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Neu ! - Neu! CD (album) cover

NEU!

Neu !

 

Krautrock

4.05 | 375 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Deferred Defect
4 stars NEU!, the self titled debut album, was where I chose to being listening to Krautrock, just over three years ago, and I maintain that it remains one of the most accessible and interesting albums of the genre.

Compared to groups like CAN, Ash Ra Temple, and many other "jam bands", the NEU! has an extremely precise, minimalistic sound throughout that betrays the low cost and rushed production that plagued the recording processes. Nothing sounds out of place, and there's a clarity that's rare for this era. The instrumentation intertwines without sounding muddied. Songs blend into one another without any indication that they ended or started.

As far as a physical medium is concerned, this album has the most appropriate artwork and presentation of anything I've come across. My copy is the recent remastered edition on white vinyl, which suits the pop-art sleeve design perfectly: It's a matted gatefold, but inside are only a few scrawled song titles and two blurry photos of Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother. The label itself is plain white with the same haphazard, but clearly intentional font work.

Hallogallo (a spoonerism in German for a wild party) opens Side 1. It's an upbeat, drum driven track that isn't very representative of the album, but certainly gives the listener a good idea what this Krautrock genre is all about. 4/4 time, almost digital precision and a truly modern sound.

Sonderangebot contrasts Hallogallo well - the music is all but dead, and we end up in early ambient electronic territory. Those familiar with Tangerine Dream's ZEIT will feel at home.

Eventually the somewhat ominous noises subside, and we meet somewhere in the middle at Weissensee, a slower, but more melodic piece with clever pacing and a hazier atmosphere. If Hallogallo is a wild party, Weissensee is approaching 4 am, but with only your closest friends.

Side 2 beings with Im Gluck. Recordings of what sound like people on a small boat, are met with similar background drones used in Weissensee, but with less structure. It's strange, because this could have easily been the lead out to the previous song, but you need to flip the record to get to it. More relaxing ambient music, but this is one place where the MP3 or CD is superior. Because this side of the album is a suite that will eventually tie into the last track, however, I'll give it a pass.

If vinyl timing would allow it, I'd have started side 2 with the next track, Negativland, a heavier song that has elements of early industrial music, and hints of Belew era King Crimson from ten years in the future. Like the more structured tracks before it, this one is also 4/4, but NEU! have kept it interesting with enough bizarre sound effects and with several blistering tempo changes. Punk rock took a note from NEU! later on, and this is a good example of why.

Lieber Honig closes NEU!, the most Faust sounding track. It's the only one with direct (non sampled) vocals, but they are very strained and dry. This is my least favourite track as a result, even though the extreme minimalism of the music itself is intriguing, essentially a koto over drones. Side 2 ends how it began, with the sounds of a boat rocking beside a dock.

NEU!'s debut wasn't perfect, but none of their albums were. This one, I feel, is their best, and genuinely could have been something recorded in the last ten years. It is victim to zero cliches, and set trends without becoming worn out itself.

I'm giving it 4/5 on the scale below, because I feel it could have ended on a stronger track, but this is absolutely an album that must be listened to if you have any interest in getting into Krautrock, ambient, or minimalist music.

Deferred Defect | 4/5 |

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