Various Artists

Achtung! German Grooves

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Any number of compilations in recent years have worked to exhume the simultaneously slick as hell and utterly weird amount of German funk recordings that flooded their home market in the late '60s and early '70s. Achtung! German Grooves provides another dollop of this with liner notes, clear sound, and more, though admittedly a lot of the fascination with this material lies in how well they ape American efforts in particular -- which tends to make one want to listen to that instead. But Achtung! does have a big advantage in that all the offerings are strictly instrumental, meaning that there's no schlager-style awfulness clogging up the performances (as anyone who has heard such things can testify, a little goes a long way -- too long). Familiar names abound in this compilation, including Peter Thomas and James Last, while plenty of new or at least fairly obscure ones crop up. The end result is one long romp through sounds that practically beg to be soundtracking the opening credits in contemporary wacky spy movies or bizarre sex comedies (or, as is likely the case, both). Nearly everything has a clean precision that may seem antithetical to funk as such, but if you take the principle that Kraftwerk were so stiff they were funky, most everything on here makes a lot more sense as a result. The secret weapon nearly song for song and artist for artist are the horn sections -- hyper-frenetic, slow and sassy, somewhere in between. Meantime, nearly every selection has a strange curve ball somewhere in the middle -- the whizzing synth noises collapsing into a sweet flute melody on Gerhard Narholz's swaggering "UFO Invasion," Thomas' killer touch at adding a swooping string section to "Chariots of the Gods." At worst, selections are pleasant-sounding time-killers that inevitably call '70s cop shows to mind; at best, they're insanely great.

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