Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Guru Guru—
Hinten


Released 1971 on Ohr
The Seth Man, May 2004ce
“Soon the Ufos will land and mankind will meet much stronger brains and habits. Let’s get ready for that.”
-P. Hinten (liners from Guru Guru’s first album, “UFO”, 1971)


So ready, that instead of waiting one more year for Alien Starfleet Command to beam them up they set all their energies into priming a furious lift-off on their second LP, “Hinten.” This album expresses so much with so little it almost operates as the aural equivalent level of the Pioneer 11 plaque: designed simply for universal communication with any intelligent life forms it might come into contact with out there in space (namely: we’re located third stone from the sun, the human species come as a pair, and by the way: in peace, too.) Accompanying this plate on its flight into the great beyond was an etched metal sound disc and although I can’t remember what it was, it wasn’t “Hinten” but how I wish it was because it would be comforting to know that at least one copy of this album would survive earth’s inevitable termination five billion years from now and to think that out of all the albums ever produced on this planet, to have “Hinten” be earth’s sole sound representative (as well as just knowing that SOMEWHERE OUT THERE a copy of “Hinten” is floating around in permanent circulation) would be about as ridiculous and poetic as the record itself.

“Hinten” was the second album by the three-piece Guru Guru comprised of: Mani Neumeier (voice, electric drums, cymbals, gong, contact microphone, kalimba, sounding being, zonk machine); Uli Trepte (bass, radio) and Ax Genrich (guitar.) And here they sound less lumpen/trudgin’ than on their stellar “UFO” LP but every bit as Frei-Rock and exploratory. But unlike “UFO,” “Hinten” exhibits a more flexible and plastic structure: it’s loose, yet tight. It’s free flowing, yet scripted enough to accommodate a freefall of freak outs and it allowed themselves all the space in the universe yet managing to combine together with such effectively precise riffing JUST off enough to allow all concerned to wander off the path as many times as they liked without leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind AND NEVER GETTING LOST. There are also more vocals present here, but only if you can call murmuring song titles over ten-plus-minutes’ worth of an ensemble jumble of detuned, skittering guitars shrieking and groaning feedback with an overlay of contact microphone hi-jinks with jarring percussive strikes ‘vocals.’ And this was presented in a far clearer sonic image than ever before, courtesy of its self-production ably assisted by engineer Conrad Plank.

Even though the performance was several notches up on the tightness scale from “UFO,” the chaos remained unchecked to an extreme because for all its pre-planned boundaries (which they wound up pushing through or just plain ignored for most of the time) the end result was a loose and gigantically sprawling, avant-proto-metal improvisatory monster that for all its audio strength caught the trio completely in the raw...And speaking of which, the cover’s got that, too. What cheek. And when I say ‘cheek’ I mean that literally cos it’s a four times repetition of a photograph of a guy’s backside with the word ‘GURU’ painted twice across his bared glutei. Although it seems a long way round to go just to riff off the album’s title, it did effectively scream “FREAK” before anyone got to hear it and the music sealed the whole deal with so many instantaneous stops-and-starts, false endings, guitar solos and outright freakery it both roots you to the spot and sends you off into a zone of anarchic mind-warp all at once. Makes you crack up at inopportune moments, too.

“Electric Junk” is the explosive Magic Band-as-Blue Cheer introduction with a near-eleven minute long trawl through a variety of vistas from atonal noise to spaced quietude as it wends throughout a gauntlet of free form heavy rock that is almost claustrophobically too much at once, especially with Neumeier going whole hog by striking out all over the place at everything from cymbals, gongs, pangs and bells. He’s already overdone it all to death in the first 30 seconds of the album. But amidst Neumeier’s clutter of clatter it’s apparent they all are sucked into the eye of the hurricane as the two guitarists are just going for it frenzied and proper -- Trepte’s bass firmly grounded while Genrich’s detuned e-guitar electrifies most of the time with feedbacking and downstroking up a Fender storm while shaking it all down. Even though all settles into the first break, Mani does not settle while running down a list of ridiculous spoken German pronouncements while naughtily sneaking in random percussive pot shots throughout against Genrich mischievously turning his e-guitar spigot between on and off. They regroup to Rock it out some more until they fall into a patch of entirely becalmed space where Genrich plucks out quietly echoed notes against interstellar seagull-ing and Neumeier’s kontaktmikrofon spazz-outs that build in muffled cavernous moaning-ness. But this interlude has already flashed by quickly, rudely interrupted by re-entry into a proto metal bash full stop where Trepte’s bass the only constant as Genrich squawks and squalls up a storm while Neumeier’s precisely ramshackle percussives are full throttle. To confound all, “Electric Junk” decides to end. Suddenly.

“The Meaning Of Meaning” follows gently as a twelve-minute mystery epic. The title is repeated and the rest of the lyrics are rendered in a near inaudible torpor over the overall horizontal-ness of the piece. The building starts slowly with Genrich’s guitar theme only to fall away back into that anticipatory “Sleeping Village” vibe of watching and waiting. It builds into a mid-tempo thrash as contact mikes scrape away at the sides of amplifiers and it will remain at this death throttle pace until the inevitable build at the end, where Genrich is stuck in second gear riffing with a repeating, electro-lurching theme like the burn out ending of Jimi’s “Voodoo Chile” on infinite repeat. Then it slips away.

Side two is just as mystifyingly divided between the Dumbass and the divine as side one. With a megaphonic cry of “BO DIDDLEY...” the track of the same name sloshes up against the insides of your speakers and three times these two words are repeated on four separate occasions, brayed out as the entire set of lyrics and called out to a response of a descending group riff that intones with the drunken “How dry I am” with a “waa-waa-waa-waa-waa-waa-waa-waa-WAAAA” as though musically sticking out its tongue a mile to razz all for this is Dumbass rock’n’roll scrawled with a capital “D,” and the fact that it doesn’t even sound like Bo Diddley (or Ellis McDaniels, neither) kills me every time; especially with that “Heartbreak Hotel” riff and Neumeier’s sizzlingly pulverised hi-hatting carrying on through the group trudge and his ever-flailing capabilities never flagging in its crooked path all around the beat and once the two guitarists reprise the main theme after extra-extrapolating the thing from A-Z and back again, they all fall back in as though nothing happened. The build at the end spins out Dervishly and builds to twin guitar shrieks and inevitable breakdown.

“Space Ship” clocks in at eleven minutes and it’s here especially I’m often reminded that it was a pity Guru Guru shoulda/coulda (but didn’t) take it one step further by expanding “Hinten” into a double album just to let each of the four tracks expand and contract for the duration of a full album side. To have this sense of skittering throughout so deep, dark and weightless a space for longer than the segment included here does would just be beautiful. Because once the opening freak out/lift-off into the cosmos, it’s Guru Guru at their most chilled out: Genrich quietly plucks in wonderment, Neumeier attends to the contact mikes and Trepte’s bass line is hypnotic as interstellar bleeps and cosmic whispers abound and buffet their last transmission. Right before it slips into a freaky wormhole of much stronger brains and habits...

Let’s get ready for that.