Category Archives: Germany

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Ruckzuck” by Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk (German for “power plant”) were a group who came to my attention through a PBS documentary talking about electro funk pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. He was explaining how when he first heard the German groups album Trans Europe Express,he was convinced this would be the music for the future. Thanks to Bambaataa’s parties for his proto hip-hop collective Zulu Nation,late 70’s Kraftwerk records became major fixtures at black and Latino dance parties throughout the Bronx and Brooklyn. As krautrock’s prototype for what became today’s EDM sound,Krafwerk had an origin point all it’s own within their native country.

The group’s founders in keyboardist/guitarist Ralf Hutter and flutist/percussionist Florian Schneider,whose celebrating his 69th birthday today,came together at the very end of the 60’s in a psychedelic fusion oriented band known as the Organisation. After that bands first and only album, Ralf and Florian  formed their first addition of Kraftwerk along with drummers Andreas  Hohmaan and Klaus Dinger for their self titled debut. Released in 1970,it was produced by the iconic krautrock producer  Konrad “Conny” Plank. Upon first hearing the album,the opening song stood out to me with heavy familiarity about it. The name of the song was “Ruckzuck”.

Florian begins the song with a double tracked flute solo playing very Arabic style scales. He then brings a very whisper,brittle violin solo which instantly kicks into the song itself. Hohmann’s hi hat heavy,rolling 2 by 2 beat snare drum pushes along at a hard grooving tempo with Hutter’s high pitched organ providing the main melody. Florian’s flute flows in and out of the mix. As Hutter’s organ grows more atonal and higher in the mix,the main melody of the song suddenly returns at an accelerated tempo. Then the whole disappears into a sea of tribal,very aboriginal African sounding percussion before that accelerated main theme fades back in to officially close out the song.

Henrique Hopkins and myself have had a number of discussions on Kraftwerk providing more raw instrumental material than strong melodic song content to those influenced by them. The Kraftwerk on this song are very different. Later member Karl Bartos said once that one the groups main key influences was James Brown. That can be heard on this song having such a complete relationship to rhythm-even the violin soloing. Because everything in this song is mixed in such close proximity,I cannot tell my next point for sure. But it does sound as if the rhythm is deeply locked into the Afro-Latin clave as well. That plus the very tribal pulse in the middle of the groove brings that out as well.

It was a few years ago that the songs familiarity came to me via YouTube. In the late 80’s and early 90’s,about 30 seconds of this song was used as the theme song to the PBS science program Newton’s Apple. The use of the song was apparently unauthorized and was replaced by a cover version during the shows later years. Part of the reasoning for this had to due with Ralf and Florian seemingly disowning this and Kraftwerk’s next two albums after the late 70’s-with Florian himself referring to them as “archaeology”. Even still,hearing Kraftwerk’s first song from their first album in such a progressive jazz-funk context showcases what their musical core has remained over the years.

 

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Filed under 1970's, Afrika Bambaataa, Afro-Latin jazz, Andreas Hohmaan, clave, Conny Plank, drums, Florian Schneider, flute, Germany, James Brown, jazz funk, Kraftwerk, krautrock, organ, progressive music, Ralf Hutter, Uncategorized, violin

Anatomy Of The Groove 1/9/2015-Andre’s Pick: “Berlin Street Funk” by Peter Muller

One of the true blessings of the internet is the ability for independent musicians,from all different genres,to have the available infrastructure to not only promote and release their music but also be able to maintain it’s intended creative flavor. Bremen Germany born Peter Muller is such a case of a vital funk bass player whose career took off entirely during (and to a great degree because of) the internet. With a father playing acoustic bass and piano,Muller became a sideman during the 90’s who was very much attracted to the playing approach of Stanley Clarke,Mark King and the incomparably multi talented Marcus Miller.

Shortly after joining the UK’s Frank Mead Band,Muller started a solo career. And in doing so became among one of the earliest pioneers who made full use of digital recording software to record his music directly on and to his own PC.  Developing his own studio known as Wave Island,Muller recorded his debut in 2003. His second album The Flow became a prominent aspect of the then still growing iTunes Jazzhcharts. After several years of working primarily as a music educator,Muller assembled some of the members of the Frank Mead band,including the man himself for his next album in 2014’s No Mind-which opened with the song “Berlin Street Funk”.

Beginning with an isolated and classic funky drum solo directly from the Clyde Stubblefield school,Muller’s punching slap bass solo comes in playing a bluesy funk solo,followed up by keyboardist Tobias Neumann’s jazzy notations on the Rhodes. Mead then comes in on sax playing the basic melody Muller originally threw down on his electric bass. All surrounding an unusually clear cut sample of the rhythm guitar line from James Brown’s “Sex Machine”,. Following a bridge featuring a sax improvisation from Meade? The music builds up to an intense unison of grooving led by Tim Canfield’s wah-wah guitar eventually building into a reverb laden jazz-rock styled electric guitar solo that is cut off by Mead’s closing sax solo that provides the final fanfare to the song.

Perhaps it was Muller’s years as a music educator that inspired him to present this song the way he did. The fact that each instrument from each of the band members he was working with build up the song from the foundation upward? Each playing directly off the drum and bass part Muller put down? There is just as much of an instructional element to this song as their is entertainment factor. And that factor is very heavy too because each of these players combines the funky basics of James Brown,the slap bass of Marcus Miller and the harmonically enriching electric piano approach of a Herbie Hancock and mixes them together for a potent and live band style funky stew of grooves,rhythms and complex melodies. Surely this qualifies as Peter Muller’s own jam of the year!

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Filed under 2014, Frank Meade Band, Funk, Funk Bass, Germany, James Brown, Jazz-Funk, Marcus Miller, Mark King, Peter Muller, Stanley Clarke