In the summer of 1982, in a cottage in the Bavarian forest a thirteen-year-old boy sits with his brother on the sofa and stares at the television. What he sees will transform his life. In rapid, revue-like sequences, young costumed people jump around in front of a painted background. They serenade tulips that are sparingly lit, twist and stretch under rubber sheets and with eyes taped over, iron on empty boards. Sometimes they just stand there, staring brazenly or absently into the camera, cryptic texts intoning through stiff mouths.
The entire spectacle might be a direct transmission from Mars. The music accompanying all this is so radically new that the terminology to describe it doesn’t exist yet. Most of all, it is unexpectedly bizarre, minimalistic and electronic. The astonishing performance is garnished by four amateurish dancers obviously assigned to the musicians by a decree of the TV broadcaster. Nothing fits together, yet the combination is pure genius. The demeanor of the group is so shockingly modern and uncompromising that the boy in front of the television has to repeatedly pinch himself to prove he isn’t dreaming. This is the music he has waited years for. This is his music, and it sets off a catalytic spark in him. His little brother is drafted to write down the names of the bands Palais Schaumburg, Der Plan, Deutsch- Amerikanische Freundschaft, Lorenz Lorenz, Der Körper und die Seele (The Body And The Soul)… One can imagine the creative spelling that made it on to the list.
Back home in Hamburg, as if possessed, the boy begins to experiment with a synthesiser, home organ, and voice and tape recorder. He is not the only one to begin explorations in this direction. The entire Federal Republic of Germany is just at the boiling point. A new form of home music is coming into existence. It has nothing to do with violin playing children, scratchy sweaters and well- combed relatives listening on the sofa, but rather combines the fears and dark abyss of industrial society. Remarkably it is the same industry that made the tools available to the raging youths: cheap Casio keyboards, synthesisers, drum computers and four track tape recorders. Suddenly anyone can acquire his own means of production to use in protest against the industrial forces.
In Germany especially, that neurotic country whose dark Nazi past and subsequent East/West division filled its closet with skeletons, the electro-industry’s advance falls on fertile ground. The four-track tape studio becomes the medium of the collective unconscious; becomes the embrasure, the lighting rod and the magnetic witness to the fears of an imminent nuclear war. On top of that most of the recordings are born without strategy or intention of commercial exploitation. They are eruptions out of the crater of a society that had reached a deadlock during the so-called German Autumn with its failed RAF movement. Everyone was waiting… But for what? For the end of the world, approaching via an insane arms race? A new youth movement? A new kind of ice cream?
In their freshly established home studios the protagonists practice the new underground music, the “undirected aggression of liberated sounds,” as Frank Apunkt Schneider expressed in his book Als die Welt noch unterging (As The World Was Still Ending). Everything that isn’t nailed or riveted down is used as an instrument: baking trays, cartons, room lamps, toys, wooden flutes, whistles, cans, trays, record players, televisions, a doorbell, a telephone. Out of the living rooms of the nation drones an obsession with noise, sparing not even the children.
And what became of that thirteen-year-old boy who sat in front of the television back then? He hasn’t had a television for the last twenty-five years and is just now writing these lines. His enthusiasm for the cassette scene has remained to this day. And while collecting the pieces for this compilation he had to keep pinching himself in the arm.
Compiled by German sound futurist Felix Kubin this eccentric compilation features 25 rare and mostly unheard tracks by bands like Plastiktanz, Neros Tanzende Elektropäpste, chbb, Holger Hiller and Pyrolator, as well as several one hit wonders by the rural tape label Pissing Cow Tapes.