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Amon Düül II - Vortex CD (album) cover

VORTEX

Amon Düül II

 

Krautrock

2.83 | 37 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars `Vortex' was the only album released by German Krautrock collective Amon Düül 2 in the Eighties, and a surprisingly convincing one it was too. A cross between `Vive la Trance' and `Made In Germany', only eight strong compositions on offer meant there's none of the throwaway moments that plagued those albums, and there's a thankfully tighter focus on strong songwriting that still allows the proper Düül personality to pop up throughout. It's a little straight-forward in a few moments, yet there's very little that was actually aiming to appeal to music charts, as if any combination of Amon Düül could ever hope to actually be completely mainstream! The chemical-addled debauchered delicious jamming of the band's past may have been mostly gone, but many of the classic Düül traits emerge in spirited moments throughout.

The album opens with the title track `Vortex', a surprising cold instrumental electronic drone that doesn't instantly remind of any expected Düül sounds, it's whipping drum machine programming a real shock on first listen. A slight eerie gothic mood is heightened by ghostly wordless wailing harmonies, liquid bass slinking around with occasional nice fat stabs. `Holy West' is a dusty country rocker that moseys along in a lazy fashion, sounding like something that might have come from the later Jefferson Airplane albums, and a catchy tune it is too. Düül leading lady Renate Knaup sounds stronger and vocally more controlled than ever before, and it proves what a hell of a singer she is. There's classic Düül sounds on `Die 7 Fetten Jahr', a mix of growling guitar distortion, fevered dual male/female vocals, bent spoken-word breaks, synth trickles and frantic up-tempo bursts. `Wings of the Wind' lurches back and forth between a gutsy power ballad and more up-tempo fiery guitar jamming. It's sung well by Renate, but group harmonies in the chorus are a little too cigarette lighter waving and obvious.

Side B's `Mona' is an infectious and sophisticated pop/rocker with waltz-like violin and some welcome wavering synth weirdness, all topped off beautifully with a playful and sweet vocal from Renate. Just as worthwhile is `We Are Machine', a mysterious space rocker woven to a powerful rock tune, with a chest-beating vocal from Renate on the verses, a wasted treated male drawl on the chorus, leaping bass and restrained acid-friend guitar wailing. Best of all is `Das Gestern Ist...' , the perfect combination of exploratory early Düül and with their accesible tuneful side (sung in German this time). A hypnotic droning mantra- like mood, chanting, distorted guitar snarls, mucky saxophone, dirty grooves and a return of the more deranged acid Goddess Renate from the earlier albums, all woven to a melodic and catchy chorus - older fans will really dig this one! Parts of closer `Vibes in the Air' are laid-back and a breezy vocal from Renate and drowsy acoustic guitar, but there's little fiery shambling eruptions and plodding intensities that burst forth.

It's a shame that it would take the band 14 years to release a follow up to this album, as `Vortex' is really rather decent, and certainly not a badly dated relic of an era not exactly known for inspired releases in this and other progressive related styles. It would have been interesting to see if the inspiration and purpose that emerged on this album would have sustained soon after, and it's probably more consistent than most of their albums that came after `Wolf City'. The heady days of the old Düül may have been mostly gone, but the fire and defiant individuality were still present, so fans should definitely look into this if they come across it. Their early classics will endure, but there's still unappreciated little gems to discover from the mighty Amon Düül 2.

Three stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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