(All Album Reviews by Levgan)
If pressed to say what is the quintessential German progressive album of all time, I'd most likely go with Out Of Focus' double album Four Letter Monday Afternoon. Indeed, it incorporates almost everything German prog scene could well be proud of - from psychedelic kraut-tinged instrumental excursions to oddball sound collages, ethnic-flavored minimalism and almost hard-rocking guitar riffs.
The band began in late 1960s as a typical underground act. I'm yet to hear their debut album Wake Up, which is supposedly pretty good. However, their second, self-titled album left me indifferent - I recall it being stuffed with pretty boring repetitive instrumental proto-prog, very reminiscent of all that ultra-expensive home-recorded German private pressings, that turn out rather forgettable when you finally get hold of them.
So I've been not very sure if I should try this double album (the doubled version of the previous album clearly wasn't something I dreamed of), but I'm very glad that I finally did. While the previous album was monotonous and all-the-same, Four Letter... strikes with its diversity. Released as a double CD, it encompasses most of German prog's distinctive qualities. The opening track, 17-minute "L.S.B." already shows the great instrumental ability of all the musicians; vocalist sounds a bit weak, but still he's tolerable so no reason for complaining. The rest of the first CD is filled with shorters tracks (between 4 and 9 minutes) with almost Embryo-like ethnic groovy "Tsajama" and excellent guitar-driven song "Where Have You Been" with unexpected Genesis influence being the definite highlights.
The second CD is much more weird. It's all taken by the three-part "Huchen", which is mostly experimental kraut-fusion of the highest class. In some way it reminds me of the Swedish band Archimedes Badkar's first album or maybe some works by Exmagma. Inventive quirky solos (guitar, sax, even bass-guitar) are played along the fantastic mesmerising ethnic-inspired rhythm. Imagine a mixture of Embryo, Can, Amon Duul II and Agitation Free with some Soft Machine thrown in and you'll probably get a clue how it sounds. Anyway, fantastic track from one of the most underrated German bands ever.
Overall, this album tells you all about German prog. It can even serve as a litmus paper - if you like it, then you'd most likely enjoy German kraut- and jazz-rock. If you don't then don't bother for Embryo or Agitation Free.
I'm usually not a fan of spinning the same album over and over without breaks, but this proves to be an exception. I'm playing it for the fifth time now and doesn't seem to get tired!