Disclaimer: I don’t like the term krautrock, despite many of the genre’s practitioners using the word. I use it here for the sake of argument, but we can argue about that another day. In the 2009 documentary Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany, Wolfgang Seidel of the band Ton Steine Scherben, speaking outside the Zodiac Free Arts Club in Berlin (and yes definitely check out Ton Stein Scherben) said:
‘They’re doing something called Krautrock again, so I have to decide shall I go there? I fear it is only related to the word krautrock and not to the music and even if it’s related to the music, it misses the more important part being Krautrock being part of a social movement. You can play the records again, but it won’t come back.’ [sic]
Back in the comparatively sane year of 2009, Wolfgang Seidel had a point. But fast forward to the present day, it is possible Acid Rooster and some of their contemporaries on Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud Records might disagree. Acid Rooster aren’t wholly a krautock band admittedly, they’re psychedelic, drone, and space rock all combined too, but that’s also why they’re carrying the experimental torch, bringing Amon Düül, Tangerine Dream, and Can together.
Why does this matter? Well, the way that Acid Rooster recorded their latest album is very much in the spirit of the Zodiac Club. It was recorded, impeccably, in front of a group of friends outdoors in Leipzig, during the pandemic. The title Ad Astra is Latin for ‘to the stars’. At that time a journey into space to escape the challenges of lockdown humdrum would have been highly desirable.
It’s worth mentioning that Leipzig is a creative engine room as well – and has been for some time. Festivals (LiLe, Seanaps) have been running for some time and more and more experimental music is flowing out of this mighty city’s gates. So again, this local, live, DIY ethos lives on.
Add to that the fact that the two tracks on Ad Astra: Zu Den Sternen (To The Stars) and Phasenschieber (Phase Shifter) are improvised, spacey jams, and you have some of the building blocks of what made the experimental music flowing out of Germany from the 1960s onwards so exciting.
This record is a spacey progression for Acid Rooster, the band behind the tight grooves of 2021’s Irrlichter are clearly still there, but with a whole new purpose.
Zu Den Sternen is a very natural jam. Keyboard textures reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter keep up the energy throughout. The structure is largely percussion led. This is a very intuitive improvisation. However, given that the essence of improvised music is a dialogue between the performers, it only makes sense that this should function so well with a band of Acid Rooster’s calibre. Overall, this is the more conventional space rock track on this album. The bass is able to pick up momentum pretty quickly and even wields delay and reverb effectively.
Phasenschieber is arguably the more impressive of the two tracks, holding to a far less recognisable structure. The keyboard washes are more prominent and the use of found sounds that rise up in the background are perfectly placed to create a dreamy, ethereal sonic texture. The choice and timing on the keyboard and organ parts are outstanding in fact. In a ‘conventional’ band set up like this, it becomes so easy for dynamics to be lost and the fuzz takes over, but Acid Rooster keep a steady hand on the tiller and hold to the principle of ‘less is more’. The guitar noodling is – and I say this as a noodle hater – a great addition.
I have already praised the recording quality, but it is worth mentioning again because for a record created outside with a field recorder the quality is top-notch. The result of this is that Ad Astra has atmosphere. It takes you through the sonic journey the band suggests in their song titles and artwork.
If you can get hold of a hard copy – do it!
Scribed by: James Bullock