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Günter Schickert – Überfallig

Bureau B

Günter Schickert’s solo albums and the recordings he made with his band GAM for years have felt like a lost part of the classic seventies Krautrock era. It’s surely not because they sit in an uneasy space between Ash Ra Tempel and modern composers such as Steve Reich, as various other artists such as Kraftwerk were known to step over the line between rock and the avant-garde. His first album Samtvogel (1973) was even released by seminal Krautrock label Brain which was also putting out releases by Klaus Schulze at the same time. It feels as though Günter’s output has been sidelined for the bigger name bands of the time and the importance of some of his releases have been underplayed. Hopefully this Bureau B reissue will start to introduce his work to a new audience.

The sound of splashing water opens “Puls.” This is overtaken by heavy breathing and birds singing, and already here we are venturing into musique concrète territory. Then the bass takes over with a steady rolling rhythm that moves up and down two chords for the duration of the song and gives the same effect that sequencers were doing for Tangerine Dream at this point in time. I have to mention here that the album contains no synthesizers but electronic tape effects created within the studio. Bass and snare drum play a scatter counter point beat to the bass guitar as the track begins to build in momentum. It here feels like you are driving desert highways watching tumbleweeds roll by. When the lead guitar begins to wail from a distance it sounds like a call from the mountains on the skyline. Electronic whirls begin to fill out the piece and here we begin to get the closes to the Ash Ra sound; that is, until the sound of a child’s voice begins to laugh over the top of the instruments. The track finally ends up stuttering to a halt and leaves you feeling that it could quite easily have gone on for another fourteen minutes.

“In Der Zeit” begins with metallic percussion that would not sound out of place on an early Einstürzende Neubauten album until this is overtaken by a plaintive acoustic guitar surrounded by birdsong. Here Günter’s whispering vocals come in and the track begins to sound somewhat like “Sirus Minor” by Pink Floyd. A wash of noise sound gives the ending of the track a wild oceanic sound as it drifts away towards a sunset. “Apricot Brandy” begins with the same wash of sound that closed “Der Zeit” giving the album a linking motif to what would have been Side A and the beginning of Side B on vinyl. Next guitars meander aimlessly while excited percussion taps away underneath. When Günter’s vocals hit in there seems to more than a little touch of Syd Barrett in the way the piece is put together. It reminds me so much of an amalgamation of Madcap Laughs and Piper at the Gates of Dawn that this image won’t shake from my mind until the track hits its riff/sequencer sounding guitar and here we are yet again in the world of cosmic hyper drift. This becomes the most trance-inducing part of the track and heads straight into a psychedelic trip out zone with its eastern sounding lead guitar part.

Deep throb bass and ethereal guitar start “Wanderer.” The guitar begins to play a five chord chugging riff as the drums stumble in. For a few moments we hit Sonic Youth territory until another melodic bass line rumbles in and takes the track into a floating direction. Here the track drifts elegantly somewhere between the earth and sky like you are moving across landscapes at great speed. When the lead guitar plays a slight Oriental-sounding guitar lick you enter the realm of the sublime. Then slowly we descend to earth with the sound of desert guitars and the same splashing water sound that started the album, bringing the entire record full circle.

It’s fantastic that Bureau B have re-released this magnificent album so that Schickert’s work can find new appreciation amongst people who are willing to investigate something a bit different from the Krautrock era and spread the word of this record. Let’s hope that they will eventually release his first album (which did get a limited release on the Wah-Wah label in 2010) and maybe even some of the GAM recordings as well.

-Gary Parsons-

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