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Amon Düül II - Tanz Der Lemminge [Aka: Dance Of The Lemmings] CD (album) cover

TANZ DER LEMMINGE [AKA: DANCE OF THE LEMMINGS]

Amon Düül II

 

Krautrock

4.09 | 303 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars Through the trials and tribulations that life has to offer comes a vast wealth of inspiration and karmic balance and thus the members of AMON DÜÜL II were collecting their just dessert after having a series of setbacks. One of the most terrifying events was at the Keks Club in Cologne, Germany in 1971 when a fire not only destroyed all of their musical gear but snuffed out four youths in attendance and then soon thereafter their new equipment was ripped off which lacking any insurance and not totally paid, ended up bankrupting the band as royalties for their previous two records were garnished to pay off creditors. As can be expected, such incidents create extreme tensions with members of a fledgling band simply trying to make their way in the cult recesses of the music scene and as a result bassist Dave Anderson was the first to bail and immediately hooked up with Hawkwind while founding member Chris Karrer (violin, guitars) would take off to join Embryo. Meanwhile Renate Knaup who never really left the band, only contributed when she felt like it and pretty much sitting this one out with the exception of the one teeny weeny track "Riding On A Cloud" which she clearly was and found that more interesting. Likewise Falk Rogner stuck around on a part-time basis and as a result organ playing duties are shared.

Such was the rotating door lifestyle of 70s commune life yet all the turmoil resulted in a very different creation process for TANZ DER LEMMINGE than "Yeti" which only came out a year before but sounds light years away in sound and overall feel. No longer were Anderson's signature bass playing style present as Lothar Meid took the helm and had a completely different artistic direction. However, despite all the odds stacked against them, the collective commune that had garnered much attention with their first two albums retreated to the eye of the hurricane and reformed, took a deep breath and still managed to release their second double album in a two year timespan. The very first startling thing you will notice when putting on their third album is how very, very different it sounds compared with the previous two. But despite it all, it wasn't only a bloody miracle that it was created at all but actually stands up as one of the band's most varied, creative and ambitious releases of their entire career. This album came out just months after their series of catastrophes under the German title TANZ DER LEMMINGE but was released in the US as DANCE OF THE LEMMINGS. It also found a repackaging in Italy where it was retitled VIAGGIO IN UN SOGNO ("Journey Into A Dream"), however like all great classic albums that stand the test of time it has been faithfully returned to its original and rather fitting title for modern reissues.

The evolving aspects from "Yeti" to TANZ DER LEMMINGE also reflect the turbulence of early 1970s Germany as idealistic hippie and leftist values turned to full-fledged violent revolutionary attempts to use terrorism in order to protest the state apparatus. The Red Army Faction (Baader-Meinhof Gang) shook the entire country to its core and inevitably the arts and musical culture were equally affected. While "Phallus Dei" and "Yeti" were more free flowing and psychedelic rock oriented with a sense of naive innocence running through their course, TANZ DER LEMMINGE is not only more sophisticated in the musical sense but runs the gamut of the emotional spectrum equally as if the band just like the land in which they resided was facing the most uncertain of futures and in the process were throwing any zany idea possible at the wall to see what would stick. The result of this nosedive into the world of fastidious experimentation resulted in a sprawler of a concept album that contains four progressive rock suites with each offering completely different moods and objectives. While these grails convene to take the listener on a wild roller coaster ride of musical diversity, they all coalesce into a larger sense of creating a surreal and psychedelic narrative of the era.

SUITE ONE: "Syntelman's March Of The Roaring Seventies (15:50)

Anyone expecting a repeat of "Yeti's" heavy psych almost proto-metal approach is immediately disappointed as the first suite or side A on the original vinyl begins with a lysergic swirl of Tangerine Dream meets Klaus Schulze electronica whizzing about but quickly fizzles out and morphs into a more familiar groovy bass line however sans heavy guitar distortion and instead replaced by an acoustic guitar performance that could win over Bob Dylan refugees after he went electric. These folky riffs then alternate consummately with classical strumming talents would make Segovia proud with an intermittent violin that upon first impression made me think of a Teutonic version of Comus who coincidently released their landmark "First Utterance" the very same year. The suite continues the Comus (or perhaps some Jethro Tull-ishness as well) references on the third part of the suite "Prayer To Silence" as it unleashes jangly acoustic folk guitar in erratic time signatures with tribal bongo drumming. Suddenly it changes once again into an organ drenched melancholy that has a fast bass hook and bluesy guitar come and go and create ever increasing tempos that finally find Karrer's vocals join in to musically articulate tall tales of surrealistic lyrical content that leads up to some sort of occult text with references to alien worlds thus offering a more lysergic and imaginative whimsy that could possibly have been influenced by David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and the inevitable consciousness shift of the moon landing.

SUITE TWO: "Restless Skylight - Transistor-Child" (19:33)

Begins as some crazed drug fueled attempt at a blues song and sort of reminds me of a Captain Beefheart riff before completely disappearing and replaced by spaced out footsteps on an alien vessel or something and then like most tracks imperceptibly transitions with this going into the Zappa-esque "Dehypnotized Toothpaste" that not only brings the early avant-rocker's humor to mind but also the quirky jazz-fusion musical madness as well. "A Short Stop At The Transylvanian Brain-Surgery" reverts back to a totally spaced out guitar run with mellotron wails simulating an alien chorus and a sultry sitar dancing like a Bollywood actress around the main rhythm. The three parts to "Race From Here To Your Ears" take a voyage far away to another galaxy as heavy psych guitars find their inner Hendrix and Cream inspired riffs that slowly ignite in a peace pipe while the waif of intoxicating smoke unleashes Chris Karrer's most uninhibited vocal performance as he wails like a madman as tripped out lyrics about everything from little tornadoes and the art of curry, the Bank of Babylon and lion summer's find their way into the theme. I am still totally perplexed by any attempt of meaning of it all. The madness ensues with frantic guitar rhythms, screechy violins and drone bass lines that bedazzle and hypnotize simultaneously as it ends with the evocative "H.G. Well's Take Off."

SUITE THREE: "Chamsin Soundtrack" (33:05)

Pull out your tickets and take the most mind expanding excursion on the album with "The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church" which takes a long 18 minute and 5 second journey and worships all things "Saucerful Of Secrets" which is arguably the Floydian birth pangs of all things Krautrock and improvises a massive psychedelic improvisational attack of the senses that slowly drift in and out of frequency with fuzzed out guitars swirling in and out of stereo through a maddening maze of bluesy guitar riffs, bouncy bass and orgies of keyboards straight out of Berlin School progressive electronic abductions into the twilight zone. After "behaving" for the prior album parts, this monstrous track meanders through the musical universe where notes collide and fuse together as if they were in primeval pools of plasma going through phase changes and then garnering enough nuclear power to transport themselves into other dimensions. Sounds come and go like random schools of jellyfish suddenly thrown off course due to tidal uncertainties and cosmic interferences. And then in complete contrast, the album ends on a heavier hard psych note with the complete freefall over the cliffs with the dancing lemmings which ends Mr Toad's Wild Adventure with the appropriately titled "Toxicological Whispering."

TANZ DER LEMMINGE is most certainly a more thoughtful and provocative album than what came before and will require ample periods of uninterrupted attention with plenty of after time rumination. Upon first listen i was actually disappointed with this album, big time, as i was expecting a clearcut continuation of "Yeti." While i may have put this back on the shelf for a while, it had planted its seeds and summoned my nonjudgmental return. Upon reflection and ample listening time i have fallen under its hypnotic spell as it mesmerizes my restlessness while stimulating my creative cranial cortex. The diversity of sounds, tones, styles and twisted tales of the imagined or not comes off as a playful nerdy paradise of sounds that slinks and swirls in every foreseeable direction of the sonic palette while earning an A+ for tenacity on the trip-o-meter. No you don't need drugs to enjoy this but then again, maybe you do. You without doubt need patience and above all a very open mind. This is certainly a grower as it strives for a 10 on the progometer but really only scaling up to a 9. For 1971 this is some pretty daring stuff. It far outreaches other Krautrock contemporaries. While Can and Faust were limiting their respective sounds to a certain niche market, AMON DÜÜL II were taking the rock approach to the jazzy stellar other worlds of Sun Ra and his Magic Arkestra as if they were abducted by alien beings and implanted with creativity chips. Man, that commune idea really worked for these guys at the time but like all good parties it must come to and end and such is the case with the highest peak of their career as the following albums incrementally became tamer and commercial. TANZ DER LEMMINGE, however was and remains one of the highest peaks of the early Krautrock world.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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