Amon Duul II  'Vive La Trance'


Background: –

1972 to 1973 proved bumper years for the Duul, with five albums in total being released.

Vive La Trance was the last album of what maybe argued as being their most productive period, though it came with some derision.

To be truthful this record is the sound of a band worn -out and fatigued, with its wide genre-spanning catalogue of songs and its rather awkward Euro rock clichés. The band now more than ever flittered with commercialism.

Recorded in the spring of 73 Vive La Trance contains many highlights despite its more structured songwriting approach. Though they managed to maintain an ear for the esoteric and also conveyed their political leanings.

Songs such as ‘Mozambique’ acted as a rallying testament to the man and his raping of both a nation and a continent in the name of colonization. Further more it carries a dedication  to Monika Ertl, who was killed by Bolivian security forces in Hamburg that same year – Ertl was a member of the Marxist revolutionary group alleged to have taken part in the assassination of the general responsible for capturing and killing Che Guevara. At the time she was bringing a former Nazi war criminal to justice and was leapt on by South American agents whilst back in her homeland.

This move away from their more pagan and Gothic sounding heyday didn’t lead them away from the harsh realities of the upheavals in society – oh no! Whilst in the UK we were dressing up as women and having a jolly good time with glam Germany was still gripped with the Baader Meinhof fall-out and the political right still crushing those who didn’t toe the line. Amon Duul II still remained resolute in their ideals.

This album has some more touching and less establishment baiting moments on it with songs like ‘Jalousie’, a Kate Bush sounding lament built on a wordplay of surveillance – using the double meaning translation of the title it describes a touching but fateful meeting of minds in a fleeting moment, an affair of sorts watched on by a third party.

The tune ‘Manana’ has another warm and glowing feeling to it as a mariachi backed band ambles its way pleasantly enough through a quick three minute little ditty.

Also featured on here is what can only be described as proto punk with the track ‘Ladies Mimikry’: an attempt at both Bowie and Roxy Music, which ends up sounding like none of them. Instead they create an entirely new genre, almost proto-punk style.

The players on this album are made up of the usual hardcore that played on Wolf City and the UK tour; though they lost Danny Flichelscher on permanent loan to Popal Vuh.

Lothar Meid hung on in the background, though he now joined the lesser-known side act Achtzehn Karat Gold from whom Keith Forsey also joined.

New member Robby Heibl made a huge contribution to the new line up, playing seven different instruments throughout the record.

Falk U Rogner upped his contribution as now most of the band received writing credits and swapped around instruments. The vocals were shared mostly between Chris Karrer and Renate; backing came from a number of affiliates.

The albums artwork was provided by both Falk and Jurgen Rogner this time round with what looks like a drying out photo hung up by a clothes peg surrounded by a strange electrical storm background.

Amon Duul II’s moniker is made up of machine looking letters, which are made to appear as if they are in motion, the albums title sits between the two undisturbed and rather plain.

Turning over to the back cover and you are met with a number of photos depicting the band in various states of dressing up. Their costumes look Elizabethan except for one member who’s dressed up in a lion’s costume. Renate gets away with being dressed in a floppy hat though one guy looks like the guitarist from Slade has dressed him.

They are all photographed in the middle of a road, no it’s not an analogy to the music found within.

Review

United Artists 1973.

Produced by Amon Duul II and Olaf Kubler at Bavaria Studios.

Side 1

1. A Morning Excuse   (3:19)

2. Fly United   (3:33)

3. Jalousie   (3:27)

4. Im Krater Bluhn Wieder Die Baume   (3:08)

5. Mozambique (Dedicated To Monika Ertl)   (7:40)

Side 2

1. Apocalyptic Bore   (6:38)

2. DR.   (3:00)

3. Trap   (3:55)

4. Pig Man   (2:38)

5. Manana   (3:20)

6. Ladies Mimikry   (3:18)

Personal: –

John Weinzierl – Acc/Elec Guitar, Vocals and Bass

Chris Karrer – 12 String/Elec Guitar, Vocals, Saxophone and Violin

Peter Leopold – Drums and Grand Piano

Reante Krotenschwanz-Knaup – Vocals

Falk U Rogner – VCS3, Organ and Harmonium

Robby Heibl – 12 String/Elec Guitar, Bass, Cello, Vocal, Choir and

Gurke

Guests:

Peter Kramper – Grand Piano and Engineer

Lothar Meid – Choir and Finger-snips

Keith Forsey – Choir, Percussion and Finger-snips

Ralf Basten – Equipment Provider

Desmond Bonner – Choir and Equipment Provider

Jurgen Rogner – Artwork

‘A Morning Excuse’ opens the album with a bird-call effect delivered from Falk U Rogner’s VCS3 as a repetitive guitar riff slowly jars away in the background. Chris Karrer sings in a semi mock disdain at first before dropping to a emotional lament in the chorus, his attempts at holding on to some lost love are conveyed in this warming little pop song. This tune slightly boxes in any attempts for the free flowing musicianship of Amon Duul II to really let go, the plodding rhythm treads water until we hear the quirky twist half way through which emphasis that there is still ingenuity at work.

‘Fly United’ falls back on the previous folk echoes of Carnival In Babylon as Weinzierl plays some prime cuts of bass and adds some great lead guitar work. Renate and new boy Robby take on the vocals with a forlorn poetic series of spiritual slogans lifted from the headier days of the commune.

The middle section breaks out in a nod to Wolf City before drawing to its conclusion, clocking in at a healthy three minutes.

Renate is given centre stage to perform a proto Kate Bush style vocal on ‘Jalousie’. This track is a slice of the fantastical delivered as a soft focus ballad among the most endearing Duul tracks of all time. The title translates as both French for jealousy and is a type of Venetian blind window. This is a play on words, which conjures up some romantic meeting of minds behind closed doors, whilst secrets are brought to the boil in a fleeting moment of connection: break out the fucking Mills & Boon.

A song of two parts, the middle section builds to a rolling rally cry with some subtle but moving melodies that cleverly encapsulates the affair as it’s being unveiled.

The long German titled ‘Im Krater Bluhn Wieder Die Baume’ roughly translates as ‘in the grater again Bluhn Baume’: nope still none the wiser!

A pastoral old folk like medieval canter that does its best to sound interesting but merely acts as an instrumental segue way.

Falk’s organ is surrounded by light drum breaks and rock guitar licks as it merrily dawdles along on its short journey.

It makes way for the classic three-part side one climax ‘Mozambique (Dedicated To Monika Ertl)’ a return to past glories of Yeti.

The intro starts off with a pleasant enough African humming choir accompanied by a chorus of hand drums before being cut off and making way for some power folk.

Renate on lead vocals sings quite literally of the white mans rape of the continent; Mozambique has a history of civil war and rebellion: dealt a particularly harsh horrid blow from their old masters.

The chopping off of hands and other such ghoulish details follow as freedom is advocated through the good fight against the westerners’ tyranny. The pace is picked up as it really starts motoring along and turns into some kind of space rock jam, the vocals become more harassed as Renate with shocking disdain makes us all feel bad. An eerie whispered message of “good night and fight” emerges from the fade out at the end of the epic seven-minute opus.

The Monika Ertl dedication in the title was for the daughter of Hans Ertl, a well-known German cameraman who was involved in the early Nazi Propaganda films before immigrating to Bolivia. There was a program of emigration to South America during the thirties, call it a colonisation of sorts, as thousands of Nazi sympathizers brought land and set up farms there. Monika turned against her fathers ideology to Marxism and joined the Bolivian underground movement before being involved in the murder of the man thought responsible for the death of Che Guevara. In the same year that Amon Duul II recorded this album Monika was ambushed by Bolivian security force agents in Hamburg, at the time she was bringing a former wanted Nazi to trail. I think the band gave her a good send off. A fascinating women who if you ever get a chance you should look up.

Flipping over to side 2 the dry witted titled ‘Apocalyptic Bore’ seeps through the speakers with its swirling UFO effects emulating from Falk’s faithful VCS3 and Harmonium. A voice over from Saturn via Sun Ra announces some cosmic slop before a sweet melodic acoustic 12- string perks up with a laid-back groove.

The story unfolds as higher beings decide to visit and make all our dreams come true, a paradise is created where anyone can do anything. This is backed up with at times a cringe worthy Euro rock shtick lead guitar solo.

Of course time traveling becomes the norm as some continuum is invented or something. People can live at any period in history at the same moment; lets leave the crazy type Hawkings calculations aside.

No love, no war, no angst what a tiresome place.

Well what do you know! The kids hate it and get rather bored so the aliens decide to bugger off, there’s gratitude for you!

‘DR’ is a tale of pills and bellyaches as prescription drugs are handed out willy nilly for all our ills. The music is awkward like Bowie and features some violin stabs to break up the track, though it runs out of steam.

‘Trap’ lets Reante sing a tale of a credit card paying lover who obviously misread the signals somewhere down the line.

Again a heavier structured track that almost has the first signs of the pub rock movement that was later to turn into punk emerging.

The ending starts to get interesting but finishes in a predictable cut short manner.

‘Pig Man’ starts with a quasi-Lynard Skynard sounding intro before it breaks out into a lively little ditty. The jauntiness evokes some kind of unusual influences and doesn’t fit into any conventions I can think of.

The lyrics stick it to those who left their conscience back in 69.

‘Manana’ means tomorrow, or it could be a reference to the Peruvian town. That aside it’s a slightly odd sounding song, which has a mariachi style band turns up to throw its lot in. Chris Karrer does a good job on the vocals as some exotic type percussion accompanies him. It does grow on you over time.

The finale is the spiky titled ‘Ladies Mimikry’, a brooding bass line and melody sound like the band is hauling themselves up a steep slope.

Karrer’s vocals are at their most startled as he slowly losses his mind over the course of the track.

A grinding punk like strutting backing sounds like a Gang Of Four in limbo.

John Weinzierl on bass gets more and more angry as Karrer reaches the refrain of ladies mimicry; a loony inspired spitting delivery that sounds like he’s having electric shock therapy.

A saxophone left over from Roxy Music’s debut album provokes a reaction akin to The Mothers Of Invention. Some serious hardcore theatrics at play; I can fully understand where punk came to take a breather before rearing its ugly head again in 1977.

Called the glam album by both fans and critics a like, it doesn’t really fall into any specific category and sounds distinctly German throughout.

Bowie and Roxy Music can be heard in here but not in the often derided way, I mean I’m sure Amon Duul II didn’t really want to sound like early art school glam rock.

Structured little tracks of the three minute length make this 11 track LP almost a commercial concern, the number of songs on display amount to more then the number found on the first two albums put together. This LP actually combines some very strange influences and falls into the Euro rock movement rather too well at times.

There are plenty of great moments on this album and it is still one of the best to come out of the period, unfortunately the next record ‘Hijack’ even went further to confuse us all and upset many fans.

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