Review: e Jugend – Live at Bühl (Cosmic Winnetou, 2012)

One day, I received the first batch of tapes from a mysterious new cassette label named Cosmic Winnetou. It turned out that the German ambientalist and a 1/2 of Navel, namely Guenter Schlienz, has started his own label. And despite its humble beginning (each of the four tapes is limited to 25 copies only), I can feel that there is a lot of good stuff still to come.

Live at Bühl by the post-kraut unit e Jugend failed to grab my attention at first. It seemed to quiet, too slowly unfolding and slightly lo-fi to become any sort of rewarding, psychedelic listen. I largely ignored it (or rather: didn’t give it much of a chance) until one night, when I wanted to listen to some tapes when falling asleep. I decided to pop this in my walkman, and holy shit, it clicked. Hard. And this is where the interesting stuff starts: according to the liner notes, the material on the cassette was recorded during the exhibition “Things Could Be Different, But They’re Not” by German artist Jyrgen Ueberschär in… 1986. Which is impossible, because after a bit of research I found out Ueberschär was born in 1978, so he would be 8 years old in 1986. Such an exhibition indeed took place, but in 2010. I can only wonder whether the false date in the liner notes was just an error, or a clever “test” to see whether journalists and bloggers will actually put effort into researching their facts or just blindly copy the information just as it’s written. In fact, the album’s description is filled with dubious information reminding me of disorienting techniques used by many bands who want to stay as mysterious as possible, such as declining a 21 thousand pound advertisement offer from a real estate company or their devotion to exercise children’s football skills.

While the material may (or may not) have been recorded in 2010, the sound of Live at Bühl is very 80’s-like indeed. Both sides go with endlessly delayed, reverbed silky guitar improvisations that unfold at a glacial pace, in a manner similar to the most ambientalized, drifting moments of Spacemen 3 (think Dreamweapon), building slight waves of cosmic ambience using guitars and little more than various effects. While the first side of the cassette sounds like an actual ambient/psychedelic compositions, channeling the spirits of Ash Ra Tempel’s “Traummaschine” in a series of gently droning, deeply trippy guitar strums and delicate chords, the other side is much more “polluted”, being closer to an experimental sound installation filled with people chatting and laughing on top of ethereal guitar ambience. But even this faint ambience is cut short later, being replaced by what appears to be an art-related lecture in German (still in the same performance space) ended with enthusiastic applause, which seems to be directed both at the artists and the musicians who performed during the exhibition.

Out of nowhere came one of my favorite tapes, with beatific, rolling guitar ambience from two “nobodies”, who prefer to refer to themselves simply as “No. 5” and “No 9”. At least according to the Cosmic Winnetou blurb. But can you trust them?


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