Finders Keepers records presents the story of the almost forgotten German label, Kuchuck.
Various Artists – ‘Cloud Cuckcooland – Choice picks from German label Kuckuck.
Finders Keepers 2010
Vinyl (x2) / CD / Download
1. Antiteater – Opening (1:58)
2. Ihre Kinder – Stunden (4:12)
3. Out Of Focus – See How A White Negro Flies (5:54)
4. Sam Spence – Water World (3:08)
5. Ernst Schultz – Paranoia Picknick (4:00)
1. Sonny Hennig – 1000 Tips Zum Überleben (5:01)
2. Ernst Schultz – 10 Finger Blind (1:24)
3. Ihre Kinder – Komm Zudir (2:41)
4. Deuter – Der Turm (4:28)
5. Sam Spence – Ringo (1:47)
1. Antiteater – Memorn (Der Amerikanische Soldat) (1:47)
2. Armaggadon – Oh Man (6:00)
3. Sam Spence – World As One (3:47)
4. Deuter – Night Rain (2:47)
5. Ernst Schultz – XY (5:19)
1. Lied Des Teufels – Nichts (2:27)
2. Antiteater – Intermezzo (1:42)
3. Out Of Focus – Blue Sunday Morning (8:20)
4. Ihre Kinder – The Dice (3:46)
5. Antiteater – Trauer (La Mandragola) (2:57)
Yet again those lost musical pleasures that have become trapped under the abundant silt of more commercial acceptable music, stuck in-between ethnographical layers of bygone ages, have been dragged up to the surface, and collected together for a handy compilation.
Sonic archaeologists Finders Keepers, tend to the forgotten heroes of the German label Kuckuck, a once promising record label that shouldered its fair share of Krautrock geniuses, alongside their more well-known sibling labels Brain, Kosmiche, Ohr and Pilz.
Originally the vision of one man, Eckart Rahn, Kuckuck used the German word for Cuckoo as its moniker, a title that informed the manner that this ECM fan infamously and metaphorically laid musical eggs under the nest of a wealthier unassuming parent company.
Germanic giant Deutsche Grammophon bankrolled the venture in 1970, until pulling the plug five years later, almost bringing a premature finale to the enterprise; Eckart continued to plough on into the 80’s regardless.
Initially a whole bunch of fringe artists were signed up and given the full Teutonic treatment. On this collection we are invited to lend an ear to a brief snapshot of the more progressive and electronica influenced acts, with a focus on bands like Ihre Kinder, Armaggedon, Antiteater and Out Of Focus as well as individuals Georg Deuter, Sam Spence and Ernst Schultz.
Even die-hard advocates of Krautrock and its sub-genres may have passed these guys by, many being the unfortunate losers of near misses and shadows of their more successful compatriots, though some of these tracks don’t even get that far.
Kicking off this omnivorous selection is the Munich soundtrack enthusiasts Antiteater, their first tune, rather neatly, is entitled ‘Opening’ and evokes certain comparisons to a more jazzier Electric Prunes ‘F In Mass Minor’. Diligent orchestral sweeps are used as backing to harsh German prose, whilst a chilling, if not sweetly serenading, crypt dwelling part gospel organ takes on an air of Procol Harum.
Their other tracks vary from the blessed out Gothic-esque classicism and choral reworking of ‘Trauer’, to the Popol Vuh redolent sounding woodwind and cello based tones found on ‘Intermezzo’.
All fit in perfectly with there desired ambitions to score movies, the underground director Werner Fassbinder even cast them and used some of their haunting tomes for his projects – of course he had form, already making home movies of Amon Düül II performances and drug stupor hang out jams.
Former beat-combo Jonah and the Whales, now re-christened Ihre Kinder – that translates as ‘their Children’ to you and me – furnish this album with both a group effort and as individuals, former members Sonny Hennig and Ernst Schultz also showcasing a set of their solo work.
As a five-piece poppier prog band they sound like a less weighty Cream or the Pretty Things, especially on the cool mandolin riff rocker ‘Stunden’.
On ‘komm Zu Dir’ they go all-out Gypsy King, with pastoral angst, and with the smashing cymbal harmonica led ‘The Dice’ we are given a a ballsy rythmn’n’blues workout.
Solo work from Ihre Kinder’s organist/vocalist Hennig takes on the mantle of a Euro-friendly Warren Zevon jamming over a stonking Faces good-time rock’n’roll standard.
Schultze meanwhile steps off the edge of the map with his contributions. ‘Paranoia Picknick’ rather rudely begins as a an acid-rock west coast freak-out before being completely cut off in mid flow for a bewildering otherworldly soundscape – The Orb being charged with electric shock treatment.
On the equally bemusing ’10 Finger Blind’, he manically bashes away on a manual typewriter, drenching the performance in reverb and doubling up this barrage of incessant typing until the poor apparatus has had enough.
Also included is the jazz-rock hipsters Out Of Focus, who integrate the sounds of Xhol Caravan with a harder ascetic, pushing their luck with such confrontational song titles as ‘See How A White Negro Flies’. They launch a blistering scuzzed-up attempt at the Doors and Pink Floyd crossed with some mashed Deep Purple organ, before pursuing a total freaked jazz odyssey, allowing room for everyone to pull-off a solo or two.
A peripheral group of Munich based musicians strung out on the edges of the Krautrock scene, only recording a bare catalogue, disbanding when the money ran dry.
Their other effort here is a roaming narrative about meeting Jesus, who’s now a washed-up head, cynically crowing about his lot. Slowly the eastern serene flute and toms work towards a crescendo of moody strung out prog, there’s even a strangely reminiscent ‘Heroes’ guitar hook running throughout the last few minutes of the track – spooky!
They even find room for ex-pat American Sam Spence, whose search for classical inspiration and enthusiasm for new developments in electronic music sent him to Germany – he’s believed to have been the first person to import a moog into the country.
Rather a stiff shift wearer, the commune and drugs lifestyle passed him meekly by, no, he bypassed all that social-political carry-on and produced odd library soundtrack snatches of kitsch.
From the OK Corral nonsense of ‘Ringo’ to the aquatic vibro-waves of ‘Water World’ – 25 years too soon for Costner’s movie – all his soundscape experiments leave a smile on your face. Jeez the guys at Finders Keepers love his brand of non-ironic straight faced vignettes so much they’ve already released an album of his work, the ‘Sam Spence Sounds’ compilation.
Finally there are some inspired versions of far eastern drifting tones, heavy rock bordering on metal and atmospherically challenging electronics, with Georg Deuter, Armaggedon and Lied Des Teufels.
Deuter coes across at times like a marriage between ‘Yeti’ period Amon Düül II, Brain Ticket and Klaus Schulze, whereas the prophetic doom merchants Armaggedon go all out hardcore, leaving Lied Des Teufels – translates as ‘song of the devil’ – to build on the jazz of Floh De Cologne, adding strong political messages to their version of Deutchrock.
Seasonal Germanic audiophiles like myself can always be pleasantly surprised and our ears remain open to untapped founds.
Whilst most of these artists remained over-shadowed by their more infamous counterpart – sometimes for good reason – Kuckuck successfully produced a ripe back catalogue of sterling work and astounding ambitious rhetoric opuses.
The competition produced equally ground-breaking work, leaving our poor Cuckoo obsessed label under a dark bush, at a time when the German music scene was at its best, full to bursting with the most talented generation of fatherland auteur’s ever.
We salute Mr.Rahn for his efforts, and pat Finders Keepers on the back once again for slavishly continuing their cause, though it may appear at times like preaching to the converted.