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Neu! '75

Neu!

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Album Review

After a three-year break, Neu! members Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother buried their differences temporarily, and reunited for another go at the "motorik" sound they had developed with their debut in 1971. The strange tension and presentation of Neu! 2 and the emergence of their former band Kraftwerk may have precipitated the reunion, but, whatever the reason, the end result proved worth the time, effort, and bickering it took to crank this one out. One thing that is noticeably different on 75 is the presence of synthesizers and the preference of them, it seems, over Rother's guitar. "Isi," which opens the album, features Dinger's metronymic percussion holding down the 2/4 rhythm and a trademark one-note bassline provided by a piano, but the gorgeous sonic washes and flourishes normally handled by Rother's guitar-slinging hands are now painted with a synth. "Seeland" offers a return to the six strings with what would in subsequent years become Rother's ornate "singing" style of playing. Dinger's rhythmic patterns here are deceptively simple. They create a long, trudging 4/4, syncopated every other line, and punctuated by a small ride cymbal at the end of each phrase as Rother's guitar provides both cascading single string notes and a shifting, pulsing bassline. It's a beautiful wasteland, this track; sparse yet full of melodic interplay and layered guitars and keyboards. The last track on side one is "Leb Wohl," an exercise in white noise, industrial textures, and natural or, "found" sounds, a piano and gorgeous, spare and intricate guitar chords. For side two, Neu! adds Dinger's brother, Thomas, and Hans Lampe on various percussions to allow Dinger to play guitar, piano, and organ, and to add some bottom end to the band's sound. The funny thing is they come off sounding more like a melodic punk band on "Hero," with Dinger's growling vocals being reminiscent of a young Mick Jagger on steroids. His Keith Richards-style chords stand in stark contrast to Rother's more lyrical approach. Perhaps this isn't such a surprise when we consider the Damned's first album was recorded in 1975. The ten-minute "E-Musick" becomes Neu!'s signature track for this disc, however. With distorted percussion — courtesy of a synth and sequencer, as well as a drum kit put through a phase shifter, Rother's melodic synth lines are free to roam, wide and far, carrying within them a foreshadowing of his guitar solos a few minutes later. These long screaming lines, reminiscent of Steve Hillage at his best, with Dinger's wonderful rhythm backing and treatments of the instruments, provides a definitive statement on the Neu! "motorik" sound. This is music not only for traveling, from one place to the next, but also for disappearance into the ether at a steady pace. This may have been Neu!'s final statement — at least in the studio; Dinger issued (without Rother's permission) an inferior live '72 album — but at least they went out on a much higher note than Neu! 2, and in a place where their innovations are still being not only recognized, but utilized.

Biography

Formed: 1971 in Düsseldorf, Germany

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s

While little known and relatively unheralded during its brief existence, the Krautrock duo Neu! cast a large shadow over later generations of musicians and served as a major influence on artists as diverse as David Bowie, Sonic Youth, Pere Ubu, Julian Cope, and Stereolab. Neu! formed in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1971 after multi-instrumentalists Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger both split from Kraftwerk. Recorded in the space of four days with Can producer Conrad Plank, the duo's self-titled debut appeared...
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