The other night I’d just finished reading a bittersweet interview with half of Neu!, Michael Rother, when I learned that his partner in Neu!, Klaus Dinger, had passed away of heart failure just shy of his 62nd birthday.
It seemed vividly clear from Rother’s comments in his recent Invisible Jukebox that, although his relationship with Dinger had become incredibly strained over the years, a great deal of fondness remained between the two longtime collaborators. As Rother wrote on his website:“I will remember Klaus for his creativity as an artist and I will think about him with gratitude for his wonderful contributions to our project Neu!.”
Dinger is particularly credited with originating the propulsive “motorik” beat of classic Krautrock, a joyous and trance-inducing —yet slightly sinister— expansive groove-mantra beloved of taste-makers everywhere, from Bowie and Eno to Stereolab, John Frusciante to the Wooden Shjips.
If you’re curious to know what Neu! sound like, Damon Albarn’s description lends the group a curiously (and slightly unearned) Tropicalismo flair: “When I listen to Neu! I think of a Germany where the autobahn is a thousand miles of golden white sands and the sound systems hang in the banana trees, instead of speedtraps and bratwurst.” Brian Eno, Mr. Oblique Strategies himself, inched a bit closer with his description of Dinger’s alienated funk rhythms: “There were three great beats in the 70s: Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat, James Brown’s funk, and Klaus Dinger’s Neu! beat.”
Better yet, you could just have a listen. Nine minutes may sound like a long time, but Neu! time passes in the blink of an eye, a delirious swirl of color and mind-bending tricks of the light. Talk about the in-sound from way-out.
Ciccone Youth, “Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening to Neu!” (from The Whitey Album)
Neu!, “Negativeland” (from Neu!, 1972)
Stereolab, “We’re Not Adult Orientated (Neu Wave)” (from Space Age Bachelor Pad Music)
NEU!: MICHAEL ROTHER (LEFT) AND KLAUS DINGER (RIGHT) | PHOTO BY THOMAS DINGER