Ziguri: a word meaning Peyote cactus. It’s a spineless cactus that contains hallucinogenic alkaloids actually, the most commonly known being mescalin which is used for modern day medicinal purposes such as the treatment of depression and alcoholism. Let’s not pretty the picture too much though: it’s a mind altering drug comparable to LSD.
An apt name then for German echo guitar maestro Günter Schickert and his band, as they cut their first psychedelic dronefest record together an astonishing 27 years since their formation in 1987. Schickert was an early pioneer of the echo laden guitar tone from the ‘70s with a number of landmark solo albums achieving cult status within the burgeoning Krautrock/motorik scene. Indeed, even this followed a lengthy grounding period after Schickert had first come to prominence in the ‘60s as part of the Berlin free jazz movement.
In that respect, it’s remarkably coincidental then that Ziguri’s music follows a similar path to that of Schickert’s own career, being long drawn out drones where basic drum patterns (provided by Dieter Kölsch) and bass guitar (Udo Erdenreich) provide a canvas for his brilliant, free-formed guitar mastery.
Upon formation, the band rehearsed regularly at Berlin’s famous SO36 underground club, notoriously frequented by David Bowie and Iggy Pop during Bowie’s Berlin period when he was also supporting Pop’s recovery from drug abuse in the mid to late ‘70s. Ziguri’s first gigs were then subsequently played out at other underground clubs, squats and street parties. This continued until a 1997 break-up; the reunion occurred in 2011 when they then performed alongside Can legend Damo Suzuki.
The belated debut opens with General Klickman with atmospheric tension building straight from its intro as it approaches like a demon being released from the Underworld. It’s a mesmerising musical voyage but it suffers awfully every three minutes or so as the hypnotic vibe breaks for uninspiring vocals crying General Klickman is in the sky (rest assured it is Klickman and not Pigman which it uncannily sounds like). The music is addictive despite a very basic drum sound that could have been recorded in a living room, but the vocal interludes do little except bury themselves deep within the brain where you are going to struggle severely to remove them.
Massa is instrumental perfection though, the kind of epic suspense thriller soundtrack that’s guaranteed to add a stunning sonic aspect to any such film as Schickert’s intricate echo guitar noodlings shimmer against a basic tribal drum pattern and almost unwavering set of six synth notes. Yoyodyne is a shorter, slower trudge of swirling guitar noise and more tribal drumming but more disappointingly tuneless and awfully toned vocals and strange lyrics spoil the sublime soundscape.
Bella Hop opens to more mesmerisingly brilliant guitar echo, this time set to a much faster, galloping backbeat. The ‘vocals’ this time take the shape of garbled insanity before “you and I” is repeated a number of times, but once again the echo swamped guitar is the biggest attraction. Goa Constrictør closes the five-strong collection: just under 11 minutes, the track is probably the biggest slab of monotonous Krautrock on offer as it weaves its way through delicate touches of effects-heavy guitar, propelled along by a constant three-note backdrop (that sounds a bit like a duck suffering from a severe cold), basic drums and chanted vocals.
Very much like the drug the name refers to, Ziguri will leave you in a hypnotic trance. Occasionally the monotonous psych rock ingredients blend together to form perfection but all too often Schickert’s guitar musings sound as if they need a little more support, the atmospherics they generate standing out like Mount Everest next to the South Downs. File next to The Zutons and ZZ Top; or, if you prefer not to alphabetise your collection for some insane reason, next to Can.