Boogie Transformation

Most excellent album in the form of While The Recording Engineer Sleeps (STAUBGOLD 138) by The Cocoon, a 1985 recording reissued with aplomb by the lovely Staubgold label…this one-time studio affair was a team-up starring the great jazzman Gunter Hampel leading the assault and carrying the master plan in his pouch, aided by various German underground art-rock geniuses of the 1980s and 1990s…namely Jurgen Gleue, a guitarist and bassist who achieved notoriety as captain of 39 Clocks – a latterday-psychedelic garage band who released several intriguing albums in the early 1980s – and later as The Phantom Payn in the 1990s. Guitarist and keyboard player Matthias Arfmann, who played in 1980s indie combo Kastrierte Philosophen, but is also famed as a producer. Plus the drummer Rüdiger Klose, who’s played in most of the other bands named above… main man Gunter Hampel was the real “veteran” of the group and probably familiar to many through his free jazz work since the 1970s, with numerous releases on the Birth Records label and collaborations with Cecil Taylor, Marion Brown, and The New Eternal Rhythm Orchestra with Don Cherry.

This improbably wonderful band recorded their work at Studio Harderberg in Osnabrück, apparently while the engineer was fast asleep – perhaps meaning that they did it during studio down-time. Unless he fell asleep on the job in studio. But it would be hard to imagine that scenario while hearing this semi-insane and lively racket, a free-wheeling melange of jazz, blues, and queasy underground rock with added vocals. Fans of Embryo, the Munich jazz-rock collective founded by Christian Burchard and Edgar Hofmann, are advised to check in – I say this mainly for the way that Gunter’s sparkling vibraharp work dominates many of the instrumental passages, but The Cocoon are a unique proposition of their own, with their relentless rhythms half-rocking and half-swinging their way across bizarre LSD-tinged productions with spooky studio echo and multi-overdubbed excess…another strong point is the eerie vocalising, mostly emanating like dusty spirits from the mouths of Gleue and Hampel, both men projecting a curious range of emotions and forcing out mannered mumbly vocals as if half-asleep, stoned, drunk, or tripping…plus there’s the solid & heavy rhythm section, thrashing relentlessly away with all the ham-fisted Germanic passion and lack of subtlety that’s both enriched and bedevilled most Krautrock and German Progressive LPs throughout the 1970s.


All the above elements and genres conspire to make The Cocoon’s sole album a dark melting pot of hippy dreams and free music ideals…said dreams are not tarnished nor frayed with age, and instead they come back to a new life (a slightly dark, semi-Satanic form of life) in the crucible of The Cocoon’s cauldron. Powerful alchemical forces unleash the best elements of jazz and rock’s history, making good on the promises of freedom we’ve long heard whispered. Net result…unclassifiable, immensely enjoyable, near-riotous fun and haunted by many undercurrents of sheer oddness, this album is a true curio whose reissue is more than welcome. Purchase forthwith, and then check out the work of these other righteously heavy German indie bands, starting with 39 Clocks, assuming you can find their records. From 30th April 2015, a vinyl pressing also available…