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Michael Rother, Jazz Cafe review - classic Krautrock from the Neu! and Harmonia legend | reviews, news & interviews

Michael Rother, Jazz Cafe review - classic Krautrock from the Neu! and Harmonia legend

Michael Rother, Jazz Cafe review - classic Krautrock from the Neu! and Harmonia legend

The legendary krautrock guitarist gets in to his transcendent groove

Max Zerrahn

Neu!, Neu! 2 and Neu! 75. For many a committed collector of rock’s more interesting corners, these three albums are the motherlode of 1970s Kosmische Musik, or Krautrock, the fruit of an intense and far-out focus on musical essentials, combining guitarist Michael Rother’s trippy lyricism with wild-man drummer Klaus Dinger’s motorik drive. The sound of Neu! was a mixture of sigh and scream, meshed in a grid of minimal rhythms, maxed-out thrash and Dinger (who died in 2008) expressing what sounded at times like a bad acid trip in sound.

Rother and Dinger, along with their contemporaries – including Kraftwerk, Faust, Amon Duul II and Tangerine Dream – were post-war children of West Germany, whose ‘economic miracle’ went hand-in-hand with a violent radical extremism, exploring the sonic gap between these polar opposites, and expressing the fractured ethos of the times. Noise and silence, aggression and calm, pattern and disruption – these were the polar opposites embedded in Neu’s music, too, and when they split, in 1975, Rother teamed up with kosmische duo Cluster to produce the two shimmering, lovely Harmonia albums that were a huge influence on Brian Eno and David Bowie during the latter’s Berlin escapades.

Rother has been a regular returnee to these shores in the past few years, and this is his second turn at beguiling audiences at the Jazz Café in Camden Town with mix of the propulsive, sweetly melodic and ethereal. With him are drummer Hans Lampe, who played on NEU! ́75 and was a member of Klaus Dinger’s great Glam-Kraut offshoot La Düsseldorf, and fellow guitarist Franz Bargmann. 

Rother is avucular in a relaxed CEO-of-Krautrock kind of way. The audience, spanning several generations, loves him, but he plays to the laptop as much as to us, following the gradients of soundwaves on his music software as if it was geogaphical terrain. The performance is highly adept but a little regimented as a result, more enclosed land than borderless Kosmische. Nevertheless, the spirit of the original seeps through, helped along by strobes and dry ice. The Neu! tracks invigorate the most. They are pummelling simulacra of the originals, and Hans Lampe's drumming is a relentless, minimalist motorik by a veteran of the art, its Glam-Krautrock hook-up between bass and bass drum binding the music and punishing the same spot for song after song - a beat so dependable you could hang weights from it.

Rother's guitar work is as precise as a stopwatch when it needs to be, bathing and broiling in psychedelic fuzz when he lets rip. "You're my Jimi Hendrix!" an audience member shouts out. "That's the nicest thing you could say to me," he replies. The show may lack the madness of his late partner in Kosmische, but it runs on the same fuel and certainly gets you there.

Tim Cumming's website

@CummingTim

 

 

Rother's guitar work is as precise as a stopwatch when it needs to be, bathing and broiling in psychedelic fuzz when he lets rip

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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