Album #213: Amon Düül – Psychedelic Underground

  • Released: 1969
  • Origin: Munich, Germany
  • Label: Breeze Musik
  • Best Track: Bitterlings Verwandlung

I’m currently reading Yeah Yeah Yeah by Bob Stanley, which is an ambitious and extremely well researched attempt to chronicle the history of pop and rock music. On reading about how MC5’s ‘Kick Out the Jams’ was arguably the first punk song and the first example of direct, heavy music, I sought out some similar examples from the late 1960s.

One that interests me, and that was described by a YouTube user as one of the earliest examples of music that still might be thought of as “heavy” today, is the German ensamble Amon Düül. Widely described as an arts movement rather than a band, they released some of the most challenging and unorthodox music of their time.

Their first album, Psychedelic Underground, begins with a 17-minute, repetitive riff over which the vocals wail and undulate in an otherworldly way. As well as sowing the seeds of krautrock, there’s a real feeling of improvisation about the album, especially vocally.

Final track ‘Bitterlings Verwandlung’ interested me the most. It starts with a short burst of what sounds like a German patriotic song, which at first reminded me of when you record something onto a tape and hear a snatch of what was on the tape before. I think it’s deliberate though, as the rest of the track also sounds like a muffled and distorted version of something vaguely military. Give it a listen and see what you think.

A weird and highly experimental record even half a century after its release, and it’s hard not to be awestruck by it.

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