Monday, 4 January 2010

Hoelderlin -Clowns & Clouds (1976) *****

"Germany is well known in the US for its acidic, experimental/electronic prog a la Ash Ra Tempel, early Tangerine Dream, Faust, and Can. A lesser-known or spoken-of oeuvre seems to be that country's symphonic progressive music scene, which, like the predominant Anglo- American bands, flourished in the 1970's. While Eloy headed in a Floydian direction, maintained a metallic edge, added symphonic overtones and made some headway, other bands were likely much more obscure to stateside listeners.

Hoelderlin were one such band; imbued with a keen sense of melody, interplay, and craftsmanship, and possessing a once-in-a-lifetime chemistry, they made a handful of under-the-radar classics of symphonic progressive rock In early 1976 the band along with producer Karlheinz Borchert found themselves at work in Conny Planck's Neunkirchen studio, recording and mixing Clowns And Clouds. The album is divided into a "clown" side and . . . . . you guessed it . . . . . a "cloud" side. Written by keyboardist time changes and exquisitely blended instrumentation, accented by guest Büdi Seibert's saxophone. "Your Eyes" follows and continues to demonstrate Jochen Grumbkow's considerable abilities as a keyboardist The use of cello and viola was a hallmark of Hoelderlin's sound, highlighted in the opening tango section of the three-part "Circus." There is also some fantastic acoustic guitar work in the second section "Marching" before the band quickens the pace for the closing bit entitled"Sensations." Nops Noppeney's viola is therein accented but all of the musicians deliver stellar performances. The "Cloud" side features two cuts. Bassist/guitarist Hans Bäär wrote "Streaming," and besides being a showcase for guitar orchestration, it gives Seibert another chance to contribute nicely on sax and flute. Jochen Grumbkow paired with Baar to write "Phasing," a 12:12 instrumenta piece that superbly blends every instrument. Viola, cello, and guitar all soar upon another graceful bed of keyboards, given rhythmic life by Bäär's galloping bass work and Michael Bruchmann's nimble, solid drumming. All of the vocals on Clowns And Clouds were sung in English by Jochen Grumbkow and Nops Noppeny. Their accents are present but never a distraction; this is an extremely well-engineered album and no instrument or voice overwhelms the mix at any time If you love the warm tones and instrumental blends that were unique to the 1970's symphonic progressive bands, then dig up this largely forgotten gem TODAY. Perhaps fans of Moonmadness or Rain Dances-era Camel or "classic 7" Moody Blues would be at home here. Although they were not without peers or precedent, Hoelderlin were the rarest of bands that for a time made all the right compositional and nstrumental moves. Every musician shines but none of them disturb the perfect balance of the whole, and Clowns And Clouds gets my most urgent recommendation." (Review from off the web somewhere.)

1. Mad House (C.Grumbkow/J.Grumbkow) - 6:47
2. Your Eyes (J.Grumbkow) - 6:10
3. Circus (C.Grumbkow/J.Grumbkow) - 10:05 including a) Tango Mil b) Marching c) Sensations
4. Streaming (H.Bäär) - 7:10
5. Phasing (J.Grumbkow/H.Bäär) - 12:08

Personnel- Christian Grumbkow - lead guitar-
Joachim Grumbkow - keyboards, cello, vocals-
Hans Bäär - bass, guitars-
Michael Bruchmann - drums, percussion-
Joachim Käseberg - live sound-
Christoph "Nops" Noppeney - viola, acoustic guitar, vocals-
Jörg-Peter Siebert - saxophones, flutes, percussion

another great album by this band! Check out the others also!