Fujiya & Miyagi
Don’t get it twisted. Krautrock, the catchall term for many progressive, avant-garde 1970s German bands, isn’t the only influence found on Fujiya & Miyagi’s phenomenal new album Transparent Things. “I like Sly and the Family Stone as much as I like any German band,” says lead singer and guitarist David Best from his home in Brighton. But fans of the genre should find an aural kindred spirit in Things. Baeble caught up with Best before the band’s subsequent European and U.S. tours to get his Top 10 Essential Krautrock Albums. Your primer starts here.
1. Can – Ege Bamyasi (1972)
This sounds like Germans thinking that they’re James Brown. I first heard this when I was in college. I was at my friend’s house and his dad had it. We used to play “I’m So Green” over and over again. It was just like, “Wow, what was this?” In England, when you just hear bloody endless guitar solos, it’s nice to hear something so succinct.
2. Cluster – Zuckerzeit (1974)
It's really stripped-down, beautiful, simple melodies
but it's got this chuggy, drum-machine pattern through
it. It kind of sounds like sophisticated children's
music in a way but it's just perfect. It still sounds
fresh now. You can see where all the people like Plaid
and the Warp Records stuff got it from. It's quite
influential, I think.
3. Harmonia - De Luxe (1975)
It’s the two guys from Cluster and the guitarist from Neu! This is their second album. It’s got a lot of the same things that the Cluster album’s got but combined with the guy from Neu!, it’s a bit more freer and spacious without sounding like a wanker. The first song on it has a nice German chant on it, but the whole album sounds like it was from another planet.
4. Kraftwerk – Computer World (1981)
“Computer Love” was my favorite Kraftwerk song and I must admit I was gutted when Coldplay abused it. When I was at work, people were humming that tune—this was before I even knew they’d done it—I’d be like, “You humming ‘Computer Love’? And they’d go, ‘No, Coldplay.’ What? You what?? I was outraged. I love Trans-Europe Express and Radio-Activity and they’re all great. But if you had to pick one, I think it’s their most complete. It’s kind of their most pop one, but I’m a bit of a sucka for pop stuff.
5. Neu! – Neu! 75 (1975)
When I’m asked about these things, I never mention Neu! I really like Neu!, but everyone always talks about us having a “Neu! beat” so I kinda steer clear of it. Maybe that’s a bit unfair. I like the first Neu! album, but this is the best one. There’s the Michael Rother side and the Klaus Dinger side. Michael Rother does these beautiful soundscapes without turning into Yes and Klaus Dinger basically invented punk.
6. Faust – Faust IV (1973)
Naming their first song on the album “Krautrock” was quite good. It’s what I imagine Pulp should’ve done on their first album and name a song “Britpop.” The album’s so varied. Everyone always think they’re just mental doing all collages and it’s impenetrable, but this one’s got some beautiful songs on it.
7. Eroc – Eroc (1975)
He was a drummer in this psych-proggy-freak German band [Ed. note: Grobschnitt], but he did a few albums on his own. There’s a song called “Norderland,” which has a lovely sound of breaking glass. It’s got quite a lot in common with the Michael Rother stuff, Neu! and Harmonia.
8. Can – Future Days (1973)
It’s the best music for going to sleep to. I listened to that, not exaggerating, every night for about six months when I was 17. I always fell asleep halfway through so I never got to the end. Subsequently, I know it all really well. Damo Suzuki’s voice sounds really relaxed. It’s just very different from Ege Bamyasi and it’s the one directly after that.
9. Cluster – Sowiesoso (1976)
Like Future Days is to Ege Bamyasi, this is the same to Zuckerzeit. It’s very pastoral and relaxing. You can imagine they recorded this in a field. Pretty much everything I hate about music, actually, but there’s something about this one that works. Roedelius from Cluster just has a beautiful way with melodies. They’re just perfect and that’s what it’s all about, innit? I think a lot of electronic music forgot about the melodies, which is why I lost interest in it. It did the same thing as prog rock did when showing off guitar and keyboard solos. It was all about programming.
10. Can – Tago Mago (1971)
This is just incredible. “Halleluwah” is the sound of funky Germans, but funky Germans who just keep going on and on and on.
On first exposure:
I got into a lot of that music when I was 15 and 16 through a friend’s older brother who was quite clued up and also a bit of John Peel. There’s a [The] Fall song called “I Am Damo Suzuki” and they were one of my favorite bands so I traced it back and got well into Can and then discovered all the rest of the stuff. I liked it because I’m not a big fan of [the] guitar solos [prevalent in Brit-rock at the time] and nothing was there that didn’t need to be there. It was quite precise.
On the term “Krautrock”:
I don’t really like the term. One, it says “rock” in it and Kraftwerk and Cluster and Harmonia are anything but rock. And Kraut is kinda derogatory. I always cop out and go “German music in the 70s” or “motorik.” I’m oversensitive and it’s not even my country.
On the genre and Germany:
We just played Germany for the second time last week. It’s funny because some aspects of our music are indebted to this genre, but it seems in Germany, not too many people are into that sort of music. We’re going to the birthplace of the stuff that we like but no one’s saying, “Oh hang on, that’s a Neu! beat” or “That one sounds a bit like Can.” No one’s really got it, but it was good to go there.
It’s fair enough though. It’s a long time ago and I don’t think it meant as much there as it did to a lot of people in England or the States. I remember when I was at work, I had a picture of Kraftwerk on my desk. This German came up and said, “God, that’s so naff. Are you mental?”
Fujiya & Miyagi begin their U.S. tour with Peter, Bjorn & John April 30th. For more info, you can visit their web site HERE and Myspace HERE.
By Jason Newman