(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
While virtually unknown throughout the rest of the world, Achim Reichel is somewhat of an institution in Germany. In the early 60s, Reichel was a member of The Rattles, a beat group that performed in Hamburg as a replacement band for The Beatles. In 1968, after the beat craze died down a bit, he formed the Wonderland band with drummer Frank Dostal. This was a much more experimental outfit and the experience prepared Achim for an unusual start to his solo career. He chose the name Achim Reichel & Machines to portray a sort of fictional battle that he would have in the recording studio. Reichel was very fond of technology and was one of the first proponents of echo guitar, even before Manuel GŲttsching of Ash Ra Tempel.
Perhaps the most ambitious and least understood of the A.R. & Machines albums was the second one, a double LP titled simply Echo. Not only is there an abundance of echo guitar here, just about everything in drenched in echo or other studio effects. It all adds up to a fantastic mess and when I first heard it, I thought it was one of the most dreadful things Iíd ever listened to. Something told me to keep coming back and slowly I started to really appreciate it. While I wouldnít exactly call this a masterpiece, it is quite a monumental recording.
The album is divided into five, lengthy pieces with multiple sections; each one took an entire side of the album except for the second and third piece, which were a little shorter and combined to make up the second side. They all start out rather inconspicuously and give off the illusion of being rather uneventful but each one evolves into something quite crazy before long. Much of the album has a very murky sound, perhaps purposefully, which gives it a rather eerie quality. Some moments are endless tribal space jams, while others take on an odd improvisational jazz feel.
Three of the tracks contain lyrics in English, which are fun but seem to be fairly pointless hippie gibberish that would make Gong look scholarly. I donít suppose the German lyrics on the last track are any more serious. There are many guests on the album (mostly vocalists) including Klaus Schulze and Conny Plank. One thing I did find useful was that each artist is given credit for a particular section in the song list with his initials next to the section. A lot of the voices get the echo treatment as well as getting sped up, slowed down and just about anything becomes possible.
Probably my favorite part of the album is how absurd these pieces become. As I said before, they start out fairly harmless but before you have a chance to realize it, they become endless stoned out jams that would make the original Amon DŁŁl totally green with envy. This all culminates on the last track, which is the aural equivalent of the inmates running the asylum. Itís a pretty safe bet that if you donít have much patience with most krautrock, you should stay far away from this album. I have to admit, Iím a sucker for this kind of stuff.
Iíve read that over the years, Achim Reichelís music drifted more towards the mainstream and today he still has a respectable place in the world of German rock. Itís pretty hard to imagine that it could get any stranger than this! This album is available along with the fourth A.R. & Machines album (A.R. IV.) on a double CD. While that one is not as lengthy it is also quite unusual, but itís fairly tame when compared to Echo. It also showcases Reichelís guitar work a little more. If youíre looking for something off the beaten path and more than a little bit strange, I would definitely recommend this set.