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Amon Düül II

Amon Düül was a German art commune whose members began producing improvisational psychedelic rock music during the late '60s. The group's members released several albums, mostly recorded during a single extended jam session. Concurrently, some of the commune's more musically inclined members formed the longer-lasting Amon Düül II, who made their debut with 1969's Phallus Dei and continued releasing ambitious efforts such as 1971's Tanz der Lemminge and the more pop-minded Made in Germany (1975). Both acts proved to be a major influence on generations of experimental rock musicians to come and are regarded as pioneers of the Krautrock style. Forming in Munich in 1967, the collective included bassist Ulrich Leopold, his brother Peter Leopold on drums, and guitarist Rainer Bauer. While the basic lineup recorded a session that year, an expanded lineup of Amon Düül recorded a marathon improvisation in 1968 or 1969 that subsequently formed the majority of the group's discography. Psychedelic Underground and Collapsing: Singvögel Rückwärts & Co. were both released in 1969 and later reissued under several different titles each. A 1970 recording session produced a more focused, folk-influenced full-length titled Paradieswärts Düül, which appeared the following year. Two additional recordings taken from the group's original session, 1972's Disaster (Lüüd Noma) and 1984's Experimente, were also released. While membership within the commune and the band Amon Düül was fluid, several members with greater musical ambitions decided to start a separate rock group and formed Amon Düül II -- they saw no reason to struggle for a new name or argue over the original. The new group was helmed by John Weinzierl, Chris Karrer, and Renate Knaup-Kroetenschwanz, who set to work to produce an impressive debut with Phallus Dei (1969). This was followed quickly by the 1970 double album Yeti, the cover of which features one of the band's roadies. 1971 saw the release of another two-LP set, Tanz der Lemminge ("Dance of the Lemmings"), a recording widely considered to be the keystone of the Amon Düül II catalog. With stylistic abandon, the album mixed everything from straight-ahead rock to experimental noodling, all built around a series of science-fiction themes. The band performed with a joyfulness that belied the real seriousness of the experimental work involved. They continued on this path for several years, releasing highly regarded albums that achieved only moderate sales, at best. 1975's Made in Germany (issued in two-LP and single-LP versions) found the band attempting to present a more commercially appealing side, with little effect on the market. Ongoing failure to crack the mainstream eventually took the band back to its more experimental roots, though not before causing the core unit to fall moribund for a while. A further spin-off, formed by John Weinzierl under the original name (and also known as Amon Düül UK and, rarely, as Amon Düül III) recorded sporadically in the '70s and '80s. Weinzierl worked with former Hawkwind member Dave Anderson on a total of five albums (one of which, Airs on a Shoestring, was a compilation drawn from the first two, with additional material salted in), with additional bandmembers coming from all walks of the British progressive/psychedelic scene. For Die Lösung, Weinzierl and Anderson collaborated with the late Robert Calvert as well as drummer Guy Evans. Amon Düül II reappeared during the '90s, producing a series of remixes and original material as well as Live in Tokyo and the intriguing benefit album Kobe (Reconstruction), which focused on material from 1969-1971. Members continue to be active with both solo and band projects. EastWest Records Germany released a four-CD retrospective box set in 1997. A renewed interest in Krautrock in the '90s culminated in the re-release of three of the group's albums -- Wolf City, Yeti, and Viva la Trance -- in 1999. A 2010 reunion effort was digitally self-released as Bee as Such; it was eventually given a full release by Purple Pyramid under the name Düülirium in 2014.
© Steven McDonald & Paul Simpson /TiVo


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