A whole legion of young hipsters have tuned in to post-rock bands like Tortoise and Stereolab. And a thriving community of musicians in Chicago (and elsewhere) have turned toward this sound, combining elements of rock and jazz with electronic music. While there's a lot of great music coming out today, it's important to take a step back and see where it all got started.
Look into Kraut rock and you'll find the answers. Distinctively German in origin, this movement had its roots in seminal recordings by the groups Can and Faust. They combined a strong attachment for rolling rhythms, short improvisations, and effective use of the drone. Behind the scenes, producers were slapping textures together quite creatively. BBC Sessions + takes us all the way back to early 1973, when John Peel broadcast Faust on BBC radio. The first track on this disc (from the Peel sessions) is a previously unreleased recording which first saw the light of day in last year's ReR five-CD box set. As a sampler from that set, BBC Sessions + takes the "plus" very seriously, adding on a number of unreleased tracks plus some material put out on vinyl in the late '80s.
What to make of this odd mixture? In a way, it makes a lot of sense to throw these pieces together. They range in mood from Miles Davis-era fusion, complete with hornsto pounding pre-industrial distortionto breakdown psychadeliato mixed-up collages of conversational German, ping-pong ball noises, and dog barks. With Faust, anything goes. And why not slap it all together? With several competent musicians at the helm, plus radically inventive production, this music was thirty years ahead of its time. BBC Sesssions + is a wonderful introduction to this musical revolution; it eagerly rips up the fences that form boundaries between pop, jazz, psychadelia, and electronica. When "conventional" vocals do appear (as at the end of the BBC portion), they're hopelessly dated (and quite Kraftwerk-like), but they add a certain sense of continuity, briefly converting the collage music into song form.
Yes, indeed, BBC Sessions + is from 1973. The technology then (studio as well as recording) was not what it is today. But in a way that makes this effort even more remarkable. In the era when tape splicing and overdubs (with simple analog effects) were the dominant tools of the trade, music like this took real talent to create. Look for some excellent improvisation scattered amidst all the groove and drone on this disc; and perhaps a bulb will light up in your brain next time you hear Tortoise or your modern-day post-rock band of choice.
Faust got back together in 1993 after a couple decades of silence, and they've done well for themselves both live and on disc. But these are the roots of a huge tree that's still sprouting branches, so dig it. I cannot recommend this disc highly enough to the open-minded listener. It's wild.
BBC 1.3.73 (The Lurcher; Kraut Rock; Do So); Party 9; (360); Party 10; Party 1; We Are the Hallo Men; So Far (alternative); Meer (alternative).
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