“Das Ist Schönheit” Compilation (1980)

There are certain things I’m a sucker for.  Late 1970s/early 1980s electronica.  Compilations.  Limited editions.  Albums with one-of-a-kind jacket artwork.  When all of these things align on one release, as the do on Das Ist Schönheit, I end up throwing my money at the person working the register like I’m a lobbyist talking to a politician.  It wasn’t cheap, mind you, but the price was fair based on the Discogs sales history, and the  condition was top notch (which seems to be the case for so much of the experimental electronica from this period…), so I couldn’t resist.

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Sonically Das Ist Schönheit is a bit all over the place.  The first two tracks set up the listener.  First is the spacey “Untitled” by Peter Reitberger, all sci-fi bleeps and bloops, which is immediately followed by Rima Lucia Mardoyan’s classical-based yet still highly experimental “Symphonie Nr. I”, a sample-filled aural collage of orchestral music.  Mind.  Blown.  As near as I can tell there are 17 performers who contribute to Das Ist Schönheit‘s 30 tracks, over half of which are untitled and the shortest (also called “Untitled) only 14 seconds long.  While I think it’s fair to hang the “experimental” tag on this collection, the compositions, for the most part, have coherent musical structures.  Certainly they’re far from traditional, but they are recognizable as music, as opposed to some more avant-garde fare that can come across as simply a random collection of sounds (OK, Oliver Hirschbiegel pushes it pretty far with the random horns on “Billy Sagte…”).  The high point for me is Claus Böhmler’s “Falckenstein”, which uses Devo’s version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as its source material.

I’m hard-pressed to full “recommend” Das Ist Schönheit, mostly due to the price.  You have to be into the weirdness for this to be worth it to you, unless you’re more attracted to it due to it’s collectibility.  That being said, I do like the randomness of it and I’m glad I picked it up.

Robotiko Rejecto – “The Cyper Space” (1990)

There were four big boxes of awesome electro-ness at Easy Street Records when I stopped by the other day.  It looked like they bought a collection, because it’s not normally the kind of stuff I’d see at the shop.  There was so much stuff in there I’d never heard of before… I spent as much time searching artist names on my phone to try to get a sense of what they were about as I did actually flipping through the records themselves.  But in the end I came away with about a dozen selections, a combination of comps, albums, and 12″ singles, and so far everything we’ve played has been very cool.

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Robotiko Rejecto emerged from Frankfurt in the late 1980s comprised of producers Ra/Hen and Talla 2XLC (who is also at times credited as Ramona Ader and whose real name is Andreas Tomalla), and their first full length album, The Cyper Space, came out in 1990.  It was their only album together under that name and included tracks from their first three singles.  Ra/Hen later resurrected the moniker and released Corporate Power in 2012.

Stylistically The Cyper Space is EBM with a somewhat spacey and at times a bit dark.  It’s not industrial though there are elements that fit that mold, especially some of the brief pieces like the 40 second “Interpolation”.  When vocals are present they have a sort of sci-fi robotic flavor (“Moonbase 18”) about them.  What particularly struck me is the retro feel I got from these songs, a sensation driven by the fact that contemporary artists like TZMP and Mitch Murder have a similar vibe; I had to keep reminding myself that this is the original stuff.

Egotronic – “Keine Argumente!” (2017)

I get a bit leery when it comes to writing about artists who are considered to be overtly political, especially when it involves politics outside of my home country.  You can find some superficial info online about even the most fringe movements, but without understanding the true core beliefs as well as how they are perceived in their homeland, it’s a bit of a tightrope.  Add to that lyrics that aren’t in English and I run the risk of writing about some musician or band whose politics and beliefs I would personally find offensive.  Sure, there’s an argument to be made that it’s OK to separate the art from the beliefs of the artist, but some beliefs are automatic disqualifiers for me, as I’m sure they are for many of you.

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Which brings us to the German band Egotronic, a band labelled as being well known for its “Antideutsch” views.  The movement itself is generally described as far left, extremely anti-nationalistic, and against anti-Semitism.  That is, of course, a massive over-simplification of something I couldn’t even begin to hope to understand without being immersed in German society and understanding the language.  But on the surface I didn’t see anything that would keep me from enjoying and writing about Keine Argumente!, so away we go.

Stylistically it’s a blend of punk attitude, rock, and chiptune, which on the surface doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that should work.  But it does.  The chiptune elements take the hard edges off, creating a sensation that is both retro and futuristic at the same time.  In fact it’s of paramount importance to Keine Argumente! in one key way.  The album is 2 X LP, with the first record comprised of a dozen songs, while the second… the second is 8-bit versions of the exact same songs.  Which is a major trip, and kind of cool in a way, totally changing the experience.  I’m not even sure which version I prefer because I like ’em both.

Schwund – “Technik Und Gefühl” (2019)

schwundtechnikI picked this up at Berlin’s Bis Auf Messer Records on our recent visit to Germany.  I can’t find a lot of info about Schwund online, and almost nothing at all in English.  I’ve seen them described as punk, post-punk, and experimental… based on what I hear on Technik Und Gefühl it’s more toward the experimental side of the spectrum, perhaps even going as far as to use the dreaded term avant-garde.  The songs have structure, but also tend to wander around, sometimes into unexpected territory.  The constant is the use of synths in retro and unusual ways – “Binär-Indianer” makes you feel like some kind of demented circus just pulled into town, while I wouldn’t be surprised if the underlying rhythm on “Gut Gefunden” was actually one of the presets that was on the old cheap Casio keyboard I owned in the 80s.

It appears the vinyl version of Technik Und Gefühl clocks in around 49 minutes and is limited to 200 copies.  However, there is also an even more limited cassette version (100 copies) that contains an additional 32 minutes of music.  Copies of each are available on the band’s Bandcamp page HERE.  If you only have time to check out a few tracks I recommend starting with “Taxi”, which is perhaps a bit less avant-garde than the rest of the album while also being its most fully realized song.

Gravestone – “Victim Of Chains” (1984)

I couldn’t find much online about the German band Gravestone.  It appears they originally formed in 1977, with all the musicians attending the same school.  Their early sound has been described as prog, but after some personnel changes at the end of the decade it got harder and by the time their third album, Victim Of Chains, came out in 1984 they were full-on metal.  There’s a decent interview with Gravestone bassist Dietmar Orlitta (aka Oli) HERE if you’re interested in a bit more history on the band.

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Victim Of Chains hits you hard right out of the gates with a very un-Steve-Miller-like “Fly Like An Eagle”.  The guitar attack has that 1980s intricacy while the vocals are so high pitched that initially I wondered if I wasn’t playing this at the wrong speed.  The opening to “Son of the Freeway” flat-out shreds.  There’s a NWOBHM influence, but Gravestone of this period are probably more similar to the truly harder bands of the era than they are to those that were moving in a more glam/hair direction.  That’s not to say, of course, that there are no ballads here; it’s from 1984, after all, and unless you were doing thrash it seemed like everyone had a slower song.  In Gravestone’s case, it’s the side A closer “So Sad”, and to be honest it’s only so-so, as we were so many ballads.  But don’t worry, things pick right back up on the B side and we’re treated to some sweet shredding and vocals that hit their sweet spot.