(Michael Rother & Steve Shelley pic by flickr user crlsblnc)
The wealth and breadth of musical treats on offer at Barcelona's annual Primavera Sound Festival hit home with a suckerpunch on Saturday May 29th at 7pm, when I was forced to choose between live sets by The Clean, Michael Rother's new project "Hallogallo 2010", playing the music of NEU! and Harmonia, and Van Dyke Parks. After much deliberation I chose The Clean. My consolation prize for being forced to reject other such riches came during the walk over. The seaside stage The Clean were playing on was only accessible by first walking past another stage, where Michael Rother and pals Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth, drums) and Aaron Mullan (Tall Firs, bass), were playing what is perhaps the definitive piece of motorik Krautrock, "Hallogallo", by Rother's legendary '70s Düsseldorf duo NEU! I hung around for a few minutes, then headed over to see a few songs by The Clean, one of which ("Tensile") drummer Hamish Kilgour dedicated to Rother. Heading back to the WFMU tent to begin our broadcast day, I stopped to linger in the sweet spot where the sounds of both bands collided, then procrastinated more at the Rother stage again to soak up the melancholy majesty of the Harmonia track "Deluxe (Immer Wieder)".
In an age where "heritage" acts are propped up to play their catalog on-demand for crowds ravenous to devour them in order to chalk up some bogus experience, a cynic might find something crass in the presentation of this music today; a purist might consider Rother's longtime partner, the late Klaus Dinger, irreplaceable. And it's right for a fan to always be on guard against the creep of hired-hands, or an artist's alienation from the art s/he created many years ago. I was prepared for disappointment; I got transcendence. Shelley and Mullan showed a sympathy to the music worthy of the people who created it. The power of this music filling limitless space and spreading outward to the Mediterranean Sea bordered on the religious. Give thanks and praise to Rother, Shelley and Mullan for allowing us to share their set with you.
Later that night, after the sun had set and the Tabaco Moon risen, I stood outside WFMU's broadcast tent as Brian and Jason fired up the set from Rother, Shelley & Mullan. As the motorik beat kicked in and we turned up the volume, I lowered my head in preparation for full-on drone-zone appreciation, pausing on the way to smile greetings at the guy standing next to me. Gently nodding, with a slight smile on his face, Michael Rother seemed to be digging it too.
In other NEU!se (i'm sorry!), Rother, Shelley & Mullan will be doing a few NY and Philly dates later this summer.
- August 4 Hoboken, NJ Maxwell’s (as Michael Rother and Freund)
- August 6 Lincoln Center NYC – FREE
- August 8 Philadelphia, PA International House of Philadelphia
September is filled with European dates. For details, and the story on how this project came together, check Rother's site.