on 1 January 2008
The only disappointing thing about this album is that the first track, Hallogallo, only lasts ten minutes. Quite frankly, if it lasted forever it still wouldn't be long enough. When you hear Hallogallo for the first time it seems hard to believe that it hasn't always been part of your life. It's truly great, as is the rest of the album.
on 16 January 2006
NEU!’s Michael Rother is conceivably the most important man in Krautrock: not only was he in the original line up of Kraftwerk – alongside fellow NEU!-man Klaus Dinger – but he was also in the great Harmonia (with Hans Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, or, collectively, Cluster), and worked with Can’s brilliant drummer, Jaki Liebezeit, on his early solo albums. If not the most important man, he certainly seems to be the one keenest on working with his fellow musical visionaries.
While Can were busy exploring the outer reaches of the musical galaxy and Faust were tearing up (then – more than likely – jumping up and down on, attacking with an angle grinder, and finally setting fire to) the musical rulebook, NEU! were setting out on a slightly different, if equally esoteric and single-minded path. While their music has a feeling of being more grounded in reality than that of these contemporaries, it has a similarly questioning and radical approach to the form of the song. It is more minimalist than either Can’s or Faust’s work, but while this may be down to purely practical considerations – there were only two people in this band after all – it is no less worthy of interrogation. Like much Krautrock, the music here is almost impossible to pigeonhole, so it’s easy to see why that term has stuck to the acts it has: Faust, Can, NEU!; all are virtually uncategorisable.
NEU!’s music can sound like a precursor to punk, or like early ambient, or, most of all, it can sound unlike anyone or anything else. This is certainly true of the album’s first, and best, track, ‘Hallogallo’. It’s also true of other strong songs here, such as ‘Weissensee’ or ‘Lieber Honig’. The album as a whole has a slightly stark, white, feel to it, and this is particularly true of a track like ‘Sonderangebot’ (‘Special Offer’), where there is a very chilly, spacious, feel. The music here sounds like a collection of odd groaning, crashing metallic noises, accompanied by wind moving across wires or strings. It’s the kind of thing that could be seen as nascent ambient music, and although it lacks the hypnotic beauty of some of the other tunes here, it’s interesting because it plays with the idea of what constitutes music by breaking conventional structures down into something more like sound effects and then building the track out of these.
The groaning of ‘Sonderangebot’ gives way to ‘Weissensee’ (‘White Lake’), which is built from gently lapping guitar, crashing cymbals, and precise, subtle drumming. Treated guitar creates the effect of waves moving, and what sounds like a detuned slide guitar seems to make them swell and rise, before they ebb away again. Like the two other tracks on the first half of the album, there is an undeniable sense of movement, but here it is oddly beautiful and a little unsettling. ‘Im Glück’ (‘In Luck’) continues the musical theme of ‘Weissensee’, but the music is more static, and again, ambient. It still has a chilly beauty, but it’s more abstract and harder to define. The seagull effect on the track continues the feeling that this album is about space, movement, water; and this is reinforced by the sound of paddles moving through water that can be heard at the end of the song. The title of the next track, ‘Negativland’, is self-explanatory, and the harsh industrial noise followed by distorted voices and cheering, clapping and shouting at what sounds like a rally, suggest that this is a song about a certain perception of Germany – whether that is one held by Rother and Dinger, or whether it is one they feel other nations might hold isn’t clear, but it’s a potent point. The shrieking guitar that envelops the not-quite-loping-not-quite-plodding bass line and drums throughout the song and its various tempo changes, provides it with a hard, prickly shell, and helps make this a direct predecessor of the kind of post Punk hardcore that would rise to prominence in America in the early ‘80s.
The closing ‘Lieber Honig’ (‘Dear Honey’) is very different; as the only vocal track on the album, it stands apart from the other work here, and although the almost neo-natal voice (Dinger’s) that croaks the lyrics could so easily be a contrivance, the sparse backing of plucked guitar and washes of synth make the song strikingly naïve, musically, as well as vocally. But the track that is really at the core of the album is the opener, ‘Hallogallo’, a song built on the foundations of Dinger’s so-called ‘Motorik’ drumming and Rother’s repetitive guitar figures. Dinger’s drumming is so crisp and accurate that he is clearly consciously trying to play in a metronomic, machine-like way. What this gives the song is a startling clarity and freshness – almost a purity. What variation there is in the music comes from slowly unfurling waves of wah-wah guitar and what sounds like controlled feedback. But even with these extra layers of sound, the music remains remarkably uncluttered and has a strange, breathtaking beauty. Although it weighs in at over ten minutes, the song is nowhere near outstaying its welcome, seeming to float – almost hypnotically – on its own energy. This song is genius in is purest form.
Although released in 1972, much of this album sounds fresher today than the majority of contemporary music. The best things here are utterly timeless and show how exciting and vital truly daring composition can be. The influence of this album stretches from the Punk and New Wave rush of the late 1970s, to later ambient and dance music, and, like much Krautrock, Dinger and Rother’s music seems to have permeated the more mainstream acts that followed them almost by stealth. It’s as if the acts that followed were influenced without even being consciously aware of it. But what this album has – and its successors lack – is an abundance of light, air, and space in which the music can breathe. And that, as much as anything, is what sets it apart.
on 2 July 2001
After reading about neu! in a Bowie-book and in magazines lately, I bought the three albums and though I like all three of them very much, this is the best of them. Being the first, and also the first one I listened too, it's something special. The sound is magic, "Hallogallo" is like a train going from station to station. If you go for this one and "Neu! 75", you should be covered. Bloody brilliant!
I had fond memories of this from the 1970's, although I hadn't actually heard it it in years; I got a copy mainly out of curiosity to see if it had weathered well, or sounded as embarrassing as so much avant garde material from that era usually does. Good news - Not only has much of it stood the test of time , it is literally hard to believe just how old this is - you have to double check the release date to convince yourself. On the good side - in many ways the original and the best, and manifestly the grandfather of much 'techno' from Germany or anywhere else, even though much of it does not rely on synthesisers or sequencers. What must have seemed quite 'difficult' in its day, in terms of minimalism and repetition is practically Top 20 stuff these days, so it is pretty accessible to the modern ear. Downside? - some of the more experimental stuff is just plain boring, and barely listenable, so not great value for money, and you'll find yourself just skipping past those tracks. Having said that, anyone who is the least bit interested in the history of modern music just has to have it - nuff said?
on 26 August 2010
Neu! (1972) is one of rock music's seminal debut releases. Guitarist Michael Rother and drummer Klaus Dinger formed Neu! as an offshoot of, and an alternative to, Kraftwerk's romantic futurism. The group pushed to the limit the technique of iterative patterns and the impressionistic approach of the contemporary 'cosmic' musicians of the era, creating in the process a unique and groundbreaking sound.
Neu! invented the 'motorik' beat of surging rhythmic impulses which are propelled by an obsessive repitition of ferocious ritualistic percussion and the occasional jack-hammer noise. The band essentially deconstructed sound in a ritualistic way as a means of achieving an anguished hyper-realism of Wagner-like intensity.
Neu's futuristic and spectral soundscape predicted the neurosis of the post-industrial era exemplified in the work of Joy Division. Moreover, their repetitive tribal beats, particularly the melodic element of their music, anticipated both the techno and post-rock movements of the early 1990s. In particular Stereolab's minimilistic and repetitive rhythmic 'futurism' owes a huge debt to Neu!.
The album contains six instrumental suites. The opener, 'Hallogallo' is pure electronic drum percussion and guitars that are occasionally disturbed by minimal arrangements and cacophonous noise.
'Sonderangebot' is an exercise in sound within a kind of cosmic void, whilst 'Weissensee' is reminiscent of a degenerate form of dilated psychedelia.
'I'm Gluck' begins with sound samples and mystical trance like drone effects. The sounds of water and ocassional bird squawks heighten the naturalistic atmosphere.
The austere and hypnotic masterpiece 'Negativiland' opens with the sound of a jack-hammer, followed by clashing cymbals, fractured base lines, dissonant drumming, furious guitar distortions and ultrasonic syncope. The effect is an unsettling demonic blend of gothic expressionism and tribalism, in which an overiding atmosphere of unease is created amongst a nuerotic whirl of din. From about 8 minutes or so, the pace quickens to an abrupt finish.
The ghostly atmosphere and random sounds that constitute 'Lieber Honig' brings the recording to a close.
The music of Neu, particularly their 1972 debut, exerted a huge influence on the music of later generations. The fact that it took a quarter of a century for their insights to be fully realized and assimilated into the very fabric of modern music, is a testament to the duo's outstanding musicianship and innovative approach to their art.
on 5 April 2002
"The past isn't dead yet,the past isn't even over"
I think that was William Faulkner and how right you were baby.4 years of Mondays have flowed under the bridge since this long player first appeared,but Neu's uncanny ability to make time run backwards has made this record as 'fresh and now' as The White Stripes pulling out all the stops live in your bedroom.
I wish i could give you a few reference points for the album but it's plainly just so 'of itself'.
On it's release in '71,Neu 1 was so different,so alien,that music hacks at the time were completely baffled by it ,and had to invent new words just to review it.It wasn't progressive that was for sure,if anything it was revisionist,but it defied pidgeon-holing.
Sequestered deep in the heart of Germany,Neu had been brooding over their ideas for countless desert centuries.2 guys locked head-on in some epic,visionary,Gemini struggle,too obsessed and out there even for an early Kraftwerk,who were pretty far out there themselves.
A pair of natural originals,geographically removed and seemingly utterly indifferent to the early 70's music scene outside their own heads,so it was that Neu unleashed their masterpiece on an unsuspecting world.
1st up Track 1,Hallogallo,and to explain it's magic i'll have to conjure up the past..
Years ago i was playing this this song in the car and my passenger commented that it sounded creepy,cold and lifeless.Sure,it's deeply unfamiliar,and has a strange re-animated feel to it,but the Hallogallo groove is flawless, a Teutonic Sly Stone,and to this day thee most singular track i've ever heard.It has no musical precedents,none.The guitar leads are beautiful,almost organic,evoking great,extinct beasts calling out to each other over empty plains.Some of the rythym layers are so compressed and messed about with they start sounding for all the world like wah wah arm-pit farting!But Klaus Dinger's drumming never sounded better,tight as hell all the way to the end.
With Track 2,Sonderangebot,your lost in metal pipes underground,a theremin playing somewhere in all that steel. Not much to it really and basically a link piece to take us into ..... Weissiensee which from the outset immediately suffers from a regimental snare drumn that makes a slow march of it all. But give it time and it starts to work. Those organic guitars return,dreaming up ancient beasts again,coursing in endless plodding lines into the distant dust. Track 4 Im Gluck starts with a weird under-water recorded sculling of oars,and just doesn't stop. Sometimes it sounds like someone washing the dishes, other times they're just rowing round 'n' round in circles,seagulls wheeling overhead. A guitar refrain from Weissensee makes a guest appearance and thats it. A chill out track that either hits the spot or not. Track 5 Negativland. Bloody hell yeah, Negativland. Evil dentists wielding road drills,anguished moans,Nuremburgesque chanting,sweet mercy,what's going on here? The rawness, the power ,that relentless bouncing bass line. Did the Stooges ever here this? Cinematic is the only word that springs to mind,and rightly so because up until this point,only movies had been able to create the sheer shock of Negativland. It's a sound-track to a very unsophisticated torture. All that's missing are the screams but your mind is probably doing enough of that for you. Some days it's just too much but you've got to pay homage to this piece of cosmic punk madness. It may have been a trip too far for the hippies,but John Cage would have loved it. Last up is Lieber Honig and what a charmer. From the very first note you're entranced,and willingly your'e led back through the years to your lost childhood. Only two other pieces of music can do this for me,the Bagpuss theme tune and Julian Cope's classic, Search Party (from the lp Fried). Exactly what is going on here is difficult to say, the plantive,breaking,almost autistic voice,the long cello like drones,but what ever it is it's clearly unique,memories flickering through every note. Oh and remember that passenger in my car,the one who found Hallogallo so cold and lifeless? Well as Leiber Honig faded out to the gentle sculling of oars I can still see,clear as day, her eyes film over with tears,you know,the ones that don't fall out? Yeah,even the gods get sad listening to Leiber Honig. The 20th century created many moments of wonder, Neu 1 was one of those moments. A deeply telepathic record, buy it, buy it, buy it.
Back in the M&S Cream Cakes calorie haze blizzard of 2010 (a pre heart attack fat-git in-joke for the boys at Reckless) - I was duly blown away by a Various Artists compilation called "Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Musik 1972-1983" put out by the mighty Soul Jazz Records of Soho's Broadwick Street (links Berwick Street and Wardour Street in the West End of London).
Soul Jazz had done probably hundreds of 2LP compilations covering a multitude of genres – Reggae (Studio 1 specialists), Soul, Latin, Salsa, Dance, New Age, Avant Garde and even the Funky side of Country Rock. But they were impressively the first to nail a decent representative 2CD and 2 x Vinyl Doubles for that most sought-after of genres 'KRAUT ROCK'.
Having worked in Reckless Records (round the corner from them on Berwick Street) for near on 20 years - in the last ten of those two decades we'd become inundated on a weekly basis with Dance and Funk 'young uns' interested in a decent 'Kraut Rock' compilation - with most being amazed that prior to 2010 there really wasn't anything we could point a finger at. And with German and British Spoon, Brain and United Artists label LPs increasingly impossible to find in any condition - "Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Musik 1972-1983" turned up just in the nick of time (they even did a second volume of it to just as much acclaim). In my endearing and yet magnificent benevolence – I promptly awarded this genius and beautifully presented compilation with a ‘Reissue Of The Year’ 2010 award (the Queen called me shortly afterwards to congratulate me on my kindness and Irish good taste).
Pride of place on Disc 1 of that iconic Volume 1 was "Hallogallo" by NEU in all its droning ten-minute glory – a band formed after MICHAEL ROTHER and KLAUS DINGER left Florian Schneider and KRAFTWERK to their own devices in 1971. And that's where this frightfully cool 2001 CD reissue comes in. Once more my musical travellers unto the 'sonderangebot' (if you know what I'm saying)...
UK released May 2001 - "Neu!" by NEU on Gronland CDGRON 1 (Barcode 5024545344929) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the 1972 album and plays out as follows (45:44 minutes):
1. Hallogallo (10:07 minutes)
2. Sonderangebot (4:50 minutes)
3. Weissensee (6:42 minutes)
Side 2 is called "Jahresuberblick"
4. Im Gluck (6:52 minutes)
5. Negativland (9:46 minutes)
6. Lieber Honig (7:15 minutes)
Tracks 1 to 6 are their debut LP "Neu!" - released summer of 1972 in Germany on Brain/Metronome Records BRAIN 1004 and October 1972 in the UK on United Artists UAS 29396. All songs written by and all instruments played by MICHAEL ROTHER and KLAUS DINGER.
The 16-square foldout inlay is a dreadfully disappointing affair - reproducing the hand-written inner gatefold of the original LP and the pink 'Neu!" logo - and nothing else. In fact you can't even read the hand-written details because they're done in a semi-faded fashion. We're told the CD is Remastered in London in 2001 - but not by whom or where. The audio is very good overall but on tracks like "Lieber Honig" – it has to be pointed out that the hiss levels are unfortunately very prevalent. I suppose in keeping with the ‘mystery’ surrounding this most influential of German bands – we get no details - but I can't help feel that this is a lazy reissue when it would have been so much better to have Rother and Dinger cough up some juicy Dusseldorf freudenberger facts about themselves and their musical processes thereby enlightening us all after ‘our’ four decades of subliminal hero worship...
"Neu!" opens its Kraut Rock account with a winner in "Hallogallo" (apparently no one seems to know what it means). You get ten minutes of droning brilliance that builds and builds into a sort of trance-like groove – the kind of hooky foot-tapping chug that sends Trance and Dance Kids into ecstasy. The band acknowledged the importance of the track when they reformed in 2010 to do gigs under the name 'Hallogallo 2010'. The go-to Remaster Wizard and Ace Audio Engineer for all things Prog (Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Tull) – Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson recorded a short but sweet cover version of "Hallogallo" during PT's 1996 sessions for their "Signify" LP which eventually saw the light of day the following year on the B-sides/Demos compilation "Insignificance". But after the prolonged high point of the opener - the near five-minute sound effects noodle that is "Sonderangebot" comes as a disappointing piece of filler - swirling drum symbols and warbling synth notes that emulate winds in the Sahara - but just not as refreshing.
Things are immediately brought back into superstar focus with the drums and guitar treatment brilliance of "Weissensee" - seven minutes of what feels like German Blues with a Kraftwerk tinge. "Weissensee" is the album's other masterpiece - a sort of slow head-nodding drone that's incredibly musical - guitars floating in and out in - distorted but controlled fuzz tones - the kind of thing that would turn up on a mix tape and have punters asking after it.
Like Side 1 - Side 2 offers us a mixture of the great and the dated. "Im Gluck" (which I think means 'I'm happy') opens with sloshing water like some Tangerine Dream album on Virgin Records. Voices then mumble and giggle as if on some punt on the river when the droning guitar starts to creep in and take over. It's hissy for sure throughout - but once those guitar notes that to become musical as the song moves forward - it feels weirdly magical. "Negativland" is probably the most challenging track on the LP - mad guitar sounds wailing and panning across your speakers - it's also the best-sounding track on the CD (Californian band Negativland took their name from this track). "Lieber Honig" is hiss-laden and features rather silly and forced vocals that sound like the man needs a good cry and be done with it.
So there you have - half genius - half waffle - but man the good stuff is so damn cool. And you can feel the album's seminal influence on everyone from U2 to Radiohead a full 44-years after the event - which is truly impressive. They went on to release only two other albums in the UK (both in gatefolds) - "Neu 2" in September 1973 on United Artists UAG 29500 and "Neu '75" in May 1975 on United Artists UAG 29782 - but like The Stooges first two LPs (1969's "Stooges" and 1970's "Fun House" on original Elektra 'EKS' labels) - I've seen British-pressed copies of these records maybe two or three times in 45 years of collecting. Hell - United Artists UK even tried "Super" b/w "Neuschnee" from "Neu 2" as a UK 7" single in a 'Picture Sleeve' January 1973 on United Artists UP 35485 - but I've 'never' seen a copy of it and its £25+ Record Collector Price Guide rating is well underrated in my book...
In 2016 - Germany's NEU retain their allure and mystery and engender ever-growing amounts of 'Godlike' analogies.
I don't know if the good Lord herself would agree with all of those assessments - but this overlooked and at times utterly brilliant album should be the place where you start your journey to the 'gluck' side of the force...
I was encouraged to buy this due to Neu being an influence of Loop, Wooden Shjips and other bands I have a lot of time for.
It's a very good album, but not always easy on the ear, and a couple of the more 'out-there' tracks, 'Lieber Honig' and `Sonderangebot', I just couldn't get on with, but the other four more than make up for it, and I agree with another reviewer that anyone's musical life would be poorer for not hearing 'Hallogallo', a really great number that I just can't wait to listen to on the motorway (/autobahn...)
on 11 March 2003
Other Neu albums are generally better reviewed, but for me this is the real thing and a defining moment in music history. I bought it on vinyl back in 72 or thereabouts and it's been a firm favourite ever since. Some krautrock classics (Can, Kraftwerk, Amon Duul) can sound dated, and even Neu's later recordings did little more than rework the same basic ideas, but this still comes up fresh as a daisy after more than three decades. As UK DJ John Peel said at the time -- "now that's REALLY alternative". Buy this, then buy everything Faust ever did.
on 19 April 2016
Given that I like prog, psychedelia and a couple of the 'Krautrock' stable, I don't know how I've gone so long without hearing Neu. I regret not finding them before. After listening to this album, at least, I.d put them on a par with Tangerine Dream. Thank you Youtube. Now if only I could get hold of a Tuber album...