LP version. 180 gram vinyl; gatefold sleeve. Reissue, originally released in 1969. The band Amon Düül formed in 1967, with music being only one part of their artistic work. In 1969, the albums Paradieswärts Düül and Psychedelic Underground were produced. Reviewers describe them as a "document from the birth of German rock." It was the first krautrock album ever. Even before CAN and Xhol Caravan. Before that, three musicians parted ways with the band and formed Amon Düül II. Amon Düül disbanded in 1971. The album was transferred in high resolution from the analog master tapes at Dierks Studios and carefully remastered.
Amon Duul's debut album is 90% attitude and 10% skill, but man, what attitude! Imagine what would have happened it the cast of Gilligin's Island had brought a copy of the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat with them on their ill-fated voyage. After lots of communal sex and a diet of magic mushrooms, Psychedelic Underground is the music they would have made after going crazy from being stranded for all those years, with only "Sister Ray" to keep them company.
The album kicks off with a seventeen minute "song", snarls screams and chants over a mammoth drum beat. This is the sound of your soul being purified by fire, burning away years of negative karma. Then a cut into a beautiful guitar/violin piece, one of the most soothing Amon Duul songs ever. The violin is the grim reaper, slowly bringing his scythe across a barren land. The impure souls from the first song have been purified to ash; the grim reaper scattering their remains over the burnt earth.
Side two begins with the sounds of a far away factory as the sweatshop workers try to bring some joy into their opressive exsistence by making rhythms out of their motions. A man moans a minamalist mantra, then presto, the AD train returns, a thousand people locked on a groove that they just discovered, bringing truth to the cliche "If it ain't broke don't fix it".
"Der Garten Sandosa im Morgentau" is the weirdest song on this very weird album. The band moans in a kind or Ur-language, perhaps the universal tongue that exsisted during the consruction of the Tower of Babel. Rainer Bauer than says his only true words on the whole album - "Girl, girl" - a basic deconstruction of the typical rock lyric, giving someone enough material to write a thesis of this song. Then an acoustic guitar appears, strummed with holy conviction, fighting the snarls of an angry woman who sounds like a beast from the wilderness.
From here on out it's cut-up land, first a cut to German Christmas music(!) then a cut to the best AD riff yet, the guitarist sounding compleately tired, sweat flying off of his arms as he tries to keep up with the rest of the band. Then some choir music comes in, ready to do battle, a showdown between "heathen" prehistory and what Julian Cope calls "The cult of the straight line" Neither one is the winner, though, as both destroy each other before quickly fading out into nothingness, leaving only fleeting memories of true pagan sound.
Some albums just have the perfect name, and Amon Duul's debut nails that to a T. Obscure upon release and obscure even now, for all the cult appeal, Underground is music at its most experimental and relentlessly uncommercial, using late-'60s inspirations as a launching ground for what came to be described as Krautrock. Psych-folk was another common term, one which applies just fine to much of the music here, feeling like an enthusiastic medieval festival gone just out of control enough, and with electricity to boot. Taken from a jam session from the previous year, but treated with many studio effects that enhance the strangeness of the collection, Underground rocks to its own weird beat. Opening track "Ein Wunderhubsches Madchen Traumt von Sandosa" captures what sounds like a great experience for everyone involved, a 17-minute composition heavy on the drums and percussion, with a basic, chugging guitar riff in one channel and chanting, call-and-response vocals located throughout the mix. At one point the jam is faded out in favor of piano parts, train noises, and the like, only to be brought back in again just as strongly, before finally fading into the gentler "Kaskados Minnelied," a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, along with a stringed instrument of some sort, that favors drones as much as it does soft riffs. The tracks on the second side have the same understandable vibe, but some are sparer in comparison, as with the keening strummed guitar/vocal combination "Im Garten Sandosa" and "Mama Duul und Ihre Sauerkrautband spielt auf," which is mostly clattering percussion in one stereo channel! You could say the sound quality isn't the best, but given the year of recording and the prevelance of lo-fi production approaches in more recent years, it doesn't sound that bad at all.