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!