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Xhol Caravan / Xhol - Electrip CD (album) cover


Xhol Caravan / Xhol



3.49 | 55 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The story of XHOL CARAVAN is a complicated one. The band started off simply as Soul Caravan which featured the two African American singers James Rhodes and Ronny Swinton and although hinting at the prospects of the then future Krautrock scene, was nothing more than a Motown inspired style of psychedelic soul but nevertheless paved the way for what was to emerge a couple years down the road. After the departure of the two singers, the initial founders of the band which included saxophonist Tim Belbe, sax and flute player Hansi Fischer and Klaus Briest on bass gave the band a complete makeover including a hipper name change which resulted in the altered spelling XHOL CARAVAN but pronounced exactly the same.

With the 1969 release of ELECTRIP, this German band from Wiesbaden is considered one of the true pioneers of the Krautrock scene alongside the likes of Can's "Monster Movie," Amon Düül II's "Phallus Dei" and lesser known groups like Trikolon, Ihre Kinder and The Inner Space. While ELECTRIP was the only album released under the XHOL CARAVAN moniker (the band would drop the CARAVAN part of its name due to confusion with the English Canterbury Scene band), this late 60s album was nonetheless extremely inspirational for the jazzier side of Krautrock that would fully come to fruition with bands like Embryo, Out Of Focus, Ikarus, Thirsty Moon, Kraan, Et Cetera, Tortilla Flat, Missus Beastly, Eiliff, Brainstorm, Missing Link and i could go on and on and on!

As a latecomer to XHOL CARAVAN and its lauded 1969 album that launched the jazzier side of the Krautrock scene, i have been loath to accept its majesty due to the fact i much prefer the farthest out trips that the German scene had to offer but yet i'm admittedly also mesmerized by the jazz-rock fueled trippers that followed as well, so in a nutshell i simply had to readjust my barometer to focus on the timeline from which this emerged and after the proper antennae adjustments, lo and behold it all started to make sense. After all some music is about tuning into the zeitgeist of a specific era. All music doesn't have to be timeless, ya know. Well ELECTRIP is very much a product of its time and there is no possible way to misidentify this album from coming from any other period than the 1968-70 era.

ELECTRIP begins with the rather psychotic "Electric Fun Fair" which displays a form of jazz-rock fusion that would become the staple of bands like Soft Machine once they kicked Robert Wyatt out however this one features organ and electric piano sounds courtesy of Öcki von Brevern and directly links the band to that period technology but the swinging rich brassy parts bring Oktoberfest to mind. "Pop Games" begins with sped up vocal chattering thus relaying a chipmunk effect but turns into a more stable jazz-rock tune whereas "All Green" revived some of the psychedelic soul aspects of the past only tripped out a bit with the organ runs. The first three provide an upbeat rather stable run of jazz-rock with psychedelic extras but then the album shifts a bit. The mix of the tenor, alto and soprano saxes along with the tuba gives these tracks a robust brass heft.

The fourth track "Raise Up High"which takes up roughly half the album runs almost 18 minutes long and unlike the first three features the madman vocals of drummer Skip Van Wyck. Much like the Can albums that would dominate the Krautrock scene of the 70s, XHOL CARAVAN started ELECTRIP with somewhat accessible tracks that featured recognizable jazz and rock albeit mangled up but with this lengthy behemoth after the initial Captain Beefheart inspired vocal performance, the track delves into what can be considered truly mature Krautrock which nurtures all the psychedelic features alongside the more avant-garde freeform jazz. Not too far from what the American trippy Sun Ra was doing at the time only with more rock heft especially in the form of the bass and drums since XHOL CARAVAN was completely without a guitarist. "Raises Up High" sounds like the perfect psychedelic jam as if Amon Düül II was jamming with the Mothers of Invention especially around the "Hot Rats" era.

The album closes with the palette cleanser "Walla Mashalla," a short little reprise to the opening track. While the band released only ELECTRIP under the XHOL CARAVAN moniker, the band decided to drop the CARAVAN part due to constant confusion with the Canterbury Scene band across the pond and would release two more albums on the Ohr label simply as XHOL. While ELECTRIP may not be the trippiest example of Krautrock or even the most electric due to the large wind section save the longest track on board, this one was one of the most influential impetuses of the entire jazzy side of the German scene. Although it took a few spins to warm up to, i've actually come to love ELECTRIP for its bold reach for the sky and clearly shows hints of the burgeoning Kraut scene just around the corner. While XHOL CARAVAN doesn't seem to make the top list of Krautrock albums from those early years, its 1969 landmark ELECTRIP is nonetheless one not to be missed as it is the perfect blend of brassy jazz-rock with fuzzed out 60s psychedelia.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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