Amon Duul Reviews Part One: Amon Duul I’s Entire Discography
Might as well get this over with: my “Amon Duul” reviews are going to start with the least regarded, least interesting and least respected subset of the group. In fact, I’m just reviewing all of them with one article simply to get them out of the way: believe me, the pros and cons of each are pretty much exactly the same with only minor variations.
Starting off with the worst albums by a group is an experience that many reviewers may not enjoy undergoing. However, for some it can be considered an edifying experience: get them out of the way or start of the review series with a hilarious group of insults and then moving on to the good stuff later, to explain why you even enjoy the band in the first place.
Me, I’m doing it because they came out first. It’s kind of an OCD thing: start with the earliest stuff, chronologically and work your way through the years. After all, who could enjoy a bunch of primalistic, simplistic drum pounding produced in the worst possible way? Not a lot of people.
However, there is a simple joy in much of their music that simply cannot be found anywhere else in the rock and roll world, bar perhaps “The Shaggs” (be nice, or I’ll review them). The enthusiasm of their recordings, the amateurish joy can sometimes rub off on the listener. However, the listener has to allow themselves to fall victim to these dubious joys. There is no middle ground here: the band is not goin to come to you. You have to go to them. Is it worth it? Read on to find out.
Psychedelic Underground 1969
1. “Ein Wunderhübsches Mädchen Träumt von Sandosa” (A Pretty Girl Dreaming of a Miracle in Sandosa) 2. “Kaskados Minnelied” (The Cockatoo’s Love Song) 3. “Mama Düül und ihre Sauerkrautband spielt auf” (Mama Duul and the Sauerkraut Band Plays on You) 4. “Im Garten Sandosa” (In the Garden at Sandosa) 5. “Der Garten Sandosa im Morgentau” (Morning Dew in the Garden at Sandosa) 6. “Bitterlings Verwandlung” (The Bitter Nerd’s Transformation)
6 out of 10 stars
Before we begin these reviews, let me state the band lineup: Rainer Bauer, guitar, vocals; Ulrich (Uli) Leopold, bass; Helge Filanda,congas, anvil, percussion, vocals; Wolfgang Krischke, percussion, piano; Eleonora Romana (Ella) Bauer,shaker, percussion, vocals; Angelika Filanda, percussion, vocals; Peter Leopold, drums; and Uschi Obermaier, maracas, percussion. I only mention the line up out of etiquette: it’s not as if many of these people would go on to bigger and better things.
I also apologize for the lengthy song titles: they were an absolute bitch to transfer from Wikipedia over to Open Source. The lengthy titles are also hilariously inappropriate: they sound like bad poetry or bad prog song titles. They definitely don’t match the contents of the “songs” themselves (though I do admit “The Bitter Nerd’s Transformation” is a hilarious title).
In fact, I’m going to refer to the music on this album as “grooves.” I don’t think it’s fair to call them songs, neither for the band or for potential listeners. Because if these are to be held up as songs, they album would basically get zero stars out of ten. They obviously took little time to think up: the band just went into their studio and bashed around for hours, recording every note and then randomly tweaking the recordings with studio effects.
This approach is honestly the approach that early “Amon Duul II” took but with a major difference: professionalism. That band were super pros and very serious about their jamming and studio effects. “Amon Duul” seems content to bash out a single groove endlessly and randomly insert non-related sound collages. Everything by their sister band seemed carefully planned. Everything by the original band seems anti-planned.
Which, I’m going to be honest, is pretty cool. In theory, mostly. In practice, it’s must less cool. However, I can’t deny the awesome groove that the band kicks up on several parts of this album. Track one (I’m NOT putting you through the pain of reading those pretentious song titles twice) is one of the longest, if not the longest, track done by “Amon Duul” and its also one of their best. It doesn’t really differentiate itself from the rest of their output that much: it’s primitive pounding, crashing, bashing and chanting all mining a single groove for 17 minutes.
There is little to no melody to the track: everything is pounding and bashing. The guitar work is limited to some of the most unbelievably amateurish sounding guitar ever pressed to vinyl. Even the piano parts are percussive. The band chants ridiculous nonsense over top of the din. It sounds like an awful drum circle jam come to life.
However, as pointed out by George Starostin, the length of the track actually works in the bands favor. It seems interminable at first, but at about the 8 minute mark the groove imprints itself in the mind of the listener. The rest of the track bash along at the same pace with the same groove. But by that point a listener with a suitable mind (not everybody will fall for the charm of the groove) will be completely entranced.
In fact, the rest of the album has a similar effect. Most of the tracks are pretty lengthy, creating similar hard to beat grooves. Honestly, the grooves don’t sound that much different from each other. Some are a little slower. Some are faster. Others use more sound collage effects while others use less. But they all essentially sound the same.
Which is pretty cool for a listen or two. It all sounds like a wild party with a clan of cave men, bashing around and preparing the listener for a ritual that they weren’t meant to experience. As a result, the album has a unique sound which cannot be found anywhere else in the annals of rock history. Others have tried but few have reached the fun of this record. Of course, such a record can get no more than six out of ten stars. Five stars for the uniqueness and one star for the grooves (after all, they do all sound identical).
Collapsing/Singvogel Ruckwarts & Co. 1969.
1) Booster (Kolkraben); 2) Bass, Gestrichen (Pot Plantage, Kollaps); 3) Tusch, FF; 4) Singvögel Rückwärts (Singvögel Vorwärts); 5) Lua-Lua-He (Chor Der Wiesenpieper); 6) Shattering & Fading (Flattermänner); 7) Nachrichten Aus Cannabistan; 8) Big Sound (Die Show Der Blaumeisen); 9) Krawall (Repressiver Montag); 10) Blech & Aufbau (Bau, Steine & Erden); 11) Natur (Auf Dem Lande).
3 out of 10 stars
“Amon Duul”’s recording output immediately takes a nose-dive with this album, released in the same year as “Psychedelic Underground.” Many listeners may not understand why the album gets such a low rating. However, it’s very easy to explain: this album is literally made up of material from the exact same recording sessions as their debut. So, it essentially sounds exactly the same as the first album.
To some, this may not be a big deal. For me, it’s a little bit ridiculous. I mean, it’s not as if they mine different moods with these pieces or explore uncharted territory: it sounds exactly the same. Except this time the grooves come in smaller, easier to digest chunks. On the surface, it may seem better to have shorter grooves but it actually cripples the album.
Think about it: what’s the best part about listening to a live James Brown groove? Is it the complex interaction of the instruments? James’ vocal improvisations? The solos? No way: it is the rhythmic thrust of each groove extended to nearly intolerable lengths. The groove seeps into your very being and nearly becomes part of your being.
Now, imagine one of these live grooves was cut down to two or three minutes in length. It completely eliminates the power of the repetition. It removes the hypnotic power of the repetition on the mind (a real, studied effect that is incredibly fascinating) and renders it moot. Instead of being hypnotic it becomes annoying. What an odd effect.
That said, the grooves are simply less engaging. It truly seems like the group picked the best grooves for the first album and were scraping the bottom of the barrel with this album. The sound collages and effects are slightly downplayed as well, eliminating much of the sense of randomness which could occasionally make the first album engaging the first time you heard it.
So the score breaks down as one star for the grooves, one star for the balls to release the album (I mean really, it takes some gall to release two albums that sound like this) and the third star because I’m in a halfway decent mood. After all, I’m listening to “The Yardbirds” BBC Sessions while watching the Who’s stupid “Tommy” movie. How could I be in a bad mood?!
Pardieswarts Duul 1970
1) Love Is Peace; 2) Snow Your Thirst And Sun Your Open Mouth; 3) Paramechanische Welt; 4) Eternal Flow; 5) Paramechanical World.
5 out of 10 stars
“Amon Duul” rebounds a bit with their third album. The original album featured three long stracks while CD reissues add two tracks that made up a contemporary single. Unlike their past two albums (and their next two double albums) this album was created in a studio session that did not originate from their massive jam session.
In fact, the album can be seen by the band as an attempt to escape their percussion heavy, amateur drum ritualism and into the world of real music. Perhaps they were inspired by their sister band and their success? Or maybe they were sick of the repetitive nature of their past (and future) albums and wanted to try something a bit more varied and artistically interesting?
Whatever the reason, the album has a much lighter touch than past albums. Acoustic guitars replace the acid rock heaviness of past albums. The drums are very light most of the time and there are light touches of production and arrangement, such as piano, bass and guitar.
And the production is much easier on the ears than previous “Amon Duul” albums. Although that isn’t saying much: their first two albums seemed to be recorded to a tape recorder and mixed with a wooden oar. This album has very clean sound and very careful separation of elements. Everything sounds professionally done and is very easy to listen to for extended periods. The listener doesn’t have to take a break to test their hearing, as was true in the past (and the future).
However, as is obvious by the rating, this isn’t a very successful attempt to create “real” music. The basic problem lies in the band’s musicianship: they are simply too weak of musicians to create truly compelling music. They are obviously going for a “tranquil” air (“paradieswarts” should be an indication of “paradise” or tranquility) and try to create “beautiful” or even “pretty” musical backdrops.
But the band simply doesn’t know how to make that kind of music. You can’t simply strum a few basic chords and play a few simple piano melodies and call it “tranquil” or “evocative.” They simply repeat a few basic phrases over and over again. This is a major problem when it comes to “beautiful” pieces as beauty can simply not be created with such simplicity. You have to work for true beauty.
The band is definitely working here and you can appreciate the effort while still realizing its largely for naught. The songs drift lazily by your ear without engaging your senses like the best of their work. Many people will simply be waiting for the album to get over.
However, even in such a format as this, the band once again succeeds best in long form. In fact, if one wants to be inordinately kind to such a poor band (after all, true kindness is rare these days) you could try to make a case that work such as this could work as a type of “ambient” style of music. After all, its not as if the pieces develop. You could play any of these tracks at any point and still have the same basic sounding music.
And its not as if the music is damaging to your ear. Unlike other albums by the band, this album is gentle, peaceful and not at all dissonant or pounding. You can enjoy it while making tea, just before a nap or as a method of calming wild children. As a result, the album does have some worth to it. Three stars for the attempt at making music and two for the actual music. In fact, this is the band’s second best album. Everything is down hill from here.
1) Drum Things (Erschlagzeugtes); 2) Asynchron (Verjault Und Zugeredet); 3) Yea Yea Yea (Zerbeatelt); 4) Broken (Ofensivitäten); 5) Somnium (Trauma); 6) Frequency (Entzwei); 7) Autonomes (Entdrei); 8) Chaoticolour (Entsext); 9) Expressionidiom (Kapuntterbunt); 10) Altitude (Quäär Feld Aus); 11) Impropulsion (Noch’n Lied).
1 out of 10 stars
I gotta give “Amon Duul” credit: they sure know how to name their albums. After the relative “paradise” of their third album they dive headfirst into the muck with “Disaster” an album that fails on all fronts to be engaging, entertaining or even listenable. The band simply went too far this time and paid the price (a poor review on a poorly web blog. That’ll learn em!).
What is is that separates this album from their first three? Well, very little honestly. The grooves come from the same jam session that birthed the first two albums. Yes, they are still milking that jam session for all its worth. I honestly believe that this was the only jam session the band ever recorded. I also believe it lasts exactly as long as all of the lengths of these albums added together.
Why? Because I am 100% sure they simply released every second of the jam session. After all, why would they release a DOUBLE album of percussive grooves? That’s right, this album is twice the length of “Psychedelic Underground” and is nowhere near as effective.
This is in spite of better sound quality and more manageable groove lengths. Yes, the grooves are longer than “Collapsing” (explaining why this is a double album with the exact same number of songs as that album) but the groove lengths should be long to be appreciated. The problem doesn’t lie in the groove lengths or the sound quality though: it lies in the quality of the grooves. And these grooves stink.
Of course, this is a highly subjective opinion. How can I prove that these grooves are really worse than the grooves on the first album? Honestly, I can’t. Yet somehow, it feels that way anyways. Perhaps the band is actually hampered by better sound quality? The touchy sound quality on the first two albums gave them a “audio verite” feel that made you feel like you were at an actual primitive ritual, which greatly enhanced their effectiveness.
Perhaps the simplest explanation is the most believable: two albums of this drum heavy shit is simply too much to take in one sitting. I’m sorry that I haven’t explained the sound of the album more individually but if you’ve heard ANY of this band’s album (bar the third) you’ve heard them all. And its getting old.
The album gets one star for truth in advertising. This truly is a complete disaster for the band. The band must have realized this, as they didn’t release another album for 11 years. How would it stack up against past albums?
1-24) Special Track Experience
1 out of 10 stars
I want the reader to know that I actually listened to all of these albums in a single sitting in one day. I started with “Psychedelic Underground” and worked my way up to this double album (that’s right, another double). At first, I was a bit excited: after all, the grooves on “Psychedelic Underground” were a hell of a lot of stupid fun. Maybe the band would be better than I thought.
However, as groove after groove passed my ear, I slowly began to lose hope. My positive feelings slowly melted into ambivalence and then into near hostility. How could a band release music this poor and repetitive and not be deeply ashamed? After all, the guitarist for “Amon Duul” would later make an appearance on “Amon Duul II”’s second album “Yeti.” Their sound recorder would appear on that album’s cover (and then freeze to death during an acid trip). Were the band deluded enough to think they were releasing great, ground breaking music?
Oddly, the answer to that question appears to be “no, no they didn’t.” As a matter of fact, the band wasn’t even releasing these albums: it was a producer who was trying to cash in on the success of “Amon Duul II” by releasing excerpts from the jam sessions. This isn’t to say that the band didn’t release albums on their own: the first three albums can be considered to have been released by the band’s own free will. The last two were not. And they are the band’s worst albums.
Now, this is the story I had read somewhere online. I’m a piss poor researcher and I never saved or annotated that source. It was probably Wikipedia. However, I actually believe this theory based on the auditory evidence. Especially with 1983’s “Experimente” a “better late than never” entry into the psychedelic sound wars. And does it hold up?
Have you been paying attention? I know you have: you know the answer. Of course it doesn’t. Why some rogue producer (or the band itself) would think to release an even longer collection of outtakes from a jam session…okay, we can pause here for a moment so you can cry a bit over the idea of “outtakes from jam sessions.” Take your time.
Ready? Good. Obviously, this simply cannot hold up to the band’s past work, let alone their contemporaries from the same time, let alone the musical climate of 1983. This album features 24 ultra short to medium length grooves all named “Experience” and numbered after their track number.
And its torture. What I said about “Collapsing” holds true here, except ten times more fully. How can you give into a groove that last a minute and a half? You can’t. It ceases becoming a groove and becomes either a) song b) an experiment. Since none of these are songs, they can only be called experiments. And since this type of experimentation was already beat to death in 1983 (and since they obviously already released all the “good” grooves and experiments on previous albums) what chance does this album have?
None. It’s a pretentious mess that simply has no reason to have been released or even heard. The fact that it stay sin print boggles the mind. 10 stars for the audacity to release an album like this in 1983 and negative 9 stars for the pretentiousness and inadequacy of the work. Avoid this album at all costs. As a matter of fact, you can avoid “Amon Duul” altogether to be honest. There’s a reason I reviewed all of these albums in one ultra long article: to get them out of the way.
The first couple of albums are good as historical pieces but hardly good music. They really only serve as a historical footnote to the career of “Amon Duul II” and as a sign of how bad that band could have turned out. Turn in next time for a review of “Phallus Dei.”