Guru Guru: Hinten LP (1971, Ohr; reissued 2021 Play Loud! Productions)
I’m short on time this week so I’m not able to give you a full on essay, but I thought I’d take a moment to hip you to something I’ve been listening to. Last week we got in copies of a new reissue of Hinten, the second album by German group Guru Guru.
Longtime Sorry State aficionados will know that I like a lot of 70s krautrock. I like the heavier, more rocking stuff like Can and Amon Düül II and the spacier “kosmiche” sounds of Manuel Göttshing / Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, and Popol Vuh. Whenever new reissues by those groups pop up I try to grab a few copies for the store, mostly so I can buy one for myself. While I pride myself on having a solid Krautrock / Experimental section at Sorry State, I must admit that the releases there don’t turn over quickly. Oh well. You gotta follow your passion, though, right?
Back to Guru Guru. I was familiar with the albums that came out before and after this one: 1970s debut album UFO and 1972’s Känguru (which I think many people regard as their shining moment). I like those albums, but I’d never heard Hinten until we got this reissue in at the store. I was hoping to get another cool krautrock record I could put on while zoning out in the evening, but Hinten hit me way harder than I expected it to.
The thing that sticks out about the record is heaviness, particularly of the drums. Guru Guru’s approach is similar to Can in that they took the instrumentation of heavy psychedelic rock in the Hendrix mold and paired that with an improvisational approach borrowed from the avant-garde / experimental end of the jazz world. Songs are built around one or two simple motifs (sometimes a melody, but more often a groove), the band does their thing until they run out of steam, and then the song’s over. Can maximized this approach by recording tons of jamming and editing the results together into mind-bending albums that leaned on the members’ skills in music composition. Guru Guru’s music feels less edited and more jammy, but there aren’t any moments where I feel like they’ve lost the plot.
Like I said, my favorite part of Hinten is the drummer Mani Neumeier, who just wails. I wonder if the drums sound as up front and as forceful on the original as they do on this reissue, but this thing just slaps you in the face. While Neumeier’s approach isn’t as intricate as Jaki Liebezeit from Can, his propulsive power is undeniable. If you’re into the way Amon Düül II smacks you in the face on Yeti, add this to your list of krautrock classics to hear, or better yet pick up this reissue at Sorry State.