Embryo – Opal


This one’s getting two new reissues, so the opportunities to shore up your early Embryo catalog are pretty good in ’21. The band would go on to release 20 albums, play the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, and push their jazz-fusion to the point that even Miles Davis was known to comment on them, noting that “they are doing interesting things. You know, man? They are good musicians, just playing good shit!” Yet in the modern setting the band’s influence has been lost, though it seems that a restarted OHR label along with Loneos Editions are determined to get their name back into the fray this year. The band’s debut is, quite honestly not regarded as their best effort. That honor generally goes to 1973’s We Keep On, an album that pushed their boundaries and incorporated many different ethno-jazz styles with the addition of saxophonist Charlie Mariano and the continuing explorations of guitarist Roman Bunka. Yet, this is the album that set the band on their journey and enters the German Progressive canon in its own right.

This album centers on Christian Burchard, the band’s one and only consistent musician across their catalog, and the rudder that would steer them in many directions, even seeking to push away from popularity when it sought them out. The album’s not without its indulgences, as might be expected of Krautrock in 1970, but it aims to push beyond the typical hallmarks of the genre. The approach landed them at OHR, among its early offerings laying side by side in 1970 with labelmates Tangerine Dream, Guru Guru, Amon Düül and Witthüser & Westrupp. Not bad company to find yourself in, to be honest. The band attempts to pull up alongside those heavyweights here, finding the root of their sound in a flurry of drums, brash sax, and jazz-lazed guitar work. The record was, ultimately a stepping stone, but if you’re going to trace the ley lines of German psych, traveling through the environs of Opal is a necessity. Start here, but certainly don’t stop as their catalog opens up into unconventional shapes with each passing year.

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