zondag 28 november 2010

Amon Düül II - 1969 - Phallus Dei

Amon Düül II
Phallus Dei

01. Kanaan (3:56)
02. Den Guten, Schönen, Wahren (6:00)
03. Luzifers Ghilom (8:02)
04. Henriette Krötenschwanz (1:59)
05. Phallus Dei (20:45)

 - Peter Leopold / drums, percussion, piano
- Shrat / bongos, violin, vocals
- Renate / vocals, tambourine
- John Weinzierl / bass, guitar
- Chris Karrer / violin, guitar, sax, vocals
- Falk Rogner / organ, synth
- Dave Anderson / bass
- Dieter Serfas / drums, electric cymbals

- Holger Trützsch / Turkish drums
- Christian Burchard / vibraphone

AMON DÜÜL II was born of an artistic and political community called AMON DÜÜL (which recorded during the late sixties a long live session made around collective and free musical improvisations). The band emerged from the underground German rock scene with a very original and eccentric album called "Phallus Dei" (1969). The musicians who participated to this delirious and psychedelic experience were (among others) Peter Leopold (ex AMON DÜÜL), the front woman and singer Renate Knaup, John Weinzierl on the guitars... with guests as Holger Trützsch who plays tribal percussions (original member of Popol Vuh). Then almost with the same musicians the band recorded the seminal "Yeti" (1970). An album in a similar vein than the previous but more accomplished (with a few structured songs and numerous pieces of epic improvisations). "Yeti" will launch AMON DÜÜL II career outside Germany. The same year the bass guitarist Dave Anderson leaves the band to join HAWKWIND.

"Tanz Der Lemminge" which follows directly "Yeti" is an impressive work with a great diversity of powerful, emotional songs with some folk accents next to long free space jamming. Recorded in 1972, "Carnival in Babylon" announces a slight new musical direction taken by the band. This album is dominated by shorter songs with the omnipresent and beautiful Renate Knaup's vocals. A more conventional work with a few memorable prog-folk ballads. The classical period of the band will end with "Wolf City" (1972) and "Viva La Trance" (1973). After the departure of Renate Knaup who joins Popol Vuh in 1974 and the release of a few albums, AMON DÜÜL II split up. In 1981, with the album "Vortex" Chris Karrer tried without success to reform the band.

Out of the future ashes of the Munich-based hippy commune of Amon Düül, came this unit that seemed more serious about making music, other than as a social and political statement, Amon Duul II rose like a phoenix and built around Karrer (guitar), Rogner (bass) and Serfas (drums) and reputation growing, signed a deal with Liberty records and recrding their debut album in early 69, with two more members: drummer Leopold (from the other AD group) and bassist Anderson (pushing Rogner onto the keyboard stool). With two star guests, Burchard (Embryo, crosstown rivals) Trutzsch (Popol Vuh, also from the city), produced by Passport's Kübler, and graced with an astonishing psyched-out tree-and-sky artwork (courtesy of KB man Rogner), Phallus Dei is a landmark in Krautrock, also sung in a sort of medieval Upper German
Their sound is somewhat the full-on revolutionary psych of the sister group AD and much more accomplished psych groups like Floyd and the jammy Jefferson Airplane, yet having that typical early Krautrock raw sound of Can's Monster Movie. Opening the album on an Indian sitar and Burchard's vibes, the short Kanaan is an invitation to glide some 10 miles into the stratosphere on grass smoked-filled clouds for a 4-minutes short flight. The much slower strating Dem Guten Schonen Wahren turns quickly into a Floyd-like freak out (Saucerful-era) with its repetitive riff (but not too much, either) with some silly Zappa-like vocals and other artefacts like a semblance of Gregorian choirs and tons of others. Luzifers Gholom is the centrepiece of this first side, an ever-changing piece filled with an Eastern-sounding horn disappearing to let drum and bongo duet rhythming the track to chitter-chatter-like scat vocals and wild stop/go riffs, decadent ambiance and grass fumes floating about. The Henriette piece is a martial beat with semi-operatic vocals from Renate, but simply to short (2 mins) to make an impact on the album.
Of course, the album's tour de force is the title track, filling the flipside with plenty of freaky spacey sounds filling the first few minutes, much reminiscent of early TD, PV, Cluster or Kraftwerk, but past this lengthy improvised intro, Leopold (drums) and Karrer (fuzz guitar) pull the track out in open field under Andersson's pulsing and hypnotic bass (you can hear early Hawkwind in there). Later on, a weird sort of space whisper from Renate (not unlike Gilly Smyth's whims) over a Floyd-like organ, a lengthy percussion duet filled with weird sounds, including the eastern-sounding kazoo/oboe, still later Karrer's un-tuned violin, an hypnotic slow guitar until a slow ending, are the successive features of this monster track. Definitely one of ADII's crowning achievement.
With PD (the first of the Liberty Records era trilogy) is a much more accomplished album than their sister group AD could ever dream of. Later that year, the group would have one of their gig filmed while touring for this album and the film gave Amon Duul II plays Phallus Dei (now on DVD as well), but it is a still camera shooting part of the group and is best forgotten. Also that year, they would compose the soundtrack of a film San Domingo, for which they would receive a national award prize. So, while still a very inexperienced group (some members were still learning their instruments), PD remains one of those historically essential albums in rock's history.

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