Kraan - Through-Bassball
by Robert J.
Left to right are Ingo Bischof (keyboards), Peter Wolbrandt (guitar),
Hellmut Hattler (bass) and Jan Fride (drums).
I have often stopped to wonder why we listen to music.
Are our ears so completely different that our reasons
are, too. You could not find more diversity in the world
than there is in music. Some listen to opera, others to
jazz and still others to rap. Are they all approaching
this music for the same reason?
My take on that is yes. Whatever it does to the listener emotionally
or spiritually, music reaches us all for pretty much the
same reasons. We want to be entertained by what we hear.
There are differences in reaction just as there are differences
in musical style, but when you get right down to it, the
music gets turned on because of our basic human need to
I've always treated music as a form of reward. In buying a CD I
am rewarding myself. In finding a new group, I am rewarding
myself. Do you think of music this way, too? Is that why
when you see a favorite artist with a new recording your
immediate first thought is... I must have it.
I would wait for a pair of shoes to go on sale, or a shirt or pants...
but let a favorite artist's work be placed under my nose
and I behave quite differently. That recording becomes
an urgent requirement. I know that may sound terribly
childish, but if I am honest about this perhaps you will
believe me when I confess another honest truth. What is
that truth? I'll get to that in a moment.
In life there are few things worth having and holding. Clothes
wear out. Sooner or later my wife will grab that favorite
shirt and toss it into the garbage bin. It will be so
worn and useless that it will not even be worth donating
to charity. My increasing waistline will force me to give
away the pants I no longer fit into. Shoes? How many of
you still have the shoes you were wearing in 1980? Do
you get the idea?
Left to right are Ingo Bischof (keyboards), Peter Wolbrandt (guitar,
Hellmut Hattler (bass) and Jan Fride (drums).
A CD? Well, now there's another story. Right? Buy it and store
it well. It will outlive you. The only hard choice you
may have to make is deciding which of your evil relatives
is worthy enough to cherish the music that you have. Until
that dying breath, a CD will mostlikely be around for
you to enjoy. It may well have a longer life than those
old 78 rpm recordings I had as a kid. It may be around
far longer than the 45 rpm single hits I bought when I
was in high school. The LP? Ah, I do also think it will
outlast the lifetime of that wonderful invention, too.
The point here is that what you buy today will surely be around
for many years to come. Break down the cost of a $20 CD
over 40 years and you get one heck of a bargain.
Which brings us to one particular CD I wanted to tell you about.
I want to review it for you, but words could never let
you "feel" what it is that music does. I will
mention a web site where you can sample the ear candy
for yourself and that may be more convincing than my own
words. At the very least I want you to listen to the sound
of this recording for yourself. All the web references
will be detailed at the end of this rant.
Kraan is a band I discovered quite by accident. A record importer
[Jem Records] was bringing European bands into the US
on their foreign labels. I had already purchased an LP
called "Let it Out". It was on a UK label named
"Gull". Kraan also had released some of their
work on Passport Records in the US. The music was bright
and catchy, a mixture of fun with rock and jazz. These
were innovative times in music and there was much crossover
between such art forms. Jazz artist Larry Coryell was
experimenting with fusion jazz at just around the same
time that Kraan was exploring rock played a little jazzy.
When I got the Jem catalog I was able to get one or two more recordings.
Clearly the band had been around for a while but, as a
foreign band, there was not much information to be had
about them. Liner notes? They died a long time before
the 70's. I was just glad to find recordings like "Andy
Nogger", "Wintrup" and "Flyday"
thanks to Jem.
Jem took more than 3 months to deliver these LPs to me, but they
were worth the wait. Everything I liked about "Let
It Out" was found on these recordings, too.
When you listen to a slow Kraan song you find yourself moving to
the rhythm just as readily as a faster song. You become
a part of the music and it infuses itself. You are not
an innocent bystander. You are involved.
Later on, I faced a crisis. LPs were on their way out. I had to
move to Manhattan and our new apartment was smaller. My
huge wall of records had to be sacrificed to those who
still used needles. I kissed goodbye to all those Kraan
recordings knowing I might never hear them again. One
favorite release found by chance was "Bassball"
a solo LP released by Kraan's bassist Hellmut Hattler.
I really treasured this concept album. It was hard to
see it go. Hellmut Hattler was on the cover holding his
guitar like a baseball bat. For a German band, Kraan was
about as American as one could imagine. They always have
been. 95% of their song lyrics are English, not German.
Bassball was not the music of someone from Germany. It
was as American as baseball itself.
The recordings all went to charity. I swallowed hard and accepted
the ultimate truth that nothing really lasts forever.
My opinion has since changed. It took the internet and
CDs to make me think twice.
In the mid-90's I experienced Yahoo and the internet for the first
time. I wanted to test it, to see what it could do. My
first word on the internet was "Kraan". Not
only was I amazed to find a web site dedicated to the
band, but I also learned of recordings that were not known
of in the USA. I was even shocked to learn that some recordings
were available on CD but, having been issued a few years
before my search, were now hard to find and almost all
were out of print. Internet to the rescue again. I located
a site in Australia and was able to get two such CD re-issues.
I am told that these were bootleg. I was thrilled to have
them. Old friends had come for a visit and were going
The Kraan web site run by fan Michael Bohn [see URL list below]
was my lifeline to the band. I not only was able to get
news about the potential for re-issues, but was able to
email to band members as well. A few years ago a small
German indie label called "Fünfundvierzig"
re-released a whole list of the Kraan catalog on their
label. What I did not have was now available to me for
the first time. I think the resulting sales invigorated
the band, which had drifted apart, into performing and
recording again full time. "Through" is their
first CD of all new material in quite a few years.
Here are my thoughts about each of the nine selections on the new
CD [an asterisk indicates existence of an MP3 file for
your listening pleasure. See links list below:
to right) Ingo Bischof (keys), Jan Fride (drums)
Hellmut Hattler (bass), Peter Wolbrandt (guit, vocs).
*Unser lied- I saved time trying to track down the meaning
of this in a German/English dictionary. I was fairly sure
it did not mean that someone named Unser had told an untruth.
It would make a strange title for a song. No, the literal
translation from the German means "Our Song".
As it was explained to me this is just as it sounds. Older
folks tend to identify with one particular song during
their life. When they hear it the immediate thought is
"They are playing our song". Just that simple.
It begins with the haunting notes of a guitar that sounds almost
like church bells. This is Peter Wolbrandt on lead guitar.
Over the years Peter has learned how to coax every imaginable
sound from this instrument. In this I liken him to the
late and great Randy California, a guitarist who once
played with Jimi Hendrix and later went on to fame with
the group "Spirit". Both Wolbrandt and California
like to hold down on the frets and let the guitar "wail".
It gives such an instrument a "voice", if you
The theme for the song is established early and is repeated throughout.
It is both melodic and rhythmic. As with most Kraan songs
here, drummer Jan Fride, gives the heartbeat to the music
being played. He is the tempo, the seasoning to all that
For this nine song varied selection, things get off to a very good
Solemn sundown- Hellmut Hattler is all over this song, where
the bass fills in almost as much as do the drums. Peter
on vocals. Kraan is like some other fusion bands I've
heard over the years. Spyrogyra comes to mind. Flim and
the BBs. Yellowjackets. Uncle Festive. Full Circle. Only
two of these bands are still around and of those listed
here none have the longevity of Kraan. It is ensemble
effort that makes a fusion band work. Here Kraan proves
well why they are still vital after all these years.
*run sonny run- Mistakes get made in life. Sometimes all
you can do is run from them. Peter vocalizes about choices
made and not made. If the advice is about moving on, Sonny
might be running, but the listener is hopping-skipping
and jumping to this tune. Me? I'd diddy-bop to it. What's
that? A kind of walk with a shaking head and a lively
step, two forward and one back or whatever direction you
slomocean- Slow motion? Yes, the tempo has slowed down on
this song. It has a new age sort of meditation feeling
to it. There is an ocean-like calmness to it, if you will,
the sort that makes a cruise on still waters ever so relaxing.
soul keeper- When does a soul mate become a soul keeper?
Perhaps when there is a bit more take than give. It is
a song about a relationship that has turned into silence,
one that has turned from "fantasy to piracy"
as the song says. This song has Ingo Bischof's keyboard
texturing front and center. I prefer it when Ingo plays
straight piano to synthesizer, but here you get a bit
urlaubsmusik- The translation here means "Holiday music".
It is dance music, pure and simple. It feels like a samba
to me, but I am at a distinct disadvantage having the
dancing ability of your average adult walrus. A song like
this leads me to think I could do a good job of faking
it. Some people play air-guitar. I play air-Astaire. Too
bad this one is not one of those MP3 files. It's a grabber.
now what (arewegonnado)- Peter sings about another broken
relationship. "I don't know why but it's true, I
didn't think much of you". Despite the despairing
lyrics, the song began sounding like a boogie. It all
crashes down when you hear the vocal.
*moxx- I have no idea what the title is in reference to,
but I thought of the word "moxie". Moxie is
one's inner drive or determination to accomplish something.
The song is the liveliest one on this CD and it is just
the sort of thing you'll enjoy hearing again and again.
Listening to it will convince you to get this CD. It is
the clincher of the album. If you had to ask yourself
the question: How many musicians does it take to Kraan?
This song is the answer---no less than four.
through- Through has two meanings. One is about passage
beyond or penetration, the other is about completion.
For example: The glazier, once through with his task, put his fist through the
Kraan's title song reminds us that this CD has taken us through
50 minutes of time. It leaves you hungering for a bit
more, as do all the CDs by the band. It has been a few
years since they last provided us with new work. One may
only hope and dream that they will never be "through".
Missing from this mix are the horn players that have served the
band so well. Joo Kraus and Alto Pappert are a part of
some of the best Kraan recordings ever. The good news
is that you can hear them on the older Kraan CDs. Joo
Kraus also performed with Hellmut Hattler in the band
The cover art was inspired by Peter Wolbrandt's first Kraan poster
from 1972. It has a day-glo Orange look to it, much like
all those "Hippie" black light posters from
the 1960's did. Lyrics for four of the songs are included
in the jewel box insert for the CD.
In his review of "Through" Pete Pardo said "Through
is an enjoyable listen, a new direction for the band,
and proof that no matter what the category, they can still
write great music."
Listen to those MP3 files or better yet, buy the CD and you will
agree. It is a band worth listening to. If nothing else,
you will feel that having purchased it was a reward you've
given to yourself. You can invent a reason for the reward
just as I always do.
- . -
Kraan sites worth the time to visit:
The new unified label for all the projects of the band.
This is the company that has released "Through".
Future re-issues will mostlikely be on this label.
The big baby of them all, Michael Bohn's all encompassing
Kraan web site. This loyal and dedicated fan from Denmark
has kept Kraan alive as much as any band member. Both
he and a musician named Skiold Frederiksen were a Godsend
to this Kraanaholic in the dark days before Kraan CDs
were in my hands.
Renaissance man Hellmut Hattler's artwork on view. Hint:
I secretly have used one of these paintings as a desktop
photo. Don't let anyone know this, please.
Those interested in Kraan's music in countries outside
the USA should check out the Bassball.net web site. For
the rest of us trapped in the good old continental USA,
Alaska, Hawaii and Canada... please see the website below.
It offers MP3 files for the songs that were asterisked
above. Grodecki has some of the current releases by the
If you are looking for some of the band's earlier work,
it is carried at CDNow.com . They do not have all the
titles in stock, but they do carry a few older recordings.There
are three band references now and just one for Hellmut's
artwork. I hope that is OK. Most people will find the
other sites from Michael Bohn's web site.
- . -
The latest news for U.S. residents:
the KRAAN albums "live2001", "berliner
ring" and "through" are available NOW at
Thanks to Hellmut Hattler for the images.
E-mail to Hellmut Hattler:
to Robert J. Baumann:email@example.com
2003, Robert J. Baumann