Audion #44

Spring 2001 A4 44 pages

IQ -
Oakwood Centre, Rotherham, 16/12/00
- York, 25/10/00
ENDGAME "Catalyst"
(article & interview)
KLAUS SCHULZE "The Ultimate Edition"
(book review)

out of print / sold out!

Example article extract

One of the original underground legends of Krautrock, the Munich band...
...who cross-bred jazz fusions and psychedelia into a unique Krautrock brand of their own.

Avid Krautrocker Alan Freeman digs deeper into their history...

Gaining focus...

Existing for ten years or so, Out Of Focus were amongst the finest of German rock fusion bands. They were also one of the most enigmatic, in that their albums became widely talked about internationally though few had the fortune to hear them. Like most of the albums from the old rock era on the Kuckuck label, their releases had become rarer and rarer and highly collectable. By the time we'd published our Krautrock encyclopedia "The Crack In The Cosmic Egg", however, a whole new generation of collectors now had chance to discover Out Of Focus via the Kuckuck/Ohrwaschl CD reissues which had become widely available through specialist retailers like Ultima Thule, Musea, Wayside, et al. But what did anyone know about the history of Out Of Focus? Very little. The short article in Günther Ehnert's "Rock In Deutschland" is a bit sketchy, but from that and various press-clippings I formulated the following article...

Formed in late 1968 in Munich, they rapidly established a stylish and refined blend of rock and jazz, that drew in psychedelic overtones and also a profound socio-political awareness in Moran Neumüller's songs. The early albums exhibited that unique character of Krautrock (akin to Xhol, Thirsty Moon, etc.) with pure invention in a music that transcends boundaries, taking the rock song beyond its normal format with extended instrumentals featuring an abundance of solos and surprises. I would argue that Out Of Focus started excellent, and got even better with each album. Probably the finest of all their albums was the monumental double FOUR LETTER MONDAY AFTERNOON, almost certainly a dedication to Soft Machine's revolutionary double THIRD, it similarly had mainly instrumental and lengthy tracks, although the first LP is a little more down to earth, the unprecedented surprise is the extended suite that encompassed the whole of the second LP! It seems amazing that a band were able to start off with a masterpiece and better it with each subsequent album, yet that's what Out Of Focus did!

It's a shame that Kuckuck withdrew its interest in Krautrock in the mid-70's, as it left Out Of Focus without the chance of a contract elsewhere. There were plans for a release with the April/Schneeball collective in 1975, in fact an album was recorded, yet all that eventually emerged was one track on a festival LP, by which time they had changed into a more conventional jazz-rock band, featuring only one original member: Remigius Drechsler (who subsequently went on to Embryo).

Cosmic Egg cracks...

When Remi knew that we (Alan & Steve of Ultima Thule and Audion) were planning to set up a Krautrock CD label he was eager to sort something out for us. And, if he could find the "missing" album, we would be the first he would offer it to. Well, lo-and-behold, Remi did find an unreleased album, though it wasn't a fully produced multi-track master, but he was satisfied that the music was so good that it would be well-worth the work of restoring it and finishing-off the production master in his new digital studio. This took a while, and then it took us a while to raise the finances, convert graphics and text files, etc. for the cover. In the meantime Remi also negotiated a vinyl release on the German Tripkick label (a label of note, with previous releases from: Guru Guru and Xhol Caravan). So, the debut from Cosmic Egg has definite pedigree, be it not a cosmic album itself, but Krautrock of superb character no less!

Aptly titled NOT TOO LATE, this archive CD could be the unreleased 4th album referred to in the article above. It was quite a coup to get this, as long-standing Out Of Focus member Remigius Drechsler swore that they'd never completed another album. But, a search through his old tapes revealed the rough mixes that make up this CD. Upon auditioning the tapes Remi discovered that the five tracks amounted a successful and cohesive album, an album that would stand up really well against their previous output.

The line-up on this disc continued the transitional phase that started with the big band formula of FOUR LETTER MONDAY AFTERNOON, with winds virtuoso Ingo Schmidt-Neuhaus joining the band full-time, and Hennes Hering (keyboard player on all the previous albums) had left the band. His role was replaced by a second guitarist, one Wolfgang Göhringer, who fitted in with Remi like the guitar duet entanglement that was such a success with Agitation Free. The multiple winds and extensive use of guitar and studio effects meant that the keyboards weren't really missed, with the resultant instrumental sound moving closer to Baden-Baden band Brainstorm, with notable nods to Soft Machine.

Moran Neumüller's songs here are less politically invoked than much of previous political un-correctness. In That's Very Easy he entwines a song in the style of early Caravan into a beautifully crafted heavy-on-the-winds psychedelic fusion "... that's just because you are stoned!" exclaims Moran in the refrain, before taking us into a cosmic entwined flute number that reminds of Yatha Sidhra (another cosmic fusion legend from the South of Germany) before letting-rip in patent Out Of Focus fashion. The Way I Know Her is Moran's most simple of songs, an antidote to the heady sounds that surround it. Those are the instrumental slabs simply titled X and Y. These are like a hybrid of classic early-70's Soft Machine, blended with the Krauty fusions of bands like Wolfgang Dauner's Etcetera, Aera, Embryo, and the likes.
If none of that means anything to you, we're talking about that field of progressive music inhabited by bands like the British Neon label acts:
Raw Material or Tonton Macoute, or maybe a little early Nucleus, and sometimes the Dutch jazzy progressives Alquin or Solution. All of it full of creativity and a furious succession of solos and complex diversions in the music. This is breathtaking stuff. The album's sizzling finalé Spanish Lines will soon lock its catchy melody into your brain, as it runs like a sizzling surging Soft Machine riff given the power of classic Krautrock invention. A stunning end to a stunning album.

Embryo's and Kontrast...

Kontrast saw ex-Out Of Focus members: Remigius Drechsler, Ingo Schmid-Neuhaus and Moran Neumüller, working together again in the 80's, after having been apart for several years. Remigius had been with Embryo for a couple of years prior to this, and actually Kontrast was his project and not a proper band as such. In fact, one track is Remigius entirely solo, with the aid of some nifty multi-tracking! Most of the album however, is pretty much live rockin' fusion stepping on from the second disc of Out Of Focus' FOUR LETTER MONDAY AFTERNOON, as a refined and complex fusion, atypical of the Munich scene, with the edge on experimentation and weirdness. Although
little-known, the Kontrast LP deserves it's growing reputation as one of the finest examples of 1980's Krautrock alongside Embryo's ZACK GLUCK.


Article by Alan Freeman

To read the complete article - buy the magazine! There are also additional selected page images on Bookogs.


A review...


Dit Britse blad over “explorations in sound and music “ heeft waarschijnlijk een van de laagste verschijningsfrequenties van aIle hier besproken periodieken: in de afgelopen 5 jaar verschenen in totaal 10 uitgaves. Dus gemiddeld 2 per jaar.... In de redactionele tekst in Audion #44 schrijft een van de twee makers, Alan Freeman, dat ze erg druk zijn met hun andere aktiviteiten. Dat is met name het runnen van hun winkel en postorderbedrijf ‘Ultima Thule’. 1k kan me, als maker van een tijdschrift, heel goed voorstellen hoe Iastig dat te cornbineren is...

Het muziekgebied dat ze bestrijken omschrijven ze zelf als “Between prog and the avant-garde, via the new age to new wave, to post rock, or whatever new genre names they have come up with recently!”. Op een andere plek schrijven ze daarover: “Audion’s role is to try and give a voice to the music that many other magazines overlook, or at least give a different viewpoint on things, to help you open up to music you may otherwise never encounter.” Om je een idee te geyen, hier wat namen: Mythos, Ozric Tentacles, Robert Rich, Roedelius, Bjorn Lynne, Dieter Moebius, Sussan Deyhirn, Einsturzende Neubauten, The Flower Kings, IQ, Spock’s Beard, Splattercell, Vidna Obrnana, White Noise, Third Ear Band, RUdiger Lorenz, Bernard Szajner, Brainticket en Ash Ra Tern pel.

Het blad is opA4 formaat, in zwartlwit, en telt ruim 40 pagina’s. Je treft er rubrieken aan met nieuws over musici, releaselijsten, reviews van her-uitgaves, enkele concert- en festivalbesprekingen, specials over bepaalde labels (bijvoorbeeld DiN en Electroshock), boekbesprekingen, een special over avant-garde muziek, een serie over Franse experimentele muziek, heel veel cd-besprekingen en kontakt-adressen. Verder staan er veel advertenties in van labels en winkels met een grote collectie bijzondere muziek. Er staan wat foto’s en hoes-afdrukken in het blad, maar de kwaliteit daarvan is vrij slecht.

Al met aIls Audion een blad voor de Iiefhebbers van de wat ‘vreemdere’ of ‘experimentelere’ muziek. De vakkennis van de auteurs Steve en Alan Freeman is overigens fenomenaal....

PAGINA 10, KLEM 107 (October 2001)