|Tom Hayes||4-Sep-2006||Baba Yaga (first album)|
Very obscure German group who released two albums in 1974, of which neither have much in common with each other. Ingo Werner is the only member on both, suggesting that Baba Yaga, in reality, are nothing more than a pseudonym. The debut is their song oriented album, performed by a 5 piece standard rock band (including copious use of mellotron), whereas “Collage” is the experimental underground outing recorded by the duo of Werner and Nemat Darman. This review covers the debut, and after listening to the first four tracks, could easily be confused with any similar era UK melodic prog rock effort (Fantasy, Still Life, Cressida, etc…). Even the English language vocals, usually a disaster for pre-metal German groups, are executed flawlessly here by Bernd Weidmann. Ingo’s former band, My Solid Ground, provides another musical reference, though Baba Yaga is not quite as doomy or heavy. And there certainly isn’t a highlight track like ‘Dirty Yellow Mist’ to rely on. However, from the fifth song on, the proceedings get considerably more interesting. Starting with the instrumental ‘Rebekka’, which itself is a beautiful piece with mellotron, acoustic guitar, bassoon and piano. ‘Turdus Merula’ follows, a bit darker in tone, and is yet another powerful instrumental track with mellotron (as a featured instrument, rather than just embellishment), percussion and piano. ‘Intoxication’ is similar but adds a rocked out mid-section that includes a wonderful psychedelic guitar solo (and sounds as if inserted from another jam session). Closing out the album is ‘La Tombeau’, a dark instrumental piece featuring organ, ‘tron, piano and percussion. It’s interesting to note that it appears Werner is handling all of the instrumental work on these four tracks, perhaps revealing that in fact, there wasn’t enough material from the five piece unit, and he appended these songs to fill the album. ‘Homage A’ appears to be a limited group effort, minus the vocalist and duo of guitarists. The odd track out on the back half of the disc is ‘Powerful Hand’, which would’ve fit nicely with the opening quartet of cuts. As of this review, both Baba Yaga’s are still missing the digital treatment, and would have to be considered top candidates for a CD reissue.
One would think that a two side-long track, 1974 album recorded in Dieter Dierks' studio would have been reissued on CD by now, but alas, this is not the case with the only album by Baba Yaga. This is really the project of a duo, Nemat Darman, who covers percussion, sitar and santur, and Ingo Werner (ex My Solid Ground) who covers all the keyboards. The fusion of electronics and eastern instruments here combines the early sounds of Popol Vuh and Tangerine Dream with the more exotic flavorings of the santur and sitar. Both sides act as suites of shorter pieces where an electronically effected sitar and tabla motif will dissolve into electronic and percussion madness (think In Den Garten Pharaos) or a solo piano introduction will pave the way for spacey electronics and jazzy electric piano rambling. It must be said here that the exotic instrumentation dominates the first side, while the keyboards dominate the second side, almost as if each side was a showcase for one of the musicians. Overall, Collage is an excellent piece of 70s German esoterica and a good example of just how far out Krautrock experimentation could reach.
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