Monday, 16 November 2020

VA ‎– Deutsche Elektronische Musik (Experimental German Rock And Electronic Musik 1972-83) (2010)

Style: Krautrock, Electro, Prog Rock, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Soul Jazz Records

1-01.   Can - A Spectacle
1-02.   Between - Devotion
1-03.   Harmonia - Dino
1-04.   Gila - This Morning
1-05.   Kollectiv - Rambo Zambo
1-06.   Michael Bundt - La Chasse Aux Microbes
1-07.   E.M.A.K. - Filmmuzik
1-08.   Popol Vuh - Morgengruss
1-09.   Conrad Schnitzler - Auf Dem Schwarzen Kanal
1-10.   La Düsseldorf - Rheinita
1-11.   Harmonia - Veterano
1-12.   Faust - It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl
1-13.   Neu! - Hallo Gallo
2-01.   Cluster - Heisse Lippen
2-02.   Ibliss - High Life
2-03.   Dieter Moebius - Hasenheide
2-04.   Amon Düül II - Fly United
2-05.   Popol Vuh - Aguirre 1
2-06.   Ash Ra Tempel -Daydream
2-07.   Tangerine Dream - No Man's Land
2-08.   Amon Düül II - Wie Der Wind Am Ende Einer Strasse
2-09.   Roedelius - Geradewohl
2-10.   Can - I Want More
2-11.   Deuter - Soham

Compiled By, Liner Notes – Adrian Self, Stuart Baker
Mastered By – Duncan Cowell, Pete Reilly

In 2010, the Soul Jazz record label had the superb idea of compiling and releasing a two-disc introduction to Krautrock's heyday titled Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Musik 1972-83. Seeing how an artist needs to be ragingly popular to turn a profit in the music market these days, the initial Deutsche Elektronische compilation soon fell out of print after the release of two sequel compilations. The Soul Jazz of 2018 looks to rectify this situation by remastering the collection that started it all. They even left the original cover art intact, looking like something that was generated by your cool neighbor's Apple IIGS.

If you are unfamiliar with names like Can, Cluster, Neu!, Tangerine Dream, and Popol Vuh, then explaining Krautrock to you could be a little tricky. Imagine an experimental form of rock music that integrates elements of free jazz, electronic music, ambient sounds, acoustic sounds, and the classical avant-garde, and yet manages to sound like none of the above when they are all combined. Throw in some drugs and a healthy dose of European anti-establishmentism (growing up in the shadow of Nazi Germany couldn't have been good for everyone's sense of trust), and you had yourself a whole new musical movement to rival the fading memory of America's Summer of Love.

German rock may not have found its way into every Western household at the time, but its influence is still being felt today. If you take just a quick peek at, you'll notice that electronic music and post-rock are being created in nearly every corner of our globe. Radiohead were able to reinvent themselves thanks to the trail blazed by Krautrock. So even if names like Moebius and Roedelius are new to you, I can guarantee you that you've felt their ripple effects.

I don't envy anyone who has the job of distilling 11 years of great music down to two hours. As is the case with many highly specialized genres, I'm sure Krautrock has many devoted fans sitting at the keyboards, waiting to pounce with complaints such as "They left off this?!" or "How could they ignore that album?!" and so on. But if the intent of a compilation is to spurn someone's curiosity to seek out a whole genre rather than try to encompass it, then Deutsche Elektronische Musik does the trick nicely. If we were looking at a truly comprehensive boxset here, then the listener wouldn't feel any motivation to further seek out Krautrock's hidden caves or dark corners. If Deutsche Elektronische Musik was just the best of the best and nothing else, then the customer would stop there. But as it is, one is left thinking "hey, show me more".

Thus, diversity is key. Between's "Devotion" sounds like a hippie chant while Harmonia's "Dino" rides the minimalist rock bullet train for all it's worth. Faust are eerily ominous on "It's a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl", but Tangerine Dream sound like they're genuinely having fun on the highly percussive "No Man's Land". Gila are even more positive on "This Morning", a ray-of-sunshine anthem that Jon Anderson could have drafted in 1968. Popol Vuh keep it closer to ambient territory on their two songs, but songs contributed by Cluster and their individual members opt for the soothingly weird.

Honestly, drop the digital needle anyway, let the thing roam on random, and Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Musik 1972-83 is still a really good collection. Upon its first release, the Guardian said that this collection was a "near-definitive guide to some of the world's most extraordinary music". I do my best to distance myself from such superlatives, but I'm not going to go through any writing gymnastics to say that the writer is wrong. This is extraordinary music. To say that it's near-definitive is a matter of hair-splitting. Any way you look at it, it's worth the time, money, and posterity.
John Garratt / popMATTERS

Leila ‎– Like Weather (1998)

Genre: Electronic
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Rephlex

01.   Something
02.   Don't Fall Asleep
03.   Underwaters (One For Keni)
04.   Feeling
05.   Blue Grace
06.   Space Love
07.   Knew
08.   Melodicore
09.   So Low... Amen
10.   Misunderstood
11.   Piano String
12.   Won't You Be My Baby
13.   Away

Flute – Dan Lipman
Violin – Benet Walsh
Trumpet – Gabriel Walsh 
Vocals – Luca, Donna Paul, Roya
Written-By, Recorded By, Mixed By – Leila

Even compared to the dozens of edgy electronica songwriters appearing in the wake of Björk, Like Weather is quite a shot out of left field. Though many songs' anti-production values mark them as bedroom records in the vein of Rephlex geeks like Cylob or Bochum Welt, many of the vocal songs are downtempo symphonies worthy of Massive Attack. With a bit of studio tweaking reminiscent of Aphex Twin himself, the single "Don't Fall Asleep" has an assortment of unnatural frequencies, from the pitched-down, practically tuneless vocals to scattered dub explosions and pointed beats. The overall tone, though tremendously eclectic, is of an experimentalism far in advance of other electronic singer/songwriter acts out there.
John Bush / AllMusic

Leila ‎– Courtesy Of Choice (2000)

Genre: Electronic
Format: CDVinyl
Label: Source, XL Recordings 

01.   Brave
02.   Work
03.   Do You Got Time
04.   Sodastream
05.   GoogGush
06.   To Win Her Love
07.   So...Jazz
08.   To Tell A Lie
09.   I Won't Forget
10.   Be Clowns
11.   Different Time
12.   Different Time (Reprise)
13.   Young Ones

Clarinet – Benet Walsh
Drums – Tim Giles
Vocals, Lyrics By – Donna Paul, Luca Santucci, Roya Arab
Written-By, Producer – Leila

Spliffed out of her tree in her north London bedroom, a few years spent navigating the globe as the keyboardist and live mixer in her friend Bjvrk’s band,

Leila Arab cut a mighty peculiar figure when she emerged, a cynical militant idealist, in springtime 1998.

‘Like Weather’ was the album; a slow-motion starburst of molten Motown and eiderdown electronica so unlike anything else at the time that its comprehensive lushness and reference-free doodles almost threatened to make a star of its author.

As alluring as ‘Like Weather’, ‘Courtesy Of Choice’ proves once again that Leila orbits a planet very different to our own. Here, aided by the same gang of vocalists -; her sister Roya, pretty soulboy Luca Santucci and sultry diva Donna Paul -; Leila continues to craft fantastically spooked sci-fi symphonies barely anchored in reality, the scope of ideas on display a testament to her keenly fractured imagination.

Yet it’s the songs featuring the voice of the hugely talented Santucci that, when blended with Leila‘s other-worldly production, make ‘Courtesy Of Choice’ a more accomplished and focused listen than its predecessor. From the digital soul of ‘To Win Her Love’ and ‘To Tell A Lie’‘s touching honesty, it’s clear he too is destined for greater things.

Whether this unorthodox collective choose to capitalise on their achievements is, as before, entirely up to them. We’ll expect another masterpiece in 2003.