Review Summary: The high-water mark of progressive psychedelic music.
Born out of the ashes of an artistic and political community called Amon Duul, who undertook some free improvisation sessions in the late '60s, Amon Duul II hit the German scene in 1969 with their debut release 'Phallus Dei'. This stunning debut is often heralded as the high point of their long and varied musical career but this follow up certainly scales the dizzy heights of that seminal release and even manages to surpass it in some respects. I hesitate to use the term 'Krautrock' to describe this record as it was used as a somewhat derogatory term to describe a host of experimental bands that were spawned in Germany around that time so let's just describe this as progressive psychedelic rock.
The approach on here is similair to their debut both in its delivery and musical character but the ideas are rather more distilled. While 'Phallus Dei' relied on building atmosphere and groove in a rather sedate manner, most notably on the extended title track, Amon Duul II opted here for shorter song formats and more panache in their song-writing. Even the multi-part suite 'Soap Shop Rock' is merely a loosely connected set of distinct songs with musical bridges linking the whole. But this seemingly patchwork approach doesn't actually detract from the flow and integrity of the music. There are such a plethora of bold ideas thrown onto this album, yet with such attention to maintaining the darkly unsettling vibe, that it never fails to titillate. One moment you will be swaying along to buzzing psychedelic riffs and languid leads, then a few bars of unhinged madness will devolve into a glorious mess of shrieking atonality before a caterwaul of screeching violins carry you on a mystical Eastern tinged magic carpet ride. And that's just the first 10 minutes or so of this psychedelic masterpiece.
'Archangel Thunderbird' is possibly the coolest song title of all time and it lives up to its promise. Renate Knaup's vocals soar above the irresistible freak-beat style riffs, flappy bass lines and scraggy rhythms. The ponderous 'Eye Shaking King' introduces itself with a grinding Zeppelin-esque groove before evolving into a head-swaying morass of swirling psychedelic Daleks, jarring keyboards and bluesy guitar licks. But this album isn't only about fuzzy riffs and strident rhythms. 'Cerberus' is a meandering instrumental piece full of undulating lines, South Asian style percussion and grunting angular licks and 'Sandoz In The Rain' is a lysergic trip full of hypnotic cadences, haunting violin and lavish flute.
There is a 'loose jam' feel across the whole record, even during the more succinct pieces, but on the title track (explicitly referred to as an improvisation) Amon Duul II really let go and space out in style. The ideas are spread rather thinner over this 18 minute jam than elsewhere on the record but it is eminently suitable as a musical inspiration to chill out and spliff-up, as is the shorter improv 'Yeti Talks To Yogi'. However, it is within the tighter compositions that the true magic of 'Yeti' lies and finds Amon Duul II at the peak of their prismatic powers. This record is a truly mesmerising experience from start to finish and, along with 'Phallus Dei', an essential listen for anyone remotely interested in psychedelic music.