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Music Review: Human Being – Live at the Zodiak – Berlin 1968

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Are you a fan of Krautrock? Can? Einstürzende Neubauten? Noise rock? Experimental music? Electronic music? If so, this is the CD for you connoisseurs out there, the ones who have to possess the first issue of every seminal group that ever existed, at least in selected genres.

Live at the Zodiak – Berlin 1968 is the first CD that Human Being issued. It’s also the only one, so this is a true rarity, kids. And to add to the cachet of an already impeccable resume, Human Being did it before any of these groups or genres did it. Human Being was the progenitor of krautrock, of noise rock, of art-noise rock, or whatever you want to call it.

Right now, and for the past 12 or 15 years, Berlin, particularly the Kreuzberg section, has been a cauldron, bubbling madly, each bubble representing a new musical group, artist, tagger, rising up to their 15 minutes of fame in the Berlin Scene of today. Some groups you’ll see once. Others, like Neubauten, stick around awhile. But Berlin’s a steady producer of new music and new sounding groups, styles, and even entire new genres.

Einstürzende Neubauten, in the CD before their latest, returned to their roots, so to speak. The group, Blixa Bargeld, actually, decided that Neubauten had to get back to where they started, because perhaps they’d lost their way a little.

Bargeld — in actuality the decision-maker for the group, and at least as he’s represented to the public — took a novel concept to de-re-construct the group’s sound. A bunch of slips of paper, a hat, some blind draws. As I wrote in my review of that CD, It worked. Very well.

Okay, all that is background. You’ve now got a working knowledge of krautrock and the Berlin Scene.

Live at the Zodiak – Berlin 1968 is 56 minutes and change of some serious art/noise rock, which needs to be listened to in solitude, or at least total quiet, preferably with headphones, to obtain the full impact. Volume is discretionary. In other words, listen at a volume that’s comfortable to you. Volume has neither control of nor impact upon content and context. The making of this CD was witnessed by a crowd gathered at The Zodiak in Berlin to see this group. The Zodiak was, at the time, one of the brightest stars in the Berlin scene of the day. So it’s a safe bet that many of the people in attendance weren’t aware of Human Being. Following their concert, however, their name was on everybody’s lips.

Okay, let’s be honest here. Art/roise rock is not for everyone. Not even close. Those connoisseurs of this type of music are a small group, percentage wise. But they and the musicians they listen to are some of the most influential in today’s art rock music scene. Sure, Einstürzende Neubauten are considered industrial. But industrial, and the other genres and sub-genres of music of that ilk established in the past 20 or so years, have stemmed from the art rock phenomenon. Just as the progression of country blues of the 1920s to today’s hip-hop can be shown clearly and linearly, so can art rock’s progression through to the fads and phases of today that haven’t even been named yet.

So, bottom line, kids. If you like, or think you’ll like, groups like Can or Neubauten, or if you’re in a learning mood, if you want to learn some of the history of this type of music, you won’t find a better place to start.

The cover art of this issue is apropos. This CD will put you through the meat grinder.

Prior to writing this article, I’d not only never listened to Human Being, I’d never heard of them. But once I read the prepublicity, I was hooked. I had to have this CD. It is, and will remain, a keystone of my music collection.

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About Lou Novacheck