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According to Brian Eno, "There were three great beats in the '70s: Fela Kutiís Afrobeat, James Brownís funk and Klaus Dingerís Neu! -Beat". Not a bad testimonial from the man who (arguably) invented both ambient music and Glam rock. Those of you new to the world of '70s German music might be interested to learn that Neu! was comprised of/founded by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother, perhaps better known as one-half of the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk. In 1971, unhappy with the direction they felt Kraftwerk was taking, Dinger and Rother left to form Neu! -- and basically, the rest is history. These Astralwerks reissues of their seminal Neu!, Neu!2 and Neu!'75 albums mark the first time that these albums will be readily available outside of the groupís native Germany.

Though the duo's debut album, simply entitled Neu!, was recorded in only four days, its effect on the world of music is still being felt today. Cited as an important reference point by everyone from Placebo to Radiohead to Stereolab, the groupís auspicious debut was a demonically rocking concoction that consisted mainly of Dingerís robotic drumming, blasts of tumultuous guitar and deep, interlocking grooves. Listening to the vast sonic wonderland that is "Weissensee", one canít help but imagine a world where computers control humans and the sun sets over a city gloriously constructed of millions of geometrically complex sterling silver domes. If nothing else, an airing of Neu! makes clear that were it not for these men, artists like Mouse on Mars, Squarepusher and Tortoise would not exist today.

In 1973, Dinger and Rother returned to the studio to record their second album. This time out, the duo recorded only 20 minutes of new material, which they then spliced, looped and rearranged for what would eventually become Neu! 2. Neu! 2ís sound, while not exactly a departure from its predecessor, is darker and more haunting. "Lila Engel" is pure rock ní roll fury, its overdriven effects and cut-and-paste looped voices culminating in a delirious, blood-soaked finale. In contrast, "Neuschnee 78"ís splintered baroque/oriental tone and stuttering beats sound oddly warm and inviting, like an untarnished summertime lullaby that was penned just for you. While it consisted of the least amount of original material, but contained the most original ideas, it is safe to conclude that Neu! 2 has had enjoyed a larger sphere of influence than either of its recorded counterparts.

After a two-year hiatus in which Dinger and Rother worked on other projects, they reunited to record the aptly titled Neu! '75. There must have been a sense of impending doom during those sessions -- the feeling that two men who have worked together for the bulk of their respective careers get when they know that the current project will be their partnership's last hurrah. Regardless of the circumstances behind its creation, Neu! '75 is a decidedly somber affair in which the duo creates a slow-burning series of musical portraits, presumably of each another. From the piano-led lilt of opener "Isi" to the sarcastic strut of "Hero", the group exudes a casual elegance not usually seen in music of their ilk. It was as though they were writing the soundtrack to some interstellar cabaret, where humans and aliens would dance together in some macabre version of Casablanca. It was their swan song to the world(s), and in the history of music there has rarely been such an iridescent performance.

These reissues show the power that music can hold -- not only over our minds, but over our beings as well. It is clear that Dinger and Rother were able to tap into something unexplainable with these songs, which is why they remain so dear to so many, and will hopefully continue to for years to come.

-- Jason Jackowiak
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