When guitarist Michael Rother and drummer Klaus Dinger formed Neu! In 1971, parting ways with the early Kraftwerk lineup, the German duo had only the most ambiguous musical goals. Sure, the band’s self-titled debut in 1972 helped cement the Krautrock style, including a hypnotically repetitive 4/4 groove described by journalists as “motorik.” But Rother had no idea that this pattern, which is the most famous anchor of his signature track, “Hallogallo,” would end up becoming iconic. He and Dinger were basically painting landscapes, using references tied to both images and sound.

“Because we left behind these classic song structures, like choruses, [the music] it was like an open field that stretched as far as the eye could see,” Rother recalls. “I have always felt this love for open spaces like the beach. It is related to freedom, looking at the horizon”.

Before entering Star Studios with up-and-coming producer Conny Plank, Neu! had “visions” of this music. “But I can’t honestly say that I had a clear idea of ​​what would happen,” adds Rother. “This was the result of working in the moment and reacting: ‘OK, this is the fast lane at E, and go for it!’”

Those visions have, in the decades since, rippled through experimental music, inspiring giants like Brian Eno and Radiohead. And Rother has been revisiting that influence a lot these days: Since Dinger’s death in 2008, the guitarist has brought Neu! forward on his own, including a career-spanning 50th[1]anniversary box set, highlighted by a tribute album featuring remixes and reworkings of Neu! fans like The National, Idles, Man Man, Mogwai and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. It’s a vital work, showing how the band’s pulsating rhythms and groovy soundscapes helped shape everything from modern post-rock to electro-pop.

The impetus for the project, naturally, was nearing the obvious half-century mark. Grönland Records: the home of not only Neu! but also Rother’s solo work and the catalog of his former krautrock supergroup Harmonia, reached with the tone to create Tribute.

“The idea was, ‘What can we do to add something for the fans?’” says Rother. “[The label] musicians invited to contribute their versions of Neu! ideas and sounds. That was the first step, and then we started asking ourselves, ‘Do we have any musicians in mind that we’d really like to have on board?’”

Thinking back, Rother sees some promising but unexplored options: Iggy Pop (who covered Neu!’s “Hero” in London) and electroclash artist Peaches. But he ultimately let Grönland handle the recruiting, and the end results were eye-opening.

“The first piece of music that came in was by Stephen Morris [of Joy Division and New Order] and [Gabe Gurnsey]says Rother. “They did a great kind of ‘nephew’ version of ‘Hallogallo.’ He is very optimistic, very danceable, with a very positive vibe. He was already very happy, and then more and more interesting music came in.

Taylor took almost the exact opposite approach with her treatment of Neu! ’86’s “Wave Mother” trades in the original’s energetic synth beat and chiming guitar for a murky but soulful vibe.

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“I think the first time I heard it it brought tears to my eyes because it moved me,” says Rother. “She asked my permission: ‘I have two versions, one with my lyrics.’ I said, ‘Yes, that’s wonderful. Let’s take that. I wasn’t sure if this would be pushing [it]. It was wonderful to see another musician pick up on my emotions in this harmony loop and push it forward and create something new and beautiful.”

The tribute album’s most cinematic moment might be its opening cut, The National’s groove-filled, psychedelic remix of “Im Glück,” a tip of the cap Rother hopes will lead to future collaborations.

“Over the years, we have been in contact several times and even wanted to collaborate,” he says. “Two of the brothers [bassist Scott Devendorf and drummer Bryan Devendorf ] They have this side project, LNZNDRF, and they came to Germany, but I wasn’t available. This year they played in Italy near Pisa, where I am. But that day, I was coming back from playing with Iggy Pop in Hamburg, so I didn’t make it to his concert. We’ve been in sort of a loose contact over the years. [Their version of ‘Im Glück’] it’s a good piece of music. I am sure that, one of these days, we will manage to be in the same place at the same time and see what we can do together”.

That spirit of collaboration is the “continuing development of this tribute process,” as Rother puts it, and some of these musicians (including Morris) will open for some of his future shows. And to see this ripple effect of seeing him, all these years later, is profound; after all, in the early days of Neu!, he was so focused on creating something unique that he became isolated from his musical peers.

“I did not hear anything. I didn’t play music. I was like, ‘I don’t want to see or hear,’” she says with a smile, as she covers her eyes and ears for emphasis. “I wanted to narrow my vision, and that was necessary to have this ambitious attitude of creating something from scratch that is not an echo of someone else’s ideas.”

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