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Limbus 3 & 4 - Mandalas CD (album) cover

MANDALAS

Limbus 3 & 4

 

Krautrock

3.10 | 21 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Listening to this album for the first time, and looking at the generous three stars I'm prepared to give it, I have to seriously consider the possibility that I might have gone insane. If ever a group deserved to languish in sub-cult limbo it was the willfully obscure Limbus trio, newly rechristened in 1970 after hiring a fourth player. The amorphous project, a loose collective more than a professional band, was co-directed by the aptly named Odysseus Artner, like his namesake from ancient Greek mythology a genuine explorer, forever wandering uncharted oceans.

Operating at a hermetic distance from the usual Krautrock focal points of Düsseldorf, Munich, Berlin and Cologne, Limbus was one of the few German bands making noise in historic Heidelberg. And 'noise' is indeed the right word to describe their completely freeform way of making (more accurately, of approximating) music. The sound is vaguely Middle Eastern in approach and style, not unlike a lot of counterculture rock in the late '60s, but was given a token measure of authenticity by all the arcane ethnic instruments: tablas, tsikadraha, totalophon...plus other, even more esoteric devices, none of them played with any kind of fluency, and probably by choice.

It all adds up to an almost laughably inscrutable racket, hard to regard seriously as legitimate music, especially when the album opens with what sounds like a weekend birder's 10-cent duck call, followed by more than a half-hour of scraping strings, whistling woodwinds, random percussion, and unidentified noises from unknown sources (musical instruments? studio-modified flatulence?) Imagine a band of amateur dervishes vainly attempting to whirl in unison after too many hits of wacky Balkan tobacco, while bouncing with clumsy jubilation off the walls, the furniture, and each other.

The above paragraph might read like snarky hindsight derision, but really isn't. I'm not entirely convinced there was any real talent behind all the unscripted experimentation, but that in itself is a lesson worth remembering: sometimes virtuosity and skill are the enemies of true musical invention. If you can find a copy of the album by all means give it a spin, at least once. And if you agree that it has merit, there's plenty of room in this straightjacket I'm wearing...

(Collector's note: "Mandalas" was the second release on R.U. Kaiser's legendary Ohr record label, back when the signature album cover art featured dismembered doll bodies, courtesy of graphic artist Reinhard Hippen. The original gatefold LP sleeve also included a complimentary balloon (!), ideal for celebrating the outer limits of musical nonconformity or, when partially deflated, for plugging sensitive ears when the results approach the pain threshold.)

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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