Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cosmic Jokers (Kosmiche Music 1974)
Genre: Kosmische, Space Rock
Album Length: 47.11
Best Song: 'Electronic Rock Zeitalter'

1. Tim Bleibt Bei Uns 7:06
2. Downtown 2:42
3. Lord Krishna 1:23
4. Power Drive 1:40
5. Bei Tim 1:50
6. Right Hand Lover 1:33
7. Cosmic Courier Bon Chance 2:55
8. Swiss High Lands 1:19
9. Der Magier 2:45
10. The Electronic Scene 3:38
11. Electronic Rock Zeitalter 11:09
12. So Beautiful 3:51
13. The Queen Of Sunshine 3:22
14. Meine Kosmische Musik 1:42

Definitely not the best release, but 'Gilles Zeitschiff' (Gilles Spaceship) is perhaps the freakiest artifact to come out of the Cosmic Jokers' short existence. A pastiche concept 'sampler', the album contains heavily overdubbed excerpts from the Kosmische Kuriere projects: 'Seven Up', 'Lord Krishna Von Goloka', and 'Tarot'. The material is spiced up by additional material recorded by Klaus Schulze and Gille Lettman. Schulze's signature cosmic synthesizer sound is used to full effect while Gille can be heard delivering an acid drenched narration in German and English. The narration details the power of 'Mr. Energy', Timothy Leary, and how he became involved with the Kosmische Kuriere group. In case you weren't aware, Gille makes it known that Timothy is a love god and that "T. L. stands for true love". Obviously the effect which Mr. Leary had on Gille was out of this world. Plain and simple, 'Gilles Zeitschiff' is krautrock in its purest form and the album should make its way into your collection at some point. This one is best listened to with head phones! [2/5 Doug]

Gille Lettman - Vocals
Klaus Schulze - Electronics
Jurgen Dollase - Keyboards
Manuel Gottsching - Guitar
Harald Grosskopf - Drums
Dieter Dierks - Bass
Hartmut Enke - Bass, Guitar
Walter Westrupp - Guitar
Bernd Witthuser - Guitar
Sergius Golowin - Vocals
Brian Barritt - Vocals

Cosmic Jokers "s/t" 1974

Cosmic Jokers (Kosmiche Music 1974)
Genre: Kosmische, Space Rock
Album Length: 42.13
Best Song: 'Cosmic Joy B'

1. Galactic Joke A 7.10
2. Galactic Joke B 6.44
3. Galactic Joke C 8.50
4. Cosmic Joy A 9.19
5. Cosmic Joy B 10.06

Cosmic Jokers is the first album by this Krautrock supergroup, although the members had joined forces together previously on Walter Wegmuller's 'Tarot' and Sergius Golowin's 'Lord Krishna Von Goloka'. The music is a little representational of the backgrounds of the band as well, sometimes sounding like Ash Ra Tempel (Gotsching and Schulze) and at other times like Wallenstein (Dollase and Grosskopf). Legendary engineer Dieter Dierks, whose name is synonymous with the Ohr and Kosmische Musik recordings, plays a pivotal role in 'glueing' the sound together. The resulting recording is a good album which comes closer to the 'kosmische' sounds of Ash Ra Tempel than the symphonic rock of Wallenstein. In all, there are 2 extended tracks divided into suites with a sound dominated by an eerie/spacey synth and some heavily-reverbed guitar. A must have for Ash Ra Tempel and Klaus Schulze fans as well as fans of the 'kosmische' sound. [4/5 Doug]

Manuel Gottsching - Guitar
Klaus Schulze - Electronics
Jurgen Dollase - Keyboards
Harald Grosskopf - Drums
Dieter Dierks - Bass

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Krautmash #2

Here is part 2 of the experiment:

Krautmash #1

You know how much fun it is to rediscover something that you thought was lost forever, don't you? Three years ago I decided to take 20 Krautrock songs and make 2 tracks by placing them together in sets of 10.

I randomly selected the tracks and then cut and arranged portions of them into 2 suites: Krautmash I and Krautmash II. The rules were simple - no fancy transitions or track manipulations like the mashups that were popular at the time - cuts and fades were all I allowed myself (oh and 2 small loops on the intro of 2 of the tracks - who can tell me which ones?)

I had intended to make it available to the group, but I accidentally deleted my project files and had lost the sole CD that I had burnt. Recently I rediscovered that CD while cleaning out a vehicle that I was donating to charity; better late than never. Here is the first track: Krautmash I

Brave New World "Impressions On Reading Aldous Huxley" 1972

Impressions On Reading Aldous Huxley (Vertigo 1972)
Genre: Progressive
Album Legnth: 40:52
Best Song: "Soma"

1. Prologue 1.02
2. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta 7.38
3. Lenina 4.22
4. Soma 5.18
5. Halpais Corn Dance 3.24
6. The End 17.42
7. Epilogue 1.28

Somehow this isn't quite the sound I had imagined when I read Huxley's socialist themed "futurist sci-fi" novel Brave New World. Surely, the novel brings to mind visions of a colder, bleak electronic atmospheric soundtrack rather than the whimsical impressions heard here. Brave New World, the band, was comprised of German and Irish musicians and for the most part their sound is a progressive mixture of rock and jazz with rich melodies and eclectic themes comprising the standard flute and sax arrangements of early 70's progressive genre. The lone musical exception is the Native American/Tribal percussion inspired "Halpais Corn Dance".

The "krautiest" track on the album, "Soma" is a bit of a hidden gem and worth of the "mix-tape" treatment. With a sound similar to Yeti-era Amon Duul II, "Soma" contains a space-rock sound with a great organ lead utilizing Eastern modalities (think "Scarecrow" from Piper) and what appears to be a theremin lead towards the end. The ablum's centerpiece, the 17-minute "The End" begins promisingly, showcasing a flair for cinematic themes; however, the track quickly dissolves into a melange of jazz and rock themes and fails to stand out from the rest of the album. Ultimately "The End" is saved by the Eastern-tinged psychedelic rock ending which bears a strong resemblance to the sound that Between would adopt around 1973/4. In total "Impressions On Reading Aldous Huxley" is a creative effort, but other than "Soma" and a few eclectic themes it fails to deliver anything memorable.
[2.5/5 Doug]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Making of Zweistein

written by: Suzanne Doucet

In 1969 I got my first portable cassette recorder which was a revolution for anyone at the time who wanted to record while travelling without having to rent and "schlepp" expensive equipment such as a nagra tape recorder (which was widely used for professional field recordings.) This was not a walkman yet, the size was more like a lap top computer but for me it was the most exciting device besides my 8-mm film camera, which I took everywhere as well. Between 1962 - 1969 it was mostly my guitar that was a continuous companion but now the cassette recorder and camera went everywhere with me as well.

My half sister Diane, who had just moved from Switzerland to Munich and went to her last year of highschool (we graduate with a bachelor), and I experimented with psychedelics and went to see every avant garde band/group that came to Munich. I was a quite established pop star in Germany - hosting and moderating 2 popular TV shows with about 20 million viewers. I had several hit records under my belt and radio, TV and press coverage from all over Europe. But I was kind of fed up with the entire music industry, which was only interested in formula entertainment and not interested in real creative art. Since I was a child I was only interested in real art! Paintings, music, poems, literature, Theater, film, photography and technology that could be used to create new artforms were always in the foreground of my field of interest.

I was educated and trained in classical and modern music, had studied ballet and grew up with the best Theater and film actors and directors in Europe. My mother, a well known theater actress in Munich, was the daughter of a silent movie actress and my father, a writer, art and antique collector and para psychologist, had given me the opportunity to be educated in many artforms and since I was a multi talented person, I just soaked it all up and created as much as I could...

By accident I was discovered by a record producer who convinced me to do a pop single. The second single became a #1 hit in germany. At the same time I was also appearing in several TV shows as a singer, actress and also hostess. After 3 hit singles I produced my first own song album with sophisticated lyrics, arrangements and musicians. For that production I used one of the first studios that had 4-track recording!!! I became the youngest record producer in Germany! I received great reviews and found myself all of a sudden in TV shows next to Gilbert Becaud and Charles Aznavour or Hildegard Knef.

I played many Musicals (one with Rainer Werner Fassbinder!) appeared as an actress in TV plays, played Theater, did script writing, directory assistance and dubbing as well as song writing not just for myself but also for other well known artists.

But in 1969 I was not satisfied with my thirst for more revolutionary creations. I wanted to break free from all restrictions, rules, concepts, etc. Like modern painters and film makers, I wanted to create Avant Garde in Music: Sound Collages and Sound Paintings. With my sister, who had incredible ears and even if she did not really play any instruments she was very conscious and heard music in a very open and mind blowing way, I was able to record music I would have normally not paid attention to. When I would play for myself she said, Suzanne you should record this and - we did - I incorporated her in many ways in the creative process for a period of about 3-4 months, where we travelled a lot and recorded just everywhere - sound - music in non tradional ways, such as caroussel organs, children playing, people whispering and praying inside the Haradshin Kathedral of Prague and so on... We were also (like everyone at the time of course) pretty stoned and experimented a few times with LSD.

I was always into recording technology - starting when I was 14 to record songs with my first tape recorder... so I took all the recordings of ZWEISTEIN and transferred and edited them into a "piece" and it became 3 album length pieces. We took those to the studio to my favorite recording engineer Peter Kramper (who was also a producer and recording engineer for Liberty Records, I was signed to until 1970) and added effects and magically appearing sounds that came out of nowhere (you can hear those strange tones on the 3rd album in the beginning and end...) and they did fit perfectly with our 3rd album MEDITATION.

The 3 albums were called TRIP, FLIP OUT and MEDITATION because that was in our opinion the logical evolution our generation was going through. We all had experimented with psychadelics and the first album is such a recorded TRIP. As a result many of us went into a psychotic state of mind, i.e. FLIP OUT (the world upside down, reverse all concepts and rules were off) and if you ever came out of that your only salvation would be spirituality MEDITATION. Maybe ZWEISTEIN became such a "cult" recording because it reflected the evolution of the mind of a whole generation. And if we accomplished that I would call that art!

My sister and myself were huge fans of Einstein (of course) therefore the ZWEISTEIN pseudonym. My dear friend Christian Bruhn (who is now head of GEMA and CISAC) was a composer and (very successful) pop producer, I had worked with for years. We did a children's TV series and he produced 2 singles with me for Liberty Records in Germany. When I played ZWEISTEIN for him he was blown away and because we had that deal with Phonogram and they wanted a single he agreed to produce the single which should incorporate A VERY SIMPLE SONG but also a new song he and I would write together. We came up with MELODY MAKER. Because of the unusual and non traditional way of how the albums were recorded I convinced Christian not to use any traditional instruments in the studio. We invited a few friends to the studio (which you see on the cover of the single) which were NON musicians and had them stamp their feet on the ground, clap their hands and sing along with us and play whatever instruments they would be able to play like a little flute or mouth harmonica (which I believe was Christian). My sister was part of it of course and we all sang I'm a Melody Maker whereby Christian Bruhn sang the lead part and I sang the lead part in SIMPLE SONG. We produced the single in one night. There was of course lots of weed, nothing else though.

One of the men on the cover is Ishtwan von Barlog (he was a DJ for Radio Free Europe and a very good friend. I took my first LSD trip with him and my sister) the Chinese guy's name was Li(?) he was actually German (born in germany) a great guy, he was not a musician and I don't think he ever did another recording after... and the big blond guy had nothing to do with music, he was just a friend. I don't remember his name.

The cover shot was taken that night while we produced the single by a very famous music industry photographer. Christian like me was kind of shy to appear on the picture because he was well known as a pop producer and this was obviously not german pop! This is also the reason why my name does not appear on the LPs. Nobody would have imagined that I would do something like this. You know how people are, labeling and categorizing... I did not want to prevent the public from being able to experience something like ZWEISTEIN with a "concept" in their head of a german pop singer. The money we received as an advance from Phonogram for the single and LPs was used to finance a trip to the middle and Far East, which we started right after completing the single.

By the way George Harrison was one of the first people to receive a copy of all 3 albums which we delivered to him in England, he lived in a "castle" close to London. We hung out in his estate for 24 hours with the most incredible people (friends of George) and played ZWEISTEIN all night! (But that is a different story)

But lets go back to the actual record deal. After we had mastered the tapes we played the finished albums to many friends who all wanted copies. When we looked at the task to make 30 copies for friends we said - hm - maybe we should give this assignment to a record label. I called Phonogram in Hamburg from Switzerland/Lugano where I lived at the time because I knew they were a great label and always pushing the envelope. I knew the head of A&R, Wolfram Kretschmar, since 1964 and he sounded interested in a meeting and we set a time for November Monday Morning 11AM with him the marketing director and head of distribution. Heavy duty meeting, and you can imagine 11am is not the best time to listen to such a far out project. But when we arrived my sister made some tea, we had a pipe with us, we closed the curtains, found somewhere a candle and listened for 2 hours to ZWEISTEIN I had the masters in my guitar case (this was all strategy) and we signed a contract at 3PM at the Phonogram headquarters in Hamburg, got a check (Advance on royalties) designed the concept of the cover with the graphic people delivered the liner notes and took the train back at night to Lugano! I have never before and never after experienced a deal like this! It was magical.

But hey, the whole project was magical in many ways. For example we never found out where those mysterious tones came from that appeared on the 3rd album MEDITATION and several "mysterious inductions", you could call them, on the first album..

When I met Uri Geller in 1972 and ANDREA PUHARICH his professor who discovered him I played ZWEISTEIN for him in his house in Ossening, NY. He and his assistant were convinced that those mysterious tones were messages from aliens... You never know? Peter Kramper and I were always wondering how they appeared. He just said to me "push record" and I did. So, I guess Peter and the "aliens" are part of Zweistein as well...

Unmasking A Legend: Zweistein Revealed

Unmasking A Legend: Zweistein Revealed
written by: Doug Brotherton

Krautrock is a music genre ripe with underground acts such as Amon Duul, Seesselberg, Necronomicon, and German Oak. Many of these bands performed together for such a short period of time that in most cases all that remains are a few incredible recordings. A cloud of mystery often surrounds these groups, causing rabid fans to blend together fact and fiction in order to create and propagate the band’s legacy. Most fans would agree that one of the most sought after and fabled Krautrock albums is Zweistein’s “Trip, Flip out, Meditation” (Phillips 1970). In this case I feel that it is the avant-garde nature of the music contained on the album mixed with conflicting stories about the band which have made the album so popular. It is also helped by the fact that the title is alleged to represent the three stages which one encounters while on a drug trip.

Over the years, Zweistein has garnered quite a cult following. The slightest mention of the group or its legendary triple-LP is enough to send any hard-core fan off on numerous tangents regarding the bands mysterious existence. After an hour or so of rabid rambling this fan is most likely to retreat to his computer where he performs his daily check of to see if anybody is auctioning their copy of the vinyl.

Musically, “Trip, Flip out, Meditation” is largely a sound collage containing massive amounts of studio effects wizardry. Listeners are bombarded with an hour and forty-six minutes (106 minutes) worth of effects-laden voices, natural sounds, electronic effects, organ, guitar, drums and other instruments. The sidelong compositions are virtually strewn together avant-garde improvisations in which anything goes. It is this fact which acts as a catch 22 and splits the Krautrock fan base into two factions. First there are those who hail the album as a masterpiece due to its avant-garde nature, wild approach, and inherent reference to a drug trip. Then there are those who pass the album off as a complete timewaster due to its evident amateur musicianship, lack of direction and avant-garde nature.

As far as I am aware there are two stories in regards to Zweistein’s legacy. The first and most common story involves a love affair between a Phillips record producer and a young woman from the band. According to legend, the producer was so mesmerized by the freuleins beauty that he allowed her and a couple of her friends to record in the studio after hours. Shortly after the albums release, Phillips quickly pulled it from the shelves and deleted it from their catalogues. In addition, the producer was given a pink slip for his troubles. The second story tells of a mysterious man known as Jacques Dorian who enlisted help from his wife, children, studio engineer Peter Kramper, and certain mind altering drugs to record the album.

It was my ever-growing interest in the genre coupled with the fantastic nature of these two stories which led me on my journey to track down the album. Incredibly, it wasn’t that long before I found a vinyl copy listed on EBay. Having monitored the auction for six days I failed to enter a bid once the price had been jacked up to well over $200. My backup plan failed as well when my attempts to contact the winner in hopes of asking him to burn me a CDR copy failed. Two years went by and every so often I would search the internet only to come up empty. During this time I was able to locate a Near Mint copy of the group’s equally rare single “I’m A Melody Maker” b/w “A Very Simple Song” for $30. I jumped at the chance to purchase this and I eagerly awaited its over-seas journey from the Netherlands to the USA. Upon my first listen I was somewhat shocked to find that the music was more in the folk vein whereas the album was noted for its avant-garde and experimental nature. Nevertheless, the single had quite a deal of charm, a “far-out” picture sleeve and a slight experimental edge, so it definitely was a keeper.

While doing a recent overview of the single for this website I decided to do a bit of research on Zweistein to see if I could dig up any additional information on the band. The single lists two names S. Doucet and P. Bruhn. While searching the internet, I located the website of New Age Music artist Suzanne Doucet, whom Keyboard Magazine states “has the most authoritative voice on New Age Music”. Suzanne began her music career in 1963 as a pop singer in Germany. Her website lists her single discography and in it I was amazed to find that she had performed on the Zweistein single along with her sister Diane. I finally had a few names that went with the faces on the picture sleeve.

Things got even more interesting when I received a CDR copy of the legendary triple-LP. While doing an image search on Google for the original album cover to “Trip, Flip out, Meditation” I was again led to Suzanne’s website. This time I found no direct link between her and the recording so I decided that I would email her to find out how much she could recall about Zweistein. Fully prepared to receive the “cold shoulder” treatment, I was knocked to the floor when I opened my inbox that evening and saw not one, but two emails in response.

I nearly flipped out when I opened Suzanne’s first email and read what she had written.

“Hello Doug. I am absolutely amazed that the ZWEISTEIN LPs/ triple album became so much of a ‘cult’ item. But if I look back and think about how it all happened it was quite magical I have to say and it would probably fill many pages, if I would tell the whole story...”

Over the course of several emails, Suzanne provided me with a wealth of information about Zweistein and she even set the record straight in regards to the conflicting stories about the band. I was fascinated to learn that along with her younger sister Diane, Suzanne recorded the entire triple-LP over a four month period in various locations including Prague and Munich. After editing the material on Suzanne’s tape-recorder, they brought the material to Munich and worked with recording engineer Peter Kramper on adding studio effects and mastering the recordings. Initially the sisters played their finished piece for friends, but it wasn’t long before they decided to offer it to a record label. Deciding to call the ‘group’ Zweistein Suzanne offered the production to Phonogram/Phillips who having recently inked Krautrock acts Kraftwerk and Cluster to recording deals eagerly accepted the album. Suzanne sold herself as the producer and maintained the appearance that Zweistein was a separate group. Being a very well known pop star and not wanting to harm her career by being attached to such an avant-garde project, Suzanne used the pseudonym Jacques Dorian to disguise her identity. As far as the rumors were concerned, there was no secret love affair between her and the producer as the popular legend insists. Furthermore, the Phillips producer, the late Wolfgang Kretschmar who was responsible for signing Kraftwerk, was not fired for his involvement. The album sold 6,000 copies and was pulled off the shelves a year after its release. The rights to the album returned to Suzanne in 1980 at which time she produced and sold 1500 cassette tapes of the album with a Zweistein fan located in Nuernberg, Germany.

In the end, Suzanne offered to write an official biography about the Zweistein project. This biography, "The Making of Zweistein" will be online within the coming weeks, so please come back again.

UPDATE! A limited edition 3-CD release of the album has been put out by Captain Trip Records!