Krautrock noiseniks and experimental alchemists Qa’a, cook up an essential slab of intense and often vehement grooves and songs that evoke all the best moments from bands such as CAN.
Qa’a – ‘Chi’en’
Magia Roja Label 2009
1. Eastdown Westdown (8:01)
2. Speaker Box (15:43)
3. Time Is Key (17:28)
4. Peeling Off (24:56)
5. She Provides (10:09)
6. Chi’en’ (3:38)
Mystically titled and shrouded in an esoteric enigma, the experimental progressive Barcelona adventurous dreamers, Qa’a, have created a glowing tribute to the halcyon days of Krautrock, in particular the pioneering work of CAN.
Even the artwork owes more than a passing appreciative nod to the hexagram symbolic cover of the German’s empyrean classic Future Days, our modern day spiritual students also like-wise taking inspiration from the Chinese book of I:Ching, choosing to use the six unbroken lines motif that represents strong action and energy for their own devices.
Qa’a are full of layered references and fables, the band name itself is borrowed from the ancient Egyptian king, whose claim to infamy was being the last of the first dynasty of rulers in Egypt, sitting on the throne sometime around 3100 to 2890 BC. Unfortunately history is very vague about him and experts have never agreed on his exact providence, we know he had a good send off though and that his tomb at Abydos was a pretty impressive sight. It must also be noted that he was known under an array of names including Ka’a – which is how you pronounce the groups name by the way.
Ancient ethnography and inspirational Germans aside, Chi’en is a rather ambitious undertaking, eighty lavished minutes in length it certainly runs through the full spectrum of emotions, building us up and taking us down throughout.
Somewhere between the moody dark rock of latter day bands such as Dead Meadows and Black Mountain mixed with the modular tinkering of groups like Holy Fuck and Leafcutter John, our plucky duo manage to throw up enough surprises to make sure that this is not merely a homage, even though there is an abundance of influences played out on the record.
The opening salvo of ‘Eastdown Westdown’ for instance evokes the ambient sound experiments from the Rolling Stones ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ before an acoustic guitar and rolling tender drums evoke the lush sounds of Acid Mother Temple.
Picking up a momentum, the track becomes more sleazy and brooding as wailing feedback and scuzzy distortion build towards a serious crescendo of noise, before sinking into ungodly whispering and shadows that creep up on you as the now gothic charged atmosphere crackles with electrifying discharge. Imagine to yourselves Kasabian if they’d listened to Black Sabbath.
The following tune ‘Speaker Box’ changes tact slightly with the more laid back familiar afro-funk bass lines, marimba derived instrument bolafan and drum grooves of their mentors, CAN, whose ‘Halleluhwah’ runs riot over the entire track.
Oscillating synths fluctuate and wobble as the vocals come over all Nordic sounding before stretching out over an ever-shifting swaying backing.
With respect to the Cologne alchemists they build the track to an Irmin Schmidt classic space sound lab pinnacle, drowning out everything before fading the main theme back in, tipping there hat to Tago Mago on the way.
Some respite arrives in the disguise of ‘Time Is key’, with its hypnotic choral backing vocals and distant ethereal chanting, all pensive and heavenly but with an underlining feeling of dread. This could be the mesmerising soundtrack to a Jess Franco horror if Jefferson Airplane in their Woodstock era free spirit confidence had waltzed over to the film set looking to score a hit.
The customary pace change brings in a Santana fronted voodoo ritual, the sort where no one gets hurt but the rhythmic frenzy that ensues tips all those standing around over the edge with delight.
Some Hammer House of horror frightening Hammond interrupts proceedings, turning the Latin fuelled jamboree towards the satanic, all in the best possible sophisticated manner.
Next up is the Faust inspiring harassed ‘Peeling Off’, whose Hans Joachim Irmler evidently allowed the band to record some of the material in his studio.
They throw in a cacophony of shrieking Indian oboes and Red Indian ceremonial war dance, whilst tampering with a myriad of sound effects and cheeky nods to CAN again, especially ‘Quantum Physics’ and the ‘EFS’ sound explorations.
Everything is thrown into an industrial blender, thanks to Faust, whose non-compromising antagonising edge paws are all over it.
The heavy forlorn melodrama comes on all swaggering, traversing doom and psychedelic fragmented time signatures melting them into one giant pot before ending on a towering improvised noisy sound clash, which bleeds over into the following abstract free for all ‘She Provides’.
This ten-minute collage of unremitting restrain really pushes the boat out taking no prisoners as it weaves around a disturbing background of extreme postulating savagery and waves of discordant sounds.
Phased induced instruments battle with increasing panicky feedback, locked in a struggle of biting deterioration that climaxes in a strange unworldly ambient finish.
The final song is an elegant pastoral acoustic instrumental sonnet in the mode of Ash Ra Tempal or Popol Vuh, calming strumming and sweetly saccharine melodies cosily warp around the listener like a chimera induced come down.
Never actually promising us much, this brief concluding sign off works around some evocative stirring chords and serene moody charms.
Qa’a turn in a well thought out and sophisticated krautrock classic, which high fives a long line of stimulating and galvanised influences.
It must be said that the rich abundance of prior travellers along this particular route is enormous and well documented, making it difficult to sound like anything other then a tribute act blinded in awe.
Treading a fine line between glowing in the light of the past masters and repeating the same experiments over again and again, ‘Chi’en’ always sounds unique and fresh, a resounding triumph of ideas that never fall into the doldrums.
I must mention the critic who waxed lyrical about the CAN comparisons, suggesting with all the gall in the world that our Spanish sonic explorers superseded them. As outstanding as Qa’a are, they’d have to admit they were still in debt to the German seers, remaining pupils still, all be it ready to graduate with first class honours.
We salute you for your endeavor and bravery.