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A.R. & Machines iTunes Tracks

A.R. & Machines


The A.R. in question, Achim Reichel, was a singer/guitarist in The RATTLES, a German pop band who started off playing in the Star Club, Hamburg and toured England in 1963 with The ROLLING STONES and BO DIDDLEY, before going on to support The BEATLES on their 1966 European tour. The RATTLES most famous for their 1970 smash hit, `The Witch’; with its dramatic string arrangement, great guitar riff and wah-wah played by Reichel who, with Frank Dorstal and Dicky Tarrach left to form WONDERLAND, a psych pop group whose experimental prog album as “Wonderland Band #1’ was the forerunner for Reichel’s reappearance on the musical scene as A.R. & MACHINES and the DIE GRUNE REISE – THE GREEN JOURNEY (1971) {*8}. This Polydor Records album (featuring Dorstal) comprised a continuous nine-part experimental flow punctuated by “stations” combining various forms of electronic weirdness, beats, warbles, voice effects with the odd vocal, riff rock and even a snippet of 12 bar blues.
ECHO (1972) {*7} was a sprawling 90-minute eschatological concept album in a stunning gatefold sleeve that has since become a “Holy Grail” among collectors. The first side ‘Invitation’ featured echoed electric guitars that sounded as if they were recorded underwater. The bubbling, shimmering textures, subtle arpeggios (with string accompaniments arranged by Peter Hecht) produced a hypnotic, widescreen effect on the listener. There was also some efficacious drumming/percussion by Dicky Tarrach and Lemmy Lembrecht; clarinet, saxophone and additional guitar by Helmuth Franke; and vocals by Klaus Schulze and Conny Plank, who also engineered the album. One will hear what sounds like an airplane crossing the sky and a space ship landing, but in essence it all seemed to make perfect sense. Side two had ‘Echo Of Present’ and ‘Echo Of Time’, in which can be heard Reicher’s voice repeating the highly symbolic “There’s a man on the moon, there’s a woman in the sun” over a guitar/percussive groove with processed children’s voices. Sides three and four , ‘Echo Of The Future’ and ‘Echo Of The Past’ brought in zither, Eastern percussion and lots of spoken and sung vocalizations that once more displayed Reichel’s technical mastery in the use of echo, reverb, delay and phasing; his wild musical imagination also leaving room for folksy progressions and memorable melodies.
A.R. 3 (1972) {*8} – on Zebra Records, a subsidiary of Polydor – went in a more jazz-rock direction with ‘Tarzan’s Abenteuer Im Sommerschlußverkauf’ quite danceable; concerning a line-up of Reichel on echo and electric guitar, tom toms and congas; Jochen Petersen on sax and a rhythm section of Rolf Köhler and Lemmy Lembrecht. Recihel’s guitar style was unusual; clangy and clunky, but also fluid in the lead runs. Reichel did not settle with one solid group, and musicians came and went on the album with more-than-normal use of keyboard instruments like harpsichord, organ and clavinet, plus a second guitarist in Helmuth Franke, sitar and tabla, and Reichel himself playing an 8-string bass. The numbers were also shorter than usual, making this perhaps the most accessible of his early works.
A.R. IV (1973) {*7} was again inclined towards jazz. Consisting of two lengthy pieces on side one, the restless experimentation continued in almost drone-like hypnotics and a wide palette of instruments, including sitar on the 3-part/23 minute piece on ‘Vita’; flute, soprano sax, electric piano, metronomic beats and basic repetitive guitar passages with F/X once again at the high end. Side two has one side-long piece, ‘Every Raindrop Longs For The Sea’. Comparisons can be made between Reichel’s early works and albums like TANGERINE DREAM’s “Atem”, KLAUSE SCHULTZ’s “Dune”, the music of AMON DUUL and AMON DUUL II; especially in the loose guitar improvisations, ASH RA TEMPEL and MANUEL GOTTSCHING.
AUTOVISION (1974) {*7} started on a heavy jazz rockin’ note for ‘Eisenpferde’, with a mesmerizing sax solo as if ever present on the German jazz scene. As the cover might suggest, ‘Turbulenzen’ was more new age, an early forerunner of world music, with tabla rhythms providing a great driving force for Reichel’s guitar extemporizations. Again the music became quite rhythmically complex and mellotron makes an appearance. Overall, the LP was perhaps more accessible than the first two albums, but equally challenging and rewarding for the listener. Recorded live on a Revox A77 in The Fabrik, Hamburg on 4/8/1973, though released belatedly for Brain in 1975 (and as ACHIM REICHEL), ERHOLUNG (1975) {*7} featured a narrower palette of instruments than on some previous releases. Four instrumental pieces kept up the energy and inventiveness of a band, a band that included Peter Franken on drums, Jochen Petersen on sax, flute and maracas, and Reichel making copious use of his guitar echo unit that carried the day with an energizing, percussive album; there was also a dedicated percussionist in Olaf Casalich. Just when one thought the music was settling into a groove, the jazz and rhythms took a more avant garde turn on ‘Gute Reise’ (with its tropical bird sounds), while the other long piece ‘Alles Inklusive’ (still half the typical length on the early albums!) was stylistically in a similar vein. Midway through, Reichel showed he could really “rock out” with the best of them! The ending was stirring! ‘Atmosphäre’ had lots of sounds from the aviary; Petersen’s flute drifting with the flow in much as the same way as saxophonist Jan Garbarek’s more impressionistic works.
Suddenly, the experimentation came to an abrupt end, and the rest of the 70s for ACHIM REICHEL was spent recording a series of albums variously described as rock‘n’roll and schlager, with elements of folk, world and country; he’d an increasing interest in classic poems and acting which sustained him into his seventies.
© MC Strong/MCS/PJ/Phil Jackson 2017

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