Exposé Online banner

Various Artists — Cologne Curiosities: The Unknown Krautrock Underground, 1972​-​1976
(Guerssen MENT005 / MENT005CD, 1976/2016, 2LP / CD)

by Henry Schneider, Published 2017-01-03

Cologne Curiosities: The Unknown Krautrock Underground, 1972​-​1976 Cover art

When the music on this compilation first surfaced in 1996 there was skepticism of its authenticity. Many thought these tunes were recorded by contemporary musicians emulating music from the 70s. It has since been established that this music was in fact recorded in various studios in and around Cologne, Germany and produced by Toby Robinson. Toby was one of the engineers working at Stockhausen’s WDR and Dieter Dierks Studio in the mid-70s. He assisted many well-known Krautrock bands including Can, Birth Control, Mythos, and Dzyan. The music on this disc was done for Toby’s own amusement. Bands would come into the studio for practice sessions, record demos, and during slack times, impromptu jams. Toby recorded most of these sessions featuring himself plus friends and musicians, some under pseudonyms. This reissue disc contains seven bands selected from Toby’s tapes, all unknown and with just these tunes as their only recorded output: The Astral Army, Spirulina, Chronos, Neil Andersen, Baal, Ten to Zen, and Fuerrote. The music is all over the map with Krautrock experimentation being the unifying factor. The disc opens with the so-so “Interstellar Shortwave” by The Astral Army. This post-punk song reminds me of Iggy Pop as well as some of the newer Krautrock bands like Mandra Gora Lightshow Society, Seid, and Vibravoid. The second tune improves the listening experience with Spirulina’s “The Message,” a floating atmospheric piece akin to Harmonia and Neu! Next is another superb experimental tune, this time Chronos’ “Schaudernacht” with its dissonant Frippian guitar chords and sequences, analog synths, and its punk / Krautrock blend. Then with Neil Andersen’s ”Feuerwerk” we move into extreme abstract territory. This is a timeless sound poem / musical environment / emotion. There is no forward or backward movement, just a pleasant moody atmosphere. Like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five, the music is unstuck in time. To bring you back to reality, the next track, Baal’s “No God / Astaroth,” is a bizarre blues rock / Krautrock / gothic song with comparisons to Captain Beefheart and Dr. John. The sixth track is Ten to Zen’s “Innerst,” a pulsating drone-fest bearing Faust, Harmonia, Eno, and Neu! influences. This abstract piece slowly takes form over its ten minutes. And the disc closes with Fuerrote’s “Ganz Wie du Willst,” a 14-minute Kosmiche extravanganza with sustained notes, feedback, and trippy guitar riffing with resemblences to Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and Quicksilver Messenger Service’s “Maiden of the Cancer Moon” plus anticipating the abstract processed guitar drones of Nadja. Like most compilations, this a mixed bag, but worthy of investigation.


Filed under: Archives, 2016 releases, 1976 recordings

Related artist(s): Various Artists

Latest news

2020-01-21
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more

2020-01-15
Carlos Alvarado RIP – Carlos Alvarado, pioneering composer, multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of progressive rock and electronic experimental music in Mexico, passed away January 14th, 2020 at age 68 after a two year battle with cancer.  » Read more

2020-01-12
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more

2020-01-12
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more

2020-01-10
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

When - Prefab Wreckage & Gynt – When is essentially a solo vehicle for Lars Pedersen (half of The Last James duo) in which he explores dark ambient realms. It's pretty hard to believe that this is the same guy who worked on...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues