementioned bands, I really don't think I would have appreciated their work nearly as much.
Report this review (#155546)
Posted Sunday, December 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I have been a little reluctant about reviewing this album, because there is a lot of material here. I have listened to it several times, but it doesn't stick with me a whole lot. You might say that it isn't that memorable. This is also my first experience at listening to KrautRock. I can honestly say that this will also be my last. I don't really like this style of prog at all.

First of all, the band stays on a musical idea far too long. Here is the concept. Take a riff start playing it over and over, then improv for awhile. This is the kind of thing garage bands do all the time.

The first song starts off with what sounds like an out of tune guitar. Achim Riechel begins playing the echo guitar and it develops from there if you will. I did like the last part the best, where it sounds like people are being shot to death. I wondered if it was a reference to the time of Hitler.

The second and third songs are connected, but Achim split the two up by title. Nothing too memorable at all here. The most memorable part was where the second song ended and the third song began, with children playing. They do some slow to fast stuff and it is not too bad, but that's about it.

"Echo of the Future" has some interesting electronic stuff on it. The band gets wild with it and it does sound kind of cool, but dated.

"Echo of the Past" has an acapella section that is way toooooooooooooooooooooo loooooooooooooooooooong! They could have shortened that part by at least five minutes.

I was disappointed with it. They could have injected so many more musical ideas than they did. Too much song for too little creativity. I have to give this Krautwork 2 stars, for lack of content.

Report this review (#282382)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
James Lee
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.

Report this review (#655545)
Posted Monday, March 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Achim Reichel's second album from 1972 is a double released the year after "The Green Journey". This isn't as good in my opinion and despite the fact there are a lot of guests helping out it doesn't feel like it. It's not really that samey and repetitive (although there is that) but it does have the same mood and vibe throughout. It's somewhat spacey with acoustic and electric guitars leading the way with percussion. There are vocals at times including Klaus Schulze of all people. We get clarinet, sax, jew harp, orchestration and samples. "The Green Journey" was love at first listen while this one is less dynamic and more hypnotic and trippy.

We get five long tracks over two albums resulting in over an hour and twenty minutes of music. I'll use the English song titles. "Invitation" opens with sounds that pulse and echo as picked guitar helps out. Strummed guitar joins in before 1 1/2 minutes. It builds some. This is good. A calm 5 1/2 minutes in with liquid sounds, vocal expressions and other psychedelic meanderings. The guitar is back after 6 1/2 minutes as a dark atmosphere comes in. Strings 8 minutes in as orchestral sounds follow. A beat 10 minutes in with eerie spacey sounds. Dissonant sax joins in as the tempo picks up. Guitar too. Great sound before 17 1/2 minutes as the guitar rips it up. It's haunting before 19 minutes as it calms right down.

"The Echo of The Presence" has these mellow sounds that echo as vocal melodies join in and percussion follows. It picks up with strummed guitar and intricate sounds. Vocals before 4 minutes. It settles after 6 minutes as the vocals continue. It's spacey too. Vocals stop around 8 minutes as the sound settles back eventually. Spacey sounds pulse to end it. "The Echo Of Time" opens with children talking and their voices echo then the music takes over with guitar out front. Percussion joins in and vocals arrive after 4 minutes. A change 6 1/2 minutes in as heavier guitar with twittering sounds and drums take over. The guitar starts to solo over top. Strummed guitar follows. A calm with guitar 9 minutes in. It turns spacey and haunting 11 1/2 minutes in with children's voices too.

"The Echo Of The Future" has these sparse sounds that come and go then it starts to pick up before 2 minutes. It settles back before 6 minutes with vocal melodies as the guitars are strummed and picked then it picks back up again. A calm before 7 1/2 minutes as spoken words and vocal melodies take over. The guitars and percussion join in as the vocals continue and then the vocals stop as music continues. A haunting calm before 13 1/2 minutes. "The Echo Of The Past" ends it. This is a bizarre tune as we get lots of vocal expressions where they are the focus. It's especially strange before 6 minutes with all these vocal sounds. It turns spacey late which I like better.

A solid 4 stars and a must for Krautrock fans out there. Listen to the echo.

Report this review (#797898)
Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Krautrock is a strange little subgenre in the world of progressive rock. I am utterly amazed at how varied it is. Bands have distinctly different approaches leading to their strange tripped out worlds. With Can the focus is on the rhythm and percussion, with Agitation Free on the electronic effects and percussion, with Amon Duul II the pummeling bass, hypnotic guitar and crazy vocal antics. Despite all these different strategies the final outcome must be spacey, psychedelic and tripped out. No one achieved that better than A.R. & MACHINES in my opinion. True I have not experienced every single Krautrock band at this point but I have at least sampled quite a few and fully dived into countless others and as of this day no one takes me to Strawberry Fields more than this band led by the former German pop star turned tripmeister extraordinaire.

On the first album "Die grüne Reise - The Green Journey" the band already succeeded in making one of the trippiest albums I had ever heard but they still included some of the pop song structures from the Rattles days and twisted and echoed them into a somewhat familiar trippiness. On ECHO they let all that go and focus on the most surreal soundscapes they can muster up. Many of the same sound effects can be found on this second release. There are echos and feedback, vocal craziness and pleasant melodies, loops and insanity galore, however these five tracks are long sprawling epics that have distinct segments that morph into one another.

The long list of instruments come and go as they please. Often they are on the playground together doing their thing in total unity and then one might just drop out and then another join in. It's all very random but at times very disciplined. Have I mentioned this is turned up to 11 on the trippiness scale? At times this reminds me of proto-psybient like the Shpongle of the 70s. If you like trance inducing soundscapes then check this out. If you can't deal with repetitive almost drone-like at times instruments pummeling notes into strange patterns then you probably should look somewhere else, but I on the other hand find this hypnotizing and finding myself wanting to listen to this while watching "Alice In Wonderland" on a 3-D TV.

Report this review (#1272441)
Posted Sunday, September 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars The ambitious follow-up to his playful "Die Grüne Reise" (1971) stretched Achim Reichel's echo-guitar technique almost to its breaking point, and might have the same effect on the patience of any listener with a low attention span. The guitarist would later say the debut album represented his "künstlerische pubertät" ("artistic puberty", translating from his own web site). Which would make this one his creative coming of age, marking a dramatic leap to conceptual maturity from the goofy avant-pop exuberance of the first AR&M experiment.

The music this time was allowed more room to breathe, in longer instrumental workouts evolving over each side of the original twin-LP (to date, and somewhat amazingly, never officially released on compact disc). The rock 'n' roll energy of the earlier record was muted here in favor of a richer, more adventurous sound, still urgently rhythmic but enhanced by the occasional lush orchestral arrangement, and by contributions from a small battalion of collaborators, including percussionist Hans 'Flipper' Lampe of LA DÜSSELDORF fame: another link in the six-degree web of Krautrock separation.

Anyone expecting self-restraint or structure is encouraged to look elsewhere. It requires a long habit of passive concentration (not an oxymoron, for Krautrockers) to fully appreciate the slowly unfolding cycles of melodic arpeggios, superficially resembling the knotted synths and sequencers of early Virgin-era TANGERINE DREAM but performed on guitars, with a more human touch. The arrangement of music was tightly controlled throughout, but like all great cosmic voyages expressed a fearless resolve to embrace unknown vistas and infinite horizons.

Each side of vinyl, after the twenty-minute "Einladung" (Invitation), was given a suitably portentous title: "The Echo of the Presence"; "The Echo of the Future", and so forth, all with elaborate sub-chapters hard to pinpoint within the continuous flow of music. But it's the last side of LP2, "The Echo of the Past", that pushes the album close to five-star territory, in another wild, ZAPPA-influenced kitchen-sink collage, hypnotic and hilarious at the same time.

The effect of this final track is like being mesmerized by a clever circus clown, and at first exposure I found myself laughing as hard as I was listening, reminded (in a good way) of THE BEATLES and their notorious "Revolution 9", albeit assembled with discipline and wit.

The same comparison probably crossed Reichel's mind, too. In an unconscious reflection of the album's title, his career to that point had closely 'echoed' the Fab Four, dating back to his stint with The Rattles at the Star-Club in Hamburg. Much like The Beatles during their more exploratory later years, Reichel in his Krautrock prime still had the heart of a pop star, but the head of...well, a Head.

Report this review (#1596937)
Posted Friday, August 12, 2016 | Review Permalink

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