NEU!

Released

Having met in Kraftwerk as sidemen for the Ralf and Florian show in 1970, drummer Klaus Dinger and guitarist Michael Rother decamped with producer Conny Plank to change the game in December of 1971. Are they low-key responsible for the Sex Pistols, Sonic Youth, and Stereolab? In part, they are. (You’ll need to listen to all three albums to hear this happen.) On the first album, Dinger establishes his famous motorik or “endless straight” drumbeat, which is really not the A-Z of this duo. (Very very important to remember that.) “Hallogallo” is the template, the Stereolab seed, pitting Rother’s humming and detonating guitars against Dinger and his steady kick-drum eighth notes, played without dynamic shift or surcease. Neu! found so many ways to make repetition soft and echo hard. Rother re-tuned his guitars and made gossamer melodies and batshit noise, and Brian Eno stole at least half of that. Neu! also loved playing with tape playback speed, which is just one of several underrated innovations. “Weissensee”? Ambient music, sort of? With gentle beats? The three-song second side of the album is supertitled “Jahresüberblick”—the “year in review,” or “annual report,” a nod to Dinger’s interest in advertising. “Im Glück” is a placid haze of guitar and double bass manipulations. “Negativland”? Sonic Youth, from Confusion Is Sex, maybe. Neu! have dozens and dozens of ideas, and their status as a duo brings that out, because there’s really nothing on this album that isn’t a fully thought-out idea. This album swirls more than it stomps and much of it has no beat at all. Water? Jackhammers? Barking? A legendary soup of soft perceptual fuckery.

Sasha Frere-Jones

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