|Tom Hayes||18-Jan-2001||Guru Guru At a Glance|
Guru Guru represent a composite of what the original Krautrock movement was all about. Headed up by free jazz drummer Mani Neumeier and joined by bassist Uli Trepte and guitarist extraordinaire Ax Genrich, Guru Guru were a band of geniuses that were given the freedom by the most creative label of the day (perhaps ever?) the Ohr label. The stoned atmospheres, frantic/heavily affected guitar, jazzy percussion and a free form jamming culture which created an aura unmatched by any band from the last 25 years. Like many German bands of their time, the band evolved to play a series of styles ? some with success, others not so much unfortunately
Guru Guru's debut, UFO, is the epitome of their sound and is a cornerstone of the entire Ohr record label movement. Some of the most tortured and truly blitzed out guitar over odd drumming patterns and a sense of adventure and freedom. Side 1 for me remains a high water mark for acid psychedelia that possibly cannot be beat. Side 2 relies more on studio effects and loses some intensity - but UFO remains the album I pull out as a representation of this style of Krautrock.
Hinten continues along the path of the debut but, understandably, the band needed a slight change of direction. This albums grows on you slowly as the in-your-face parts are not as frequent. Possibly more consistent overall though. Another classic.
Kanguru, the band's third effort, shows them heading for a more compositional style. Some say this is their masterwork and it's hard to disagree though I still prefer the unpredictable nature of the debut. A must listen all the same and probably a good starting point for the curious.
After almost completely exhausting the acid trio format, Guru Guru clearly needed a change. The change they made, however, could've best been kept to themselves. On side 1 of the self-titled 4th LP, they decided everyone wanted to hear their deranged versions of 1950's rock 'n roll. It's almost painful to listen to. Fortunately Side 2 is a continuation of the style found on Kanguru saving the album from being a disaster and, for this, another recommendation , though perhaps a bit later.
For their 5th, Don't Call We Call You, Guru Guru seemed bent on ruining their awesome reputation. A whole album dedicated to the silly side of the band. This is almost unlistenable in my mind and a total waste of effort.
And then came Dance of the Flames an album that is truly
unrecognized by the progressive rock community at large. It's possible that
many folks gave up on them since all the albums surrounding this are
uneventful or it could be that the fans of the early albums come from a
psychedelic bent and don't care for fusion. Whatever the reason - this
album is not to be missed! Bringing on board Eiliff's (an absolutely
brilliant group in their own right) former guitarist, the band went for
their only attempt at a Mahavishnu Orchestra type heavy fusion sound. And
do they succeed! The silliness is pretty much kept at bay (with some minor
exceptions such as the opening few bars) and the focus is on the guitar
interplay with Mani's superior jazzy drumming style. A must own. Sadly,
this album remains without a proper issue on CD.
The mid 70's saw Guru Guru playing more of a straightforward fusion typical of the era and lots of goofiness similar to Grobschnitt. Albums such as Mani und Seine Freunde with members of Kraan, Tango Fango and Globetrotter leave quite a bit to be desired.
Finally in 1979, with a slight name change to the Guru Guru Sun Band, did the band try their hand at something new. Hey Du for the most part is patchy jazz rock and dreadful disco (a mock attempt no doubt) but does contain one 10 minute track that could've easily been on Kanguru
The band still rages on through the 80's and 90's. I haven't heard these
later works but word has not been positive. However, former guitarist Ax
Genrich did manage at least one excellent album in the 90's.
|Tom Hayes||22-Jan-2001||Guru Guru / Uli Trepte - Hot on Spot / In Between|
A fascinating discovery from the English label United Dairies (Nurse With Wound was on this label as well), the split album Hot on Spot / In Between has one live composition from Hinten-era Guru Guru and an unreleased mini-album from Uli Trepte's short lived band. The CD version adds a 23-minute version of "Der LSD-Marsch" from UFO. The Guru Guru tracks show how the band expounded upon their studio efforts in a live setting. For me, though, the Uli Trepte material is the real discovery. Consider that Uli recruited underrated guitarist Roman Bunka and master percussionist Christian Burchard (both of Embryo), drummer Carsten Bohn (Frumpy) plus winds player Willi Pape from Thirsty Moon. What a lineup! The Embryo stamp is all over this while Trepte's unique songwriting, much less his odd vocal style, contribute to one of the better mid 70's progressive offerings from Germany. It's just a shame that there is only 20 minutes of recorded material. Too bad the record companies of the day were not interested in Uli's demo. Certainly had it been one year earlier, a whole album of this would have sat comfortably on the Brain label. Uli went on to explore odd tonalities with his group Spacebox which is far more avant than this work.
Hinten is quite similar to the first, if not better. Great grungy free rock that goes completely into outer space. On all their early albums, the music is largely instrumental, although the rare, spoken vocals in German are funny. Hinten has perhaps more of a straight rock attitude than UFO, which actually works fine for me. Essential listening.
On Kan-guru there is a slight change in style: the music has become more accessible, but this still is the most fantastic free-form heavy space rock imaginable. The humurous vocals are slightly more frequent than on Hinten. Possibly my favourite Guru Guru album.
The first album is a monster of heavy acid rock played with a free jazz attitude leading to some of the greatest and most wasted heavy free rock you can imagine. Imagine MC5 or the Stooges taking their inspiration from Pink Floyd's "Saucerful Of Secrets". Guitar player Ax Genrich takes the lessons of psychedelic guitar playing demonstrated by Jimi Hendrix into more spacey territory: all kinds of feedback, reverb, and other manipulations are squeezed out of his guitar to create an atmosphere of altered states of mind and drug-induced travel through the cosmos, possibly most famously demonstrated in the "Der LSD Marsch". Probably one of THE defining Krautrock albums.
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