Neu! - Box Set
by Donny Kutzbach
With a simple, repeated, 4/4 beat and stripped, cascading melodics often based around one single chord, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger left an indelible mark on late 20th-century music. They hunkered down in Düsseldorf, Germany in the early 1970s to little success, but the long haul would prove NEU!’s importance, as well as the ongoing influence of the “motorik” beat and the band’s majestic, glistening, brightly metallic future drone. The NEU! legacy stretches far beyond the limiting constraints of so-called krautrock. Count among the legion of NEU! adherents David Bowie, Brian Eno, Wilco, Radiohead, Stereolab, Holy Fuck, and dozens of other artists and composers working in varied strains of music.
NEU!—German for “new”—is in name and appearance a pop art slogan, ever appearing in stencil-like block lettering with the ever-present exclamation point that exudes at once simplicity but hints at a greater profundity. Perfect, then, for what Rother and Dinger were out to accomplish. After helping lay the groundwork for German experimental music from 1970-1971 as part of the earliest version of Kraftwerk, the pair split off on their own, taking with them producer Konrad “Conny” Plank. Eschewing traditional song structure for a feel and taste for offbeat sonic textures and detours, NEU! made music with no antecedent and that since has rippled through postpunk, ambient, experimental, electronic, and beyond. It’s magnificent to have the entire output of such artists placed in one package as a whole. The catch with this latest complete NEU! set is that it is vinyl-only, though included is a download code for the contents of the five albums in digital format. In addition to the band’s three classic 1970s releases, included are a rare live maxi-single from 1972 and a previously unreleased studio album—NEU! ’86—as finely- pressed, remastered LP versions. Also included is a 36-page book of rare photographs from Anton Corbijn and Peter Lindbergh, among others, along with new writings on the history and inner workings of the band. To listen to the sprawling “Negativland” from the debut NEU! album or the chugging, nearly 10-minute stretch of “E-Musik” from NEU! 3 is to wander into an alternate universe of hypnotic, ineffaceable groove where warm, shining mercury-malleable melodies spin, soar, and invert. It’s worth noting that Rother and a group of musicians including Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley—filling in at drums for the late Dinger, who passed away in 2008—will play as Hallogallo (a name borrowed from the opening track of the 1972 NEU self-titled debut) as he continues to celebrate the ongoing drive and development of NEU!’s music as part of the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in Monticello, New York, on Saturday, September 4.
—donny kutzbachblog comments powered by Disqus
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