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One of the most original and innovative Krautrock bands, Embryo fused traditional ethnic music with their own jazzy space rock style. Over their 30-year existence, during which Christian Burchard has been the only consistent member, the group has traveled the world, playing with hundreds of different musicians and releasing over 20 records.
Originally a jazzy space rock group, Embryo was formed in 1969 in Munich, Germany, by former R&B and jazz organist Christian Burchard (vibraphone, hammer dulcimer, percussion, marimba), Edgar Hofmann (saxophone), Luther Meid (bass), Jimmy Jackson (organ), Dieter Serfas (drums, percussion), Wolfgang Paap (drums), Ingo Schmidt (saxophone), and John Kelly (guitar). However, the lineup was already different by the time of the sessions for their debut album. The resulting record, Opal (1970), is considered the band's masterpiece of their early, more psychedelic sound. By the time of Embryo's Rache (1971), the group was already adding ethnic touches to their music.
In 1972, the same year they played at the Olympic Games in Munich, Embryo was invited by the Goethe Institute to tour Northern Africa and Portugal. In Morocco, the band was fascinated by the different tonal scales used by Moroccan musicians, profoundly shaping the group's music to come. In 1973, the band was joined by saxophonist Charlie Mariano and guitarist Roman Bunka, who were both influential in moving Embryo towards their genre-blending mixture of space rock with ethnic sounds. We Keep On, released in 1973, was the most successful album in the group's career. However, after Surfin' (1974) and Bad Heads and Bad Cats (1975), Burchard decided the band was moving in too commercial a direction and led them on an eight-month excursion to India, where they met local musicians. Shoba Gurtu, an Indian singer the band met during their travels, would later record an album with them, 1979's Apo Calypso. Embryo also set up their own record label, Schneeball, with the rock band Checkpoint Charlie during this time. The band then took off on a two-year journey through the Middle East, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, during which the band's bus broke down in Tehran in the middle of a civil war in 1981. The double album Embryo Reise (1981) captured this musical expedition as did the documentary film Vagabunden-Karawane. A
fter touring Asia, the Middle East, and Egypt during the early '80s, Embryo released their first studio album in seven years, Zack Gluck, in 1984. The band then toured Africa and became involved with Nigeria's Yoruba Dun Dun Ensemble. However, after internal conflicts, Embryo split up. Burchard then continued under the name of Embryo with new musicians while a new group, Embryos Dissidenten, was formed. The band released 2001 Live: Vol. 1.