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Amon Düül II - Phallus Dei CD (album) cover


Amon Düül II



4.01 | 463 ratings

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4 stars The debut album by one of Krautrock's earliest ensembles may sound more than a little crude when heard today. But next to the truly unorganized racket of the first Amon Düül this effort shows remarkable discipline and polish.

It's still very much a late '60s head-trip. Expect to hear a lot of psychedelic jamming and silly voices (note the whacked-out konnakol scat in "Luzifer's Ghilom"), all of it top heavy in studio reverb and colored with an unmistakable shade of anti-establishment rage, hardly surprising in Germany so soon after the horrors of World War II. You can hear it in the first angry downbeat of the album opener "Kanaan", and in the lysergic military march of "Henriette Krötenschwanz". This is music that could not possibly have come from any other country or era.

Some of the more free-form passages take their cues (like a lot of supposedly but not really Anglo-free Krautrock) from PINK FLOYD's "A Saucerful of Secrets", released one year previously. More surprising are the elements of what might be called electrified Bavarian folk music, hidden between the chords of "Dem Guten, Schönen, Wahren" (which also includes one of those quintessentially cross-eyed guitar solos that were a hallmark of the German underground in 1969), and during the epic twenty-plus minute title track: one of the best of Krautrock's many side-long jams.

The latter example is likely a credible facsimile of a typical ADII concert from the time, minus the liquid lights and copious pot smoking (the lack of which only improves the experience, at least to this particular square pair of ears). Even at its most improvisational the music has some form, marking a huge leap forward from the otherwise totally unstructured noise of the other Amon Düül.

But the band never did shake itself entirely free from its hippie roots, and the insecure line- up throughout their long, confusing history might have been a legacy of the group's early communal lifestyle. As was the admirable democracy of their sound: among the eight credited musicians here (with two additional guests) no one is allowed to hog the spotlight, although the wordless (and often tuneless) vocals of Renate Knaup merit special attention.

For newcomers to the collective soundworld of Amon Düül (as I was only recently) it might be easier to start later in the band's discography, and only afterward work your way gradually back toward this beast of an album. Consider it an invaluable time-capsule snapshot of the German counterculture at Stunde Null, Hour Zero, when an entire generation turned its back on an ugly past and tried to write its own rules, musically and otherwise.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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