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KRAUTROCK - Part I
Romantic Warriors IV
+ GOT KRAUTROCK? (Special Features DVD)
A film by Adele Schmidt and Jose Zegarra Holder
(2019 - Zeitgeist Media - USA)
[ I have made this a dual review of two separate DVDs, since they are both connected, and came out in the same months - one being essential to the other one for completionists ]
The fourth film project in the Romantic Warriors progressive music saga series by Adele Schmidt and Jose Zegarra Holder, appears to be the most expansive and info packed subject yet (the results of Part II & III will confirm that). I cannot help but think that with Germany being Schmidt's birthplace, her connections and ability to dig into the background and realization of this all important subject, is why the project has turned out so superior. No book or previous film on the topic comes close to the broad and insightful minutes of the KRAUTROCK Part I. The years are the late 60's, early 70's, and regions of Germany covered on this DVD are Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Hamburg.
The commentaries are excellent and provide the viewer with both critical and personal information, that could only come from the people who were there. The majority of the segments where the actual musicians are speaking on the movement, feel just like having them sitting in your living room and telling their stories. The timeline is accurately followed as well, giving the foundation and actual footage of pieces of concerts, vintage interviews, photos, and band information. Throughout the film, the history, the family trees, the rare bits of info, even the few unrelated memories of a couple of the participants, makes for a captivating experience.
With this being Part I, of what is planned as a trilogy, the artists covered on this first DVD are Can, Damo Suzuki’s Network, Electric Orange, faUSt (purposely spelled that way instead of Faust, to separate them from the German legend and subject matter as literature and theater), Floh de Cologne, Japandorf, Kraftwerk, Krautwerk, La Dusseldorf, Neu!, and Wume. Select members are featured, including some not actually from Germany, such as Malcolm Mooney (from the US), Damo Suzuki (from Japan), and Jean-Herve Peron (from France). Both Mooney and Suzuki were at one time lead singers for Can, and Peron was with faUSt. An incredible amount of info is also provided by, and about, Klaus Dinger, drummer for half the bands in the early movement. Irmin Schmidt and Jaki Liebezeit (Can), give us an abundance of education as well. A very nice section from Michael Rother (Spirit of Sound, Harmonia, Neu!, Kraftwerk, solo) further reveals multiple facts. I won't try to rehash the whole content of he film, since that is the purpose of making the trilogy, to have the audience enjoy, learn, and appreciate this music that began as a rebellion to the rock and roll that was happening in mainstream countries. As you will see, various ethnic influences entered some of the bands styles, and most clear of all, is how different so many of the Krautrock bands were from each other, and still are.
The creation of the music as it was being composed, was key to those early pioneers in the movement. In the late 60's, and early 70's, the same time the psychedelic and acid inspired music from other parts of Europe and USA was happening, so was the experimentation in Germany occurring. According to taste, people have their favorite outfits of this genre. No one can deny the importance and place in history of faUSt, who for me, were a big part of my interest in avant-garde music. That group is represented well, with some very nice insights and info from Jean-Herve Peron.
Krautrock (or as some called it 'kosmische Musik' or 'Cosmic Music' at the time) is not an obscure genre now, as you can buy catalogs full of it in retrospection these days, and more importantly, I think the influence it had, and still has, on groups beyond that genre, is what music lovers should be thankful for. The genre was/is very broad and actually has no easy definition. It is the same as people trying to define progressive rock or fusion these days. The attempt is futile. The slang term 'Krautrock' was given to this umbrella of strange new German music back in the 1970's by British music journalists, more or less as a humorous label for the genre. Although the word 'kraut' went back to World War I, and was offensive at that time, the years wore on and the term was so set in concrete, that no one thinks too much about it as a negative thing now. So sit back and enjoy a highly academic, beautifully done (especially on the editing, by Adele Schmidt) nicely written, produced and directed film by both Schmidt and Holder, and learn a few things (and in the case of the unaware, a LOT of facts).
With the Krautrock Part I, comes shortly after, the special features DVD of live concert footage called GOT KRAUTROCK? Although it is sold separately, the companion piece is outstanding and a must, with on stage selections that include Wume (who logically do not belong in this Part I, since that is supposed to be covering the first years of the crusade), one of the newer and probably least known of the Krautrock bands. They are an American (from Baltimore, MD) male/female duo of drumkit, vocals (April Camlin), and keyboards (Al Schatz). Wume is named after the place in Germany that faUSt recorded in and came from called Wumme (near Hamburg). As you can see, they are heavily influence both by faUSt and Can, yet they create new things as well. The music is filled with explorations, and tight rhythm. Very interesting and nice that there is a band in America, giving praise to the Krautrock world, but still I feel their place in the trilogy would be in the last part, as a modern example of those influenced by it. They do 4 compositions.
The other performances are one studio offering from Krautwerk, doing 2 songs, and then a very special on stage concert by faUSt, led by Jean-Herve Peron and Zappi Diermaier, performing in a 100-person space on their fourth US tour, in Louisville, Kentucky in 2016. This one will make it worth anyone's while, and transform you to what Krautrock's essence is.
Electric Orange do an on stage live performance of 4 songs, done at 'Finki', a legendary German Krautrock festival founded in 1977 by drummer Mani Neumeier and his band Guru Guru. The psychedelic influence is heavy, and will appeal to the 60's trip music fans, if you are new to them.
The one and only full live concert on the DVD, is by Damo Suzuki's Network, in Lima Peru, 2017, and clocks in at 1:03:00. This is live improvisational music referred to as 'Sound Carriers', and includes musicians who have not worked together or communicated with each other prior to the event. So the audience gets a fresh batch of music at each concert. It is a fantastic ending to a well worth your time and money film.
All footage is of high quality, both audio and visual. The DVD also features additional unreleased interviews with musicians featured in the KRAUTROCK Part I, with Irmin Schmidt, Jaki Liebezeit, Jean-Herve Peron, Malcolm Mooney and Wolfgang Flur. The total time is 268 minutes. Two great packages that go beyond the previous exposure of the music categories that Schmidt and Holder have tackled on their wonderful Romantic Warriors series, subtitled 'A Progressive Music Saga.' You can also buy both DVDs on Amazon.com if you prefer, or see the links above that are provided for purchase. FULLY RECOMMENDED for both DVDs.
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 6 - 5 - 2019
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