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LIFE

Krautrock • Germany


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Life biography
The story of Life and their only album 'spring' began sometime early 1971 after Christian Burchard from Embryo visited composer, musician, producer, sound engineer and artist Julius Schittenhelm in his Munich studio. In his forthcoming autobiography Julius Schittenhelm writes about the beginning of Life, the difficulties of the LP production and the abrupt end of the band.

'Once again Christian Burchard came to my studio romancing about an American Trio called 'The Wedge' that wanted to make a record in Germany. When I met them they were only a duo - the bass player had gone back to America. The band leader, originally the drummer and lead singer, was called Linus, he spoke German with a strange Frankfurt accent was now a rhythm guitar player. He was of average build like myself, had a scarred face, large nose and a tough look. The second man was called Jason and was half Red Indian. He played lead guitar, sang backing and sometimes lead vocals. They soon found a drummer, Marcel Mohr, and a bassist, Gernot Pilz who both came from the Munich area. Gernot was also a press photographer.

An opera singing couple from the Munich suburb of Schwabing had set up a studio and practice rooms in their cellar in Martiusstrasse which they rented out at affordable prices. This is where the band practiced. The music was Rock 'n' Roll with slight Country influences, not exactly my sort of music but fashionable and on the up.

Most of the songs were written by Linus, three were from Jason and one from Gernot. Linus was a perfectionist and thus the band needed a few months for the precision he found was required for a record production.

At the beginning of July the Rock 'n' Roll musicians were in perfect harmony with each other so we could start recording. This took place in two of the Martiusstrasse practice rooms. I used 2 Revox machines switched on simultaneously to record four channels at once.

An electrician I met by chance built me a circuit board with which I could synchronise the Revoxes using a remote control. Until then I had been operating the two machines using two fingers and for the third one I needed help with some 'one-two-threes' and was happy when it worked. The third machine was for the mix.
It took a whole hot summer month until all the tracks were in the can.

After all the tapes were carefully numbered and catalogued we started mixing and at the end of July the master tape was finally finished. Linus, who had...
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  • The Wickerman Festival on 26 Jul 2014

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2.07 | 7 ratings
Spring
1971

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LIFE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Spring by LIFE album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.07 | 7 ratings

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Spring
Life Krautrock

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 'Spring' - Life (3/10)

If you have a moment, I'd like to talk about Life.

Somewhere in the fray of American blues, psychedelia and the fuzz of garage rock, Life was born. Following the trend of many late 60's European acts, Life attempted to emulate American culture through voracious use of the 12 bar progression, mouth-organ and guitar leads aplenty. These efforts and influences resulted in "Spring", an album that's held in some regard by garage rock experts, if I'm not mistaken. Even for 1971 though, Life'ssound feels outdated and recycled. Rehashing the sound and tricks of the decade past, Life's style is predictable and underwhelming; their execution rough and occasionally downright amateurish. There's a garage charm to this album, but "Spring" doesn't come close to comparing to the music it desperately tries to emulate. Unfortunately, Life would never get an opportunity to improve their sound, as they would break up a year later in mid-tour.

Although Life and "Spring" are most often associated with the Krautrock movement, this is much less about the sound of the album, and more about who took part in it. Julius Schittenhelm (best known for his contributions to Amon Duul) was the producer behind the album. Barring that, Life performs a very familiar brand of blues rock, with virtually none of the strange experimentation and sonic density Krautrock is known for. Its context aside, I would have guessed "Spring" was the work of a gang of American youngsters, trying to emulate their rock idols. This sort of American blues influence on European music was widespread throughout the late 60's, arguably best exemplified by Led Zeppelin's first two albums. In fact, the beginning of "Spring" sounds as if it could be a nod in the direction of Zeppelin's blues rock, minus Jimmy Page's legendary distortion. The instrumentation is straightforward and plain, offering little room for the imagination to run amok. The guitar tones are largely clean, and the drum beats simplistic to a fault.

The most interesting aspect of Life's sound are the vocals of Linus. While the rest of the band fails to achieve any sort of grit with their performance, Linus delivers a surprisingly diverse and interesting performance, going everywhere from soft whispers to a yell, suitable tenor and everything in between. Particularly from a band that otherwise sticks to colouring within the lines, it's refreshing to hear a vocalist that tries to go so many places with his voice. Unfortunately, while the range and variety of styles are interesting, his more conventional singing is just as underwhelming as the rest of the band. The songwriting on the album follows suit in this pattern of mediocrity- when Life aren't being derivative or outright copycats, their more experimental ideas never go anywhere, often feeling like sketches of songs that could have been.

Although much of Life's sound is painfully bland, the use of a flute gives their sound some much needed depth. The album's more ambitious set of a bonus tracks also hint that Life could have achieved something much better, had they stuck with it. Instead, "Spring" is the band's one output. Bland musicianship and forgettable songwriting make this one an album for the dustbin. At least it's got a nice cover!

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 Spring by LIFE album cover Studio Album, 1971
2.07 | 7 ratings

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Spring
Life Krautrock

Review by hdfisch
Prog Reviewer

2 stars The story of this singular album began in Munich in spring (!) 1971 when composer, artist, songwriter and producer Julius Schittenhelm (worked also for Embryo, Guru Guru, Amon Düül 1, Annexus Quam and Floh de Cologne) got a visit by Christian Burchard slobbering over a band of American Germans called "The Wedge" that intended to do a record in Germany. When Schittenhelm met them unfortunately the original trio just consisted of the drummer/lead singer "Linus" and lead guitarist "Jason" since the bass player had disappeared back to USA already. Linus exchanged drums with rhythm guitar and soon after two local guys had been found for drumming (Marcel Mohr) and for bass (Gernot Plitz) and the band LIFE was born. Under quite amateurish conditions they recorded the songs for their debut. The band gave a couple of concerts after and recorded a few more songs for a planned second album which finally found some place on this CD re-release presented here (tracks 12-14). In 1972 they disbanded during a tour through Italy and the musicians vanished in the haze.

Now let's speak about the material presented here. Just to make things clear, it ain't anything that can be considered what we usually know as Krautrock (might be redundant for connaisseurs of this particular sub-genre to mention that not everything "made in Germany" during early 70's can be classified as such). Instead what we have here can be easily described as quite standard proto-prog that is a not so bad mix of westcoast/psychedelic blues-tinged rock'n'roll with some nice trippy flute added-up. Just imagine a combination of Edgar Broughton, early Tull with Paint it black/Sympathy for the devil-era Stones. Though this release might be a bit disappointing for the advanced prog listener and in particular for the specialised Kraut-fan it's nonetheless a quite enjoyable one for a couple of spins. There isn't any free-form experimentation to be found on here but some songs have quite appealing extended jammin' parts with track lengths crossing the 6-minute mark. At least for me the most attractive features were the really great flute play and the occasional mouth-organ as well some sax in the jazzy "Last song". Best songs are "Dream Machine", "Then I Am" and "Hawaiian Jack", most redundant ones the three added bonus tracks. Production quality is very good considering the non-professional recording conditions. Schittenhelm, who's in his eighties meanwhile by the way and still doing some experimental avant-garde music did really a great job here.

I guess in the context of this website here this album cannot be considered other than a collector's item. On another forum not dedicated to Prog in particular I would give it a 3-star rating but I won't take the risk being accused for favouring my local obscure raritities and will reduce it to 2 stars here.

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