Krautrock for Athletes: What 70s East German Olympians just might have listened to while training

I have to admit, they had me going there for a while…. I thought it was real. I stumbled on the Bandcamp page for the Kosmischer Läufer project two days ago, courtesy of WFMU, who blandly supplied no information about it. The site purported to be the “secret cosmic music of the East German Olympic Program, 1972-1983.” (Kosmischer Läufer means “cosmic runners.”) Volume 1 came out last year, vol. 2 this week.

So I’m listening to these tracks of magnificent 1970s-style German electronic music and taking in the backstory of one Martin Zeichnete, an apprentice sound editor for DEFA (Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft) who, starting in 1972, was transferred to the Olympic training music project, that is, to compose music for East German athletes to train to. Having furtively imbibed the forbidden Western tones of Kraftwerk and Neu! in his hometown of Dresden, Zeichnete managed to smuggle in some avant-garde ideas to the project and generate some pretty sweet Musik that (just by chance) would be tailor-made for the discerning hipster of 2013. Volume 1 represented a program that “should allow the average runner to complete a 5 kilometre run at a reasonable pace. Included are 3 minute warmup and warm down pieces.”

My knowledge of German came in handy, here. There was a puzzlement or two to clear up. The name “Zeichnete,” which means “drew” or “sketched,” isn’t an entirely convincing surname for a German national. The story of being scarily apprehended by the Stasi authorities, only to be suddenly transferred to the Olympic training department, seemed far-fetched. The titles were an absolutely perfect imitation of what the contemporary English speaker would want them to be—“Mausi Mausi,” for Chrissake? “Flucht aus dem Tal der Ahnungslosen” means “Escape from the Valley of the Clueless” and really, that’s a great title in any language and perhaps more to the point, a clue to anyone taking all this retro guff too seriously. The only real problem with it all was that sizable gap between 1989 and 2013. Where were these tracks all this time? What had taken Zeichnete so long? Why was he staggering the releases? Why did some of the tracks sound so perfectly like what a Stereolab-influenced electronic music nut would generate today, given the chance?

More to the point, the whole thing was beginning to seem a bit ridiculous.

Turns out, these fine tracks of faux 1970s e-music had been introduced in a (successfully funded) Kickstarter last year launched by one Drew McFadyen of Edinburgh. (This blog says there’s more than just one person behind it, but I couldn’t discern anyone’s name but that of Mr. McFayden.)

Sehr witzig, mein guter Kerl!

In any case, instead of the most marvelous musical find of this or the last century and an incredible artifact of the Cold War, we have a excellently rendered simulacrum of same. It’s a hoot if you’re in the mood for some free tracks to listen to on Bandcamp or YouTube, but the files can also be ordered on iTunes or Amazon (links to individual tracks are below). Unfortunately, as often happens with Kickstarters, the original run of LPs is sold out. (If you’re listening, Unknown Capability Recordings, remember me if you ever do a future pressing!)

You can read an interview with the fictitious East German, Martin Zeichnete—it’s worth reading, they did a very good job with it. The reference to Andreas Pavel’s Stereobelt was just the right touch.

Track listing:
Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Vol. 1

1. Zeit zum Laufen 156 (Time to Run 156)
2. Sandtrommel (Sand Drum)
3. Die lange Gerade (The Long Straightaway)
4. Tonband Laufspur (Audio Tape Running Track)
5. Ein merkwürdiger Anschlag (An Unusual Attack)

Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Vol. 2

1. Zeit zum Laufen 172 (Time to Run 172)
2. Morgenröte (Dawn)
3. Flucht aus dem Tal der Ahnungslosen (Escape from the Valley of the Clueless)
4. Die Kapsel (The Capsule)
5. Die Libellen (The Dragonflies)
6. Mausi Mausi (Mausi Mausi)
7. Walzer der roten Katze (Waltz of the Red Cat)
8. Der Hörraum (The Listening Room)
9. Für Kati (For Kati)
10. Weltraumspaziergang (Spacewalk)

Here are a couple of the videos, cleverly sync’d up to some bitchin’ footage of East German athletes in their former glory:

“Die Libellen”:

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider
10:04 am
Music has the right to broadcast: Boards of Canada cuts loose on Paris radio

Boards of Canaduh
Thirty years on from the emergence of Chicago house and Detroit techno, electronic dance music has been pretty well integrated into the mainstream entertainment industry. Now we don’t just have superstar types like Skrillex and Steve Aoki, but also a whole tier of underground stars DJing and playing live regularly to massive club and festival crowds. For many who’ve been involved in aspects of the genre for a while, both the star system and the lack of innovation in the consumed canon can get a bit distressing. 

Thankfully, some EDM artists have managed to scrupulously avoid the limelight—eschewing most live opportunities and even interviews—and let their music speak for themselves. Along with Burial, Warp label duo Boards of Canada—comprising Edinburgh musicians and siblings Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin—has worked almost facelessly in a scene filled with fame-hungry clowns. BoC’s blend of substantive synth sounds, emotive ambience, and electro- and hip-hop-referencing beats has enchanted a fan-base that’s only grown since they released their debut EP Twoism in 1995.

Now their new album Tomorrow’s Harvest—their fourth studio set and first release in eight years—has become one of the more anticipated album releases of the year. So it’s as good a time as any to note the recent posting on Mixcloud of this 2002 mix that BoC did for the Helter Skelter radio show on Paris-based community station Aligre FM. Broadcast just as the band released their claustrophobic second album Geogaddi, the mix features lots of rare bits from their early-‘90s era, along with remixes of electronica peers like Meat Beat Manifesto, and R&B stalwarts Colonel Abrams and Midnight Star. Although it’s been dispersed via MP3 amongst BoC fanatics, it’s good to see this excellent broadcast finally on stream.

Here’s the tracklist:

01:20 - 05:30 - “1969” (Geogaddi)
05:30 - 09:30 - “Chinook” [Extended] (Aquarius) [WITH CHAT]
09:30 - 13:11 - “M9” (Boc Maxima)
13:11 - 18:45 - “Korona” (Mask100)
18:53 - 21:55 - “Smokes Quantity” (Twoism / MHTRTC)
21:55 - 24:59 - “Soylent Night” [Hell Interface] (Whine & Missingtoe)
24:45 - 29:28 - Colonel Abrams “Trapped” [Hell Interface Remix] (Mask200)
29:25 - 32:50 - “Music Is Math” (Geogaddi) [WITH CHAT]

32:46 - 37:52 - “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” (Hi Scores / MHTRTC)
37:52 - 44:28 - “Chinook” [Extended] (Aquarius)
44:28 - 49:45 - “Sixtyten” (MHTRTC)
49:45 - 54:22 - “Orange Romeda” (WAP100 - We Are Reasonable People)
54:22 - 58:00 - “Music Is Math” (Geogaddi) [WITH CHAT]

57:58 - 65:00 - “XYZ” (Peel Session - not on CD)
64:42 - 69:18 - Midnight Star “Midas Touch” [Hell Interface Remix] (Mask500)
69:18 - 70:22 - “A is to B as B is to C” (Geogaddi)
70:22 - 74:20 - Bubbah’s Tum “Dirty Great Mable” [BOC MIX] (Dirty Great Mable) [WITH CHAT]
74:20 - 76:13 - “Music Is Math” (Geogaddi) [WITH CHAT]
76:36 - 82:25 - Michael Fakesch “Surfaise” (Trade Winds Mix by BOC) [PLAYED TOO SLOWLY]
82:15 - 85:43 - Meat Beat Manifesto “Prime Audio Soup” [Vegetarian Soup by BOC] (Prime Audio Soup) [PLAYED TOO SLOWLY]
85:13 - 86:41 - “From One Source All Things Depend” (Geogaddi - Japanese Bonus Track)
86:40 - END - “Poppy Seed” [BOC Remix] (Slag Boom Van Loon - So Soon) [WITH CHAT]

Boards of Canada the legendary Helter Skelter Radio Show 2002 by Abstractmovies on Mixcloud


Posted by Ron Nachmann
03:36 pm
Egyptian sound & visual artist Ahmed Basiony dies in Cairo during revolution

Cairo artist and electronic musician Ahmed Basiony died at age 32 on January 28, the fourth day of major anti-government demonstrations in his home city.

Basiony’s rather remarkable music is being played continuously on 100radiostation, an arm of Egyptian experimentalist Mahmoud Refat’s now-offline 100copies organization, which organizes the annual 100live electronic music festival in Cairo.

Here he is performing at the 100live festival in 2010:

Basiony leaves behind a wife and son. Let’s hope this revolution is worth all the lives and creative talent lost. Peace, justice, power and freedom to the people of Egypt.
Hat-tip Marc Weidenbaum at disquiet.

Posted by Ron Nachmann
01:06 pm
X-TG carry on

The question of whether or not Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has quit Throbbing Gristle remains not fully answered. Despite Thee Deevelopment, TGers Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti have gone on to fulfill their early-November live TG obligations in Italy and Portugal as X-TG. The group has uploaded some media from those shows on their new site.

P-Orridge’s ambivalent statement on the matter was offset by “Unkle Sleazy’s” take, and there’s likely debate as to how much value a P-Orridge-less TG holds. I’d think the excerpts below from the two shows speak for themselves.

  X-TG ‘XPad’ Live at Porto Casa Musica by Industrial Records


Posted by Ron Nachmann
07:49 pm
“We’ll never die!”: Atari Teenage Riot returns

It’s great to see that Berlin’s Atari Teenage Riot—electronic anarchists and creators of the “digital hardcore” sound—are back and in terrific shape. Predictably, what was first slated as a reunion for a few European shows has turned into a full-blown world tour for Alec Empire and Nic Endo, along with new Rioter CX KiDTRONiK.

Throughout the ‘90s, ATR spread sonic fire from the nexus of hard techno, thrash-punk and noise, with their members (including formers Hanin Elias and the late lamented Carl Crack) also releasing solo projects on their own Digital Hardcore Recordings label.

As shown by this stage invasion during their appearance at Zurich’s Fusion Festival from this spring, the Riot seems back on in full force.

After the jump, relive ATR’s famous 1999 anti-fascist May Day riot in Berlin, with commentary by Empire…

Posted by Ron Nachmann
03:36 pm
Thirty-nine years gone, Jim Morrison predicted electronic soul—but not Plunderphonicized Doors…

Detroit techno soldier Monty Luke hepped me to this rather remarkable clip from an unnamed American music show in 1969. It seems apropos since last week marked the 39th anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death, and his ghost still haunts what once was the Doors Workshop in Los Angeles. Below, the LizKing notes that music in the future “might rely heavily on electronics and tapes” and feature performers “using machines.”

You think he figured that electronic music geniuses like John Oswald a.k.a. Plunderphonics would have such a blast blowing out the Doors, as shown in the fan video after the jump?


Posted by Ron Nachmann
04:57 pm
Tomorrow’s Edge: The Future Roots Sound of Africa Hitech

It’s always heartening to see electronic music veterans ably take on new genres and make them sing. One case in point is the UK duo Africa Hitech comprises producer Mark Pritchard and producer/vocalist Steve White (a.k.a. Steve Spacek). Pritchard helped shape the sound of British techno in the early ‘90s in his groups Global Communications and Jedi Knights, while White made waves in the early ‘00s with his avant-soulful warbling and knob-twiddling for the glitchy trio Spacek.

Both have been busy with lots of projects, but Africa Hitech bears special attention. The pair’s just-released debut EP Hitecherous weaves between lurching lovers dub, whomping dubstep, whizzing dancehall, and neurotic garage—all stripped down to their powerful rhythmic essences. Recommended new sounds.


Get: Africa Hitech - Hitecherous [CD-EP]


Posted by Ron Nachmann
12:24 am
Anatomy of a fresh vibe: A BBC jungle music documentary from 1994

MC Gunsmoke
When done right, the underground music genre primer can be the most dynamic type of documentary. We’ve seen it time and again, whether it’s punk, hip-hop, or in this case the hugely energetic scene surrounding the dance music subgenre known as jungle in early-‘90s London. In 1994, the All Black show on BBC 2 presented this community-conscious look at a genre that would eventually morph into a largely over-the-top mish-mash of sci-fi imagery and unsubtle software flogging.

At the time of the doc, jungle is definitely posited as young, multicultural black music, and treated in classically analytical BBC style. DJs, producers, MCs, label people, academics—everybody seems to chime in on issues of roots, authenticity and commercialism. Not only do you get an intro to the basic ingredients of the music—the samples! the reggae! the soul! the basslines! the breakbeats! the speed!—but the producers even weave in some drama surrounding a club gig starring the legendary Shy FX and his crew.

Of course, this program fails to feature some of the genre’s giants, like Goldie, Roni Size or Dillinja. But the American Moonshine Music label sent journalists a VHS copy of this doc along with their compilation Law of the Jungle for good reason—it’s a quality document of a time now long gone. Check it!




Posted by Ron Nachmann
01:29 am