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Gila

Gila was an early-'70s Krautrock group that may not have been as well-known as Ash Ra Tempel or Amon Düül II, but with an eponymous first release created a work that ranks with the classics of the cosmic space rock genre. The group emerged from a political commune in Stuttgart in southwest Germany in early 1969 where it was a multimedia project that combined music with film, slides, and poems. The original group consisted of two Germans, Fritz Scheyhing on Mellotron and organ and Wolf Conrad "Conny" Veit on guitar and vocals, as well as Walter Wiederkehr from Switzerland on bass and Daniel Alluno from Bordeaux, France, on drums. Stuttgart, with its university and arts academy, was a fertile place with many rock festivals and parties, especially at the end of the '60s, and Gila had no problem finding gigs, though the group did have to shorten its name from the original Gila F**k because the vice squad kept showing up wherever they played. By 1971, the band had gained local fame with a creative blend of Pink Floyd-inspired space rock with long psychedelic jams and in June of that year, they entered the studios of Dieter Dierks to record their first album. The eponymous record, often referred to by the title Free Electric Sound, was released later that year by the BASF label. The group broke up the next year and Alluno soon went on to Sameti while Veit joined Popol Vuh, at which time they started doing the soundtracks for Werner Herzog films. By 1974, Veit was ready to re-form Gila, this time enlisting Popol Vuh bandmates Florian Fricke on keyboards and Daniel Fichelscher on drums, as well as vocalist Sabine Merbach. The group's sound was very different, dispensing with the wild acid jams for mellower acoustic rock. Given their pedigree, the new group sounded almost like Popol Vuh at the time, though performing Veit's compositions rather than Fricke's. Whereas the early Gila constantly performed live, this new version of the group was mostly studio-only, with just one live appearance on a television cultural show. Again in Dierks' studio, they recorded the album Bury My Heart in Wounded Knee in the summer of 1973. As the title suggests, this was a concept album about the genocide of Native Americans and later that year, it was released by Warner. After Veit toured France with Amon Düül II in the winter of 1973-1974, the second Gila broke up in the middle of 1974 as Fricke and Fichelscher focused much more on Popol Vuh and Veit briefly joined Guru Guru before he moved on to other groups and eventually became a freelance painter. Though most of the first Gila's live shows went unrecorded, in 1999 Garden of Delights released Night Works, a Cologne concert from early 1972 that had aired live on the radio. ~ Rolf Semprebon
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