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Neu ! - Neu! CD (album) cover

NEU!

Neu !

 

Krautrock

4.05 | 375 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars While retrospectively going down as one of the most influential German bands to affect the works of a range of artists from Brian Eno to Sonic Youth, this D'sseldorf's dynamic duo's brief existence resulted after becoming refugees from one of the other great influential German bands Kraftwerk. The newly found refugees of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger took solace in their project simply called NEU!, which is the German word for 'new' purportedly derived from the fact that the word was a primary color in the multi-pigmented world of advertising. Having gained his acquaintance in the fledgling Kratwerk, the late great producer Connie Plank also joined ranks with this new outfit and has been considered the third secret ingredient to the band's enduring legacy.

NEU!'s lauded self-titled debut hit the scene in early 1972 and contrasted greatly with the more blues and rock oriented psychedelia that made up much of the Krautrock scene. With Plank's keen ear to incorporate subtle electronic nuances coupled with his appreciation for all things metallic for percussion, the first offering from NEU! not only debuted a unique style of simple 4/4 rhythmic grooves based over a single chord which has become known as the motorik style (as heard on the opening 'Hallogallo' and the even more outlandish 'Negativland') but found bizarre new soundscapes that melded industrial bleakness with cheery bass grooves and hypnotic guitar tones. The recipe was simple on the surface but unleashes a deeper magic upon further investigations.

The sessions are now legendary as Plank served as the diplomatic voice of reason between the two inflamed passions of Rother and Dinger's eccentricities. While the initial recording sessions were proving to stagnate, everything changed when Dinger brought in a shamisen which is a Japanese banjo which once heavily processed through Plank's magic hands offered a glimpse into some of the strangest surreal music that the early 70s had to offer. The samisen can be heard on the band's notorious track 'Negativland,' which was so revered that the California experimental band adopted the name as its moniker and continued the zeitgeist of these early pioneering recordings.

This debut by NEU! is a strange beast and not one that immediately presents itself to the uninitiated. While the opening 'Hallogallo' which is a fully operating example of the motorik style which was a term retrospectively designated after having replaced the duo's own preferred 'Apache beat,' the majority of the album is a trip into the lysergic possibilities of electronic musical soundscapes, industrial bleakness, noise and psychedelic rock often existing indecently but more offering melding into the Strawberry Fields forever that the Beatles only hinted upon. While the accessible opener almost feels like pop candy, the following 'Sonderangebot,' 'Weissensee' and 'Im Glueck' only dive deeper into psyched morass of Planet OM.

The highlight surely has to be the outstanding 'Negativland' which offers all of the band's forays into weirdness sorted out and forced to perform in this exotic circus of sounds that extends towards the ten minute mark. While opening with the bleak harshness of industrial grade noise, the motorik drum and bass fall into a groove while the bulbul tarang aka Japanese banjo slinks and slides all over the place with an abrasive noisy guitar dueling out. This early noise rock appears to be one of the primary references for later successful bands such as Radiohead, Sonic Youth as well as the artier side of the post-punk bands that emerged several years later. While hypnotically groovy, the track picks up steam towards the middle and generates a more frenetic mix of the motorik groove accompanied by the 'spiraling-out-of-control' antics of the industrial sounds. Contrasts between silent parts and the bombastic is quite effective.

The album ends about as left field as possible from where it began. While 'Hallogallo' generated an instantly addictive warm and fuzzy rhythmic groove, 'Lieber Honig' provides the sole vocal performances with drugged out nonsensical utterances leading a rather angular chord progression of a guitar into who knows where. NEU!'s debut album has gone down in history as one of the most dynamic displays of indie outlandishness as each track delivers a stark contrast to the previous and found several unique ways to create hitherto unheard sounds. Unfortunately NEU! experienced little success although this debut album did manage to sell 30,000 albums in the underground album which gave the green light for a couple more albums.

While it may come off as a bunch of blathering idiots making undisciplined noise upon first listen, this 1972 landmark album is in reality a goldmine of tightly woven sounds sprawled out into one of the coolest musical tapestries of the Krautrock scene. Perhaps not quite the masterpiece that many make it out to be due to the inconsistent nature of the tracks that devolve into freeform freakery at various points, however this influential slice of experimental mix of rock, noise and electronica has really grown on me over the years and is just what the doctor ordered when i want to experience an album that runs the gamut of easily digestible entrees laced with a smorgasbord of lysergic side dishes. Much more interesting than the rather ho-hum album cover conveys.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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