This is quite an anomalous record. Issued under the name Amon Düül in 1970, Paradieswärts Düül has very little to do with any previous records released under that aggregate’s name. In fact, it is not hard to see how this record tanked commercially back when it was released. By the time this album hit shelves, the name Amon Düül meant pretty much one thing: low-fidelity recordings taken piecemeal from a legendary, hypnotically intense communal psych-out held by the German political commune of the same name in 1968. Albums like Psychedelic Underground and Collapsing had polarized much of the international music scene, with some hailing these records as extraordinary improvisational snapshots of the psychedelic extreme, and others dismissing them as meaningless, tuneless disasters; symbolic postcards of the worst counterculture excesses.
But then we have this record. Paradieswärts Düül has more in common with the records of Amon Düül II, the spaced-out (much more musically-inclined) offshoot of the original commune, which had been releasing a number of critically-acclaimed LPs away from their former communards-in-arms. The truth is, this version of “Amon Düül” shares little but a name with the anarchic ensemble that preceded it. Though its members were involved with the commune, they sought to pursue the actual idea of a band, with actual songs and melodies, and the result was a world apart from 1968. The focus here is on long, rambling acoustic/electric environments and earthly vocal harmonies, and for the first time Amon Düül can be said to be creating some truly beautiful music.
“Love Is Peace,” which occupies the entire first side of the record, is a number you will find yourself returning to again and again. Behind its cryptic lyrics and intimidating running time lay inspired vocal and guitar melodies. The first half of this one is truly entrancing, with that lazy rhythm and the carefully-woven tapestry of reverbed instruments. Repeated listenings reveal just how well-composed this piece is, and highlight the instrumental talents of the bands several members. Key in to the jazzy, minimalistic drum patterns or the burbling electric bass line, for example: everything runs together as naturally as a river, creating cyclical loops of sound that refuse to let you go. Around the halfway mark, everything but the guitar drops out and the listener is left with several minutes of warped, deconstructed electric guitar before a wall of acoustic guitars bring everyone back in for what in all honesty sounds like Can on a camping trip. Incomprehensible, Suzuki-styled vocal meanderings leap in and out of bongos and rudimentary piano plucking as the guitarists take turns soloing somewhere off-center in the mix. It’s nowhere as illuminating as the first half of the song, but remains engaging up until its rather sloppy end.
The second side of the record consists of two songs, which actually mirror Side A’s two sections: first up is the long instrumental electric guitar workout “Snow Your Thirst and Sun Your Open Mouth,” closely followed by another warbling acoustic guitar can’t-quite-sing-along called “Paramechanische Welt.” The former is a fantastic listen, and proves that these cats had their game together. The influence of Amon Düül II (more specifically Yeti, sides three and four) is obvious here, which makes the fact that two of that band’s members contribute not to this track but the following one a little ironic. “Welt” is by no means a bad cut, but it isn’t anywhere as memorable as the rest of the material here, lacking the impressive instrumental interplay or clear vocal lines that seasoned the preceding tracks.
Like most krautrock albums of the era, this one fetches a pretty high price in its original vinyl form, but if you’re lucky enough to spot a copy, pick it up! For the rest of us, there’s an excellent CD reissue on Repertoire records that, while also out-of-print, also includes both sides of an excellent 45 released by the band, which distills the sound of Paradieswärts into two, shorter numbers and, had they been included in the original album, would probably fall second only to the first half of “Love Is Peace” insofar as album highlights go.