February 1998 A4 44 pages
ROCK IN OPPOSITION - Part 5: Stormy Six
original (last 276 copies)
Example article extract
The first I ever heard of this project was when Chris Karrer sent me a
cassette recording that he seemed really chuffed about. To quote (in a letter
dated 2 June, 1997) Chris told me...
With such a cast as...
It took a while to get this article together, as I really wanted to get a response from the various musicians involved in this project, and to find out in a little more detail how the Space Explosion happened. Thanks to the fax machine this process is all that much faster, and I got a good deal of feedback on the subject.
My natural assumption was that the idea of Space Explosion all started around Dieter Moebius. Well, Dieter, as we all should know, was in one of the earliest supergroups: Kluster (a supergroup that didn't know it was a supergroup), and later without the pioneering avant-gardist Conrad Schnitzler, as the duo Cluster he and Hans Joachim Roedelius also joined in supersession collaborative projects headed by Guru Guru members: Mani Neumeier on MANI UND SEINE FREUNDE and Ax Genrich's HEIDELBERG project. Whatever way you look at it, this was the roots of it all, the first meetings of Dieter and Mani, and the notion of inter-group co-operation. Though, the actual germ of the Space Explosion idea (as a form of cosmic rock) didn't take form until Harmonia were created (coupling Cluster with Neu! guitarist Michael Rother), a project that also drew in collaborators like Brian Eno and Mani Neumeier. The second Harmonia album DELUXE is the first record to place Mani's drums against Moebius' chugging electronics. Strangely, Dieter's first attempt at a supersession featured no one actually involved in any of his other ongoing projects, but brought together a more offbeat crew. Liliental was the project name, and they made an extraordinary and unique cosmic album. In the band was obscure newcomer Hamburg avant-gardist Asmus Tietchens, 60's hippy Okko Bekker, the master engineer Conny Plank, and the unlikely duo of Kraan members Johannes Pappert and Helmut Hattler. The hybrid of avant-garde, Kosmische and Krautrock fusion styles made for an unprecedented and unusual album. Liliental gave birth to the Moebius & Plank duo, who released two revolutionary albums (well worth seeking out together on 1 CD), but paled with further releases, even when adding Mani Neumeier. The focus of the Space Explosion was forming, but the time and the mood was wrong. This was the low point of Krautrock, only the new-age and Schulze/Tangerine Dream type synth music was getting any notice, despite a still struggling underground. Sadly Conny Plank died in 1987. In the meantime Dieter worked on other projects and reformed Cluster. Their new albums APROPOS and ONE HOUR, due to their strangeness and innovation, caused quite a stir. I could well imagine that ideas for a new Liliental were formulating in Dieter Moebius' head.
Well, that's one side of the story. The story of how Dieter and Mani got to working together. Though, apparently, that's not where the idea of this project came from, as Space Explosion is not Herr Moebius' project at all. The roots actually start back in 1995, when Mani Neumeier and Jürgen Engler got together at the Atom-H studios, and made a tongue-in-cheek Der Elektrolurch techno and hybrid remix collaboration EP under the name Gurumania. Not such a success from my viewpoint, though for the Mani-Jürgen axis of the project, this was the encounter that set the spark. Mani's always been involved in all manner of collaborations, he can be found working today in anything from free-jazz with Irene Schweizer, to the reformed Guru Guru, and further with the avant-rock Tiere Der Nacht. Mani has never been content with being just a drummer, as his recent solos prove, and he's not content with following one avenue in music either. Jürgen Engler is quite well‑known as the leader of Die Krupps, and he's long been a Krautrock fan (though you'd not know it from later Die Krupps records), notably the Die Krupps debut STAHWERKSYNFONIE from 1981 was recorded at Can's studio. So, when Mani introduced Jürgen to Dieter Moebius, they hit it off famously, and a new project was created with the super-trio: Moebius-Neumeier-Engler (aka "Cosmic Couriers 1" in the USA) and the album OTHER PLACES, which took the Cluster sound to more trancey realms. They were getting there, though obviously they realised some wild-card Krautrockers were needed. Who could they get? I gather that quite a few people were considered (I've heard various rumours), though I couldn't have thought of anyone better than Chris Karrer and two Faust members being involved. Wild cards for some wild and phenomenal Krautrock. Yes, indeed!
Jamming at Atom-H
Mani describes the experience as "All together, live, loud, with lots of smoke" with the concept being a "live recording in the studio, overdue only by Chris Karrer" and saw his own role to "Concentrate the cracks around me" to be "pure, archaic, simple and strong", he goes on "playing with much feeling and power - intensive, fast, don't talk, play.." Ahem, yes Mani - seems like you really enjoyed it!
Jürgen Engler confirms Mani's story about the roots of the project, though it seems (on large) that he himself was the impetus behind getting it all together, if you read this... "We invited Chris Karrer from Amon Düül (another old friend of Mani's). I tried to get hold of Faust. They were on a French tour at the time. They decided to join us spontaneously. Jaki Liebezeit was also invited, and actually wanted to come, but had a long session the night before, so he didn't show up. Damo Suzuki (the ex-Can singer) was also invited, but was not interested in working in a studio. He said he prefers live work. He would join us if we ever played live." Getting a little deeper "We worked as a band. The music is pure improvisation, with everybody having been in the recording room at the same time without overdubs and corrections. I was in the control room playing along with my synth and talkbox. We took two days recording and the same time mixing." And, as to the Space Explosion project, it is "a Krautrock all-star Band with changing members, except for the initiators Moebius, Neumeier and Engler. The follow-up for Space Explosion will have Michael Karoli from Can on guitar, probably all the other fellow musicians from Space Explosion I, and maybe several other surprise guests".
Over to Jean-Hervé for his side of the story... "We (Faust) were contacted by Jürgen Engler (die Krupps) who is a Kraut-fan and very dynamic. He asked if we could join the project. Werner Diermaier and myself were enthusiastic about it. Well, Werner and I packed a few things in my van and we headed for Düsseldorf. I was really excited about the idea of meeting these guys. I had no contact whatsoever with any of them, although we seem to be on a similar wavelength. And, so it worked right from the beginning - of course, without defined composition. Mani, Jürgen and Moebius had already laid down a few tracks. Werner and I played on top of them for a start, then we decided to make a few takes of altogether improvisation. Chris Karrer arrived during the night, and after a long "smoke" session, he laid his violin and sax here and there. Werner and I left the next day, while Jürgen/Mani/Moebius would mix".
I asked Jean-Hervé about what it was like to do this fresh new music. "All in all, it was a great experience for me to, at last, meet them all (Jaki Liebezeit decided not to take part - too bad) and the general atmosphere was like teenagers meeting to do something forbidden! Very funny. We talked a lot, we smoked a lot, and we had no problem to get the music going!"
This spirit of invention, daring to do something totally avant‑garde in rock music, without fear of commercial consequences, is what made the original era of Krautrock so special. Maybe, as the spearhead of a new front, Space Explosion will dare others to be "like teenagers meeting to do something forbidden!", after all fun and invention is what it's all about, and a little good music along the way too!
The Space Explosion review!
The genius of this album, is all down to musicians all seasoned by 20 to 30 years on the Krautrock, progressive and avant-garde scenes. Genius in placing two so radically different drummers together: Mani Neumeier with his intricate and nimbly complex jazz and ethnic roots, Zappi Diermaier with his purely brazen use of mechanical structures, crashing metal and mayhem. Genius in juxtaposing electronic pioneers of the old and new wave: Moebius and Engler. And then we have two of Krautrock's leading front men.
True, such an improvisational concept has lead to a weird music, a music that is going to challenge many. Right from the start, we're plunged into a bizarre world of sound. The near 17 minute Dino Dream could have been inspired by the Harmonia track Dino, but there again maybe not. Its chug‑a‑chug rhythm threatens to drown the listener - very Moebius & Plank, with bubbling and gurgling electronics, violin flecks and screeches, metal-crashes, and a strange horn sound which introduces Jean-Hervé. The brain is sizzled... I couldn't believe this the first time I heard it. Hereon the mood grows, Chris' violin scuttles to fore, then it all diverts and disintegrates most strangely, moving into a distinctive Jean-Hervé acoustic guitar motif (very Faust), diverting momentarily, before returning and building, with the drums growing furiously Can-like in the realms of SOON OVER BABALUMA.
Article by Alan Freeman
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