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DRUM CIRCUS

Krautrock • Switzerland


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Drum Circus biography
Founder and leader of Drum Circus from Switzerland has been the master drummer Peter Giger. "A giant on drums", as the newspaper "Rhein-Main-Zeitung" called him. He was joined, among others, by two additional drummers, as well as by Joel Vandroogenbroeck and Carole Muriel, both from Brainticket. Therefore, it's not surprising that "Magic theatre", with its LSD-dripping lyrics (partly written by Timothy Leary, partly influenced by "The Tibetan book of the dead"), reminds sometimes forcefully of the early Brainticket. "Magic theatre" was recorded in the excellent studio of Horst Jankowski in Stuttgart. Yet, it remained unreleased, then. Shortly before his death, Horst Jankowski gave the tapes to Peter Giger. The front cover shows Peter Giger on drums and Joel Vandroogenbroeck

(Source: Garden of Delights)

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3.81 | 13 ratings
Magic Theatre
1971

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DRUM CIRCUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Magic Theatre by DRUM CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.81 | 13 ratings

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Magic Theatre
Drum Circus Krautrock

Review by Guldbamsen
Forum & Site Admin Group Site and Forum Admin

4 stars Festival Express - Krautrock style!

The year after Woodstock, a group of different bands joined forces to roll across Canada in a privately hired train only stopping to give concerts and share whatever music they´d been working on on their way. The Grateful Dead, The Band, Big Brother and Buddy Guy were some of these artists, and I believe it was Janis Joplin who said, that Festival Express was to the musicians what Woodstock had been to the crowds. Booze, food, drugs, instruments and everything in between was loaded onto this train, and between the gigs, there was a non-stop party going down, where each musician had the chance to widen his/her scope on music, and the never ending possibilities of this infatuating mistress. On any given night, there´d be a folk jam in one trolley, a rock n´ roll one in the next, then a singersong writer´s convention - or maybe some jazzy get-togethers - meaning that whatever brand of music one would like to dive into - it was there complete with immensely talented musicians to work with.

Drum Circus sole album Magic Theatre is like that. On some level it truly feels like taking a stroll down through the trolleys of a great big musical party train, whilst its inhabitants are deeply focused on exploring the multitude of aspects to this highly wondrous form of expression. Starting deep within the jungle, the first trolley is clearly not what it looks like from the outside - the bellowing tribal rock n´ roll beats form a firm and meaty start to our train journey. It´s funky in its own way - a distinct monkey saucy beat dance hoedown. Before you know it, the jungle has vanished and swoosh! there´s some tangy organs writhing and crawling around the rawkous foundation of the fuel fired drumming. This is clearly the open walkway to the next trolley, where you are greeted by an eerie sounding atmosphere and some soldier boy marching. A gathering of disturbed folks starts citing Timothy Leary poetry along the way, just to make things all the more confusing. Are we in the same trolley - you question yourself... Ahh, it was just the entrance to the next it seems, as this reciting leads us on our way into the Indian infused section with all sorts of percussive splish splashes, bells, and chiming. Demented snake-charmer vocals weave maniacally around the room, before everything turns quiet. HELLO! You´ve entered the fusion wagon, where everything is allowed in form of garrulous saxophones, drumming frenzy and discordant organs. What a surprise! Hey man, let´s go on back to the Indian trolley, I´ve heard someone is smoking some weed over there. Allright groovy! Things are of course much more subdued and pensive this time around, and the music wanders sluggishly in and out of the groove, and everything seems mellow like an overripe peach with juices and all. On the way back into the fusion freak out, a guy sits on the passageway playing strange classical sprinklings of soothing piano. It slips into the feel of the now much calmer fusion area, where everybody clearly has brought their own ganja, and the mood is now approaching a late night jazz club with melting candles on the tables and heavy smoke on the stage. We exit this final leg of our journey, and much to our surprise we now find ourselves at the starting point - back in the jungle with the tribal drums. The train conductor, a charismatic lady in black, takes her time to say goodbye with some aptly placed words from Mr. Leary delivered mystically through incantations.

Yep, it´s a quite the eclectic record this one, and if you are scared off by musical eccentricity and spontaneous course changing, then you might want to pass on this one. I find it exhilarating and mad, and had I been given the chance, I´d jump on this train without a doubt in my mind.

The man behind this project is Swiss drummer Peter Giger. Teaming up with 2 other drummers, the sound here is one of the most rhythmically focused that I´ve ever come across. It´s clearly an open playground, and seeping in and out of the beat we´re quite often subjected to alternating rhythms, staccato congas, stomping toms, triangles, rattles, castanets and the works. One could easily be lead into thinking that this form of approach - creating a musical project around the beat and the exploration of the same, - would lead into unmelodious and haphazard tunes, that reek of chops with no sauce whatsoever. The sauce is there though, be that in the form of organist Joel Vandroogenbroeck, who later would go on to form Brainticket, or perhaps in the terrific saxophone magician Gerd Dudek - who blows his horn like there is no tomorrow. Especially during the second half of the album, he really opens up the faucet. Sounding like the second coming of Albert Ayler - spurting out notes like a rapping rooster on amphetamine. Maybe not the most melodic feature, but it rather adds that je ne sais quoi to things, and although rumbling and disturbing, all over the place - and then some - Magic Theatre still feels together even if that is a contradiction in itself.

In Herman Hesse´s famous book The Steppenwolf, Magic Theatre was the place to loose oneself. Like it says on the way in:

"Anarchist Evening at the Magic Theatre, For Madmen Only, Price of Admission Your Mind".

That sounds about right to me...

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 Magic Theatre by DRUM CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.81 | 13 ratings

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Magic Theatre
Drum Circus Krautrock

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars DRUM CIRCUS' sole album was recorded in 1971 but not released until 2003. Peter Giger the man behind this project said that Horst Jankowski the owner of the Swiss studio was very enthusiastic about DRUM CIRCUS but then he never did release it. Too "out there" I suppose. Anyway Horst was kind enough to give Peter the master-tapes before he died which i'm very thankful for because this is a unique Krautrock album, a classic if there ever was one.There's not too many bands outside of Germany that are considered Krautrock but most that are, are from Switzerland just like DRUM CIRCUS. Several of the band members went on to have significant careers. Before I get to that i'd like to share Peter's vision that he had for this band. He dreamed that this band like a small circus would go from town to town all over the world sharing their music.This lineup had three drummers, hence the band name.We also get bass, organ, flute, sax, Fender Rhodes and sitar.The music was a blend of psychedelia, free Jazz, Eastern and more. Peter was actually known in Switzerland as "A giant on drums". He would go on to join DZYAN and play on their final two studio albums and eventually he formed his own band. Drummer Alex Bally has worked with some Jazz giants like Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, Jan Hammer and many more. Joel Vandroogenbroeck and his then girlfriend Carol Muriel would go onto form the legendary Swiss Krautrock band BRAINTICKET. In fact the first side long track with her speaking out reminds me of that band.

"Magic Theatre" is the side long suite that is classic Krautrock as far as i'm concerned.This is a trip ! It opens with drums and percussion then electronics take over before 1 1/2 minutes. Deep organ runs are next then we get a calm 2 minutes in as sparse sounds including flute come and go.The sound of soldiers marching takes over with marching styled drums 3 1/2 minutes in.They start to chant. An exotic eastern vibe with sitar takes over before 5 1/2 minutes.Vocal melodies a minute later. Female spoken words after 8 minutes then dissonant sax a minute later as random drum patterns come and go. Male and female spoken words are shouted out in this intense section. A gong ends that then a peaceful section takes over with sitar, percussion and flute. A change before 17 minutes as the bass and piano take over. Sax 18 minutes in then drums and percussion end it. Incredible !

"Now It Hurts You" is a short piece with drums, percussion, sitar and processed vocals. "Papera" opens with sax, bass, piano and atmosphere.The drums roll in and out. It picks up 1 1/2 minutes in reminding me a lot of SOFT MACHINE. "La-Si-Do" is mostly drums and percussion with words from a Timothy leary poem.

While the side long suite "Magic Theatre" might be worth the price of admission alone, for me "Groove Rock" ranks right up there as well.This is like a Miles Davis electric Jazz piece with that Fender Rhodes but sax instead of trumpet leading the way. It opens with bass and drums. Such an intense ending to this over 8 1/2 minute delight as well. "All Things Pass" opens with piano, cymbals, bass and vocals.The lyrics here are also from a Timothy Leary poem. A very cool sounding track.

Easily 4 stars and a must for Krautrock fans.

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 Magic Theatre by DRUM CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.81 | 13 ratings

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Magic Theatre
Drum Circus Krautrock

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This Swiss psychedelic classic dives directly to a dense jungle of groovy and exotic drum-dominated sounds. The first long song filling the A-side of the vinyl does not contain very solid compositions, but is more like a college of freely flowing tonal associations. A web of synth layers hover upon delicate percussive tingling, and as mysterious flute sounds unite the music, creating a slight association with Ralph Towner's Solstice's "Song of the Shadows" feelings. Marching and recited declarations for the quest of consciousness expansion follows. I was quite delighted by phases where the lady narrator describises what I "must realize". Later the flow streams as pretty Indian-flavored sitar and vocals scenario. A free jazz turmoil is then introduced, in vein of Ornette Coleman's classic style, strengthened here with keyboards and poems, reminding bit the "Dental hygiene" cartoon from Frank Zappa's "200 Motels" movie. Crash of gong announces the returns back to India, where laid back flute and drum activity is enjoyed. Soon tender upright bass and classical jazz piano calmness create beautiful basis for a lovely saxophone and percussive theme, a sound texture I have heard on Bill Bruford's latest Earthworks albums. At the end of the long song the trip returns to the starting point battering and hippie teachings.

On the B-side song "Now It Hurts You" focuses to ethnic drums, sitar, hazy synths and echo-treated vocals, which orientate towards hippie rock melodies, achieving quite interesting mixture of divine feeling and chaotic jazz passages. Quite minimal from content, but pleasant innovation. "Papera" blows some euphoric jazz with piano, saxophone, layers of chimes and bass, diving to really beautiful pool of calmness. This tranquility shifts as more groovy lounging with powerfully driving drum and melodic saxophone theme. Following "La-Si-Do" builds up from careful chiming revealing soon the huge drum arsenal, and reciting praising the chemicals developed by doctor Hoffmann are presented. Apparently with these fellows this substance did not create an unclear state of chaos, but instead beautiful jazzy pastures. A quite short and distracted idea musically however. "Groove Rock" is very powerful drum-driven jazz track, and one of the most favorite tracks for me on this record. This great free jam flow reminds in my opinion quite much the awesomeness familiar from Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" record. Final song "All Things Pass" lingers as an open jazz passage, where most fronted piano and bass are relived from restraints of rhythm. At some moments the song morphs as soulful tune with more solid sequenced form.

So "Magic Theatre" has strong jazz leanings with notably powerful drum presence are adapted here to the free flow of psychedelia. Also the ethnic capabilities of psychedelic music are explored, and thus I believe this record is very recommendable for fans of jazzy vintage hippie music, if the mind is open for more vivid chaos of musical evolvement. Melodically the music is very pleasant, and there are not very challenging avant-gardist tonal "difficultness" found from this album.

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 Magic Theatre by DRUM CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.81 | 13 ratings

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Magic Theatre
Drum Circus Krautrock

Review by Certif1ed
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Pure Psychedelia

Now, if you've heard Gong and thought that, perhaps, they were a bit wierd and out there with the hippies - you ain't heard nothing.

Stories of pixies and prostitutes? Sax, flute and percussion mania? Manic male and female vocals? Gongs and tinkly bells?

Sound familiar?

The title track "Magic Theatre" is the essence of "Angel's Egg" - every ingredient is there, except Steve Hillage, the Space Whispers of Yoni and Davied Allen's mad rantings about the Planet Gong and Zero the Hero - but more mashed up and more random seeming. Less organised, yet somehow with its very own free-flowing form that comes from musicians united in their vision. Mostly percussonists, as you may have guessed from the bands' name, and probably united through communal partaking in, er, common things.

Add to that healthy lashings of sitar, and an almost complete disregard for anything as fancy as learning how to play... OK, I take that back - the flautist/saxophonist knows some great licks which show a musical background in jazz.

Despite the overall randomness and lack of academic musical background inherent in the music and composition, the piece never gets boring in the entire 21-odd minutes - it's like a living thing that you can hear breathing as the music ebbs and flows. The textures combine and separate perfectly - there's no feeling of anyone trying to dominate proceedings, as all musicians get down to the business of creating a truly psychedelic work of group expression. Quite frankly, it's amazing how well the performance has been captured, for this sort of music, as the production quality is pretty good - although maybe a tad enthusiastic with the levels.

Side 2 opens with "Now it hurts You" a track that reminds me of Ladytron (the electronic pop group, not the Roxy Music song!) in many ways, with the processed female vocals that lend it an almost 1980s feel a decade early.

The arrangement of the song has the same loose, almost random feel of the title track - but a form of structure does appear to be in place. For all the drummers, the beat is not very constant, and I feel it's over-loose - but the song as a whole is fascinating and gripping to the end - and a real sound of a vision of what music could be like in the future.

"Papera" maintains a constancy in approach and style, until 1:30, when the piece takes a far more structured and jazzy direction that really is later Gong all over. The bass is a little flabby and tends to lose it a bit - but the piece has a few tricks up its sleeve for the ending, which is well composed.

"La-Si-Do" begins with a kind of Latin feel - but the lyrical delivery is dark, and the piece takes on a whole, new, sinister angle that runs through several feelings, including psalm-like chanting.

"Groove Rock" kicks off with the funkiest beat outside of Can, jazz flavoured bass lines and all manner of keyboard and percussion interjections, before the sax takes us on a wild flight. Soon, little conversations take place between keys and sax, keys and percussion, but ultimately, this ends up as a noodly sax solo - interesting and nicely coloured, but rather indulgent and without much drama or musical shape. The ending is a great dissolution into noise, though.

Finally, "All Things Pass" - and alas, that includes this album. Very poignant - and a nice change of mood. It sounds oddly like the band have roped in Jon Anderson on vocal duties, as the music shimmers around before a wonderfully heavy funky groove kicks in to see the album out in style.

In summary, a very consistent album, that throws most of it's tricks into the opening side-long piece, but keeps a few bits and pieces up its sleeve to maintain interest throughout. It's not exactly Prog Rock, because there are essentially 2 styles here; free-form jazz and groove rock. While the case could be made for Indian music because of the sitars and so on, the overall feel of the album is of a consistent set of songs by a band with a vision of psychedelic music that went beyond their predecessors - and the music essentially stays in one place, without truly developing any ideas. The ideas came pre-developed, if that makes sense.

A really great addition to your Prog collection - one that is essential to fans of psychedelia, and probably fans of Gong too - it's a lot more progressive-thinking than a lot of Krautrock, which remained buried in the late 1960s, and it's an interesting curio for fans of the eclectic. I know there are people who will find it unlistenable - but that sort of person will probably not go looking for it anyway - so my recommendation is to those whose interest is still with me after all this waffling.

If you can accept a piece of music as a work of art, then this really is for you - but if you're looking for Rock music, look elsewhere. It's not up there with the greats of Progdom - and you won't spin it more than once or twice a year, despite everything it has going for it.

But I just can't bring myself to give it just 3 stars - it'd be like kicking a fluffy kitten.

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 Magic Theatre by DRUM CIRCUS album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.81 | 13 ratings

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Magic Theatre
Drum Circus Krautrock

Review by philippe
Special Collaborator Content Development & Krautrock Team

3 stars A very sensual, charming, percussive kraut-jazzy « trip ». Each composition reveals luminous pages, structured on drum sections, also including a surprising amount of psychedelic free brass elements and melodic, acoustic arrangements (notably obtained by the majestic grand piano in the almost romantic & jazzy "Papera"). The title track starts into an epically dynamic session for enchanting flutes then rapidly let the place to pseudo, sacred Indian sitar motifs. It pursues in an unpredictable heavy psychedelic, furious set. "Now it hurts you" is a floating percussive song, including hypno like string effects, weird voices and a puerile hippy atmosphere. "Groove Rock" is certainly the highest musical part of the album, a soulful, intensive and technical jazzy rock jam, featuring endlessly tripped out effects. Not a lot of surprises but a real consistent, intuitive album.

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