Cologne Curiosities: The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976 album review

Warning: krautrock lunacy and archival nuggets ahead

Cover art for Cologne Curiosities: The Unknown Krautrock Underground 1972-1976

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Toby Robinson, aka The Mad Twiddler or Genius P Orridge, is renowned in krautrock circles as one of the engineers who worked at Stockhausen’s WDR Studios and Dierks Studios in Cologne in the mid-1970s, assisting on recordings made by Can, Birth Control and Mythos. In spare moments, he liked to kick back and experiment, roping visiting musicians into jam sessions or joining him in his explorations, often under pseudonyms. Robinson hooked up with Fluxus artist Robin Page to start the Pyramid label to release these tracks.

Twenty years later, Robinson found himself with the only recordings of bands already lost in time so, in 1996, presented producer Trevor Manwaring with tapes to compile into three CD volumes of Unknown Deutschland – The Krautrock Archive for Virgin Records. Here they are again, available on double wax with exhaustive notes from Alan Freeman of Ultima Thule/The Crack In The Cosmic Egg.

It’s a mixed bag straddling all corners of the krautrock universe, from the flashing motorik of Chronos’ Schaudernacht and stomping metal guitar tapestries of Neil Andersen’s Feurwerk to the majestic Floydian vamp of Spirulina’s The Message and Fuerrote’s liquid guitar ejaculations on the Cluster-like Ganz Wie Du Willst. It’s safe to say you never did hear such sounds in your life when Ten To Ten’s Innerst breaks through the static with a raft of alien drones and robot flatulence before morphing into a haunting space hymn. The weirdest track of all is the one most rooted to earthly music as Baal’s blues-based No God/Astaroth humps into early Nick Cave territory.

These seven tracks, running up to 14 minutes in length, evocatively capture this specific time and place where rules were made to be demolished and anarchy ruled, the only stipulation being that it blew your mind and reflected whatever condition it was in at the moment of creation.