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Neu! | NEU! / NEU! 2 / NEU! 75
Neu! and improved. The most eagerly awaited reissues of the year have finally hit the streets. The holy trinity of Krautrock is now legitimately available once more and Neu!'s engines have never sounded as lean and mean, ready to hit the accelerator and burn rubber down the sonic autobahn. The reputation of these mighty works precedes them and the likes of Tortoise, Trans-Am, Primal Scream and, most of all, Stereolab have all genuflected with great reverence at the altar of Neu! The duo of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger formed Neu! out of the early fluctuating line up of those other electronically minded mavericks, Kraftwerk, retreating to Conrad Plank's Dusseldorf studio to record 1971's most forward thinking album. The austere wah-wah guitar of Rother, wrenched from its familiar funk credentials, ekes out its stoic mantra over the persuasively minimal percussion of Dinger, a drummer fresh out of the Maureen Tucker school of thought. Heard again on this reissue, Hallogallo sounds as fresh and contemporary as the finest work of those other Krautrock superstars, Can, who deploy similar techniques of rhythmical repetition to breathtaking effect. The propulsive power of Hallogallo and proto-Industrial sounds of Negativland sit in perfect harmony with the pastoral themes of Im gluck and Weissensee, where Rother's guitar lies exhausted, gazing at the twinkling panorama of the night sky, and Dinger's shimmering cymbals wash like a gentle tide. The unexpected success of their debut album led to record company pressure for an equally earth shattering follow up. Alas, this was not to be. Financial difficulties precipitated creative tensions as NEU! 2 is split between the variations on the Hallogallo theme that make up the tracks Fur Immer, Super and Lila Engel and the deeply eccentric speeded up and slowed down reinventions of these tracks. Krautrock enthusiast Julian Cope describes these pieces as "pop-art collage", but, more realistically, they sound alarmingly like the sound of a group having the financial rug pulled out from under them and ordered to finish the LP! Although the power of the standout tracks on NEU! 2 cannot be denied, the maelstrom in which the album was created transfers itself to the grooves and renders this the least essential of the three reissues. Indeed the tensions of the whole experience led to Rother and Dinger parting company and creating separate projects from the NEU! blueprint, respectively the groups Harmonia and La Dusseldorf, whose albums are highly recommended, but difficult to track down. The NEU! split was, thankfully, only temporary as the duo had the good sense to give NEU!75 to the world. This is the NEU! masterwork, a perfect realisation of the urban/pastoral axis that had twinkled on their previous albums. NEU!75 positively shines with ecstatic abandon. One eye is re-evaluating its own past, as in the piano led reworking of Hallogallo that is Isi and the rippling collage of tide, keyboard, clock and whispered vocals of Leb'Wohl that evokes the gentility of Leiber Honig. But, the other eye is glaring proudly into the future, with the Sex Pistols-esque ramalama of Hero and After Eight. This reissue enhances Conrad Plank's pop production of the album and one wonders how the landscape of the 1970s may have changed if Rother and Dinger's muse had rattled furiously to the top of the charts.

Simon Berkovitch
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001