Brain 1975

Recorded at Conny Planks Studio, Cologne, Dec 74/ Jan 75.

Seite 1.

1. Isi (5:00)
2. Seeland (6:51)
3. Leb’ Wohl (8:51)

Seite 2.

1. Hero (6:15)
2. E-Musik (10:50)
3. After Eight (4:42)

Klaus Dinger: Guitar, organ, percussion and vocals.
Thomas Dinger: Drums.
Hans Lampe: Drums.
Michael Rother: Electronics, guitar, piano, synthorchestra and vocals.

‘I am sure that in this very moment of national disaster the German nation will develop life-giving forces. It may be that they will produce intellectual and artistic achievements, which will in some measures, compensate for our evil reputation in the world in the last few years’.

Correspondence from Albert Speer to Werner Baumbach, during the Nuremburg trials, 30th July 1946.

A presumptuous, even pseudo, introduction perhaps, but Germanys cultural comeback, less then a generation after the apocalyptic war, helped shape the musical landscape, and went some way to removing the countries shame.
As a reactionary, mostly Marxist and Socialist, protest, the German youth rejected their elders post-war governance and hang-ups; breaking with heritage, breaking with convention.
Neu! demonstrated better, to some extent, this separation.

The third chapter in their motorik traversing career, ‘Neu! 75’, certainly went some way towards creating a new aesthetic; a precursor to the punk scene – and a heavy influence on such future scene-shapers as John Lydon – whilst also lending the spark to Bowie that culminated in him producing his best work.
Yet side one of this LP, their finest hour, betrays moments of the Germanic grand tradition of representing the landscape. In a way Rother and Dinger compose a meditative spiritual suite that sounds both ancestral and, at the same time, modern. The tracks, ‘Isi and ‘Seeland’, convey similar grandiose outdoor themes; scored with elements of established time-honoured and present-day instruments that are distinctly different to the motorway ode-to-joy of Kraftwerk.
Neu! would in effect bridge the divide between the old country and new.

Back in 1973 after the initial fallout from ’Neu! 2’, Rother was attracted to the work of the stripped-down duo, Cluster, whose Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Deiter Moebius had just joined the Brain label. Suffering from ennui, Cluster looked for a new direction, and welcomed on board Rother. The now legendary brave new sound of Harmonia was born.
Rother and his sparring partner, Dinger, had never formally laid their Neu! creation to rest: temperamentally there were of course differences, even exchanged words in anger, but Rother’s unease and move towards forming new partnerships didn’t stop Dinger from holding onto the hope that they would heal their rift and reform.
As it was, Dinger passed the time setting-up his ill-fated Dingerland label, and conceiving the eventual formation of La Dusseldorf.
Fortunately in 1974, they decided they’d both been hasty, and that they should at least give it one last chance; pulling the Neu! dreadnought out of dry dock, and once again setting sail towards uncharted waters.

Rother’s more chilled and tripping atavistic approach met head-on with Dinger’s, Germanic snarling nihilistic, new wave attitude.
A greater palate of instrumentation was introduced to the benchmark sound, with Dinger recruiting his brother Thomas, and former Neu! recordings tape-operator, Hans Lampe to the cause; both playing drums live and on the new album – this would also be the foundation set-up for La Düsseldorf.

Rehearsals began in the summer of 1974, with a limited apprehensive gig or two. Their faithful producer, Conny Plank, came back on board, recording the band in his new Cologne studio during December 1974; leading into the first week of January of 1975.
As I’ve already mentioned, the album is made up of two parts: in short, the Rother Seite and the Dinger Seite.
‘Isi’ – phonetically pronounced as “easy”, and an abbreviation for the Spanish name Isabella – opens up the unimaginatively, matter-of-fact, ‘Neu! 75’ album.
A tempting, diaphanous piano leads us ceremonially into the scenic gliding mini-opus, which features a thematic ticking metronome – a key part of the entire album, marking the passage of time – and astral travelling alluded, gracious melodies. Rother’s Harmonia mindset takes full control as his blessed-out overture breathes in an air of Popol Vuh majestic, and even, dare I say, Kraftwerk peregrination Euro-traveller pace.
The following monotheistic bookend, ‘Seeland’ – can be interoperated as either sea land or lake land – is a more pronounced dreamy requiem, or indeed hymn.
It methodically prowls across palatial horizon, soaking up the immortal Teutonic scenery, and seeping into the ethnographical layers of the soil. The ebb and flow of this passing soundtrack is interrupted by a contemplative downpour and lapping tide – the river, and shore motif can be found throughout all of Neu! work.
Slowly fading in, during this rumination, is the Rother trance wash of ‘Leb’ Wohl’, or ‘Farewell’, a flowing metronome stream of swooning choral utterances, and low eulogy elegiac composed piano. If nothing else, ‘Leb’ Wohl’ created a template for the future sublime drones of Spaceman 3, and a whole atelier of shoe-gazing bands.

Side 2 is more or less Dinger pet-project. He plays lead agit stance guitar and handles the continental-styled sneering sibilant vocals throughout, and ropes in the pairing of his sibling, Thomas Dinger, and Hans Lampe on drums.
More a guidebook then blueprint to Bowies krautrock flirtation trio of Berlin LPs – we must not forget, Eno, who was dully implicit in adopting the Fatherlands music for the UK– the 3-tracks that made up Dinger’s contribution, are now seen as a leading influence on punk and it’s post resulting musical scenes.
The opening ‘Hero’ – borrowed and made a lot more radio-friendly by the leather-clad, dry-ice, cold-war impression, Bowie – features Roxy Music-esque chugging guitar riffs, ploughing over a man-the-barricades strutting backing. Dinger raves a vehement “Riding through the night” chanting chorus, in the style of a Westphalian Iggy Pop, to a motoring rallying-call drum beat.
‘E-Musik’ – or ‘series music’, the contraction of the German term, ‘Esmte Musik’ – sloops into the sound of birds chattering and planes flying overhead. Vapour turns to phaser as the instruments are manipulated through this cyclonic, weaving effect.
The constant shuffling drums never skip or miss a trick, whilst the tripped-out knees-up on the surface of Mars beat fades in and out of consciousness. Warped and bent to fit, this oval-shaped rhythmic workout sounds like nothing else.
Misty atmospherics once again cloud over, plunging us back into the revisionist version of ‘Hero’, ‘After Eight’. Spiky and full of spunk, Dinger leads a final Hussar charge.
Far from being a tribute to the after dinner treat to show-off; ‘After Eight’ is a huffing proto-futuristic howling blues mash-up of ‘Virginia Plain’ and the ‘Can-can’, played by louts schooled in Wagner and Stockhausen: a fine ending for such a tempest of an album.

Neu! their work done, yet again walk off into the Hinterland. Rother ran back to the arms of Moebius and Roedelius; producing their Cluster album, ‘Zuckerzeit’, before reforming the Harmonia supergroup.
Meanwhile Dinger reinvented the Neu! sound for his Euro-anthemia, new wave riding La Düsseldorf outfit; taking his brother and Hans with him.
Of course there would be several attempts to resurrect Neu!, with numerous material from previous sessions seeing the light of day. Yet many wrangles and falling-outs of ownership meant both Dinger and Rother stayed away from each other for over a decade, before trying out the old magic for one last time on the ‘Neu! 86’, or ‘Neu! 4’, album sessions – an ill-fated venture left unfinished, and released without Rother’s consent in 1996 as a bootleg. After the death of Dinger in 2008, Rother worked out a deal with his widow to re-edit and finish the tracks, and release the sessions as the revised ‘Neu! 86’ album: completed with remixes and other related material.
Only last year, Rother released the all-encompassing Neu! boxset, which draws together the entire history and catalogue of the band: a deserved survey of a much lauded and respected duo.

This draws my essay on Neu! to a close. Next time I begin my exhaustive appraisal of Popol Vuh.

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