In all honesty, I’m a bit surprised it’s taken me as long as it has to feature a progressive rock album in this column: given how quickly prog flamed out, and the low standing in popular music it carries to this day, it’s no surprise that there are dozens if not hundreds of records from the genre’s heyday that fell through the cracks and stayed there. One of my favorite lost treasures from this period is Auf Der Bahn Zum Uranus (On the Path to Uranus—very funny, guys) by the Ungoogleably-named GAA. A grungy slice of hard-hitting Krautrock, this album is seldom in print but deserves a place in every living room with a grinder or a dog-eared copy of Heavy Metal magazine on the coffee table.
Krautrock, a German offshoot of prog that frequently meditates on the more psychedelic and atmospheric elements of the genre, has a tendency to wander close to pure ambiance, but Auf Der Bahn keeps the “rock” in Krautrock with a consistent barrage of snarling guitars and whiplash jazz drumming. Even when the psych wanders in on tracks like the fluttery opener “Uranus” or “Welt im Dunkel,” there’s a focus on heavy blues riffing that keeps the aesthetics of the record rooted firmly in hard rock territory. Shroomed up and unpolished, it walks a curious line between Tago Mago and Foghat, never outright launching itself into the galaxy but also not content to deliver simple boogie-rock bangers. It’s a unique space for a rock album to occupy, and one that remains consistently listenable throughout Auf Der Bahn’s 43 minutes.
Outside its convenient genre labels, however, GAA’s music is just heavy as a motherfucker. Like King Crimson’s Red, it transcends the sterile, bourgeois technicality that is prog’s stock in trade (and arguably its most common criticism) and dives into an aurally muddy aesthetic that few of its ilk would dare to join it in. The hiss and growl of the production doesn’t make the record sound cheap; rather, it allows for a timeless sensibility that lets it fit in with the stoner rock of the 1990s as easily as the music of its own era.
Out of the entire record, however, special mention needs to be given to side B opener “Mutter Erde,” as exciting and clobbering of a heavy rock track as anything Zep or Sabbath ever put to wax. The only song on the album that excises all notions of jamming and noodling, it’s a 7 minute adrenaline trip strung together with blistering harmonies and ends in a chorus of doo-wop shrieks over a guitar solo. If for no other reason, it’s a shame this album remains such an obscurity that this track isn’t featured on every hard rock freakout playlist from here to Tehran.
More than being an exceptional artifact of the prog era, GAA was just an all-around great rock band: they made big, dirty, weird music in an eclectic scene that they still didn’t quite fit into, and it’s a shame that, this being their only proper album, we never got a chance to see what they could’ve built off the back of this record. That said, Auf Der Bahm Zum Uranus is a standout album in its own right, and if you have any love for the acid rock of its time (or of any time) you’ll be well at ease in Uranus’ orbit.
Christopher M. Jones is a comic book writer, pop culture essayist, and recovering addict and alcoholic living in Austin, TX. He currently writes for Loser City as well as Comics Bulletin and has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators for his minicomic Written in the Bones (illustrated by Carey Pietsch). Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter.