Annexus Quam - Osmose. 1970 Germany

The Ohr label. No other name evokes the musical experimental wanderlust such as the almighty Ohr. No mistaking its distinctive pink ear and green letter design, and catch phrase "Macht das Ohr Auf!" (Roughly translated "The Ears Open"). And Super Stereo Sound! Bands with names like Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru, Embryo, Mythos and.... Annexus Quam. As if that wasn't enough, speaking of Annexus Quam, how about a crazy gimmix cover that opens on all 4 sides so as to make a 3D pyramid? These eye and ear catching displays of creativity had to be beyond exciting for those clued into the German underground in 1970. How many were is anybody's guess, but 20 some years later, anyone who had an inkling of rock's experimental history, were clamoring to unearth any of these treasures of the past. And 20 years past that, most of the 30+ some albums from the label are enshrined into the conscientiousness of anyone who claims hipster status. And we're still in the discovery phase here, as far as overall awareness is concerned.

So it's time to focus on the music, which isn't something Annexus Quam were always keen to do. This was especially apparent on their ill advised followup album on Ohr, Beziehungen, a free-jazz noise fest that was at once unbearable and frighteningly tedious. Fortunately for all concerned, their debut would have none of it, and Osmose stands as a testament to the original forebearers of creativity, an era that has yet to be revived much less surpassed. This despite the multitude of experimental individual recordings that are dumped each week at our feet only to find they are made by talentless hacks sitting at their laptops and strumming a $6 pawn shop loaner and crooning out of tune lefty ballads for the sick and tired and poor. That is to say, tunes about themselves.

Not so Annexus Quam though. They're in a ramshackled flat, rigged up as a day camp studio, dragging in every instrument they can find or invent. If they can play the instrument - great. If they can't, even better. These 7 dudes were experienced jazzers on the circuit, in with the now-sound and out with the old. Flip on the recorders man, we're ready to play! So much was the intense deep planning for this set, that they even named the songs ahead of the recording. "Let's go with '1.A' '1.B' '1.C' and, oh I've exhausted my brain now, so let's just go with '2'". Play.

Trombone, sax, flute, fuzz guitar, percussion, drums, organ all at once, obviously anxious to get started from the dense pre-planning sessions on song titles. Ritualistic and tribal. Grandiose. Majestic. Each of the sounds are panned from speaker to speaker, as Ohr producer Julius Schittenhelm is having the time of his life twiddling every knob he can find. And then some. It's a religious experience that can go for hours, and perhaps did in real time, though unfortunately '1.A' is cut short at a mere 4 minutes.

For '1.B', Annexus Quam finds the early groove and jams, while disembodied voices hum, no, haunt, over the proceedings. Organ, sax and percussion are in the drivers seat. I repeat, it's a religious experience that can go for hours, and perhaps did in real time, though unfortunately '1.B' is cut short at a mere 3 minutes.

'1.C' introduces a somber melancholy, as trombone and a fuzzed out sax (or is it a clarinet?) carry the lyrical lines, and a guitar mournfully plays somewhat unplugged in the background. There's that organ again WAAAA-AA-AAA. WAAAA-AA-AA. Hard to phonetically grasp the effect, but it's so very Krautrockian in its execution. Then the disembodied voice returns. The overall effect evokes a dreamed out trance of epic proportions. It's at once vivid and lucid, but ultimately blurry. Or "brurry" in its current state. The perfect blend of ingredients for the Ohr styled Krautrock recipe. The band settles on the floor and begins the raga trance, with an Indian like scale played on the electric guitar, while percussion and what sounds like an amplified violin soars on top. The intensity builds as the flute adds an urgency that wasn't there. Where are we going anyway? Annexus Quam will take us there, wherever it is. I repeat, it's a religious experience that can go for hours, and perhaps did in real time, though fortunately '1.C' is 10 and a half minutes of bliss and happiness.

Now we get to Side 2, flip the record (hypothetically speaking of course), and begin the long journey of the verbosely named '2'. It starts in almost academic waters, with a solo piano motif. Before too long the bass and percussion join in and it's time to begin another jam session as the trombone and guitar begin to wreak some havoc. Will we get the phased organ and disembodied voice? Yes! But instead of closing off the session as on Seite 1, they let this one dally on. To loiter about. Perhaps they're sprinters and not marathoners? Hard to say, but it does get a mite slow going for some of the last 10 minutes or so. It was a foretelling of the future of Annexus Quam. The endless jam. Not a religious experience. The potential to be a Top 50 album of all, only to let the sand slip through the fingers of time.

In the end, Annexus Quam are an understated bunch, never really reaching the insane climaxes of their brothers in undergroundia like Tangerine Dream, Guru Guru or Ash Ra Tempel. Instead they have given us another aural glimpse into a point of time. A crystal clear snapshot of an urban flat, Germany, 1970. And we were all there to witness it. Through a 3D pyramid.

Personal collection
LP: 1970 Ohr
CD: 2008 Captain Trip (Japan)

The original Ohr LP features an amazing colorful gimmix cover that can be opened up to make a pyramid. I paid top dollar for a mint copy on ebay a few years back, and it's one of the best purchases I've ever made. Captain Trip is a faithful reproduction of the original, and is beautiful - and sounds great too.

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