Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Kraftwerk
Ruckzuck!


Released 2003 on bootleg
Reviewed by Lugia, 07/01/2004ce


Kraftwerk: "Ruckzuck!" (bootleg)
Label unknown, KWRZ 75, recorded May/June 1971, unknown release date, but purchased as new in summer, 2003.

1) Rückstoss Gondolero (11:15)
2) Vom Himmel Hoch (16:43)
3) Stratovarius (6:01)
4) Ruckzuck (22:16)

This was a jaw-dropper of a find at a certain record store in Eugene this past summer. Pressed on orange vinyl, this LP is an actual...yes, by god, NOT a mirage or manifestation of the fata morgana...document of the Dinger/Rother/Schneider Kraftwerk lineup. It's not the missing 35 minute reel, since this consists of live recordings from Spring 1971 and not that holy grail of Krautrock from the depths of the late Conny Plank's vaults (or Kraftwerk's...who knows who has it).

The first up is a very nicely-remastered version of the famous "Rückstoss Gondolero" (sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Truckstop Gondolero") track from "Beat Club", May 1971. 11+ minutes of real fun. Odd synthi blip-buzzes, proto-NEU! grooves that develop and wane with a primitive sound that never made it to that first album of theirs, sections of slow improv thud-squawp...it's a real gemischtesalat of aktion und spass that straddles the line of sonics between that first KW release and NEU!'s more raucous moments. Not as kosmische as you might be led to believe...actually, it's more punky in feel, strange sonics aside.

Then into concert tape from June with "Vom Himmel Hoch". Much, much lower-fi...and MAN...this is stone-age grade stuff! Thudthudthud pounding on the drums by Herr Dinger, Rother nailing down power chords, Florian jamming out on the wah-pedal. This isn't the Kraftwerk you think it is, folks. Instead, it's more jammy and loose...almost a very early Dead feel here and there to it! You could almost expect them to launch off into something off of those first couple of GD albums where the experiments and distortion were still on the menu for Garcia and Co. Slowly but surely, the pace starts to pick up as what has to be Rother gets more into rave-up groove mode, Florian filling in behind and Dinger bashing at the drums like some Ice Age goon! Hell, yeah!!! The synths? The electronics? ...are not here. By the time we get to the end of this king-hell rampup, Florian's wailing away in the back in full acid noise-spuzz mode, Rother's droning like some latter-day Allman Bros "Whipping Post" meets "Sister Ray" hybrid, and Dinger's being...Dinger. Primitive. Very. Then it all gradually grinds back down like some piece of rusted-out junk. And back and forth, slower-faster-slower, and totally sloppy-fuzzy. Not the streamlined TEE here, no! And certainly not the "Vom Himmel Hoch" everyone's familiar with.

"Stratovarius" also doesn't come out as expected. In fact, I'd swear we were listening to just another take on the same primal distortion-sqeee as before, save that Florian's now added this fuzz-metal-wah thing going on along with Rother's whateverthehellyoudcallit playing. Lou Allman. Or Duane Reed. Or something. Dinger just beats the living shit out of the drums, the cymbals, your forebrain, anything he can reach, it would sound like. By the end of this, you're expecting Iggy to pop up on the mike and scream "Coz ah'm LOOOOOSE!!!!" Kraftwerk? Kraftwerk. The end...cannot be described. It sounds like something blew up.

And then the grrr-lorious "Ruckzuck", drawn out to something approaching three times its original length. Florian fucks around on the flute and delay, not quite as harmoniously and in-tune as we're used to. And then..."chuf-chuffa-chuf-cha-chuf-chuffa-chufa-chuf"...and THUD THUD...no, that's not QUITE right... No, this is the EVIL Kraftwerk, the whole thing is slowed down, Rother's playing those psych variations on the funky groove that we know from the first studio album, Dinger's drums sound like something he ripped off out of a Kaufhof dumpster, and Florian's trying to sightread the ceiling or whatever. It's wrong...but RIGHT...as it chugs into that first racket outburst. Which isn't like we're used to, either...instead, things stop...and it's like the intro again but with everyone noodling around back in Dead mode again. Pick it up, back to the groove, and make it a little more aggro and nasty this time. Yeeaaahhhh!!! Naturally, this too breaks down after a while as Rother gets stuck trying to work out this one figure, Florian's chuffa-huffing away, and Dinger is...Dinger. They get it back after a few minutes, though, and thud-pound away on the "Ruckzuck" drone-zone-groove thang more and more before...yep, it starts falling apart again. Toward the end of this, Rother and Schneider get the crowd going with some flute and guitar honkin'...you can hear 'em clapping and stomping along as Dinger's drums start in again and someone starts up a...table saw? What the hell is that noise? Oh, it's Dinger doing a cymbal roll...which sounds like it just falls over at the end.

But is it over? HELL NO! They're just getting started! We leap right into this (per)version of the atonal bangbangbang section (I hesitate to call something so deconstructed a 'bridge', I'll note) in the middle of the studio version, and it sounds like...HELL! Pulsed feedback noise that sounds like a car alarm on PCP meets up with something that sounds like a mugging beatdown in progress as recorded with contact mikes. We are definitely off somewhere that the original version never got to. And somewhere that most NO ONE got to, for that matter, except maybe for those anecdotal early Stooges gigs with their junk percussion and racket-making homemade gear. When this falls apart...which of course, it does...it sounds like complete meltdown racket...and then we get the groovy ending. And again, of course.

One major caveat here is that the audio quality on the live tracks aside of the "Beat Club" remastering is really sub-par. Very much a crackerbox-grade recording job. But while in one sense that's a negative, in others it's a plus as it adds to the overall 'everything-about-to-explode' psych-noise ambience that Kraftwerk got in these live versions.

So if you're curious...this is the boot you need to find, since you know those 35 minutes in the studio will probably never see the light of day, at least not for a long long time. The missing KW lineup, folks, submitted for your approval.


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