11 Jul 2014

A forgotten classic album - Amon Düül II / Yeti (1970)


The seventies dawned, and thus spawned a revulotion in both German and western music; Krautrock. The genre most famously championed by the likes of early Kraftwerk, NEU! and Faust was also the stage for one of the most mystical, magical bands of the whole era. Amon Düül II, not to be confused with the Amon Düül - a terrorist affiliated hard rock band, were the coolest band of the entire Krautrock scene. Travelling usually as a seven piece (but expanding throughout their career), they were also part of a 'commune' scene in West Germany, so the band lived together throughout the majority of their career as a band.

From the fact their first record alone is called Phallus Dei (God's Penis) gives you an idea of the kind of band with which you're dealing with, but 1970, they released their second LP, the double long player of Yeti. Yeti is a psychic prog rock epic, split half and half between written songs, and perfectly orchestrated improvised epics that is quite possibly the greatest German album of all time.

From it's sinister, dark-energy channelling waves, to the cloaked grim reaper figure, the sleeve to Yeti is about as good a way to sum up Yeti as any words can manage. The figure is in fact Wolfgang Krischke - Amon Düül II's sound man, who died because he took too much LSD, dressed as the grim reaper, and due to the Krischke mysticism Yeti's cover is about as good as they come.

The shamanic genius of this, the most unusual of great records begins at the begin. For it opens with a mini psyche-symphony Soap Shop Rock, a four part long acid-drenched odyssey that would put Meddle-ing Floyd to shame! The free flowing first part, Burning Sister combines a Television pulse with a silky King Crimson quality, before the dissonant, shrill vocals turn Soap Shop Rock into something else entirely. The third part of the psyche-symphony that opens Yeti, Burn A Sonata, is just dark and unearthly, as a short instruemental, and the paranoia of Flesh-Coloured Anti-Aircraft Alarm brings the album's highlight to a close in the darkest, bleakest fashion. Vocals in a strong German accent caterwaul "They say you are the one!", as Soap Shop Rock crescendos, before disappearing into the eerie darkness of the rest of Yeti.

The organ driven psychedelia of She Came Through the Chimney is accompanied by a supressed, claustrophobic wind section, alongside bongo-led precussion. The next song, the opener to the somewhat normal-yet-still-pulse-racingly-exciting Side 2 is Archangels Thunderbird - the riff-driven hard rock tune that sees wailing female singer Renate's voice wavering up and down and up and down to a Tom Verlaine style guitar voice. The listener then hears a slurp, followed by tentative, sniping Salsa guitars; this is Cerberus, the folkiest offering from Yeti. John Weinzierl's tiptoeing guitar playing is accompanied at first by an oriental raga-style band, until a spaced out distorted guitar comes in and finishes the song Spiritualized.

The last two songs on Yeti's first of two LPs are both highlights; The Eye Shaking King and Pale Gallery.  The Eye Shaking King is Yeti at it's most out of control - and that's including the wholly improvised Sides 3 & 4, which are still yet to come. Stifled vocals and electrifying guitars, combined with a killer false ending leaves the listener breathless on the edge of their seat. Pale Gallery is luscious and sort of ambient, and carried along by a marching drum beat, before fading away to nothingness to give way to the second part of the album.

You wouldn't think it possible, but the title track sounds just like the sleeve looks, even more so than the rest of an album. In the beginning, there is evil, darkness, and nothing else. Amon Düül II build up such a suspenseful atmosphere at the beginning of the piece; clad in mysticism and flowing free, Yeti sprawls for over 18 minutes of dark, improvised prog mayhem. Whilst it lacks the edge of the first half of the record, it's certainly a cut above anything else that's meant to be improvised on a pop record. It even gets a bit 'I Am the Resurrection' six minutes from it's conclusion.

The other two instrumentals are along a similar vane; both topping the 6 minute mark, and both have names that don't look out of place on this record; Yeti Talks To Yogi is followed by Sandoz in the Rain. The first is relatively run of the mill, but with Sandoz in the Rain's guest musicians, Amon Düül II is turned into a krautrock supergroup! Amon Düül II are joined by Rainer Bauer (who has a brilliant voice throughout the piece) and Ulrich Leopold; both of them being from Amon Düül (the earlier mentioned band of anarchists) as well as the flutist from Tangerine Dream. Through these additions to the band, Sandoz in the Rain is an affair from a whole other planet; it is embryonic space rock. At nine minutes, the beautiful closer is, well a beautiful closer to Yeti.

But that's not quite it; if you buy the reissued CD, Amon Düül II exhibit an even better song title. I mean, who wouldn't want to listen to the Düül playing a song called Rattlesnakeplumcake?

But, overall the mystical, mythical magic of the commune that is Amon Düül II and their second album Yeti make for one of the most exciting and interesting albums of the entire Krautrock movement AND of the entire seventies too. This wonderful record is an amalgamation of all the prog sounds of King Crimson, the outstretching motorik of NEU! and the angsty drive of Television. Whilst it's not quite as well-known as say, The Faust Tapes or NEU! 75, Yeti is an artistic triumph of the highest order.

If you managed to read this post this far down, well done, and here's the album Yeti;

(Written by Calum Cashin)