Graded on a Curve:
Amon Düül II,
Yeti

You’ll have to look hard to find a rock band with a back-story as cool as that of Amon Düül II. The progressive Krautrockers emerged in 1968 from the same anarchic West German commune that spawned some of the future founders of the armed and radical Red Army Faction. It was almost as if you had but two choices—play music or join the violent revolution against the reactionary forces of the West German government.

All of the commune’s members, regardless of ability, played music to help keep the commune afloat. Offered a chance to record, the more musical members balked at the prospect of recording with the amateurs and the commune split. (Just plain Amon Düül—which was comprised of the commune’s less competent musicians—were first into the studio, but the recordings were deemed sub par and weren’t released until later in order to capitalize on the popularity of Amon Düül II.) In 1969 Amon Düül II produced Phallus Dei, which is often said to be the first Krautrock LP. Fast learners, the following year they produced a bona fide Meisterwerk in the form of the double LP Yeti.

Yeti has a little something for everybody—sides one and two contain such arranged compositions as “Archangels Thunderbird” and “Eye-Shaking King,” while sides three and four feature longer improvisatory cuts, such as the sprawling title track and the very spacy “Sandoz in the Rain.” The latter in particular is a showstopper. Those dazzling bongos! And that far-freaking-out flute! And those oh so trippy vocals, wowie zowie! In order to properly hear this one you’ll want to stock up on powerful hallucinogens NOW!

Oh, I’m just fooling kids. LSD will stunt your growth. Or worse. Take Wolfgang Krischke, who took the photograph of the Grim Reaper on Yeti’s cover. He died of hypothermia during a LSD trip. Is that some scare the shit out of the kiddies hoodoo or what? Mom: “Sure. Go ahead. Take acid. And FREEZE TO DEATH!” Besides, you won’t need acid to trip balls to the groovy sounds of Amon Düül II. They’re kind of like Salvador Dali, who said, “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”

Amon Düül II’s psychedelic leanings are apparent on the band’s structured tracks as well. The suite “Soap Shop Rock” that fills most of the LP’s first side includes four stellar tunes, including the very short and weird “Gulp a Sonata”—which features the positively operatic warbling of vocalist Renate Knaup—the wonderfully named “Flesh-Coloured Anti-Aircraft Alarm”—a driving number which highlights the violin of Chris Karrer—the bulldozer on magic mushrooms that is “Hallucination Guillotine,” and the bouncy and catchy “Burning Sister.”

Side two contains, amongst other tracks, the awe-inspiring “Archangels Thunderbird”—which features some very heavy guitar and bass work, one fetching melody, and the keening of Knaup—and the fast-paced “Cerberus,” which goes from being an acoustic guitar workout to just plain trippy. You also get the wonderfully monotonous instrumental “Pale Gallery,” and the knick-knack-rattling “Eye-Shaking King,” which mixes some very big riffs with some very weird chanting and ululating (forget Yoko Ono—gimme Renate Knaup!) and one spazzed-out guitar to conjure a cool little STP trip between your ears. Seriously, “Archangels Thunderbird” and “Eye-Shaking King” are worth the price of the album all by themselves, which means you’re getting the positively mind-altering title track as well as 10 other great cuts for free!

A final word before I sum up: I don’t—can’t—listen to 18-minute rock songs, but the 18-minute “Yeti (Improvisation)” is the exception that proves the rule. The damn thing actually holds my attention in the same way a long cut by, say, John Coltrane does. As for the non-improvisational cuts there isn’t a loser in the lot. Even the songs I didn’t write about—such as the lovely and mesmerizing “She Came Through the Chimney” and the pummeling “The Return of Rübezahl”—are sure-fire keepers.

To sum up–Yeti is more than just a damn fine slab of Krautrock, and far more than just an excellent representative of acid rock circa the dewy dawn of the Seventies. So far as I’m concerned it’s the most consistently enjoyable psychedelic rock album ever made. Period. So turn on, tune in, and bliss out. Unshackle your ears, brothers and sisters!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A+

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