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WALTER WEGMÜLLER

Krautrock • Germany


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Walter Wegmüller biography
In 1972, Rolf Ulrich Kaiser of Ohr records and a group of musicians from the Berlin Underground scene (Ashra Tempel) seriously started to think about cosmic rock music to satisfy their adventurous life with appropriate sounds. The idea of "Cosmic music" was also born as a protest against UK and United States obvious influences on rock music worldwide. The aim was to create typical German "acid" rock music. To put in practice his project, Rolf Kaiser founded his own label and called it "Cosmic Couriers". The name of "Cosmic Couriers" is an attitude of mind that emerged during the 60's. It was an idealistic movement which conceptually tries to look for ways to stay in high states of consciousness thanks to mescaline, LSD trips. The first album released under Rolf Kaiser's drug inspired philosophy was "seven up" with the guru of "acid test" Tim Leary and Ashra Tempel musicians. Soon after, the Kaiser produced two others albums with personalities from the underground psychedelic movement. There was the mystic, esoteric writer Sergius Golowin (on recitations for the cosmic/psych folk project "Lord Krishna") and the Swiss gipsy folk artist Walter Wegmuller for the project around the symbolism of "Tarot" cards.

In 1972 will be released the "Tarot' album with the help of many krautrock musicians, notably Manuel Gottsching (for many guitars parts), Klaus Schulze (for electronic & effects), a few members of Wallenstein as Harald Grosskopf (on drums), Jurgen Dollase (on keyboards) and Walter Westrupp (on acoustic parts). Musically "Tarot" consists of numerous short tracks that we can describe as a great synthesis of everything that emerged during the first krautrock years. Consequently the stress is put on hallucinatory, psych effects, bluesy/ trance guitar sounds, free form rock augmented with sophisticated synth sounds, acoustic folk passages with flute and guitar, piano pseudo romantic arrangements, odd recitations. Each track represents an idea developed by a "tarot" card. A fascinating travel through the subconsciousness and cosmic energies.

Here are a few lines which sum up Walter Wegmuller's Tarot mystical universe:

The travel starts with the madman. He is the beginning and the end at the same time. So you can hear how he goes through his own world. He stumbles over earthy things and material obstacles and doesn't know that it can give. The wizard opens the door himself. In triumph, he appears on the scene. Then he lets himself play durin...
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4.01 | 24 ratings
Tarot
1972

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WALTER WEGMÜLLER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Tarot by WEGMÜLLER, WALTER album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.01 | 24 ratings

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Tarot
Walter Wegmüller Krautrock

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

5 stars My apologies in advance for what promises to be a more than usually long-winded review, but this almost mythical twin-disc presents a daunting challenge. How can anyone truly evaluate such an immense musical journey, especially when the itinerary changes with quicksilver indifference every next minute?

And does it really deserve five-star recognition? On one hand the album was strictly a blue moon novelty project: a kitchen-sink Krautrock stew of haphazard detours, digressions and dead ends. Ringleader Walter Wegmüller has been described by more than one source as a "Swiss gypsy", which sounds a bit like an oxymoron (à  la "compassionate Conservative"). But it was the same gypsy vagabond instinct that made the album a bona-fide cross-section of counterculture Germany in the early 1970s, cutting a mile-wide swath across one of the most fertile musical landscapes in modern history.

More than that, the album finally realized all of producer R.U. Kaiser's kosmische fever dreams. Over its four sides of vinyl it managed to blend the fuzzy mysticism of "Lord Krishna von Goloka" and the psy-fi rock 'n' roll train wreck of "Seven Up" into a single messy but holistic vision, performed by an all-star cast of Krautrock superstars bringing some of their best stuff to the sessions. (If you were wondering what an embryonic ambient guru like KLAUS SCHULZE might sound like playing lead synthesizers in a rock band, here's your answer: more Eno than Emerson, unsurprisingly.)

Heck, the project even spawned an entirely separate album: ASH RA TEMPEL's "Join Inn", created spontaneously during a lull in rehearsals.

The extra focus was in the concept: a musical illumination of the Tarot, with each track representing another card in the Major Arcana (no wonder the album stretched to a second disc, otherwise each selection would have been around 90-seconds long, tops). The idea may have been narrowly defined, but the finished album was an embarrassment of riches. How's this for variety:

- The dumb fun of "Der Narr" (The Fool)

- The uninhibited Krautrock cacophony of "Der Magier" (The Magician)

- The holy drones of "Die Hohepriesterin" (The High Priestess)

- The cosmic folk dance and testosterone guitar thrash of "Die Herrscherin" and "Der Herrscherr" (The Empress, and The Emperor)

...and that's only Side One of the first LP. Elsewhere the album spans a latitude of style from the charming, childlike lullaby of "Der Weise" (The Hermit, spoken and sung by Klaus Schulze) to the almost Post-Punk "Die Prüfung" (The Hanged Man). The latter opens Disc Two with an unexpected barrage of cheesy rhythm machines, odd processed vocals, and broken guitar shards straight off the streets of Manchester circa 1980 (think Joy Division, or at least Crispy Ambulance).

I'm not sure how closely each excerpt interprets its own card: "Der Tod" (Death) is merely a single, ascending synthesizer note, rising into the ether for 80-seconds. But anyone who thinks the Kosmische Kurieres were all just a bunch of stoners with no sense of humor needs to hear the Master of Ceremonies intro to the album (illustrating The Fool, of course). The mock cabaret presentation of each player, in fractured English vaudeville style, recalls something better fitting a GROBSCHNITT gig.

Wonderful stuff, to be sure. But it's all only a warm-up to the encore of Side Four: 23- minutes of arguably the most miraculous Space Rock ever created. Words fail me here, much to your obvious relief, I'm sure. It's enough to speculate that while the tapes were rolling, and the jam was nearing it's final crescendo, riding a tidal wave of Teutonic funk, cascading mellotrons, and Manuel Göttsching's searing guitar licks, at that moment the Cosmic Egg was well and truly fried under the empyrean light of R.U. Kaiser's Kingdome Come, with a side of hash browns added free of charge.

Lacking a proper frame of reference you could argue that the music works even better without Wegmüller himself, that his intermittent orations, declamations, chanting, and occasional pre-verbal groan (see: "Die Prüfung") interrupt some truly stellar psychedelia. But the album really needs to be heard alongside the other releases on the Kosmische Musik label. Unlike Sergius Golowin or Timothy Leary, Walter Wegmüller was far more in tune with the actual musicians under his direction, and vice versa.

STEVE HACKETT would later borrow the same album concept for his own solo debut ("Voyage of the Acolyte", 1975). But no way could an English gentleman-progger from Pimlico embrace the dark necromantic core of the Tarot like a 1971 Krautrocker. Wegmüller would never make another record, and the singularity of this effort (early editions included reproductions of the artist's own hand-painted oracle cards) is only one part of its enduring legend.

The other is of course the fact that it led directly to the infamous COSMIC JOKERS (qv): a misguided attempt by Kaiser to continue the same musical trip. His ploy almost worked too, but given the alarming aftermath of that scandal I'll take a messy classic like "Tarot" over the classic mess of the Cosmic Jokers any day of the week.

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 Tarot by WEGMÜLLER, WALTER album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.01 | 24 ratings

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Tarot
Walter Wegmüller Krautrock

Review by Dobermensch

4 stars Right from the off you know you're in for something a bit different with 'Tarot'. I had a smile on my face as soon as I heard the superb opening line 'Stamp your feets'. It might not mean that much to non English speakers, but to me it was hilarious. This is without doubt, one of the best Krautrock albums I've heard. The mighty Klaus Schulze plays a part in proceedings here but he is somewhat in the background. Wee Walter is now 74 years of age (b.25.02.37) which means he was already 35 when this was recorded! God, I feel old...

If ever the word 'Cosmic' was relevant, it's here. I can just imagine Walter Wegmüller singing with his mad freaky marble like eyes staring wildly as all life deteriorates in front of his face.

But even better- we've got 'Walter Westrupp' giving you what you'd expect from the other half of a smashed up lunatic who's had far too many mushrooms. The whole album has a completely wonky feel about it. It comes in waves, from what sounds like a definite plan of action, that rapidly declines into a crazy whacked out jam.

Manuel Göttsching helps out too later on in the album with some very 'Ashra Tempel' guitars which are very suited to the music. Cor Blimey. We've got Jerry Berkers on bass as well! Now this is what I call a Supergroup...

At the top of the tree is Walter himself, sounding a bit like David Koresh from Waco, sermonising about, this, that, and God knows what. Baah!, Könen sie Deutch Sprechen anyone?. This is a lengthy album that stretches out to 2 CD's. It doesn't let up in it's smacked up oddness. Personally, I love it. Cosmic Jokers fans will love this... guaranteed

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 Tarot by WEGMÜLLER, WALTER album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.01 | 24 ratings

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Tarot
Walter Wegmüller Krautrock

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Walter Wegmuller was a Swiss painter who was an expert on the subject of tarot cards. He is not a musician, but is on this double album to offer up his thoughts on each tarot card with his spoken and whispered words. He has an all-star cast playing the music here including Manuel Gottsching and Hartmut Enke both from ASH RA TEMPEL, Jurgen Dollase, Harald Grosskopf and Jerry Berkers from WALLENSTEIN and Walter Westrupp from W&W and Klaus Schulze. These guys were also known as THE COSMIC COURIERS and THE COSMIC JOKERS. Dieter Dierks and Rosi are also listed as guests. For more background info and the subject matter of this recording I would highly recommend you read the bio here at ProgArchives and Sean Trane's review. The spoken words are all in German which suits me fine as it is all about the amazing music. Speaking of which this is such a great example of what Krautrock was all about. "Tarot" is a cosmic trip with mellotron, synths and electronics creating a spacey base, while the guitar, bass, drums and percussion create a variety of sounds and styles to make your trip both an exciting and relaxing one. I'd like to touch on some of my favourite tracks.

Disc One opens with the only English on the recording as the band is introduced one by one as an uptempo melody is played. Nice."Die Hohepriesterin" features slowly spoken words as waves of mellotron and sound drift along. Great sound. "Der Herrscher" has some fantastic guitar playing front and center from Manuel as spoken words come in. This is one of the few tracks that isn't spacey. Love the guitar that goes on and on. "Der Hohepriester" has this beautiful piano melody with intricate guitar as whispered vocals and flute come in. Simply an emotional, uplifting song that has to be heard. "Der Wagen" opens quietly but the sound is building. Very cool. Spoken words before 2 minutes. Some prominant drumming on this one as spacey sounds are shooting around. A wall of sound before 3 minutes. Spacey winds are blowing before 5 minutes. "Die Gerechtigkeit" is dark and serious with haunting spoken words. It's like impending doom is near. While the next song "Der Weise" is light with piano, mellotron and fragile spoken words. Gorgeous song. "Die Kraft" features tribal-like drumming as Gottsching lights it up with his guitar.

On Disc Two "Die Massigkeit" opens with spoken words as the guitar rips it up big time. Eerie sounds 2 minutes in as guitar is still on fire. Organ replaces guitar late. "Der Teufel" features dual guitar melodies, whispered vocals and flute. "Die Zerstorung" opens with piano as softly spoken vocals come in then waves of mellotron. Explosive sounds before 3 minutes as drums go crazy. "Die Sterne" builds slowly as guitar and spoken vocals come in. Drums 2 minutes in before synths and mellotron washes arrive before 3 minutes. Spacey, cosmic winds 5 1/2 minutes in. "Das Gericht" features beautiful, heavenly sounds(mellotron etc.) as spoken words come in. Heaven must sound like this. The final track is "Die Welt" and it ends this double album in fine style. Marching-like drums early as guitar makes some noise. A great rhythm comes out of this with psychedelic guitar playing over top. Awesome sound. Spoken words and spacey waves with mellotron come in. Percussion 3 minutes in. It gets so intense 5 minutes in as Manuel is absolutely on fire ! Drums continue to pound. A wall of spacey sounds can't contain the blistering guitar. In the end though the spacey sounds win out as the song and album drift away.

Essential for Krautrock fans in my opinion. This is the stuff that legends are made of. 4.5 stars.

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 Tarot by WEGMÜLLER, WALTER album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.01 | 24 ratings

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Tarot
Walter Wegmüller Krautrock

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars Basically this is another Cosmic Joker/Couriers album, as the album is credited to the Swiss artist Walter Wegmuller, but Berkers, Dollasse, Grosskopf (all three from Walenstein), Schulze (after his TD and ART days but not yet into his solo career proper), Henke & Gotsching (both from Ash Ra Tempel) and Westrupp (of W&W) are all present on this double album (and double Cd as well). Please read my friend Phillipe Blache's excellent intro on the Kosmische Muziek on the Wegmuller entry-page for more on the ramifications of this German movement that was one of the specificity of the Krautrock movement.

In either case, this lengthy double concept album (you guessed it about Tarot) is one of the most expensive album around in its full original form: indeed the vinyl came out with a full deck of cards drawn buy Wegmuller himself from 68 to 74 partly in association with Sergius Golowin, another driving spike of the Cosmic Joker/Courrier thing. While Wegmuller takes on vocal duties (more often reciting duties really), the music is really up to the all star line-up ion the album, recording in the well know Dieter Dierks studios and released on the legendary Ohr label. The music is just as suitably spacey as you could ever wish it to be, and while not fascinating, it is often enthralling, even if the concept is rather hard to follow (unless you grasp German good enough), but who cares, anyway? Tarots are not one of my passions, anyway. But there is a storyline explained in two languages, but I never paid attention to it as the album can be enjoyed without that side of the oeuvre. As you can easily guess, there are imperfections and lengths, but nothing to scare anyone, even the most demanding progheads.

While there are more essential Cosmic Couriers projects, this one is also much worthy of your investigation, but forget looking after the original vinyl, though. The Spalax reissue (in digipack) is an excellent bet. Hard not to give its fourth star.

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 Tarot by WEGMÜLLER, WALTER album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.01 | 24 ratings

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Tarot
Walter Wegmüller Krautrock

Review by silenciel

2 stars Schulze, Westrupp and Göttshing : seams to be three good reasons to purchase this album. (The LP version was coming with real Tarot cards... isn't it strange ?). Strange I said ; we have here some sophisticated experimentations, but it sounds nearly like Faust or Ash Ra Tempel. Music is good, but vocals are not, quite annoying. Julian Cope said great things about this album in his Krautrock Sampler, but I was still disappointed. I though it was the next "Ege Bamyasi" of something... I found a real average one. For collectors.

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Thanks to Philippe for the artist addition.

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