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Hoelderlin - Hoelderlin CD (album) cover

HOELDERLIN

Hoelderlin

 

Prog Folk

3.98 | 67 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars German band Hoelderlin (initially known as Hölderlin) released perhaps one of the defining Mellotron albums of the vintage prog era with their 1972 debut `Hölderlin's Traum'. A mix of acid- folk and almost raga-rock flavours with dreamy female vocals, it holds a special status all it's own. But despite the acclaim that album receives, a slightly altered version of that early band went on to release several worthy albums under the name Hoelderlin, and no more is that instantly evident than the self-titled album. `Hoelderlin' from 1975 saw the band heading in more of a symphonic and romantic prog direction with an exquisite selection of instruments, frequently driven by violin and piano. The whimsical humour of Fruupp and regal splendour of Genesis sometimes come to mind when hearing this work, and despite featuring charmingly German accented English vocals, it's the lengthy instrumental passages that hold the most magic.

There's an unnerving King Crimson-like quality to album opener `Schwebabahn'. A doomy and eerie instrumental driven by searing violin, slinking bass and manic relentless percussion, the piece reaches hair-pulling intensity once the bristling Mellotron arrives, and there's even a little touch of classical drama too. The amusingly titled "I Love My Dog" follows, and, sure enough, it's an ode to man's best friend, a sprightly and foot-tapping warm acoustic folk ballad. Only those with hearts made of stone will fail to crack a smile upon hearing this jaunty number, Christoph Noppeney's heartfelt vocal, electric piano, murmuring bass, flute giving it an instant Jethro Tull-like feel. A few moments of well-placed electric distortion and a lively saxophone in the second half bring just a strange touch of unease. `Honeypot' is a dazzling mini epic that shines with symphonic sophistication and lush pastoral atmospheres. Delicate and pretty one second with moments of sweeping darker drama the next, it's dominated by Joachim Grumbkow's piano that alternates between breezy, jazzy passages and confronting and unsettling moments, with the whole piece about to spiral out of control by the end.

Joachim takes the lead vocal for the shorter interlude `Nurnberg', a sweet and brief acoustic guitar/piano ballad that opens the second side. With a stirring melody and fragile prettiness, the band shows perfect restraint for this little wonder. Then we reach the showcase of an already perfect album, the 18 minute symphonic epic `Deathwatchbeetle'. With lengthy and frequent tasteful instrumental stretches full of dashing moods and thrilling emotions, this extended closer is storytelling fantasy prog at it's very best, whimsical and exhilarating with light and darker moments all perfectly balanced. Intimidating piano stabs, rattling military drumming, droning horns, organ pomp, spacy synth implosions, reflective Mellotron fanfare pomp, swooning violin swoons and nimble-fingered guitar runs, with Peter Kaseberg's bass almost singing in delight throughout. Symphonic prog simply doesn't come any more grand than this.

Now available as part of a series of lovely CD reissues that cover their first several albums, be on the lookout for the remastered disc of this one that adds a dirtier sounding yet no less impressive live performance of `Deathwatchbeetle' from 1974. Hugely captivating, displaying supreme taste and talented musical skill throughout, `Hoelderlin' is an essential title for symphonic prog lovers. Also, if you're a fan of the first album, don't ignore this one and their next few, or you'll be missing out on some essential Seventies prog albums!

Four and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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