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Various Artists – Head Music

Fruits de Mer

Krautrock is a brilliantly meaningless term, full of meaning. Head Music attempts to show why. There’s motorik music (there’s some on here) which is often what people mean when they say krautrock (they mean it sounds like Neu! or the way Can’s drums flip over one another) and there’s the dense wiggy kosmische space music (which means it sounds like Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream). But a lot of krautrock is also a lot like heavy metal (in the sense that, say, Hawkwind, are heavy metal, with the emphasis on heavy rather than metal). You’ll hear the phrase ‘krautrock’ all over the place and it’ll mean nothing much. This compilation, this fantastic conceit, attempts to skew things further.

Most of these bands I’ve never heard of (The Bevis Frond is the exception and this is only because they seem to exist in all time and beyond time). The press release photos don’t do them any favours. It doesn’t matter. Black Tempest and Zenith: Unto The Stars take a thrash at Schulze and Popul Vuh and match them pretty well, adding a little earthiness into the mix. Language of Light make a sort of hash cake of Can’s “Mushroom” (uncannily accurate vocals and then a harsher descent into fuzz and scraw), Temple Music draw some grooves and put on a sea of guitar fug, Frobisher Neck Heads South By Weaving’s take on Ash Ra Tempel’s “Schiz’o” sounds like a further down and out This Mortal Coil song and then there’s a headnoodling, Hendrix-wah which for me  only works when the electronics try to flip between the channels but did get me thinking how wonderful a Nurse With Wound take on this kind of stuff would be – Stapleton wrestling with this source material like he did with Stereolab.

Eroc’s spoken introduction is silly but is perhaps a perfect, brain-fuzzed, belladonna-tinged, crankedelic introduction to what krautrock might actually have felt like at the time. The takes on Jane and Amon Düül don’t really add a great deal to the party but then I’m less inclined to that kind of guitar chops than most. Side one ends with a darker, dronier version of “Trans Europe Express” which works well alongside the shifting vocal sliding cover of “Nearby Shiras” by Kalacakra (often ignored in the typical samplers but well worth checking out). And here you have the problem with these kind of tributes – it does work well, the covers are sufficiently different, with just the right amount of sacrilege (contrast the mostly awful spin on Can cover versions with that name that came out years ago, where the point was often missed entirely) but they still tend to just send me back to the originals, especially the tracks that I’d not heard before. If that’s the point, it’s a great one (and it should be the point of cover albums) but if it’s anything else, an attempt at a showcase… it makes less sense than krautrock.

-Loki-

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