Wild Mercury Sound

Comus return, plus an amazing Kraftwerk discovery

John Mulvey

Strange telephone call a couple of hours ago, from someone called Bobbie who was looking for some coverage of her band. It turned out, amazingly, to be Bobbie Watson from Comus, of all people, who have reformed for a gig in March.

It'd be logical if this was one of those heritage reunion events at the Festival Hall. But I guess Comus' reputation as the most arcane and perverse of the original acid-folk bands endures, since this show is on a boat cruising from Stockholm to Helsinki. This, it seems, is the 21st Anniversary Schizoid Boat, something which purports to be a prog festival headlined by Comus and Swedish metallers Opeth, who have a history of dabbling in esoteric folk (I remember Linda Perhacs directing me to a cover version of one of her songs a few years back).

Anyway, the details for the boat trip are at the link above, and it seems all but one (Lindsay Cooper) of the original Comus line-up are, so to speak, on board. There's some talk of a live DVD being filmed though, more promisingly (especially for those of us who get seasick in the bath, let alone on a cruise round Scandinavia in March), Bobbie reckons there might be more gigs to come if this one goes well. The curator of this year's Meltdown will, I suspect, be watching carefully.

Meanwhile, after the Michael Rother binge of the past month, Phil has directed me towards a terrific Kraftwerk bootleg that you can download from http://duesseldorfhbf.blogspot.com/2007/07/kraftwerk-1971-live-at-radio-... . "Live On Radio Bremen" allegedly dates from 1971, and seems to feature a line-up featuring Florian Schneider alongside Rother and his future-Neu! henchman, Klaus Dinger, but no Ralf Hutter, who was apparently on a six-month hiatus.

I suppose there are similarities with that "Beat Club" bootleg of the Kraftwerk/Neu! group, but bits of "Radio Bremen" resemble a heavy stoner rethink of the first two Kraftwerk LPs - the opening "Heavy Metal Kids" has an unlikely processional stomp to it that reminds me, oddly, of the Flower Traveling Band. Dinger's measured propulsion is immediately recognisable, but Rother's guitar is dirtier, harsher, and pretty much wilder than we're used to.

Best thing here is Track Three, a fantastic version of "Ruckzuck" from the first Kraftwerk album: Schneider's flute and the intense, broken rhythms are recognisable, but again there's a hairiness, a closer affinity to orthodox heavy psych, which moves this brief incarnation of Kraftwerk even further away from the hygienised synth automata of legend. It sounds filthy, and great - even if you know the band's stuff pre-"Autobahn", you'll still be in for a shock.


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