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The Return of Amon Duul II

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Amon Duul II was a prime mover in the Krautrock movement during the Seventies. Their blend of raucous space rock with improvised jam sessions earned them international fame.

After 28 years, the band has reunited and released a new album.

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AMON DUUL II: Duulirium (CD on Cleopatra Records)

This release from 2014 features 52 minutes of jamming space rock music.

This new incarnation of Amon Duul II features 3 of the band's founding members: John Weinzierl (on guitar), Chris Karrer (on guitar and violin) and vocalist Renate Knaup. They are joined by: Lothar Meid (on bass), Daniel Fichelscher (on drums) and Jan Kahlert (on drums and percussion).

Progressive rock gets a tweak and ends up sliding into rock-out jams.

The guitars provide a number of different identities, clangy, strummed, gnarled, growling and sometimes even snarling. Each identity matches the riff they're playing, and often two of these identities coexist, amply fleshing out their range.

Electronics are present, but usually well-hidden, spreading their influence from another dimension. On the occasions that the electronics bully their way to the forefront, their pulsations can be shrill and spicily piercing.

The percussion is forceful and frequently dominant, goading the tunes along with their durable rhythms.

The bass establishes a suitable bottom with its deep-voiced issuance. At times, its tremulous buzz is quite demonstrative.

The violin lends a shrill resonance to the melodies with its warbling and sawing wail.

Masculine vocals deal with more guttural lyrics, while female vocals handle the more tender concepts.

A predilection for jamming colors these compositions. While there is often a set-forth song structure, the instruments find ways to wander into variations; these diversions are supple and enjoyable. This is old school trance music, not relying on a host of elongated electronics, but achieving a hypnotic state through the twisted use of conventional instruments.

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Meanwhile, Cleopatra Records has reissued five of the band's classic old releases as limited edition vinyl albums: Phallus Die, Wolf City, Dance of the Lemmings, Vive La Trance, and Yeti.

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AMON DUUL II: Yeti (Deluxe Edition) (DDL on Amon Duul Music)

Originally released in 1970, this 2014 digital reissue features 68 minutes of jam-heavy space rock music.

The band line-up for this release was: Chris Karrer (on guitars, violin, and vocals), Pete Leopold (on drums), Dave Anderson (on bass), John Weinzierl (on guitars and vocals), Falk Rogner (on organ), Renate Knaup (on vocals and tambourine), and Shrat (on bongos and vocals).

Raw Krautrock with a trancey edge.

Jangly guitar establishes a coarse edge to the tuneage with its twangy licks.

The keyboards unfurl sneaky threads that often get lost in the thick mix. Electronics are present in abundance, bursting through with their clangy piercing chords.

The bass rumbles with subterranean fervor, creating a durable bottom for the rest of the instruments.

The drums provide steadfast locomotion, whether the rhythms are durable tempos of a rock mode or tempered back into ethnic beats that undulate in the mix.

The violin contributes a quasi-classical touch, but goes further than that, imbuing the melodies with a soaring quality. The sawing strings squeal with delight as they elevate each tune.

The vocals are a mixture of male and female; the former conveying strength and oomph, the latter delivering a lilt to the astral lyrics.

These compositions are mainly straight-ahead rock with a bent Euro touch, meaning their cadence is raw and their resonance is couched in deceptive tangents. Meanwhile, several passages delve into raucous instrumental expressions, jamming with a gutsy enthusiasm tinged with a spacey flair.

In fact, the album does feature some long instrumental tracks that exemplify the band's predilection to just jam and see what happens. The resultant sonics are drifting, hypnotic, and frequently seasoned with jarring outbursts. Grinding guitar meshes with sultry basslines while the drums maintain a constantly varying rhythm. There's even a bit of flute thrown in to lend the flow a winsome yearning.

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AMON DUUL II: Tanz der Lemminge (DDL on Amon Duul Music)

Originally released in 1971, this 2014 digital reissue features 69 minutes of space age jam rock music.

The band line-up this time was: Chris Karrer ( on guitar, violin, and saxophone), D. Secundus Fichelscher (on drums), Falk Rogner (on keyboards, organ, and synthesizer), John Weinnzierl (on guitar), Jimmy Jackson (on organ and piano), Lothar Meid (on bass), and Renate Knaup (on vocals), with Al Gromer (on sitar).

With this release, the band mastered a cohesion of their diverse instruments into a smooth gestalt, that served them suitably as they explored improvisation for long stretches.

Granted, most of the material here are separate, planned songs, each crafted in a mode of rock that went beyond progressive to help formulate the "Kraut rock" genre (which can best be described as progrock with a hard and/or trancey influence).

The guitars are versatile, constantly alternating between electric and acoustic, and remarkably getting some mesmerizing chords out of the latter. But the best parts involve both at once: an acoustic strumming in the foreground while electric riffs snarl just over the acoustic's shoulder. At times, the electric guitar gets caught up in creating man-made loops and then tinkering with the resulting meter, making the weirdness ripple like a pendant in the wind.

And the bass has a habit of sneaking into those guitar duets, providing a softly guttural bottom.

The keyboards generate some lovely swooping riffs that undulate gently throughout the mix. While electronics lurk even deeper in the mix, flavoring everything, or (on occasion) lurching forward for an extended outburst.

One might think the drums might have trouble keeping up with all this interplay, but not so. The rhythms slide perfectly in place, not only providing propulsion for the tunes, but frequently lending an earthy grounding zone amid the rest of the spacey music.

For, yes, these compositions delve into territories, unknown back in the early Seventies, and yet exciting even by today's standards. A sultry blend of trance and rock-out is forged, then pushed to the limited. Some of these tunes are quite memorable, blessed with melodies of superior class.

Vocals (of both the male and female variety) decorate some of the tunes.

Now we come to the 18 minute "improv" track. (Back in those days, these type of tunes were called "jams," but nowadays they're called "improvised" because that sounds more important.) Basically, the guitars establish a ricochet volley while the keys establish a droney background periodically punctuated by uncommon, brief percussions. The piece flows nicely, maintaining a steady level seasoned by various instances amid that flow: clangy guitar riffs, rumbling bass, airy effects, percussive noodling—all of which serve to keep the foggy environs interesting...and culminates in a fine crescendo of note.

But wait—there's more songs...and the next one is a great crowd pleaser with its ponderous bassline and thumping tempos and crunchy guitar, all swelling in intensity as they mark out a tasty little melody. Another instrumental tune follows, a strange one flavored with inventive riffs.

Quite a wonderful release.

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AMON DUUL II: Carnival in Babylon (Revisited Bonus Edition) (DDL on Amon Duul Music)

Originally released in 1972, this 2014 digital reissue features 65 minutes of classic Krautrock music.

The band's line-up for this release was: Chris Karrer (on guitar), John Weinzierl (on guitar and vocals), Falk Rogner (on organ), Peter Leopold (on drums), Dave Anderson (on bass), Shrat (on bongos), and Renate Knaup (on vocals and tambourine).

Crunchy rock'n'roll filtered through exotic sensibilities, resulting in space age tuneage.

The guitar speaks in various voices, one guttural and growling, another slithery and squealing, another twangy in a hillbilly way, another pleasantly strummed in a folk manner.

The electronics lurk in the mix, flavoring things with an astral touch. At times, sugar-coated keyboards slide into play, offering a striking contrast to the music's otherwise gritty demeanor.

The drums are clear-cut and determined to provide suitable locomotion. These rhythms are tastefully mired in the mix, loud enough to hear but not strident enough to disrupt the music's flow.

The rumbling bass contributes to that flow, establishing a fluid undercurrent that leaves no gaps in the tuneage.

The lead vocals are mostly female, resolving a tenderness to them, while masculine vocals appear when a more demonstrative voice is called for.

These compositions blend numerous influences (rock, jazz, blues, and spacey) together to generate a unique sound that owes much of itself to the European inclination to try something different (a trait that was prevalent back in the Seventies). There are psychedelic edges to the melodies, as well as a bluesy rock temperament.

One of the new songs is a 18 minute instrumental gem in which the guitar shines amidst thunderous clouds generated by drums and bass and shimmering electronics.

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AMON DUUL II: Wolf City (DDL on Amon Duul Music)

Originally released in 1973, this 2014 digital reissue features 56 minutes of exemplary Krautrock.

The band line-up this time was: Chris Karrer ( on guitar, violin, and saxophone), D. Secundus Fichelscher (on drums), Falk-U Rogner (on keyboards, organ, and synthesizer), John Weinnzierl (on guitar), Lothar Meid (on bass), and Renate Knaup (on vocals). Accompanying them were: Al Sri Al Gromer, Jimmy Jackson, Liz van Neljenhoff, Olaf Kubler, Pandit Shankar Lal, Paul Heyda, Peter Leopold, and Rolf Zacher.

The guitars remain versatile and many, doling out grungy chords, screeching riffs, and acoustic strumming. Agile fingers coax inventive riffs from this plethora of strings.

The electronics have the habit of sneaking up on you, lurking amid the mix and influencing things. But when they surface, they are quite satisfying. Mostly it's semi-conventional keyboards that show up in prominence, sweeping through things to reinforce the melodies. "Semi"-conventional because frequently the keys have chosen a haunting resonance for their contributions.

The bass maintains a steady presence, delivering thumping embellishment.

Peppy drums thunder away, injecting rhythms that go through numerous unexpected changes in mid-song. The periodic use of bongos gives the hard rock an exotic flair.

Instead of providing a classic mood, the violin goes rock-out and issues a series of savage squeals. There are some instances in which the instrument shines with a sinuous wail.

This time, the emphasis is on the female vocals, relegating the male voices to a secondary vantage.

These compositions find a decent balance between "songs" and the band's inclination for jamming, for nearly every tune features the opportunity for the instruments to engage in some wild fervor.

This reissue features 3 previously unreleased tracks that offer different, more raucous sides of Amon Duul 2, with clanging guitar and snappy percussion and scraping vocals and a nimble bass in its strategic burrow. One is a blues piece, another is a ragtime jam, and the 11 minute one is a cosmic homage to trance rock.

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AMON DUUL II: Vive La Trance (DDL on Amon Duul Music)

Originally released in 1973, this 2014 digital reissue features 68 minutes of attractive Krautrock.

The band line-up this time was: Chris Karrer ( on guitar, violin, and saxophone), Peter Leopold (on drums and grand piano), Falk-U Rogner (on keyboards, organ, and synthesizer), John Weinnzierl (on guitar and bass), Robby Heibl (on bass, cello, and guitar), and Renate Knaup (on vocals), with guest Peter Kramper (on grand piano).

A delightfully slick selection of rock tunes with strong unconventional influences.

The guitar is nimble and adept, whether it be clanging along or belting out snarling chords. Some of the riffs the guitar offers are quite splendid.

Horns play an integral role in this music, seasoning things with their salty brass.

Electronics are just as vital, but often more well concealed. While most of the effects lurk in-between the riffs, there are occasions when the synthesizers shine with a squealing bluster. Meanwhile, keyboards provide sinuous melodies.

The bass makes no attempt to hide its fuzzy rumble, often bullying its way to the music's forefront.

The emphatic sawing of the violin establishes a screeching tension.

A mixture of male and female vocals, although (admittedly) they're the latter more often than the former, bestowing the songs with a certain spice.

These compositions are gems, each one glistening with catchy melodies and enticing rhythms. The songs themselves are more rock than outre, but heavily flavored by outre sentiments, resulting in a strangely attractive gestalt of these styles, mixing trancey with overt, spacey with a sense of urgency. The instruments all grind into a perfect mesh to produce these alluring tunes.

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AMON DUUL II: Hijack (DDL on Amon Duul Music)

Originally released in 1974, this 2008 digital reissue features 45 minutes of horn-heavy rock music.

For this release the band line-up was: Chris Karrer (on guitar, violin, saxophone, vocals), Lothar Meid (on bass, guitar, and vocals), Peter Leopold (on drums, percussion, and acoustic guitar), Olaf Kubler (on flute and saxophone), Luwig Popp (on french horn), John Weinzierl (on guitar), Thor Baldursson (on keyboards), Hermann Jalowitzki (on percussion), Bobby Jones and Rudy Nagora (both on saxophones), Chris Balder (on strings), Falk-U Rogner (on synthesizer), Bob Chatwin and Lee Harper (both on trumpets), Renate Knaup (on vocals), and Wild Willy (on accordion, percussion and vocals).

The introduction of horns and a string section inject a cerebral air to the band's space rock sound.

The guitar offers an even more versatile selection of sounds, ranging from rock-out to squealing strange.

The keys and electronics are expert at hiding in the mix, and the same is true here where there are more instruments to his behind.

The drums supply durable rhythms of the sort that tastefully support these rock tunes.

The violin's wail is present too, but wedged down in the mix with the other instruments.

Those horns really change the band's sound, lending almost a more conventional character to the overall sound.

The vocals (both male and female) seem to easily fit with this new direction.

You might think with all these extra instruments, things would be awkwardly crowded in these tunes—but not the case. The band are quite adept at timing each instrument's contribution to mesh perfectly. Not everything is active at once, and when a new sound is called for, it steps forth just as another politely bows out.

As noted, the band's sound has mutated with the addition of horns and strings. Not that this is a bad thing, just unexpectedly different. Now the compositions deal with aspects of everyday life rather than mystical journeys beyond mortal space. The culminate effect tends to flesh out the band's sonic tapestry in an enticing manner. And there are still adequate instances in which the band's spaciness cannot be repressed and shines through.

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AMON DUUL II: Made in Germany (DDL on Amon Duul Music)

Originally released in 1975, this 2008 digital reissue features 70 minutes of eclectic rock music.

The band line-up here was: Chris Karrer (on guitar, banjo, and violin), John Weinwierl (on guitar), Peter Leopold (on drums), Thor Baldursson (on keyboards), Falk-Ulrich Rogner (on synthesizer and organ), Robby Heibl (on bass, violin, guitar, and vocals), Renate Knaup (on vocals), Nando Tischer (on guitar and vocals), Fritz Sonnleitner (on violin and strings), Lee Harper (on trumpet and brass), and Karlheinz Becker (on timpani, gong, and percussion).

The album opens with a symphonic track whose horn sections muster a highbrow outlook which is promptly dispelled with the next song, an urgent rock'n'roll composition—which more suitably sets the mood for the album.

The jangly guitar provides a fine range of rock-out riffs, from clangy chops to wailing astral chords. The instrument smoothly delivers, no matter what mode it pursues, crafting riffs of serpentine definition. Even when the guitar goes acoustic, the strumming evokes a flair of dreamy promise.

Durable rhythms are generated by the drums, injecting solid energization to the already bouncy tunes.

The bass rumbles with a determination to undermine everything with dense vibrations designed to crumble the flooring.

The electronics display a sneaky presence, creeping through the music and contributing subtle mannerisms that definitely lend a spaciness to the tuneage.

A mixture of male and female vocals croon out lyrical tales detailing a land where the Nazis pursued rock'n'roll music instead of world domination. You get glimpses of a cabaret lifestyle that's akin to a trip to Disneyland. The resulting perspectives are highly intriguing.

Those horns maintain an undercurrent of sultry brass that bestows the music with a certain regal quality. This stately demeanor is frequently boosted by the airy violin strains.

These compositions pursue a dedication to rock'n'roll. but tinges each song with a quirky attitude that may have been "spacey" in the Seventies, but now can be considered post-modern expressionism. One has to respect the band's ability to transform a light-hearted pastoral melody into something strange with sparse guitar notes and whirling electronic pitches. Many of the songs explore aspects of modern life, but from the viewpoint of someone living in an alternative world wherein the future coexists with the now (or as the band puts it: "The future ain't tomorrow, the future is today."). The album wraps up with an explosive example of primo Krautrock.

Note: when this release came out in 1975, it was a double album in Europe, but only a single disc album in the this CD reissue is bound to offer some tasty surprises for American fans.

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