Now that the reputation of 1970s German rock has been rehabilitated, and the minimalist aesthetic of Krautrock kingpins Can has been seamlessly integrated within the contemporary musical diaspora, compilation specialist label Soul Jazz opens the floodgates with Elektronische Musik.
Subtitled ‘Experimental German rock and electronic musik 1972-83’, this 2-CD set is a welcome reminder that rock history as we receive it (with its culturally blinkered US/UK focus) barely touches on the wealth of extraordinary material from the vaults of other countries.
Can is represented here with two of its later, less critically revered pieces, but against expectations, they stand up well. The monumental Faust is here, too (with its evil, proto-industrial ‘It’s A Rainy Day Sunshine Girl’) along with other key groups like motorik legends Neu! and synth-space pioneers Tangerine Dream.
Most of the artists will be known to anyone with a passing knowledge of German music in the ‘70s: the bewitching orchestral/folk/world hybrid of Popol Vuh, the simple ambient template of Cluster, the freak rock of Amon Duul II.
The track selections are never predictable, with the real revelations coming from less well-known acts like Kollectiv, whose flutey 11-minute jam session is indulgent but great, and Conrad Schnitzler, whose rhythms provide a pre-curser to the techno of many years later, with layers of lurid synths.
Stylistically diverse it may be, but Elektronische Musik holds together well as a taster to a particularly vibrant period of music making in Germany, and still sounds curiously mind-expanding. It’s only the beginning.
Soul Jazz has done a decent job of mastering these old tapes, and there’s nothing here that won’t benefit from aural display on a superior hi-fi. GARY STEEL
Sound = 3.5/5
Music = 5/5