Walter Wegmüller / Cosmic Jokers
Since the interest in the movement was reignited during the 1990s and early 2000s, the reissue market has taken countless deep dives into krautrock and kosmische. This movement, emerging in Germany during the late 1960s and extending across the 1970s and '80s, was simply a loose constellation of artists and bands - often working with little or no awareness of each other - that fused avant-garde approaches with elements of rock (in addition to sometimes prog, psychedelia, jazz, and any number of other touchstones) to create remarkably unique forms of countercultural music. With few survivors, it’s rare for imprint that was there in the moment to mine the very history from which it was born, but this is exactly the case for Die Kosmischen Kuriere, a successor to Ohr, founded in 1973 and run by Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser. Back in the '90s, the imprint began reissuing krautrock gold and has been doing so ever since, with recent batches focusing on the legendary band the Cosmic Jokers. Now they’re back with one of the holiest of the holies from the same family, three stunning, first ever reissues of the legendary “Tarot” box by the artist Walter Wegmüller.
Originally released by Die Kosmischen Kuriere and Ohr in 1973, the album represents Wegmüller’s foray into music, and features the playing of krautrock royalty like Klaus Schulze, Manuel Göttsching, Harald Grosskopf, Dieter Dierks, Hartmut Enke, Jürgen Dollase, and Walter Westrupp; the Cosmic Jokers in all but name. Legendary and chased among collectors for decades, it’s one of the most distinct artefacts of the German psychedelic scene. Issued by Die Kosmischen Kuriere in three beautiful, fully remastered editions - a 4CD edition, a standard double LP edition on black vinyl, and a deluxe box set, immaculately reproducing the original box and containing all of its contents (cards of the participating artists, explanatory text, and the tarot cards) in addition to the two LPs - each is a thing of beauty that’s ridiculously essential for any fan of the 1970s German scene.
Born into humble circumstances, Walter Wegmüller (1937 - 2020) was Swiss of Romani cultural heritage, and trained as a visual artists in Basel, Bern, Paris and London. Very much a product of a moment, he was very much a member of counterculture, existing beyond the boundaries of normative society and staying there all his life. In addition to working in painting and sculpture, Wegmüller was concerned with nearly every discipline of the arts, which drew him toward the world of sound, and eventually the creation of his only foray into the music, the 1973 album, “Tarot”, issued by Die Kosmischen Kuriere. Rooted in a fascination with divination that also led to his creation of the famous “Zigeuner Tarot”, little seems to be know about how the album came to be.
Wegmüller’s “Tarot” was originally issued in an edition of 1.000 copies in 1973 as a deluxe vinyl box set that included 2 LPs of music, a series of cards illustrated with images of each of the participating musicians, explanatory texts, and a suite of tarot cards designed by Wegmüller himself. Divided into 22 tracks - notably the same number as the “major arcana” in a tarot deck - the album is a heady dive into high mystical psychedelia at the borders of prog, incorporating elements of jazz, rock, experimental electronic music, and spoken world. Each track appears as its own mystical meditation, incorporating otherworldly themes and sonorous explorations, attempting to push the listener into cosmic spaces, with wild synth lines played against meandering guitar lines and a driving rhythm section of bass and drums.
Capturing a remarkable moment in time, featuring some of the most notable figures of the 1970s German underground, that certainly can never be repeated, for decades Walter Wegmüller’s “Tarot” box has remained a definitive, but virtually unobtainable document of the krautrock scene. Wild, wonderful, and truly heady, Die Kosmischen Kuriere has pulled out all the stops to bring this stunner back into the world with their three beautiful, fully remastered editions - a 4CD edition, a standard double LP edition on black vinyl, and the deluxe box set, immaculately reproducing the original box and containing all of its contents (cards of the participating artists, explanatory text, and the tarot cards) in addition to the two LPs of amazing music.
Absolutely amazing on every count and not to be missed by any fan of krautrock and kosmische who can’t afford the ridiculously high prices fetched by the original. Grab it before it’s gone. This one is going to fly.
As already mentioned, Die Kosmischen Kuriere - a successor to Ohr - has recently focused on the legendary Cosmic Jokers catalogue, bringing back to the public their incredible releases, restoring the original sound in all its glory.
Klaus Schulze, Manuel Göttsching, Harald Grosskopf, Dieter Dierks, Hartmut Enke, Jürgen Dollase, and Walter Westrupp, assembled their cosmic barrage of stream-of-consciousness experimentation over a series of acid-fueled all-night jam parties at Dierks Studio. Unbeknownst to the musicians involved, this magic was captured on tape by label head Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser and Gille Lettmann.
When a mysterious group called The Cosmic Jokers appeared on the label the following year, the affected musicians took legal action, dissolving the contracts effectively ending the label. Thankfully, the magic was committed to immortality and now exists in all its psychedelic space rock glory.
With original vinyl pressings going for crazy prices, these albums - now fully licensed and remastered from the original analog master tapes at the original recording studio - are a joy to behold and puts this essential listening in the hands and minds of more listeners. After years of sub-par reissues, it's terrific to have such a quality release of this cerebral music to sink in.
To celebrate this series of reissues - which is now finally complete - we are glad to offer all the Cosmic Jokers albums along with Walter Wegmüller’s “Tarot” as a 7 LPs bundle and a 9 CDs bundle.