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!
on 29 March 2008
Neu!'s debut is considered by many to be the best Neu! album. I can't really say it is (yet) because I'm still after a copy of Neu! 2. First... a short history lesson:
In the late 60s Michael Rother was in a band called "Spirits of Sound" based in dusseldorf and as far as I can tell they didn't release a single single (ha ha ha) or album. Also in the group was Wolfgang Flur (later in Kraftwerk) and others. Meanwhile, Klaus Dinger was making a name for himself and in 1970 was vacuumed up by Kraftwerk (then the duo of Hutter and Schneider), who's previous drummer had left leaving them with an album B-Side that needed recording. This was Kraftwerk's self-titled debut (didn't sell well outside of Germany and has never been legally reissued). After the album's release, for some reason, Ralf Hutter left the group. Florian Schneider was now left with no guitarist. Local man, Michael Rother was roped in. Rother, Dinger and Schneider (all end in "er", like Hutter. Conspiracy!) worked on their next album, and can be seen playing material from it on German TVs "Beat club" show in 1970. After 6 months however, Hutter returned. The material the trio had been working on was scrapped and a new album started (Kraftwerk 2) Rother and Dinger weren't very pleased about this and Rother was leaving anyway because the band didn't need to guitarists. Dinger followed him and set up Neu!
Neu! used the same theory (and possibly some of the same tracks) as the scrapped Kraftwerk album.
Starting from the top, Hallogallo (German for Hallmark) is the opener. For some reason, everybody thinks that Hallogallo is amazing and wish it could go on for longer. I'm indifferent. Hallogallo isn't that great but it's OK. To explain its sound; the first thing you hear is this weird clucking noise, like a chicken, and although I know it is part of a drum kit I can't tell which. This is accompanied by a solid base line, da da da daa da daa da d d da, and a motorik beat. This is quite good, then the treated guitar comes in, this is the part I don't like. All it is is single chords at a time.
After Hallogallo's 10 minutes are up, Sonderengabot starts. Sonderengabot means Special Offer in German, a theme that seems to run through both this and Neu! 2 (the second track in Neu! 2 is Spitzenqualitat, meaning "Special Quality). This is perhaps the most worthless piece of music I own. I don't know how they made that sound but it didn't take a lot of effort. At the start there is a crescendo of what I can only call a treated version of the sound of symbols being rubbed together. For most of the 4 minutes there is very near silence only punctuated by almost operatic vocals (?) if that's what it is. I doubt it as it is obvious from Neu! 75 that neither are good singers.
Sonderengabot merges into the next track: Weissensee (White Sea or White Lake). Weissensee is one of only three really good tracks. The drumbeat is almost Motorik, but very slow. In the background there is an almost ambient drone accompanied by some wah-wah guitar and the drum beat which is followed by the bass. AMAZING!
After this, on the old LP you'de have turned over. You are greeted by Im Gluck (In Luck). What Im Gluck is is a version of Weissensee with all that was good stripped off of it. Gone is the drums, gone is the bass, gone is the wah-wah guitar. All you're left with is the semi-ambient backing. And it doesn't even begin like that. The theme that runs through the B-Side is water. Im Gluck starts with a wierd watery sound, like Sonderengabot I can't tell you how they made it. It eventually fades into the ebbing and flowing of the ambient backing. It is obviously modelled on the sound of waves lapping on the shore but I find it extreamly boring. Don't write off that comment as the veiw of a person who only listens to main stream pop and shouldn't have bought this cd, because I listen to Cluster, Brian Eno, Harmonia, Faust and, yes, some mainstream stuff, but I bet everyone does.
After Im Gluck fades out with the same watery sound it started with, Negativland hits you. Before Im Gluck has had a propper chance to fade, the sound of a neumatic drill (?) arrives. The first time I heard this I actually jumped out of my skin. It is designed to come as a shock after the gentle shimmering of Im Gluck. This is followed on by what I perceive as the dying groans of a walruss. Weird, yeah. Negativland finally straightens out into a weird treated guitar line, like the wind gone mad. The drums (Motorik) and the bass kick in. It sounds really good on bass booster (if your stereo has that). Negativland is by far the best track on the record. But that isn't the end of it. Half way through the bass and drums cut out and its sounds like the wind goes faster, in a mechanical way, like a turbine being turned on. It is suddenly very clear that Rother has been playing the guitar, but slowed it down. The bass and drums cone back in at a faster pace before cutting out a while later and going back to the slower version. It speeds up one last time, and sounds like it's getting very manic, then everything cuts out without warning. OH MY GOD I LOVE NEGATIVLAND!
Negativland posseses the same threatening quality as Super 16 and Hero. It's no lullaby.
Leiber Honig (Love Honey) is the last track. It is kicked off by a very naiive, plucked guitar line, like a nursery rhyme, and then the vocals. It is the only vocal track on the whole album and the vocals are aweful. I don't know whether Klaus Dinger lost his voice on the day of the recording or it was another "pop art gesture". The vocals are probably in German but I can't tell. I think a German would have trouble decifering the asthmatic croaks emmitted by Dinger.
At the end of Leiber honig, both the vocals and the guitar fade out. The watery soun from Im Gluck returns and it fades into an even more ambient ebb and flow. For some reason I quite like this. Not bad at all. The record fades slowly away and Neu! is finished.
To me the album has 3 good tracks and 3 bad. Hallogallo, Weissensee and Negativland are good; Sonderengabot, Im Gluck and Leiber Honig [at the start] are bad.
If you're into Hard Rock, buy Neu! 2 first.
If you're into Techno, buy this first.
If you're into pop, buy Neu! '75 first.
PS. The reason I gave it 4 stars is because the really good tracks balence out the bad ones.
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.
I only heard Neu! for the first time a year or two ago and am still listening avidly to their music. You never know what's coming up next when you hear one of their albums for the first time. One constant, however, is that the first track on all of their 1970s albums features that lean, relentless beat that became their trademark, around which are wrapped subtle changes. As a result, 'Hallogallo' immerses the listener in a journey without any seeming end. It isn't surprising that they bombed as a live act; audiences, meagre as they were, probably thought Neu!'s music didn't go anywhere. The slower 'Weisensee', however, is the only other track which relies primarily on its beat. 'Sonderangebot' is much stranger, like a slow-motion scythe. 'Negativland' is a shock to the senses, opening with pneumatic drills, peppered with effects, ultimately to a regular beat, but like some clanking, industrial monster. The two tracks either side of this almost overshoot the avant garde approach, so quiet in places as to be imperceptible, 'Lieber Honig' being nigh on shambolic, but the album as a whole is still compelling.
on 28 January 2013
Now I am not really an authority on Krautrock but this band along with Can, faust, tangerine dream and kraftwerk have all caught my attention of recent years.
This debut album by Neu is indeed very special and its influence can be heard in a great deal of ambient/eclectronic/space rock music that has since followed in its wake.
"Hallo gallo" is a work of pure genius and the whole album has that spacey feel to it that I can really relate to.
Basically if you are at all interested then give this a listen, along with Can's Tago Mago, any kraftwerk, early tangerine dream ( vigin years have some truly rewarding sounds amongst them!!) and of course Faust.
I am tracking down a band called "brain ticket" from Germany (1970's heavy prog rock) and Amon Duhl - keep you posted on these once they arrive?
on 16 November 2010
I discovered this album only a few years ago, and I have to say, I am still amazed that it exists, pre-dating Joy Division and much that came later by many years. 'Negativeland ' is like an industrial monster that was surely the first of its kind. The only comparison at the time being perhaps Faust.
The drumming on Hallo Gallo and Negativland are so like the metallic motorik sound on Unknown Pleasures, but a good 8 years earlier.
Hallo Gallo is like a dream. Beautiful and also so modern sounding.No one sounded like this in 71/72.
The two aforementioned tracks are well worth the price of the album alone.
A true classic.
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.