Kraan - "Through"
(Bassball Recordings 2003, BAS 20032)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: September 2003
Again a new record by some of the "old folks" from Germany Iíve been listening to during my late childhood from their 1972 debut on, never really forgotten but not in the center of my attention for quite a few years. In 1998 there was a compilation of their best known "alternative hits" called "The Famous Years Compiled" and featuring tunes like Andy Nogger, Nam Nam, Kraan Arabia and many more. In 2001, the year of the bandís 30th anniversary, we got "Live 2001", recorded at two festivals in Germany in June of 2000, appraised by critcs over here but not really convincing in my opinion as a momentum of "címon why not try it again" was too obvious and the record as a whole was worlds apart from "Live í88". Altogether quite a few reasons to be skeptical when you receive a new studio recording, especially when reading other reviews telling you that theyíre doing "Latin stuff" now...
Oh my God, fellow reviewers wherever you are, you are the kind of people expected to stay away from common drawers to file music in...! To get the "Latin" thing done first: Well, Jan Fride is a person capable of playing any drum and percussion style - and using stylistic elements of "Latin" drumming in a tune called "Urlaubsmusik" ("music for vacations") does not make a record one "in Latin style"... So, now letís start with "Through"! Already before you start to listen you get two pieces of information: First, the cover is showing an adaptation of a tour poster from 1972, just the faces of the musicians have aged (respectivly changed as the line up of the band). Second, the title is "Through" which might lead to questions concerning its meaning: Are they "through" with it - even a strategic similarity to Steely Danís "Everything must go"? - indicating that theyíre going to close their musical "shop"? In a quite specific way Kraan are really going back to their beginnings and are coming to some kind of an end. But letís have a look at it in detail.
First of all the record is "old fashioned" in a very likeable way. Itís a band performance, mostly done live in the studio with few - if any - overdubs and no "Pro Tools" editing or things like that. Well, you get to hear what a Rock band is able to deliver to its audience by means of musical inspiration, instrumental control and joy of playing. Second, we donít get a "Hellmut Hattler plus band" record but a really convincing group performance with strong elements of musical "togetherness". Third, there was always a specific way of Kraanís incorporation of Jazz elements into Rock tunes, not really Jazz Rock in the style of the famous "fusion" bands and musicians (who have redetected the "modes" of ancient Greek and medieval sacred music for Jazz and commerciality, calling the whole thing "modal Jazz" and "fusion music"). Here we get a subtle mixture of many stylistic elements, among them modal scales and - yes - even "traces" of Latin music, thatís quite unique in the sense that you can tell Kraan from any other band.
If you donít have an "analytical" approach toward music in the sense that you try to detect its construction principles, but rather give it a listen to enjoy without an theoretical "supra-construction", you won't be disappointed either. "Unser Lied" ("our song"), the opener combines the strength of a Rock tune with the subtleties of mature romanticism and is one of the standouts of the CD. A bit alike is "Slomocean" - what a cool play on words and another standout - getting even deeper into the spheres of feelings and reflections. The already mentioned "Urlaubsmusik" is some kind of "easy listening" for lovers of demanding music, not the middle of the road thing you might expect to hear on the air, well, everybody needs a vacation every now and then, why not a mental excursion to nice places in the middle of a Rock CD? "Moxx" is a tune only a band can play that has fought all fights and knows everything about loosing and winning, leading over to the title track "Through" - a tune that draws a sum: you get the whole Kraan in one tune (the only one on this record with a dominating Hattler on bass guitar), you can see pictures of farm houses (where the band members used to live as cummunards in the Seventies), rehearsing rooms, highway travels from one concert to next, you have elements of maturing, even aging, and - wisdom. For me personally the title track alone would have been a reason to buy the CD. I didnít say a word so far about the tunes with vocals: I had to struggle with the way of singing and would have adviced to leave the vocals away, if anybody would have asked me ;-)) as the tunes would work perfectly without vocals - but this should definitely not let you not listen to the CD or buy it. If you're familiar with Kraan you wonít want to miss their latest recording anyway.
Coming to an end Iíd like to return to the question of the meaning of the title. In my opinion "Through" is rather an indication of the attempt to fulfill a "gestalt" for the listeners as well as for the musicians, and not an announcement of retirement or even of a "sell out". Iím looking forward their next release...
You can visit Kraanís website at www.kraan.de and the Kraan label at www.bassball.net.
Reviewed by Frank Gingeleit