Neu! Used! S$10!

Music-related activities of last weekend included microhouse at Jacob’s rathermacrohouse on Friday (Jacob and Cherry spinning, me listening, Alec reading comics), and DJ Dexter (of Avalanches fame) at DXO on Saturday, but I have to dorkily admit that despite these very enjoyable social and musical activities, my weekend’s most intense moment of musical joy was walking into Flux Us and finding a used copy of Neu! going for S$10, after having had it on my Django’s wishlist for the past four years.

“Without Neu! there may have been no Pitchfork. Neu anticipates us all,” gushed Pitchfork when the band’s first three albums, previously available only as Japanese imports in exchange for a kidney, were remastered and re-released in 2001. And you know, although my views have diverged from Pitchfork’s often enough to warrant some caution here (*cough*thearcadefire9.7myarse*cough*), this time I’m really feeling the love. Believe the hype.

This album begins with a sound Neu! made and Sonic Youth taught me to love. Hallogallo’s insistent guitars and propulsive beats are exploratory but never directionless; I can’t explain how I know from the start that it’s going to take me somewhere I want to be, I just know. By the time we reach (exquisite) meltdown it fades almost too suddenly for me to bear even after the 10 minutes of build-up, and recedes into a distant shimmering chaos I can only stagger towards.

Sonderangebot is part tense experimental soundscape, part expansive prog noodling, and it bridges the journey between the two with the sort of scary shocking sound they use in Asian horror movies when the protagonist gets a sudden flash glimpse of THE GHOST! Best workout my stereo’s had since Knifehandchop.

Weissensee doesn’t do much for me, I must admit. It’s like Pink Floyd wandering around a bit lost and ending up…still a bit lost.

I realize it sounds loopy to say this, but Im Glück feels like emerging from the Ark the morning after the great flood. Paddling slowly through devastation, accompanied by a funereal bass drone. Notes beginning to melt in, breathe, pulsate, as glimmers of hope appear on the horizon. After notes, then chords. Birdcries in the distance, as the drone fades away. Long before Boards Of Canada, long before The Books, and 3 years before Brian Eno made Another Green World.

Negativland starts off with abrasive dissonant noise and squalling guitars, and then it escalates from there. In other words, this song is Michelle Heaven.

Lieber Honig interrupts Negativland mid-screech, and teleports us somewhere totally different with sparse plucks, wheezed, abstract vocals, and the same found sounds they used in Im Glück – barely audible voices, paddles on water. We are still travelling when the album ends.

In a conversation with someone at my first Yo La Tengo gig, I bemoaned the fact that I just couldn’t seem to get my hands on a used copy of I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. (I’m generally too poor to buy anything when it’s new.) “Well of course,” he said, “who would sell that album after hearing it?”

This is what I’m wondering now, about Neu!. Who? Why? But nevertheless – thank you!

16 comments

  1. The only thing by Neu! I have is that track off the Kill Bill soundtrack. And at 1m 5secs it’s pretty hard to form any impressions. Must shove this in my soul seek wishlist nevertheless.

    I wasn’t sure about the 9.7 either but I’d rate Funeral as PrettyDamnGood out of 10.

  2. I have a used copy of I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One! It cost me US$10 though so I guess that’s not exactly cheap.

  3. James: I definitely think you have to listen to the album as an album. It’s one of those greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts things.

    Some of Funeral’s individual tracks sounded good enough when I heard them months before release, but the album as a whole never pulled it all together for me. I’ve not been able to listen to it one time through without falling asleep halfway.

    Jol: I eventually did find my used copy, at about US$10 (inclusive of postage to England) too. Sadly, I’m still dreaming of the day I manage to snag Fakebook.

  4. Benny hun-nay, no Neu! T-shirts exist that would fit me. I guess I’m just too petite and slim to be able to be cool like you.

  5. Oh Michelle dahling! You don’t need a Neu! T-shirt to be cool like me, or any shirt for that matter. You are cool even if you had nothing on!

    Wait, that didn’t come out right.

    *Alec dons boxing gloves*

  6. i sold my copy of “i can hear the heart beating as one”. i can’t remember how much i sold it for but it was less than 10USD..

  7. The goodness of Funeral cannot be denied. The Arcade Fire (every incarnation) are truly excellent. In fact. they are so good they can only be talked about in declarative statements. Do not dislike them, Syntaxfree, nor damn them with faint praise. The Arcade Fire are the best thing to come out of Canada since Ocean.

  8. I listened to Neu for the first time this weekend.

    Does that make me a Neu-b?

    Sorry, I’m spending far too much much time around Michelle.

  9. After reading Alec’s last comment, I feel I must now kill myself. There is too much horror in this world. Life is not worth living.

  10. Alec: It’s pronounced NOI, you pleb!

    Jol: I’m so sorry for Alec’s terrible jokes, I know how an-neu!-ing such humour can be… *runs*

    Terence: WHY??

    Je Suis: Sorry, the album really does put me to sleep. I can’t say much more about it, I find it that insipid.

  11. Isn’t Neu the sound someone from Northern Ireland makes when they are insisting something should happen this instant?

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