In the late sixties the post WWII generation in Germany began to raise its voice. The country had been rebuilt very quickly, but in a cultural and musical sense it was still a wasteland. A new generation was looking for its own identity. They didn't want to share the feelings of guilt and shame that was pushed upon them by their parents and teachers. Although this postwar generation grew up with the popular music of American and English army radio stations, the music they recorded themselves was totally different and would later be known as krautrock. None of the bands and musicians liked that term at the time. It was thought as an insult since Sauerkraut was a nickname for the Germans during the war. Besides they didn't think of their music as being rock music anyway.
Krautrock is not a single musical style. Many of these bands had a sound of their own, but they all shared a sense of rebellion against the establishment, and an urge to explore new technologies and new musical areas. One of the first people to embrace and support this new movement was journalist Rolf Ulrich Kaiser. He was one of the organizers of a festival in Essen in 1968 where some of the new German bands could present themselves to a wider audience in the presence of Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention. Amongst others Amon Düül, Guru Guru and Tangerine Dream performed on this festival which launched the krautrock movement.
Kaiser founded the Ohr record label that contracted only new German bands. However, he was an idealist, a visionary and maybe also ruthless, but not a business man. He wanted to go further than just music; he wanted the music to be part of a spiritual movement. Things got worse when he met Timothy Leary, an American psychologist and writer known for his recommendation of psychedelic drugs. He was living as an exile in Switzerland at the time, and Kaiser started to use LSD as well. Soon his visions began to have cosmic dimensions, but were absorbing the financial resources from Ohr as a big black hole. In order to make some money Kaiser started to release the Cosmic Jokers sessions without the permission of the band members. He was sued by Klaus Schulze and eventually fell into oblivion.
In 1972 Bruno Wendel and Günther Körber decided to leave Ohr in order to start their own record label Brain Records. Brain took over where Ohr stopped. Unlike Ohr, Brain Records had also contracted some foreign bands like Caravan and Atomic Rooster, but the main part of the catalogue consisted of German bands and artists. Brain released classic albums from Neu!, Cluster, Harmonia, Embryo, Edgar Froese, A.R. (Achim Reichel), Machines, Grobschnitt, Eroc, Guru Guru and Klaus Schulze.
Head Music is a tribute to krautrock and to Brain Records in particular. This release celebrates the 40th anniversary of Brain although not all the songs on this compilation were originally released on that label. Most of the bands and artists on this album are rather unknown. Bands like The Bevis Frond, Earthling Society and Electric Orange are probably the best known. They have been around for some time. Unlike the performing bands most of the covered songs are well-known, but there are some remarkable choices. Kalacakra and Electric Sandwich are rather obscure bands that released one album each and then fell into oblivion. Arno Clauss released one album on Ohr, but he's more of a folk artist.
Rückstoss Gondoliero is a track from Kraftwerk that is never officially released. It was recorded for the TV broadcast Beat Club in 1971. The line-up consisted of Klaus Dinger (drums), Florian Schneider (flutes, electronics) and Michael Rother (guitar, electronics). Ralf Hütter returned shortly after and then Rother and Dinger left to start their own band Neu! In a way Rückstoss Gondoliero sounds more like Neu! than Kraftwerk. Just like krautrock itself Head Music is a mixture of styles. There are some real good cover versions and the album is an awesome tribute; the originals are treated with respect, but at the same time the performers add something of their own as well as taking the music into the 21st century. The essence of krautrock is that it's organic, living music. It shouldn't sound the same. Even after forty years the spirit of krautrock is still alive. Head Music is a limited edition double-LP; only 850 copies have been released on coloured vinyl.
**** Erik Gibbels (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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