I’ve been thinking about these words for a while; the obvious reference point being Düsseldorf, sometime in 1975, and an album recorded in a barely-lit studio under a sky the exact shade of gunmetal. There’s little German to this record – it arrives courtesy of Santiago, Chile, and neither weather conditions nor studio interiors are detailed on the sleeve notes – although pushing at ideas of genre, nationality or 1975 here feels like a moot point; Krautrock is nothing if not brooding and fetishistic, and there’s plenty about Föllakzoid’s imaginatively titled second LP that segues with notions Neu! or Can. Sure; we could make references to the Motorik beat and 4/4 time signatures. We could crib passages from Julian’s Cope’s excellent Krautrocksampler – but I’d think we’d be missing the point (like a well-known music website’s review, six months after the release date – also five months and three weeks after I picked up the LP – which read more like a parody than genuine words about music).
What we do know is that, after gigs under both SXSW and ATP banners this year, the band are far less the audiophile’s secret than previously, even if they are hardly likely to be booked for the Superbowl Half-time Show. II features five tracks, ranging from six and a half minutes in length to fifteen plus – the surge behind each reacting iridescently with the album as whole, the momentum roomy, dynamic, far more than simple Krautrock by numbers. Handled without care, music of this ilk can appear either bombastic or insular, and dry at either extreme. Yet here, such is the élan behind the songcraft that each infusion of drone, and every elevation of the space-rock flourish arrives not only as natural development but as an integral component of album as experience. A record with character and complex aftertaste, in which the central tenants are moulded and warped in a succession of predominately instrumental waves of radiation.
There’s a canny exploitation of motif about II, tracks that interweave with one another, far-off echoes of synth and verdant bass. ‘Trees’ in particular runs with a proud groove, constantly threatening to flower into melody yet never taking an obvious route; ‘9’ and ‘Rivers’ toy with elegant, psychedelic (and symbiotic) restraint, whilst ’99’ – my personal highlight – grows and flexes with a lustre both subtle and highly engaging.
In fact, the concept of engagement is the vital component in all of this. I’ve heard (and indeed own) albums broadly similar to this one – some akin in tone, others in scope – and where II implicitly succeeds more than others is by layering the sonic vista with notions active (as opposed to passive). It’s not so much a record to listen to as to grow entangled by, the conflagration of ideas, of pushing constantly forward, has seen this disc such a frequent visitor to the turntable that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it shortly claiming residency.
And what with this being the season of ho-ho-fucking-ho and goodwill to all men (and ladies, too!), I’ve a free download code of II to give away – first to write “yes please” in the comments will find it sitting in their inbox shortly.