Title: Tone Float
Label: RCA Victor
Genre: krautrock/kosmiche, electronic, experimental
As psyche rock began to decline in the late 60s, an experimental form of rock began to blossom out of Germany; the bands mainly consisted of art and music students. The music became known as kosmische in Germany, but westerners dubbed it krautrock (kraut roughly means cabbage, and the term bothers many folks who were a part of the scene). This music didn’t sell well in the states in those days but lately, it has developed a massive following.
So what does this have to do with Kraftwerk? The founding members of Kraftwerk, Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider, formed a band with Butch Hauf, Basil Hammoudi, and Fred Monicks in 1968. They toured and jammed mainly, but released one LP in 1970 before parting ways. It didn’t generate a lot of attention then but, much like many kosmische releases, has become a highly prized recording in recent years.
So what does this actually sound like?
The A-side is our title track, and it spans over twenty minutes. Opening with chimes and rattles, it’s off to a soft and spellbinding start. It’s fairly minimal, almost giving it a space type vibe. After quite some time, the beat gets a little tribal with some light jazz like elements and I can’t help but tap my toes. It’s so catchy!
At nearly half way through the song, the organ finally roars to life. The melody takes on a sort of a prog / psyche feel. The bass kicks in here as well, and I can kind of compare this to early Tangerine Dream, perhaps, or maybe some sort of progressive jam set. A few minutes later, the flute flutters in. This adds a slight element of psyche to the mix but the cosmic vibe is uninterrupted. And as this massive track comes to an end, I would have to argue that it is a strong piece.
Flipping it over the record, we enter “Milk Rock.” It’s very rhythmic and jams along with smooth bass, organ and wild flute. It sounds as if they left the recorder on while the band was jamming out of control, the results of which were good, of course. “Silver Forest” shimmers in like a faint light in the darkness. This track certainly might send a shiver up your spine if played with the lights out. Whatever effect they were using on the organ here is perfect for that creepy vibe.
With some tribal beats, we enter track four. It’s a brief track made solely from drumming, which explains why I didn’t really notice when it ended. The final track enters with some gentle chimes and guitar work. An organ slowly works its way in and so does a violin, which is an interesting touch. With some light chanting, the track gets really rockin’ and becomes a real stand out piece. It’s mature and really rounds things out well, despite not lasting too long.
Should you buy this? Prices for the original vinyl are high, so unless you can cough up the funds, don’t freak out if you don’t own this. However, bootlegs do exist both on vinyl and CD. Most of these bootlegs feature an eleven minute Kraftwerk track that was performed live on TV sometime in 1970. Hard to say if that’s more bang for your buck, as I’ve not heard the track for myself yet. From what I have seen, though, the bootlegs are usually cheaper in price but may vary in quality.
4 out of 5.