|Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother from NEU!|
This is a split decision. These driving songs show two different ways to get to the same destination. I had such a hard time picking which songs to feature from the great duo of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger because they in essence created the best driving groove ever, Motorik. Motorik, is such a thought out sound and concept, its a straight 4/4 beat with expertly placed repetition, that countless great articles have already been written about it. No other rhythm quite mimics the feel of an open road as much as this creation by this duo. The interesting thing about it is how this sound was driven by two of the most different types of personalities.
Michael Rother, lead guitarist, tended to be the more introverted and subdued of the two, while Klaus Dinger, the drummer, was always this upfront firebrand more willing to be more abrasive and confrontational. Together, in their first album, they created this great sonic middle ground learned from starting in an embryonic version of Kraftwerk called Organisation. With Organisation they were moving away from the abstract, overtly-experimental sound that other Germanic groups were mining. No matter how experimental they wanted to be, they had to show something that drew active attention to the music. They were not ones to want to make music to be heard in the background. As they kept refining this driving Motorik beat which entranced audiences, the philosophical divisions between them were also becoming too much to bear.
Klaus, who contributes the driving track of the day “Hero”, was chomping at the bit to really create more aggressive music. So much so, that he suggested to Michael that in order to finish NEU! 75 he’d gladly help him make the soft ambient-type of music he wanted for the first side of this album, as long as he was given free reign with the second side. On the second side of this album, Klaus rounded up his brother and another drummer to aid him in create this new more aggressive sound he had conjured up. These were the underpinnings of what later came to be his La Dusseldorf band.
On tracks like “Hero”, he picked up the guitar and played it as simply raved up as he could. His vocals likewise matching this new more driven sound. All this liberty, allowed him to create this proto-punk blast called “Hero” that presents to us this new modern hero, saying fuck all to progress, commercialism, and fuck yes to getting paid and enjoying life (its no wonder this kind of sound was hugely influential on artist like John Lydon of the Sex Pistols, and Mark E. Smith from the Fall). Its this kind of track that placed another anchor from which punk’s nihilism could grow, but it never quite caught all the color spectrum of heat that Klaus wanted to display. That would occur later on with Dusseldorf.
Michael, who contributes the meditative track of the day “Deluxe (Immer Wieder)” or “Deluxe (Repeatedly)”, by this time had found outside of NEU! better more simpatico partners in the German electronic duo Cluster. Theirs, as heard in Zuckerzeit by then, was a new brand of electronic music, that stepped away from the just noise and twiddle experimentation of prior electronic bands, and stepped towards a new melodicism and pastoral quality that all this new synthesizer technology could help bring about. They were a natural partner for Michael’s increasingly more plaintive and reflective tone.
This krautrock supergroup combined to create, Harmonia, which rejiggered NEU!’s metronomic beat and added analog, human driven drum machine sounds. Working in concert with Michael’s more measured tone, they created one of the first electronic pop albums 1975’s Deluxe. This album was so influential and different that even Brian Eno himself, thought of them as one of the most important bands in the world at that time. An influence you can quite easily hear in his own albums like Another Green World or Bowie’s Heroes and even more directly in their own collaborations with him like 1977’s Before and After Science, Cluster & Eno and After the Heat.
Its Harmonia’s ability to humanize certain synthetic sounds that was quite unparalleled, they knew how to get at the ghost behind the machine. “Deluxe (Immer Wieder)” would be their attempt at humanizing this Motorik beat. What makes it different from NEU! is its tonal warmth. Most times the motorik beat takes you linearly, forwards or backwards, in this new form the pattern is implied by the machines but Michael’s guitar takes it upwards and downwards while Hans Joachim and Dieter Moebius from Cluster amplify the expanse of sound with various synthesizer sonics. Its a track that more than hinted that sometimes NEU! for all the talented work they could do together, had enough to say separately, that it was time for them to move on and try something else. To their credit they didn’t leave in the past long enough to be stuck in the mire of it, and that’s the most motorik thing of it all. We, of course, travel further down tomorrow…
Bonus track, how about a performance of an embryonic NEU! and Krafwerk? We all gotta start somewhere…