Neu!'s (German for New!) two members, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger (both multi-instrumentalists) split from Kraftwerk after their first album (called, funnily enough; 'Kraftwerk') citing a lack of direction. They formed Neu! in Düsseldorf, Germany, not long after they left in 1971, and released their first album early in 1972 after just four days in the studio with Can (another German Krautrock band) member Conrad Plank. Simply self-titled, it was hailed as a Krautrock masterpiece and consisted of six songs full of mechanical drumming and subtle melodies. The first song; Hallogallo, which clocks in at just over ten minutes is often seen as the quintessential Krautrock song. The music contained here on this album is subtley changing and dreamy, but also contains songs like 'Negativland' (Where is where American band Negativland got their name from) an almost nightmarish cacophony of industrial sounds (the track opens with pneumatic drill sounds cut-up and manipulated). Ignored by the rest of the world, the album sold remarkably well in West Germany, enabling Neu! to headline their own tour. Kraftwerk's Autobahn, which appeared two years later, took a lot of inspiration from this album, and harsher people might say it's a glorified re-working with computers.
Neu!'s second album; Neu! 2 was released a year later in 1973. However, the cracks were widening between Michael Rother's and Klaus Dinger's wildly different personalities. To make matters worse, after cutting three tracks the project ran out of money, and their record company refused to give them an advance. Neu! overcame this by filling the second side with sped-up and slowed-down versions of two earlier singles; Neuschnee and Super. There were also tracks featuring a tape machine eating a tape, and a very interesting tape experiment in Hallo Excentrico!, where a tape is playing in each speaker, at different speeds, with Rother and Dinger discussing it over the top. The intended tracks are fantastic however, with the opener; Für Immer (Forever) being an eleven minute motorik that in my opinion is better than Hallogallo. After the album was released, the members went their separate ways. Michael Rother joined members of Cluster (German space-rock/ambient outfit) and formed Harmonia, but this was not to be the end of Neu!!
In 1975 Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger decided to sort out their differences and return to the studio, coming together to construct their last great album; Neu! '75. Awash with synthesizers instead of Michael Rother's trademark lilting guitar. The first side consists of lush, rich textures and sounds, focusing on water (the second track 'Seeland' is what Negativland called their record label). The second side features two hard rock songs (Hero and After Eight) and also the ten minute epic; E-Musik, with phased percussion and Rother's excellent guitar soloing. Also playing on side two of the album were Thomas Dinger, and Hans Lampe, both playing percussion. Klaus Dinger went on to form La Dusseldorf with Hans Lampe after this album.
Unfortunately, Neu! never came together just right ever again. Unable to properly sort out their differences, Klaus Dinger released a bad recording of a show from 1972 without Michael Rother's permission, and the two continued with their individual projects. They had one final shot at working together and released one more album; 1996's disappointing Neu! 4. Influencing bands as diverse as Tortoise, Stereolab, Sonic Youth, Negativland, Pere Ubu, and even David Bowie (give his albums Low and Station to Station a listen), they continue to remain a popular band amongst music critics and musicians alike.
Neu!'s essential first three albums have recently been re-released, and have all original cover art and excellent mastering (done by Neu! themselves with the help of Herbert Gronmeyer). These are the albums to get. The others are hard to find, expensive to buy, and nowhere near as good as the first three.