“Call Kraftwerk’s Radio-Activity the theme song for maybe the best thing I’ve ever done with my time – radio, that is. The creative exploitation of those airwaves I’ve had access to – the chances taken and the activities pursued, all the while never trying to sell anybody anything except perhaps the notion that freedom is real … at least for an hour or four every now and then, late at night, after the normals have gone to bed and the bureaucratic restrictions have been mostly lifted. Not that Radioactivity’s only about that kind of radio. It also concerns the other kind, discovered by Madame Curie (I actually learned this from Kraftwerk). But the one, of course, informs the other, all those mysterious and invisible waves permeating our various spheres and personalities, touching our souls, beaming off into space, alerting who knows what alien entities of our existence … perhaps a hundred million light years from now, when they finally get the message. And the amusing thing would be if the first song they ever heard was title track of Kraftwerk’s 1975 masterpiece – the geniuses from Dusseldorf doing their damnedest to sound like machines, releasing great depths of humanity in the process.” (Philip Random)
“I doubt I’ll ever find the words for how wonderfully, ecstatically, profoundly the so-called Krautrock combo known as Can have affected me since I first crossed paths with them sometime around my twenty-fourth birthday. I guess I could write a book, but somebody already has. And anyway who’s got the time? But assuming I did, I suspect I’d give at least a chapter to that lamest of all Lollapaloozas. 1994, I think, Cloverdale BC, traffic jams, shitty food, too much sun, not enough water, too much dope, too many big deal bands not really delivering, failing to send me anywhere I hadn’t been before … except for maybe Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds until some loogan tossed a shoe at the stage. And that was that, early exit. F*** you, somebody.
And then, a few long hours later, it’s getting on sunset and I just want to cut my losses, go home, except I’ve lost touch with my ride, so whatever, I’m just sitting there alone in the middle of a very crowded field, waiting for the Beastie Boys who are up next, but I just saw them last year in a smaller, cooler, better situation, so no, I’m not feeling much in the way of excitement or anticipation. But then their pre-show DJ does a genius thing, drops the needle on Can’s Oh Yeah, from Tago Mago, certainly their biggest album … and it’s perfect, seven or so minutes of pulsing groove and eerie drones and backwards vocals and jagged rips of sideways guitar that somehow merges with the crowd noise and dust and fading light and redeems the f***ing the day, pulls all of its fragmented pieces together, makes it whole, worth all the trouble. Yeah, I could have just listened to the same record at home, sitting on the patio with a beer and a joint, but that would be like taking a helicopter to the peak of some notable mountain. Sometimes the trouble is the point, as I try to remind myself whenever shit keeps going sideways, going anywhere but where and how I want it. Such is life, I guess. If it was supposed to easy, they would have called it something else. And a song like Oh Yeah – it just wouldn’t matter as much.” (Philip Random)
“Because there had to be at least one endless and eternal Berlin School mid-70s analog-synth epic on this list, and nobody ever did those better than Klaus Schulze. He started with Tangerine Dream, co-founded Ash Ra Tempel, but it took going solo (and various evolutions in synth and sequencing technology) to truly set things into infinite motion. Such that I might be saved (sort of) twenty years later – the weight of the whole damned universe driving me down for as many reasons as there are stars in the sky. I finally end up on the floor, flattened with worry and doom … except somehow or other Floating was playing. Did I put it on, or did it just happen? Either way, it did as advertised, got me floating, rising outside my miserable self, noticing miracles like the world outside my window, a beautiful day with birds singing, a breeze blowing, the sun a warm and benign 93 million mile wonder, with all the vastness and precision of eternity beyond. What was I even worried about?” (Philip Random)
Neu! being German for New! Hero being the closest Neu! ever came to a proper song with lyrics and singing and everything. Meanwhile, at pretty much the same moment in time, somewhere across town, their former band mates Kraftwerk were perfecting what would come to be known as techno-music. So maybe call Hero a proto-form of punk. Beat simple and four-to-the-floor, everything else snarling melodically along until screaming to noise at the end. And the world would hear it one way or another, the times would change. And seriously, who better than some malcontent German hippies to call bullshit on the whole notion of heroism? Or whatever it’s about.
“I try not to brag about specific albums I own. But holy sh**, how cool am I to have a mint 1972 Japanese pressing of Faust‘s So Far with 12-page booklet intact! And I paid less than ten bucks for it. Which would all be pointless blather if the music itself didn’t deliver. Which it does, So Far being an album of strange and extreme moods and sidetracks (some might call it noise) with It’s A Rainy Day Sunshine Girl either a #1 pop hit in another, cooler, far weirder and better universe (where Faust really were The German Beatles) , or just a long brash walk along a certain razor’s edge – where genius actually touches stupidity, but it never falls in, even when the saxophone finally arrives past the six minute point, out of tune, of course.” (Philip Random)
“I think of Bogus Man as where Roxy Music would have gone if Brian Eno had never left: to stranger, deeper, more evocative realms, while great hordes of confused hippies looked on from darkened streets, still coming down from that long strange trip known as the 1960s. Which is rather what was going on anyway with Roxy in their early years, strutting like peacocks through a world full of pigeons. As it was, Bryan Ferry had other ideas for his band, and it’s not as if Mr. Eno didn’t go off and invent the future anyway. Which he’d be the first to say the Germans were already doing. Can in particular without whom we would never have heard the likes of Bogus Man.” (Philip Random)
“I first heard Kraftwerk‘s Computer World at Michael’s place. A sort of slimy guy that we used to buy dope from back in the late 70s, early 80s. He lived in a high rise near English Bay, always had the stereo on loud, usually playing shitty soft rock. Except this one time, a beautiful day, sun glowing in off the bay – it was this cool machine music. Kraftwerk, I would’ve guessed, except Kraftwerk weren’t around anymore, were they? A couple of gimmicky robot records back in the mid-70s and then back to Germany. I was right. It was indeed Kraftwerk, still cranking out the future. I was wrong. They were anything but a gimmick. Suddenly, I had a pile of exploring to do.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve heard Heroes a million times already. But have you heard the German/English edit that showed up on the soundtrack for Christianne F, the most depressing movie ever? There’s just something about what that complex language does to Mr. Bowie’s delivery, the deeper, more wrenching depths of soul and enunciation, how it gets you right to the heart of what was then still a divided city – two opposed universes of politics and animosity grinding up against each other. Forever. Or so it felt at the time.
Two in a row from Nektar‘s 1971 conceptual spectacular Journey To The Centre Of The Eye, one of those albums that deftly walks the line between so-called prog rock and so-called psychedelic rock, managing to be both mindblowing and reasonably precise. Frank Zappa was certainly impressed, so much so that he had plans to sign Nektar to his Discreet label, a plan that crumbled along with Zappa’s partnership with his manager (one of those long stories). Which perhaps explains why we never heard that much of Nektar over here in the Americas. Or maybe their first album was simply their best – an astonishing and ultimately harrowing voyage to the deep and high beyond within. In other words – an acid trip, the heroic kind, right through the centre of the eye to the dream nebula and beyond, all in the mind anyway.