Neu!


(Copyright © 1999-2024 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Neu! , 9/10
Neu! 2 , 7.5/10
Neu! 75 , 7/10
Neu! 4 , 5/10
LA Dusseldorf , 7.5/10
LA Dusseldorf: Viva , 6.5/10
LA Dusseldorf: Individuellos , 5/10
Michael Rother: Flammende Herzen , 6.5/10
Michael Rother: Sterntaler , 5/10
Michael Rother: Katzenmusik , 5/10
Michael Rother: Traumreisen , 4/10
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(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Summary.
Formed by guitarist Michael Rother and percussionist Klaus Dinger, both veterans of Kraftwerk, Neu (102) Neu! (1972 - Gronland, 2005) pushed to the limit the technique of iterative patterns and the impressionistic approach that were popular among contemporary cosmic musicians. Pieces such as Negativland are essentially continuums of rhythmic impulses propelled by Dinger's legendary "motorik beat" and by obsessive repetition of ferocious percussive patterns (occasionally bordering on jack-hammer noise). It was tribal drumming applied to the devastating neurosis of the post-industriale era. Fur Immer, on their second album, 2 (1973 - Gronland, 2005), offered the last glimpse into their personal and public hell. Neu! 75 (1975 - Gronland, 2005) was a much quieter and softer affair, downplaying the rhythmic element and incorporating a stronger melodic element. Neu's anti-romantic futurism and anguished hyper-realism of Wagner-ian intensity would be highly influential.


Full bio.
(Translated from my original Italian text by Troy Sherman)

Following their departure from Kraftwerk, Michael Rother (guitar and keyboards) and Klaus Dinger (drums) began Neu!, one of the most significant happenings in the history of rock music. Although they created only three albums (1972, 1974, 1975), they exerted a huge influence on the music of later generations. Even so, it took a quarter of a century before their insights were absorbed by the rest of rock music.

 

Neu! (Brain, 1972), their first album, was produced, as the next, by Conrad Plank (the same person who had produced the first Kraftwerk record). It brought to rock music the concepts of iteration and impressionism, which had already been mildly toyed with in the works of other cosmic musicians of those years. The songs are essentially a continuum of rhythmic impulses, based solely on percussion and an incessant repetition of a fierce percussive pattern. In practice, the songs become rituals of the deconstruction of sound: the relentless, obsessive beat favors the emergence of details. The method is also used to enhance the neurosis of each piece. Fusing the “dark” tribalism of Kraftwerk and the romantic futurism of Popol Vuh, Neu! contains songs with a certain hyper-realism and an anguished intensity reminiscent of Wagner. The album contains six purely instrumental suites. They are the degenerated, dilated daughters of psychedelia (the reserved guitar playing and coy and slow pulse of Weissensee); this music brings an absurd sound to arrhythmia (Sonderangebot is an exercise on noise in a cosmic void, and Lieber Honig is a voiceless essay created by hand in an equally spooky atmosphere of random sounds). The supersonic vortex of Hallogallo is a pure percussive soundscape of drum machines and guitars, barely disturbed by agreements of minimalism and cacophonous noise. The ten minutes of Negativland contain a blend of expressionism and demonic tribalism, predating heavy metal; this song is an orgy of evil instincts, a whirlwind of daily, psychoanalytic noises (jackhammers, furious guitar distortions, and an ultrasonic syncope). With this austere and hypnotic masterpiece, the Teutonic tradition (that of the desperate Gothic) is combined with psychological tensions of modern times in a demonic ritual. With this record, Neu! invented the "motorik beat;” a propulsive beat and steady pace, which turns the artists’ anguish into a sonic trance.

Neu! 2 (Brain, 1973) is more fragmented than the first record (the duo could not find the money to complete the recording), and it incorporated keyboards. The key song is Fur Immer, which consumes ten minutes in a neurotic seizure similar to that of Negativland. This song, however, is closer to minimalism (the insistent piano pattern) and Sister Ray by the Velvet Underground (the obsessive and inexhaustible drumming). The songs live in the same eerie paranoia and extremely narrow range of expression as the previous records: the theme is always furious, percussive, and atonal, quartered by excruciating bouts of distorted guitar, which concedes nothing to the melody and sensationalism. Through the tribalism of Lila Engel, the shrill carousel of Neuschnee 78, and the crawling gait of Super 16, which was a child of the raucous Super (the two tracks, and Super 78, were the same song recorded at different speeds, as the titles suggest), their repertoire is proven to be a catalog of horrifying technological cadences. Among other things, this second album contains several versions of songs that Neu! had already created played at different speeds. Although these altered tracks were created partially because the band ran out of money, they were nevertheless some of the first cases of “remixes.”

Neu! 75 (Brain, 1975) is a rather different album, much quieter and softer. The album downplays the rhythmic element and incorporates a stronger melodic element. The resulting atmosphere is almost pastoral, by their standards. Neu! used to be the dark side of cosmic music, but here they explore a lighter side of cosmic music. Isi is angelic music for piano, locomotive beat and Terry Riley-ain electronic dervishes. The trance in Seeland is due to both the minimalistic beat and the guitar's middle-eastern line, and the mixture sounds like the missing link between early Pink Floyd and early Brian Eno. The "motorik beat" returns in E-Musik, but, again, the guitar and the keyboards dance on it with a gentle, melodic elegance. Neu! even speaks (or, better, whispers) in Leb Wohl, a delicate sonata lulled by ocean waves that sounds like a slow-motion replay of a romantic ballad and abandons their trademark massive rhythms. Hero is a rock song, and an anthemic one, with strong echoes of the Stooges and the Rolling Stones. So is After Eight. And they both predate punk-rock. Overall the album is a lot less experimental than the previous two, but it may have helped insinuate Neu! into the mainstream.

Rock on Brain (Brain, 1980) is an anthology. Neu! 4 (1995) is a reunion album. Live in Dusseldorf (Captain Trip, 1996) documents a 1972 performance.

After the dissolution of Neu!, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger pursued separate careers.

After the break-up, Michael Rother created the supergroup Harmonia, which was comprised of him and most of Cluster. After Harmonia, Rother then embarked on a solo career more in line with the sound of Neu! 75. Flammende Herzen (Sky, 1976 - Water, 2008) recovers the dark, obsessive, demonic, trend of the other Neu! albums, with rhythmic lines repeated until the neurotic sound becomes claustrophobic. He either soaks these claustrophobic numbers in melodic contexts (the titular suite), leaves them to drift in minimalist progressions (Zyklodrom), or both at the same time (Karussell). A hellish pace infects Feuerland, seemingly a left-over black-magic ritual of Walpurgis Night. On this first solo record, Rother plays guitars, bass, piano, organ and synthesizer, assisted only by Jaki Liebezeit on drums. Sterntaler (Sky, 1977 - Water, 2007), again with only Liebezeit, already begins showing much less originality than Rother’s previous works. The subsequent discs, Katzenmusik (Sky, 1979 - Water, 2008), Fernwärme (Random, 1981 - Water, 2007), Lust (Random, 1983), Sussherz Und Tiefen Scharfe (Random, 1985), Traumreisen (Random, 1987), would only repeat the deteriorating formula. Each, though, was saved by some rare melodic idea that saved it from mediocrity. After many years of silence, Rother returned with Esperanza (Random, 1996).

After Neu! split, Klaus Dinger formed LA Dusseldorf, in which he played guitar and keyboards, accompanied by Hans Lampe on drums, Thomas Dinger on percussion and vocals, Harald Konietzko on bass, and Nicolas van Rhein on keyboards. La Dusseldorf (Nova, 1976 - Warner, 2005 - 4 Men With Beards, 2008) is a hybrid of many things, but seldom recalled Neu!; if anything, it harked to Amon Duul and Can. Their masterpiece, Dusseldorf, was one of the greatest manifestos of Teutonic electronics; it combines the spaciousness of Kraftwerk and physicality of Neu. It is at the same time a tribal dance and a journey into the subconscious. The relentless beat of the drums and synthesizer overlap in myriad sound events, which includes spells, wheezing hallucinogens, guitar distortions, solfeggi mantras, and spatial organs, which all lead into the growing chorus. Even more stunning is the concise anthem La Dusseldorf, a tour de force of grotesque and manic spiritualism grotesque. Silver Cloud (their first single) is a song of appealing spaciousness. Compared to the violent, terrible expressionistic cataclysms of Neu!, LA Dusseldorf’s suites are more lyrical, melodic, and impressionist, although at the pace of savage and heavy industry. The hallucinogenic soundscapes are hymns to human existence, blasphemous orgies of spirits rising in sacred and solemn spirals, leaving behind the desolation of industrial noise.

 

Viva (Teldec, 1978 - Warner, 2005 - 4 Men With Beards, 2008) saw them approaching the mystical atmosphere of the utopian hippie. This record goes through a series of songs imbued with humanitarian pathos (the song Viva, the boogie White Overalls, the poignant and epic instrumental Rheinita, and the apotheosis of Geld). The Caribbean-futuristic Cha Cha 2000 rambles along for nearly 20 minutes to sublimate the solemn tones of the euphoric disk, and even of the entire era. Individuellos (Teldec, 1980 - Water, 2008) is a simple collection of "songs,” worthy of the synth-pop era (Dampfriemen, Individuellos).


(Original text by Piero Scaruffi)

For a few years Dinger was silent. Then he resurfaced with Neondian (Teldec, 1985), which is credited to Klaus Dinger and Rheinita Bella Dusseldorf (actually a supergroup of Dinger on guitar, Nikolaus Rhein on keyboards, Jaki Liebezeit on percussion, etc). Again, several years of silence followed, until Die Engel des Herrn (1992), the first album credited to Dinger alone, came out.

Dinger's next project was an ideal fusion of the two bands, appropriately named La! Neu?. Dusseldorf (Captain Trip, 1996) contains the 22-minute Hero '96 (a poem set to music a` la Patti Smith) and the 33-minute D.-22.12.95, a wild psychedelic jam. But it will become one of those prolific, low-quality indie-rock projects of the 1990s, flooding the market with collections of rather mediocre (studio and live) music that crosses acid-rock, motorik sound and ambient electronica: Zeeland (1997), which documents a 1997 live performance; Rembrandt (Captain Trip, 1997), which is actually a collaboration with fellow La! Neu? member Rembrandt Lensink; Year Of the Tiger (Captain Trip, 1998), which contains two half-hour exaggerations, Autoportrait Rembrandt mit Viktoria + Apache and Notre Dame; Gold Regen (Captain Trip, 1998); the double CD Cha Cha 2000 (Captain Trip, 1998), which documents a 1996 Japanese tour and will be followed by Live In Tokyo 1996 Vol. 2 (1999); Blue (Captain Trip, 1999), which collects unreleased material by Dinger; Live At Kunsthalle Dusseldorf (2002).

Dinger died in 2008.

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