Organisation - Tone Float

Tone Float

Released 1970 on RCA Victor
Reviewed by Dog 3000, 29/08/2003ce

1 Tone Float
2 Milk Rock
3 Silver Forest
4 Rhythm Salad
5 Noitasinagro
6 Vor Dem Blauen Bock (CD bonus track)

Ralf Hutter - keyboards
Florian Schneider - flute, violin, percussion
Butch Hauf - bass, percussion
Basil Hammoundi - percussion
Fred Monics - Drums
Conrad Plank - producer

The first LP collaboration between the two visionaries who would go on to found Kraftwerk is a bit like the first Tangerine Dream LP, in that it bears little resemblance to their later electronics-dominated work and is closer to "traditional Krautrock". The Organisation album is basically instrumental, heavily oriented towards improvisation, features lots of hand percussion and shows more jazz and psychedelic influence than anything Kraftwerk would ever do.

The 20 minute long title track begins with bells, drums & assorted hand percussion. The initial feel is very free-jazz-like, in fact it reminds me very much of Archie Shepp's band with Bobby Hutcherson in the mid-60's (if you got rid of the saxophone!) Eventually a groove is established on "bongos" (some kind of hand drum anyway) and danged if it doesn't remind me of the "Deutscher Cha-Cha" rhythm that Kraftwerk would later incorporate into their music via drum machines (I've never found Kraftwerk to be particularly danceable -- theirs is more of a "funk for the head" not the body.) After chilling out with some ambient electronic wind sounds, Hutter's organ begings to swell with polyphonic drones that sounds quite a bit like Miles Davis' work on the Yamaha organ in the mid-70's. The drum kit whips things into a loping pompous psych jam for a bit, then it breaks down again to a 2-note bass figure accompanied by tambourine as the organ returns for some jazzier modal noodling. It builds back up to something like "krautrock" again before mellowing into a flute-led jam with a faux-"middle eastern" vibe. Schneider's distinctive flute playing includes percussive blowing much like on Kraftwerk's "Ruckzuck" as well as harmonic overtones that recall Roland Kirk and the tasteful occasional use of an analog delay effect. The thing builds in intensity one last time (including a Salsa rhythm on the claves!) before ending with some Stockhausenesque "treated percussion" sounds.

Next track (beginning of side 2 if you've got the LP) is "Milk Rock", the most "rock" song on the album featuring a steady beat, choogling krautbass and percussive Hammond organ riffing (think Lonnie Liston Smith.) Schneider plays his flute through some sort of electronic effect that had me convinced it was actually a moog for a while -- the giveaway is when he starts the harmonic overblowing thing again (the technique where you can get more than one note at a time out of a wind-powered instrument, like Coltrane, Shepp, Kirk, et. al. used to do -- moogs are monophonic and only play one note at a time.) At any rate, this track reminds me of some of the more oddball and jazz-oriented stuff Stereolab has done in recent years.

"Silver Forest" could be described as "ambient jazz rock from space." It's slower and majestic and features some ethereal gong work.

"Rhythm Salad" is about what you'd expect from the title, though it begins with some analog delay feedback that is the most blatantly "electronic" sound on the album. Otherwise it's basically a free-form percussion jam, quite good for what it is and with some neat stereo panning effects. There is also a little subliminal off-mic chanting from someone in the group, whoever it was was probably just "feeling it" while recording. It climaxes when the drum kit comes in to play an Elvin Jones-ish "solo" over the top of all the other percussion instruments.

"Noitasinagro" sounds a bit more derivative than the other tracks to me, Hutter's organ having a "cathedral" quality that recalls VDGG's Hugh Banton (at it's best) and Iron Butterfly's Doug Ingle (at it's worst.) You've also got Schneider droning away on electrified violin much like John Cale on the early Velvets records (though not as obnoxious) until he starts playing "raga style" (the electronics give the violin a sound like some Asian instrument, I think it's called an Oud?) Another one of the odder moments on this track is some "ah-ah-ah" freakout vocals. It ends with some overblown church organ claptrap that sounds like a jazzier version of the climax of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida".

The CD reissue on Crown Records includes an 11 minute bonus track, "Vor Dem Blauen Bock" (roughly translated: "Before The Blue Horse" -- I've also come across this track in bootleg form under the title "Truckstop Gondolero.") This is not actually an Organisation track, but a 1971 live recording from the Beat Club TV show by a short-lived trio version of Kraftwerk, consisting of Schneider plus Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger (the two guys who would split to form NEU! -- Hutter was not in the band at this point.)

"Bock" begins with a bunch of Stockhausen electronic sounds before Rother starts playing a guitar riff that sounds just like his work with NEU!, and once Dinger starts up the "motorik" beat it's practically indistinguishable from a NEU! tune like "Negativland". Schneider plays along first on electric flute, then electric violin but the Rother-Dinger axis totally dominates. It's not hard to see why those two left the band to go do their own thing, the basic NEU! blueprint is fully on display already here in 1971.

In conclusion, "Tone Float" is practically a must-hear for krautrock afficianados, in particular the CD reissue with the rare (and dare I say "historically important"?) Kraftwerk/NEU! track. However the album could well disappoint Kraftwerk fans who are exclusively into the "electronica" thing.

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