Klaus Dinger passed away nearly a decade ago, yet his creative vault still remains untapped. Most recently, a collaborative work featuring the legendary krautrock guitarist and an eclectic group of contributors, dubbed pre-Japandorf, has unveiled itself.
Much like Dinger’s seminal work with experimental German outfit Neu! during the ‘70s, his latest release places a firm emphasis on guitar riffs. However, the new album, titled 2000!, plays more like a Sonic Youth record. This partially can be explained by the fact that unlike Dinger’s instrumental output with Neu!, pre-Japandorf bring a trio of female vocalists to the table. “Talk” is highly reminiscent of the raw, guitar-driven aesthetic crafted by Sonic Youth, with Viktoria Wehrmeister and Masaki Nakao’s spirited vocal performances instilling it with a punk-esque, raw energy. “THANK YOU ALL!” and “Pure Energy” exaggerate this punk influence even further, as their abrasive, shouted vocals and rebellious attitudes evoke Johnny Rotten’s vocal delivery as a member of the Sex Pistols. It should be noted that, in an effort to create a truly authentic music, the band recorded the album in a single take. This unique recording method surely enhances this raw, punk rock aesthetic, preventing the album from ever feeling like an over-treated production.
However, ever the iconoclast, Dinger makes certain that 2000! defies stylistic categorization. The album offers strange bits of sonic experimentation that will undoubtedly appease avant-minded listener. “June 2. 2000! Lilienthal Studio” opens the album on an unexpected note, its hypnotic, two-chord piano progression, uniquely paired with harmonica and timid female vocals. After a brief bout of rock energy in the form of “Pure Energy” and “Talk,” “Mayday” takes things back down a notch, as its delicate guitars and lo-fi atmosphere feel strikingly retro, a throwback to ‘60s folk-rock. (Unfortunately, the lyrics do stagnate a bit with their relentless repetition of the phrase, “Mayday / mayday / why don’t you come out to play / why do we have to fade away?”) “Untitled, September 12. 2000!” sees the band at perhaps their most daring. The song’s intro features a medley of atonal, lo-fi guitar chords that play like one of Kim Gordon’s solo noise rock explorations. The drums play haphazardly in the background, offering little in the way of a beat, before eventually materializing into a straight-ahead rock groove. Even the penultimate track, “Midsummer,” which espouses a similar rock-inflected sound to that heard on some of the album’s more upbeat offerings, crafts an eccentric soundscape that prevents it from ever feeling like conventional rock. Even as Dinger’s guitar and Kazuyuki Onouchi’s drums propel the song through exciting crescendos, Andreas Reihse’s glockenspiel-like keyboard timbre prevent the song from ever losing its waiflike delicacy.
Unfortunately, the group’s decision to record everything in one take does detract somewhat from the harmonic variety featured in each song. There is rarely a B section. And while Dinger can certainly do a lot of damage riffing over one or two chords, due to this lack of progression, it’s hard to justify most tracks’ sprawling runtimes, many of them exceeding five minutes in length. Furthermore, the vocals — and lyrics — often seem largely improvised, with the singers riffing over a single vocal phrase or even word (e.g. “Talk”). However, fans of repetitious, jam-oriented song structures may find the band’s approach alluring. Indeed, 2000! feels uniquely organic and pure, free of the digital polish and sectionalized recording that defines most music these days. And, of course, any and all admirers of Klaus Dinger would do well to check out his latest posthumous release. 2000! retains the same spirit of that defined his earlier work, but infuses it with fem-punk bravado.