Peter Frohmader/Nekropolis - "Compilation I: 1988-2007" (GEMA 2007, NDVD 002, NTSC format DVD)
Peter Frohmader/Nekropolis - "Compilation II: 1973-2007" (GEMA 2007, NDVD 003, NTSC format DVD)

From Aural Innovations #38 (January 2008)

Peter Frohmader got into releasing music on DVD with his Tidal Shift release in 2005 (see AI #32), and is now back with two more, both compilations of music and films spanning a number of years. Compilation I: 1988-2007 includes 4 video chapters - in studio performances from 2006 and 2007, a live Church performance from 1988, and a piece of music from 1997 put to film. "Molokko Plus" is an in studio performance from 2006 featuring the trio of Peter on bass and keyboards, Udo Gerhards on keyboards and Helmuth Graf on drums. The music opens with swirling space synths and an eerie keyboard line. But once the drums kick in the band go into rockin space-jazz-prog mode, with Gerhards doing a jazz jam on electric piano. Peter keeps things in deep space, first with synths, but then switches to bass to create some killer effects. I really like being able to watch him play while hearing these non-traditional bass sounds, though we do of course hear the trademark Frohmader dark Goth bass as well. Once the band get really rockin' things get nicely intense and very 70s prog-fusion influenced, though the music is much more spaced out. An excellent jam.

"Ascension" was recorded in 1988 before a live audience at St. Anna Church, featuring the duo of Peter and Andreas Merz, both on synthesizers and samplers. The music is orchestral/symphonic and perfect for the setting they're in. And in classic progressive fashion the music transitions through multiple themes… sometimes dark, sometimes playful, sometimes full on prog grandeur. With "Sphinx Touch" (music from 1997) we start off in full band progressive rock mode, with the music sounding like a Middle Eastern and Gothic brand of King Crimson, and later it transitions to a spacey Gothic symphonic style. This is pure music video, with a parade of efx'd film shots of the sphinx in Egypt, and looks like Peter's own home videos of a trip to that country. Finally, "Malaria" is another in studio performance, this one from 2007, with the trio of Peter on electronics, Matthias Friedrich on violin and Helmuth Graf on drums. The violin is the lead instrument, jamming away to steady drumming and a throbbing bass like pulse. The music is overall space jazzy and at times struck me as a having a kind of Zappa in space feel, though it also gets into some avant-ambient sound explorations. Great music and really stunning visuals to go with it.

Compilation II: 1973-2007 includes 9 video chapters, and note that while Peter did the artwork for the cover of Compilation I, Helmut Wenske did the art for Compilation II. Some of you might recognize his name as the artist for numerous album cover from the 1970s.

"No.8" features the same Frohmader/Friedrich/Graf trio that appeared on "Malaria" from Comp I, and is also from 2007 so probably from the same sessions. Another in studio performance and features some of the most purely rockin' music on either of the DVDs. Peter really rocks out on the 8-string bass. But we've also got some music and films that Peter dug deep into the archives for. The Kanaan chapter is a live performance from 1973 and is a real treat for Frohmader enthusiasts. Kanaan was one of Peter's earliest bands and this is an archival film that was recorded live in a theater. The band consists of Peter on bass and electronics, Michael Schobert on keyboards and drums and Rudi Neuber on drums. It starts off as a rockin' spacey jamming instrumental, later goes into a freeform jazz fusion jam, and then a total space-out section with Hawkwind like electronics screaming against wild jazz jamming, finishing up as a kind of Gong/Amon Düül II/jazz fusion style. This is the only video Peter didn't add any extra visual effects to, which in this case is a good thing because it's a fascinating historical document and I'm glad he left it just as it is.

"Nekropolis" and "Nekropolis 2" are both films from 1979. "Nekropolis" has some of the most spaced out music on the DVD. It's a lysergic film showing paintings, photographs, forest scenes, skulls and more. Each scene melts into the next and its all set to intense experimental spacey sound explorations. "Nekropolis 2" consists of avant-garde ambient classical music. Piano and atmospherics plus stringed instruments against surreal video scenes, paintings, and brilliant lysergic colors. "Abraxas" is from 1982 and features Peter on Chapman Stick and loops and Rudi Haunreiter on drums. This was very interesting to me because I've heard a lot of Peter's music but was unaware that he played Stick. In fact, 1982 was right around the time I became aware of the instrument's existence, after seeing Tony Levin live with King Crimson. And indeed the Stick/drums duo here does have the flavor of King Crimson from that era, though Peter's accompanying loops add a spacey element to it all. Then in the Friesing TV chapter we see that this performance was live on television and Peter is interviewed (wish I understood German.).

"Night Visions" is from 1983 and is an avant-garde electro-pop, progressive rock, experimental noise, sound-art collage and spacey electronic exploration, all set to videos, played against more of Peter's artwork and other efx'd visuals. I love the way the music develops, through multiple styles and influences, ultimately reaching a heavy rocking intense avant-prog rock blast. Like King Crimson and Magma meet The Residents in space. There are other television appearances too. Burghausen TV is from 1996 and profiles a gallery showing of Peter's work and Peter is interviewed in the gallery. It's difficult if you don't speak German, but you get a great view of lots of Peter's fantastic artwork and its great seeing that he got a gallery showing. Finally, Friedhof TV is a series made by Peter which was shown at film festivals and sometimes in TV programs. This one is an art-music video from 1981 that's electro-goth/avant-pop/electro-jazz-pop…. very different music from what I've heard from Peter, and the accompanying film is really wild.

These DVD releases are really the way to go for Peter. He is, after all, a gifted artist in addition to being a musician. So there are endless possibilities for marrying music and visuals. Great quality, beautiful colors and sound. And Peter adds lots of incredible effects to all the chapters, keeping things visually spectacular throughout. The recent studio performances end up like a modern version of the old psychedelic Beat Club music videos. Very trippy and creatively done. And the rest are really amazing artistic music videos. Honestly, I just can't rave enough about how dazzling the audio-visual experience can be on these DVDs. The hell with MTV…. these are the really cool music videos. And it all looks GREAT on my big LCD screen TV!

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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