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A.R. & Machines - Echo CD (album) cover

ECHO

A.R. & Machines

 

Krautrock

4.01 | 63 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The ambitious follow-up to his playful "Die Grüne Reise" (1971) stretched Achim Reichel's echo-guitar technique almost to its breaking point, and might have the same effect on the patience of any listener with a low attention span. The guitarist would later say the debut album represented his "künstlerische pubertät" ("artistic puberty", translating from his own web site). Which would make this one his creative coming of age, marking a dramatic leap to conceptual maturity from the goofy avant-pop exuberance of the first AR&M experiment.

The music this time was allowed more room to breathe, in longer instrumental workouts evolving over each side of the original twin-LP (to date, and somewhat amazingly, never officially released on compact disc). The rock 'n' roll energy of the earlier record was muted here in favor of a richer, more adventurous sound, still urgently rhythmic but enhanced by the occasional lush orchestral arrangement, and by contributions from a small battalion of collaborators, including percussionist Hans 'Flipper' Lampe of LA DÜSSELDORF fame: another link in the six-degree web of Krautrock separation.

Anyone expecting self-restraint or structure is encouraged to look elsewhere. It requires a long habit of passive concentration (not an oxymoron, for Krautrockers) to fully appreciate the slowly unfolding cycles of melodic arpeggios, superficially resembling the knotted synths and sequencers of early Virgin-era TANGERINE DREAM but performed on guitars, with a more human touch. The arrangement of music was tightly controlled throughout, but like all great cosmic voyages expressed a fearless resolve to embrace unknown vistas and infinite horizons.

Each side of vinyl, after the twenty-minute "Einladung" (Invitation), was given a suitably portentous title: "The Echo of the Presence"; "The Echo of the Future", and so forth, all with elaborate sub-chapters hard to pinpoint within the continuous flow of music. But it's the last side of LP2, "The Echo of the Past", that pushes the album close to five-star territory, in another wild, ZAPPA-influenced kitchen-sink collage, hypnotic and hilarious at the same time.

The effect of this final track is like being mesmerized by a clever circus clown, and at first exposure I found myself laughing as hard as I was listening, reminded (in a good way) of THE BEATLES and their notorious "Revolution 9", albeit assembled with discipline and wit.

The same comparison probably crossed Reichel's mind, too. In an unconscious reflection of the album's title, his career to that point had closely 'echoed' the Fab Four, dating back to his stint with The Rattles at the Star-Club in Hamburg. Much like The Beatles during their more exploratory later years, Reichel in his Krautrock prime still had the heart of a pop star, but the head of...well, a Head.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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