(German 1969 - Present)
Embryo are a brilliant German band that began in the late 60’s, creatively flourished throughout the 70’s and are still making great music today. While contemporaries the Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk pioneered electronic rock and Can were content exploring the avant garde fringe elements, Embryo favored a jazzy form of space rock with very strong elements of world music.
Embryo is centered around multi-instrumentalist Christian Burchard. Embryo was founded in 1969, after Burchard had played in several jazz combos and allegedly had spent a short time in Amon Düül II.
A multitude of musicians have played together with Burchard in Embryo and there are probably not two Embryo albums that have the same line-up. Nevertheless, several musicians stayed with Burchard for quite a long time. Roman Bunka and Edgar Hoffman were two excellent multi-instrumentalists who both stayed with the band for most of the 70s and the 80s and they have showed up every now and then in the 90s. The last decade, Jens Pollheide (bass, flute) and percussionist Lothar Stahl have been regular members of Embryo. From time to time members from other German bands showed up to play on one or a few albums: Chris Karrer (Amon Düül), Dieter Miekautsch (Missus Beastly), Robert Detrée and Peter Michael Hamel (Between), Sigi Schwab (Et Cetera/Wofgang Dauner) and jazz musician Charlie Mariano are a few examples. In addition, Embryo has played constantly with musicians from outside Europe, especially musicians from Asia and Africa.. Most of them are completely unknown to me, but most of them appear to be outstanding musicians on their ethnic instruments. The continuous changes in the band line up and the wide range of musical styles probably typify the musical restlessness of Burchard.
Although the band started as a Krautrock outfit, it was clear within a few albums that Burchard had a genuine interest in combining jazz (rock) and a large variety of ethnic music styles. Throughout the 70s, the jazz and ethnic influences were often embedded in a jazz rock/fusion format, while in the mid and late 80s the band often focused on purely ethnic music, especially from Africa. During the 90s, Embryo developed more or less into an "ethnic jazz" band, trying to combine and absorb all kinds of ethnic influences, but rarely restricting themselves to a strict compositional format and, as such, always allowing ample room for spontaneous musical interaction. Surprisingly, Embryo still exits after 30 years and the band still play many concerts and festivals, especially throughout Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa.
In 1973, Embryo released an excellent album entitled 'We Keep On' which is a mixture of rock, ethnic music and jazz. 'We Keep On' is often regarded as Embryo’s masterpiece, an overwhelming LP mining West African rhythms that reach deep into unexplored regions of your mind. Burchard’s vocals are strange and unconventional in an almost proto new-wave way. The first song, "Abdul Malek", sounds like nothing I have ever heard before and should really appeal to psych fans (take note of the acoustic raga riffs) even though this is a 1973 release. "Don’t Come Tomorrow" is another good trancey song with understated mellotron, piano, vibes, and interesting bamboo flute courtesy of Charlie Mariano.
The LP is divided evenly between instrumentals and vocal tracks (there are 6 songs in total and 2 extra on the recent reissue by Disconforme). The 12 minute "No Place to Go" is one of Embryo's heaviest tracks: it is an odd concoction of heavy rock guitar riffing and more jazzy excursions with excellent solos on saxophone by Mariano. The guitar playing here recalls Dzyan and Mahavishnu Orchestra. An excellent 70s jazz rock piece. On "Hackbrett Dance" four musical cultures come together: the nagasuram (an Indian oboe) is supported by African percussion. The Bavarian hackbrett (a dulcimer like instrument) and Latin American stylings on the marimba are featured beside the usual rock instruments. Flute and Saz tap into something new and totally original.
The nine-minute "Ehna, Ehna, A Bu Lele" combines African ethnic music with typical 70s jazz rock. (Note that the CD release includes two great bonus tracks in the same style as the album, "Ticket to India" and "Flute, Saz and Marimba") and have been included in the post.
In 1975, Miles Davis had this to say about Embryo, “That German hippy group where Mal Waldron used to play; they are doing interesting things. You know, man? They are good musicians, just playing good shit!” This was the ultimate compliment coming from a jazz master and a good enough reason to check out this great, lost album.
In the same year as this albums release, Embryo played at the 'The Thirteenth National Jazz , Blues and Rock Festival in the UK (Reading, August 1973) and were the opening band at the three day festival. As reported by one concert goer Nick Black (see Reading Festival website):
'Weather was fine, the whole place fenced, regulated, homogenised, and I remember John Peel playing with breathless wonder the just released stones single "Angie". I went with a friend who was paranoid about being caught smoking substances in public. When I lit up, he scuttled like a crab about twenty feet forward. Oh, another thing. in a bizarre way I think the first band on (Embryo), a now forgotten German group were by far and away the best there! They announced in heavy Germanic tones "Ve haf just come bak from living in Morocco" and played what I guess would sound very much like world music nowadays. They were met by silence and me, noisily clapping'.
.The rip was taken from CD at 192kps and includes full album artwork. If you like listening to Santana, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Nova or even Australia's very own MacKenzie Theory, then you are really going to enjoy this brilliant jazz rock masterpiece.
01 - Abdul Malek
02 - Don`t Come Tomorrow
03 - Ethna, Ethna, Abu Lele
04 - Hackbrett-Dance
05 - No Place To Go
06 - Flute and Saz
07 - Ticket To India
08 - Flute, Saz and Marimba
Christian Burchard - drums, percussion, vocals, marimba, vibes, Hackbrett,mellotrone
Roman Bunka - guitar, saz, vocals, percussion, electric bass on "Don't Come Tomorrow"
Dieter Miekautsch - fender rhodes piano, piano, bass-piano on Hohner Clavinet
Charlie Mariano - soprano and alto sax, flute, nagasuram, bamboo flute
.Embryo link (89Mb) New Link 8/10/2014