I could be a total poseur and pretend I’ve been a NEU! fan since my teens, but the truth is that until Astralwerks reissued their first three albums in 2001, I’d never listened to their music first-hand. But plenty of artists I admire — Stereolab, Sonic Youth, Primal Scream, Iggy Pop — cite them as an influence, and other critics give them mad props, so when their records became widely available again, I dove in and was beguiled by their mesmerizing rhythms and shimmering guitar glissandos.
This week sees the release of a new limited-edition NEU! vinyl box set. Not only do you get the original three NEU! full-lengths (including 1973’s truly bizarre NEU! 2, which applied all manner of studio tricks to the music on Side A to create a Side B after the recording budget ran out), but also a 36-page picture book, a stencil of their eye-catching logo, and two previously unreleased records, the live maxi-single NEU! ’72 non-public test and the full-length NEU! ’86.* I’ve only had a chance to preview the latter, but it’s a worthy addition to the canon. While selections like “Wave Mother” and “Drive” definitely evoke the band’s influential “motorik” (a portmanteau of the German terms “musik” and “motor”) beat and its hypnotic rhythmic repetitions, others feel more in sync with the neue Deutsche welle; the peppy opener “Dänzing” in particular reminds me of the ’80s synth-pop act Rheingold.
I could blather on about NEU! and their ilk, but the truth is, I’d be parroting a lot of information from other, superior sources, so I’d just as soon point you towards those. Start with the band’s official website, which has a complete history, pictures, and lots of sound samples. I also recommended picking up Soul Jazz’s superlative 2-CD anthology Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock and Electronic Musik 1972-1986 (which features all the pertinent “Krautrock” bands of the ’70s except for Kraftwerk) and the beautifully illustrated tome Krautrock: Cosmic Rock and Its Legacy from the folks at Black Dog Publishing. (Keeping up the unrelentingly dull honesty of this post, I’ll admit I’ve never read Julian Cope’s seminal, out-of-print 1995 book Krautrocksampler, but credible colleagues swear by it.)
And whether you’re a recent fan or one of those veterans who knew about NEU! eons before me, you might be pleased to learn that founding guitarist Michael Rother will be touring in August and September. Under the moniker Hallogallo 2010, Rother—accompanied by Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth) and Aaron Mullan (Tall Firs)—will be playing the music of NEU! as well as selections from his other band, Harmonia, and his solo records. Check out the itinerary below:
Hallogallo 2010 Tour Dates
Wed. Aug. 4 – Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell’s — Michael Rother and Freunde
Fri. Aug. 6 – New York, NY @ Lincoln Center – FREE
Sun. Aug. 8 – Philadelphia, PA @ International House of Philadelphia
Fri. Aug. 27 – Mexico City, Mexico @ Polyforum Cultura Siqueiros
Sat. Aug. 28 – Guadalajara, Mexico @ Laboratorio en Arte Variedades (LARVA)
Sat. Sep. 4 – Monticello, NY @ ATP NY
Sat. Sep. 7 – Columbus, OH @ Wexner Center for the Arts
Wed. Sep. 8 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
Fri. Sep. 10 – Detroit, MI @ MOCA
* From the looks of it, the box also includes a download code that entitles the bearer to digital versions of all the records AND a free NEU! t-shirt. Sweet!