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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Moira, Germany

Moira - Crazy Countdown. 1977 Schneeball.
Moira - s/t (aka Reise Nach Ixtlan). 1984 private. (We have a very convincing case for 1981 here. See comments.)

Both of these would be ideal for a label like Garden of Delights or Sireena. There's been quite a bit of debate around the second album, and anyone from Alan Freeman to Christian Burchard have no idea of its origins.

Certainly one of the more obscure bands from the vast Gunderground, Moira were a fascinating progressive fusion collective formed by veterans of the Krautrock scene including Edgar Hoffman (Embryo) and Butze Fischer (Missus Beastly, Guru Guru, Embryo). Both their albums were recorded for the Schneeball label, the record consortium setup by members of Embryo and Missus Beastly. Musically, Moira fit snugly into the label’s distinct school of fusion and are part of the German “M” scene of jazz rock groups (Morpheus, Missus Beastly, Mosaik, Munju).

For the debut, “Crazy Countdown”, Moira explored many of the areas that were popular at the time, including Latin-tinged jazz fusion (“Para Jofrey”, “Spain Mandala”), Eastern meditation journeys with sitar and flute (“Smile”), acoustic seriousness (“Gemini”), acid cosmic space rock (“Always Later”), lounge funk (“Mata Meme”), even post-Miles Davis intense jamming (title track). During this era, the band were clearly lead by guitarist Jorgen Kanwischer, who is credited with scoring all the compositions as well as being the sole instrumentalist on “Gemini” and “Always Later”.

Six years later the group had completely changed hands (see below for more explanation) and actually took on an older, more retro sound when absolutely no one was doing that in 1984. In an era when every band had the most tin-sounding, Casio-like, digital keyboard and every guitarist was going for the pig-squeal guitar hero motif, could a band possibly put an album out with Hammond organ, Moog and wah-wah guitar as its main ingredients? Sounding like a long lost recording from a smoky club in Hamburg, the band let loose with an unpretentious instrumental jazz rock album not found since the glory days of 1974. A truly astonishing release that beats their already excellent debut in every way. The title track opener is a side long exercise in organ, analog synth and guitar jamming with some incredible jazz drumming and a mighty fine bass player. This is followed by the short "Oase," a flute, drum and percussion piece that would not have been out of place on Yatha Sidhra’s album. Side two opens with "Kristall," a more fusion oriented piece with some dirty organ and guitar shredding. "Einsame Schatten", the only track with singing, follows with a blistering sequence that recalls the early Toto Blanke works. This track continues paradoxically with a funky jazz bit with German vocals recalling Embryo's "Bad Heads and Bad Cats" in their most silly mood. This section would be the album’s only misstep. The too short closer "Resume" recalls the ending of Virus’ Revelation album complete with echoed German recitation and acid guitars.

There’s been quite a bit of debate about this second album and its origins/authenticity. Anyone from Ultima Thule’s Cosmic Egg professors to Schneeball label owner/Embryo icon Christian Burchard have shrugged their shoulders and said “no idea?”. But the label clearly says Schneeball with a yellow background. The catalog number of 0025 was presumably used by polit-rockers Hammerfest on Hier Bei Uns, though careful steady shows that album was also on the Maulschnauz label, causing even more confusion. Then there was the small matter that neither album shared similar members. However there is a link: Some copies of Crazy Countdown come with a detailed Moira newsletter. The then current lineup of the band (1978) had already evolved and included one Eberhard Bronner on drums, who is in fact on Reise Nach Ixtlan.

12/11/10 update: The mystery remains unsolved.

Both are absolute must owns for the serious Krautrock fusion collector.

Priority: 1


martin.frank1 said...

Dear Tom,
to your review about Moira - Same
(Reise nach Ixtlan):
I agree with you - you are right.
The fact is - the album is not from
the year of 1984.
Since i starting collecting records in the late seventies, i mentioned every incomming album in a private "database" with artist / album title ect. and the year i got it.
I bought my vinyl of that album on a
Moira concert (!) in - 1981.
To my mind Moira were inspired through two books : Carlos Castaneda = Reise nach Ixtlan and
George Orwell - 1984 !
Martin from germany

Tom said...

Thank you Martin for the comment. That's VERY interesting. I will make note of that. Still, even for 1981, Moira's sound is considerably older.

Anonymous said...

I cannot find Crazy Countdown ANYWHERE. Been searching everywhere for the album. Can someone post a link to the lp or a rip of the vinyl album please. That second lp is very good.

dripdrip said...

Hi Tom,

I think I have an interesting thing to share regarding Moira. I have just got a very rare LP "Deutschsongs" by German songwriter Gerry Garstein on private Bramophon label. The album was recorded in 1979, and studying the back cover I realized Garstein had some musicians from Moira as backing band! The text says:

"Gastmusiker (guest musicians in German - L.G.): Stefan Engels (von der Gruppe ON), Jorgen Kanwischer (von der Gruppe MOIRA), Gunter Bachle (v. MOIRA), Michael Stoll (v. MOIRA)".

There is some more text there which basically says that musicians from Moira appear courtesy of Schneeball Records (or at least that's what I get with my embryonic German). Anyway, this means that by 1979 Jorgen Kanwischer from the first lineup (that did "Crazy Countdown") was still in the band, but Michael Stoll from the second lineup (that did "Reise Nach Ixtlan") was already there too! Who is Gunter Bachle, I've no idea.

Anyway, I think it's an interesting bit of info which doesn't really explain the entire story, but at least proves that it was the same band responsible for these two great albums, not two different groups. They just had a really turbulent lineup.


Tom said...

Great info Lev - thanks so much!