Various Artists

Krautrock [Polygram]

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A two-disc set released by Polygram's German branch in 1997, Krautrock is a fair summary of the titular genre. A good combination of Krautrock superstars -- Can, Tangerine Dream, Cluster, Faust, and Amon Duul II are all represented, most by more than one track -- and lesser-known cult favorites like the Cosmic Jokers and Embryo, these discs show how wide-ranging the genre really was. Although perception outside of Germany is mostly limited to the synth-heavy space music of Tangerine Dream and Can's hypnotic polyrhythms, Germany produced as varied a crop of artists as any other country during the '70s. There's pure space music here, like Harmonia's all but still "Sehr Kosmisch," but the very early (and guitar-heavy) Tangerine Dream track, "Journey Through a Burning Brain," will surprise anyone who only knows their later, more placid synthesizer albums. Any Krautrock fan will find omissions to grouse about, like the fact that nothing by Amon Duul II's more wild-eyed predecessor, the anarchic Amon Duul I (a sociopolitical commune with members who later became affiliated with the terroristic Baader-Meinhof gang) is included, or that Ash Ra Tempel's sole selection is a brief and not entirely representative excerpt from a chant led by Timothy Leary. However, by wisely including many unexpected and rare choices, Krautrock is useful both to the novice and the longtime fan.

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