Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part X: DDR Android

The Puhdys were built in a factory in what was the East Germany, or DDR. As they grew older, they began to encounter the music of their android brethren on the other side of the wall. They longed to join their cybernetic cousins, but human politics kept them apart. Many times they attached burrows to their arms in vain attempts to dig their way to the West, but every time they were thwarted.

Finally, they decided just to take up synthesizers against their opressors. Eventually, their ghost in the machine sounds reached Klaus, Edgar, Harald and the rest of us, and so we set up a signal to let them know that we knew that they knew we were all in the same gang.

After the wall fell in '89 we all met up in the Berlin glimmerlights and danced until the sun came up. Check out on of The Puhdy's shining moments by clicking on the title of this post.

Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part IX: The Cross-Dressing Android

Thomas Dinger is one of the more unheralded cogs in the Krautrock bröselmaschine. He rocked the drums on Neu! 75 and continued on the trommel duties for La Düsseldorf, the band he formed from the ashes of Neu! with his brother Klaus.
Thomas was the rare Krautrocker who went through two transformations. His transition to android was more permanent. But when he ventured into the glimmerlights, Thomas liked to dress as a woman. Hence, he became the first recorded cross-dressing android.
After La Düsseldorf's demise, Thomas went on to create a Krautrock masterpiece in Für Mich. One of its best tracks is available by clicking on the title of this post.
So plug yourself in, put on some lipstick and enjoy!

Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part VIII: Wannabe Android

Before Michael Rother became the Blazing Heartbreaker, he was a member of Krautrock legends Neu! Along with Klaus Dinger (the Godfather of Punk & New Wave) and Thomas Dinger (the Cross-Dressing Android), Michael created a sound truly unique to man and robot-kind; music that never made the mainstream here on Planet Earth, but that consistently tops the charts on the Offworld Colony.

Neu did have significant influence outside of Germany. Indeed, OMD tried to emulate their sound and even composed a B-side called "4-Neu." However, what OMD does not understand is that they are not German! They are just two wannabe synthesists from The Wirral! Only Germans can truly become one with the cyborg and create the ghost in the machine! Sting tried it and failed miserably. OMD tried it and came close, but they are British! I had to remind them over and over again, "you are not German!!! You can never truly become a bröselmaschine! No matter how many wires you stick in yourself, or how much make-up you put on your face!"


They just didn't understand that to create such a sound one had to truly become a robot, something an English lad playing a Casiotone on the banks of the Mersey simply cannot accomplish.

Anyway, for one of my favorite Neu songs, click on the title of this post. The track is called "Seeland." As fate would have it, OMD composed a song called "Sealand" on their seminal Architecture & Morality. Similar title, similar sound.

Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part VII: Deutsche Wertarbeit

Dorothea Raukes was Krautrock's Stevie Nicks. Kind of always at zie parties, dansing in zie glimmerlight. As was mentioned earlier, she dated such luminaries as Wolfgang Riechmann and Michael Rother. After Rother she moved on to resident Synthesist, Harald Grosskopf.
But as the 70s transitioned into the 80s, Dorothea grew weary of robot love. Nearly every "man" she had been with in the past decade was at least partially cybernetik. The Germans have a saying that goes "wenn Sie nicht gewinnen könned, mit ihnen." Roughly translated, that means- if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And that is exactly what Dorothea did. One night in the glimmerlight she sidled up to Klaus Schulze and asked him to take her back to his bröselmaschine laboratory. 

The next day she emerged as a new music making maschine- "Deutsche Wertarbeit," or German Craftsmanship. The music she created now was that of the synthesist, containing the ghost of her human past; the kind of sound Vangelis and other wannabe androids would try to create for years to come, but never succeed. Check out a slice of this German Craftsmanship by clicking on the title of this post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part VI: Das Zen Meister

Hans-Joachim Roedelius was the spiritual leader of the Krautrock movement. Some say he was the first to discover the ghost in ze bröselmaschine. Forced in to the Nazi-youth as a child, escaping from Communist East Germany after the war, and joining the electronic underground, Roedelius led perhaps the most fascinating life of any of those who dwelled in the glimmerlights.

He was the other half of Cluster (the other being Moebius), a member of Harmonia (along with Krautrock heartthrob Michael Rother), and a completely astounding solo-künstler in his own right.

Roedelius' experiences also led him to develop his own philosophy. He believed the secret of the universe was contained in the foot. Consequently, feet figured prominently on his album covers. The music he created was also good for philosophizing, or for just drinking coffee and staring out the window on rainy Stuttgart days.

In the future, I plan on doing a whole series of posts on the life and times of Roedelius. But for now, tippen Sie auf die Füße to the sounds of my favorite Roedelius track by clicking on the title of this post. It's title, "Alle Jahr Wieder," means "every year again." Rumor has it he wrote it for a never-realized German film adaptation of PKD's Now Wait For Last Year. Sadly, that never came about. 


Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part V: Das Böse Zwillinge

One night after an early 70s Tangerine Dream show in Zürich, Klaus Schulze, Edgar, and I were walking the pre-dawn streets, tripping on JJ-180. As the sun rose, two little Kinder ran up to us, offering to shine our boots, and begging for money. Klaus stopped in his tracks and asked the two little ones why they were up so early? Where were their parents? As it so happened, the two children were orphans, twins in fact. 

Klaus, claiming he had seen a vision of the future, decided he would take the two children back to Berlin, which he promptly did after adopting them. He named the boy Phaedra Jumbotron (or P.J. for short) and the girl, Stella (after his beloved Großmutter). 

P.J. and Stella were raised during the electronic revolution, by the Godfather of the scene. He loved them very much. However, as the twins reached their teenage years they grew disenchanted with Klaus' electronic meanderings. They longed for a more structured sound. So in 1980, they ran away to Düsseldorf, where they recorded their own album, Psychotron, with Thomas Dinger. They called themselves Schaltkreis Wasserman.

Klaus never forgave P.J. and Stella for their poppier sounds, and has since referred to them as the "Das Böse Zwillinge," or "the Evil Twins" in English. They became the German Electric Underground scene's Tomax and Xamot. However. Psychotron was a true masterpiece and foresaw the direction electronic music was heading in the 80s and beyond. My favorite track on the album is "Zeit Un Raum" which means "Pass the chilie." Check it out by clicking on the title of this post. You can actually hear how Schulze did exert some residual influence on the sound. It's sad he couldn't see beyond his own wounded pride. This was a sound that was still pushing the boundaries in its own way. Such a tragic tale, such a fine piece of glimmerlight musik.

Pass die Bohnen!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part IV: Beschmutzen

Peter Backhausen was kind of the old crusty hippy of the Krautrock scene. Everyone called him "Beschmutzen" which translates to janker in English, and a truer janker there never was. Peter always wanted to hang out with the androids in the glimmerlights, but with his long hair and tattered jeans he never looked the part. Also, the music he made tended to lean more in the prog direction, he could never really shake that Emerson, Lake and Palmer vibe, that Klaus, Wolfgang, and Harald found very uncool.

That was until Peter made his seminal LP, Planet Show. I remember he showed up at a party one night in Cologne with a test 8-Track of the record. Something was different about him; his pants were tighter, his walk -- just a tad stiffer, and there seemed to be a metallic sheen in his eyes. He would have failed The Voight-Kampff test that night for sure. Indeed, Planet Show was going to be Beschmutzen's entree into the Society of Synthesists. He played everyone the track "Phoenix II."  The title was apt, as this music could have been the soundtrack for one of the films then in vogue on Harald's Offworld Colony. Peter was now part of the gang!

"Phoenix II" is actually my favorite track of the whole Krautrock era, the finest morsel of sonic sauerkraut around. This track is where you will truly find the ghost in the machine, and when Peter's vocoder kicks in 2/3's of the way through, you too can soar with the silver phoenix. Check out the otherworldly magic by clicking on the title of this post.

As far as I know, Planet Show, in its entirety, is completely unavailable in MP3 format. Klaus, Harald and the others heard the other songs and kicked Beschmutzen right out of the gang, and he's completely banned from the Offworld Colony.  

Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part III: Synthesist

By the late 70s, many in our circle of friends actually believed Harald Grosskopf was an android. At that juncture, this Krautrock veteran had been a member of Ash Ra Tempel, The Cosmic Jokers and Wallenstein. He'd also played with Klaus Schulze, and some say their late night sessions making music machines led them to attempt mechanizing themselves.

Either way, by 1979, Harald's skin had taken on a metallic hue, his eyes sparkled like glittery diamonds, and his voice sounded like something out of an 8-bit Sega game. He'd also shifted from being mainly a drummer, to playing the synthesizer. Indeed, rumors abounded that he'd programmed himself to be a walking, talking, synthesist. 

During this transmigration of Harald Grosskopf, he/it also created one of the most stellar albums in the galaxy: fittingly titled Synthesist. Released on Sky Records, this LP is full of the warmest robot sounds around. Indeed, Vangelis took notice and used many of Grosskopf's themes for his Blade Runner soundtrack. Track 2, "B.Aldrian" sounds as if it had a significant influence on Vangelis' score.

But my favorite track on the album would have to be the 3rd, "Emphasis." Check it out by clicking on the title of this post. 

As for The Synthesist, he's still out there making music. Word has it he's just returned from his offworld colony to tour Japan with a reformed Ash Ra Tempel. Like many of his colleagues, Harald is big in Japan.

Hagel aus der welt kolonie!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part II: Himmelblau

Wolfgang Riechmann was originally a member of Streetmark, as I mentioned yesterday, they were Germany's Fleetwood Mac (or Go-Betweens, who were Australia's Fleetwood Mac). Anyway, while the resident synthesist in Streetmark, Wolfgang fell for lead singer Dorothea Raukes. When Dorothea left Wolfgang for Michael Rother, Riechmann left Streetmark and went solo. Inspired by fellow synthesists Kraftwerk, he took to wearing make-up and emulating a PKD android, although his color-palette reflected the state of his heart. Ridley Scott took notice, and modeled much of the Blade Runner aesthetic on Riechmann's image.

Riechmann also made a Krautrock classic Wunderbar. And the record really lives up to its name; kind of a lost classic of the genre.

Sadly, just before the LP came out in 1978, Riechmann was murdered in a Düsseldorf dive bar by two sailors. "Himmelblau" (Sky Blue) is one of the highlights of Riechmann's lone solo LP. Click on the title to enjoy this small slice of heaven. 

Dieser ist für Sie Wolfgang! Ich hoffe, Sie sing glücklich dort.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Six Degrees of Sauerkraut -- Part I: Flammende Herzen

This is the first post in a series that will document the life and times of many of your favorite Krautrock stars. Those days and nights in Düsseldorf, and beyond, were full of fun and drama, and I thought it might be nice to share some of my memories. Many of these damen und herren were interconnected in many ways, and I hope to document some of that during the Six Degrees of Sauerkraut saga.

I thought I'd begin with Michael Rother, or as he liked to think of himself "Flammende Herzen." In English that means "Blazing Heart." As you may have guessed, Michael was Krautrock's ladies man. He thought quite highly of himself, as did the ladies (and a number of men as fate would have it). Indeed, I remember one night in 1977; we were all out, dancing in the glimmerlight of a club on Düsseldorf's eastside. That night, Michael basically stole Dorothea Raukes from Wolfgang Riechmann. Dorothea and Wolfgang were members of Streetmark, West Germany's Fleetwood Mac. Plenty of interband hook-ups and what not. Anyway, Dorothea took one look at Blazing Heart and that was the end of her and Wolfgang. 

Wolfgang took to wearing icy makeup, dressing in tight suits, and acting like he was a robot. Indeed, Blade Runner was influenced by this new style Wolfgang developed in response to his heartbreak over losing Dorothea. This would happen to Dorothea as well when she and Blazing Heart broke up, and she subsequently formed the legendary Krautrock band, Deutsche Wertarbeit. But, these are tales for another time.

Anyway, Rother made my favorite music of the whole Krautrock era. Excellent for experimenting with JJ-180, Can-D and what have you. And it is always easier to commune with the Vast Active Living Intelligence System ("Valis") while listening to Rother's Katzenmusik, which every true Krautrocker should own.

Try some Blazing Heart for yourself, Rother's "KM 12" from Katzenmusikby clicking on the title of this post! This song quite literally took me to the stars one night. 

Krautrock für immer!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More Crack Please!

The first time I read The Crack in Space, I thought that it was where Planet of The Apes got its source material. But to my chagrin, PKD more likely got a major subplot of his 1966 novel from Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel: a planet far away in time and space populated by intelligent pre-humans.

Having now read both books a couple of times, and watching the original movies in an attic in Seattle, the two tales are indeed strikingly similar in some respects and it's always interesting to ponder who and what influenced Dick.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Crack in Space: PKD on Race and Politics

Given the events of the past six months (market crash, presidential election) I thought it would be appropriate to reread PKD's 1966 novel The Crack in Space. Currently, no other PKD novel better captures the current times; a horrible economy, an unpopular outgoing President, and the election of the first Black President. All of this and more in Dick's underrated Crack. 

From the Ace 2nd Edition blurb: 

"Every crisis that had been building through the 20th century came to a head in the year 2080. And it was an election year.

There were tens on millions of people in deep-freeze waiting for better times--and the pressure was on to wake them up or throw them away. Unemployment had reached an all-time high -- and the people were demanding jobs.

The jiffi-scuttlers which made space travel possible were breaking down and someone had to find out why fast.

The racial problem had become dangerous -- and one of the candidates for President was Black.

But most important of all, scientists had broken into another dimension and found another world -- and a long forgotten ancestral race."

Aside from a few minor details PKD seems to have predicted the future quite admirably. However, Ace probably probably made a printing error and it should have read 2008 rather than 2080. Either way, this is one of PKD's better efforts.