Sunday, April 24, 2011
GRiM, 2006; available
17 tracks, 71:02
Unknown to a lot of industrial fans, one of America's earliest groups of that sort came out of Grand Rapids, MI. Starting in 1979 as Art Damage, each member contributed vocals and a synthesizer. Steve Zuidema Zeeland used an ARP Axxe, Brian Younker a Korg MS-20, and Tom Purdy a Roland SH-1. Their obscurity is unfortunately easy to explain: Nobody was ready for them in Michigan, and audiences tended to be quite hostile*. This CD compiles Zyklon's self-titled 7" and the cassette-only HEARTLAND, both released in 1981 (plus one bonus track). Stylistically this is quite varied. "All Night War Film", "No Mexiko", and "Brand New Key" (yes, a Melanie cover!) fall on the synthpop side of things, with unusually emotive vocals accompanying the synth drones and blips. "Kelvin" and the HEARTLAND version of "Gary, IN"** feature factory rhythms as percussion; Purdy made these during his day job at a refrigerator plant. The two epics, "Amtrak" and "H", are each stunningly prophetic in their own ways. "Amtrak" is a Kraftwerk-inspired thrill ride, foreshadowing the later techno sound (and even Plastikman at times!). On the opposite end, "H" is a noisy slab of grinding sounds and drones; much later harsh and abstract noise can be traced to this track. Not a single experiment fails, and the whole compilation is a gem of obscure early industrial. This is especially recommended to fans of Throbbing Gristle, Ike Yard, and Cabaret Voltaire, but for historical value alone it belongs in every serious industrial library.
*The track "Zerfallen", which closed THE HEARTLAND, seems to capture one of these gigs. The audience doesn't cheer until Zyklon's power is cut!
**"Gary, IN" and "Part-Time" are present on the 7" and THE HEARTLAND, but in vastly different versions. The 7" version of "Part-Time", dating back to 1979, is the earliest Zyklon recording.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
IC, 1989; availability uncertain, but easily found second-hand
12 tracks, 68:25
Formed circa 1978, Din-A-Testbild were part of the weird side of Neue Deutsch Welle. Mark Eins has always been the sole constant throughout the years, though the original lineup was MUCH larger*. This compilation collects the highlights from their first three PROGRAMMs**, released between 1980 and 1983. They were on Klaus Schulze's IC label; Schulze also produced some tracks and contributed a bit of keyboard. Three tracks come from PROGRAMM 1, four from PROGRAMM 2, and five from PROGRAMM 3***. The PROGRAMM 1 tracks have been remixed, but it's to their benefit. Every song has some elements in common; namely, driving electronic rhythms, repetitive keyboard lines, occasional guitar, and Eins' speak-sung vocals. Consistency doesn't mean boring, and each track brings something new and unusual to the table. The nearly twelve-minute "Satisfactory" (from PROGRAMM 3) is my personal favorite. It's a Kraftwerk-esque blend of delightful sequences and bizarre sci-fi lyrics that isn't at all overlong. The strange piano-led "Tight Pants", with Eins' vocals at their most tweaked, and the ever-so-slightly sleazy "The Call Of Lust" are other highlights on this wholly listenable collection. If your collection has room for Der Plan and Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, you should be able to find a space for this. A good used copy should be easy and inexpensive to acquire. Anything else by Din-A-Testbild is also very much worth investigating.
*The rare "Abfall/Garbage" single shows this early industrial/punk side of Din-A-Testbild. Good luck finding this one!
**Most Din-A-Testbild releases are titled PROGRAMM #, the exceptions being LEIPZIG & COCA-COLA and SEX 'N CHAOS.
***Respectively, this leaves three, one, and three tracks left off this comp. These might be worth hearing, but they also may have been discarded for a good reason.