Tag: Claudia Brücken (Page 2 of 7)

BRÜCKEN FROESE Beginn

One is a former member of TANGERINE DREAM and son of electronic music pioneer Edgar, while the other is best known for her being part of PROPAGANDA, ACT and ONETWO.

‘Beginn’ sees the first results of a new collaboration between Jerome Froese and Claudia Brücken.

Atmospheric album opener ‘(The) Last Dance’ starts with a synth string pad, lo-fi Roland CR78-style drum machine and subtle piano part.

From the off, this is a beautifully produced track, Brücken sounds absolutely stunning here and her vocals float ethereally over Froese’s textural synth and guitar parts. Sequencers are used sparingly throughout and the emotional impact comes from the lyrics which catalogue the unavoidable break-up of a relationship “…we danced our dance”.

With a couple of exceptions, this is very much a downtempo, chilled-out album. The tempo rarely raises itself above 100bpm and the second track ‘Wounded’ is another example of this. With its skittery percussion and dark string synth textures, ‘Wounded’ has the kind of production aesthetic and chord progression which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Exciter’. The track’s chorus really lifts off with a dark droning FM-bass synth underpinning everything; lyrically we are again dragged into pretty dark surroundings with Brücken storytelling about a person trapped in a relationship.

‘Flight (of) Fancy’ (there are plenty of brackets on the track names!) lightens the mood considerably and is the most guitar-oriented piece on ‘Beginn’; possibly a bit too lightweight in conception (one could imagine Emma Bunton or Natalie Imbruglia covering this), it’s partially salvaged by a welcome minor key sequencer-based part in the middle 8.

‘Cards’ is similar in tone and conception to Alison Moyet’s some of recent solo works… in fact if you were looking at an overall comparison point for ‘Beginn’, then ‘the minutes’ would be a good place to start. Breakbeats which are introduced later in the track and some middle-Eastern inflected melodies keep the dark vibe going and gets ‘Beginn’ back on track again.

‘Light (of the) Rising Sun’ is a short ambient piano / synth based piece; more of an interlude than a complete song, Brücken delivers another beautiful vocal in a track which has positive and uplifting lyrics which counterpoint some of the darker themes present elsewhere.

‘Whispers (of) Immortality’ is the epic center piece of ‘Beginn’ with Brücken providing a spoken word contribution throughout. The song, which features hissing analogue snare and hi-hats, has a Brücken vocal delivery which is very reminiscent of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s Nico, especially on the “here she comes” line.

In contrast, the following ‘Sound (of the) Waves’ is very much a game of two halves, the first stripped back with little percussion, then the second lifting off with more breakbeats.

‘Sweet Sense (of) Liberation’ is a definite highlight of ‘Beginn’ and the most contemporary-sounding piece here by a long shot, ’s xPROPAGANDA bandmate Susanne Freytag. With its deep detuned Reese sawtooth sound and Drum N Bass kick / snare pattern, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Hospital Records compilation. Adding to the album a welcome change of pace, the track has some PROPAGANDA-style spoken word elements in it’ middle section and sparkling blippy sequencer lines throughout.

The album climaxes (as it started) in a low-key fashion with ‘Unbound Spaces’, featuring a mixture of found sounds and synthetic textures and brings the album to a satisfying and melodic atmospheric conclusion.

Interestingly, ‘Beginn’ is a bit of a curveball in that it’s really not what you would expect considering the backgrounds of the two artists; if you approached it expecting a TANGERINE DREAM album fronted with icy PROPAGANDA vocals, then you may be surprised.

It’s plainly obvious to the listener that ‘Beginn’ has had a lot of time and love invested in it; it is immaculately produced and Brücken has never sounded better.

Her vocals compliment Froese’s synth and guitar textures perfectly and if you are seeking a reflective downtempo album which combines these elements, it’s unlikely you will hear a better one delivered this year. A perfect beginning…


‘Beginn’ is released by Cherry Red Records on 15th June 2018 in download, CD and limited edition double vinyl LP featuring two bonus FLEETWOOD MAC cover versions, pre-order direct from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/artist/brucken-froese/

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Text by Paul Boddy
27th May 2018

JEROME FROESE Interview

For fans of electronic music, the surname Froese really needs little or no introduction and Edgar’s son Jerome has forged a musical career which has seen him partnering his father in TANGERINE DREAM between 1990-2006 before pursuing a solo project resulting in four of his own albums.

Following this came a teaming up with ex-TD member Johannes Schmoelling and Robert Waters as LOOM. On the near horizon is the much-anticipated collaborative work with PROPAGANDA’s Claudia Brücken called ‘Beginn’.

Jerome kindly took time out to speak to The Electricity Club about subjects including his musical upbringing, his exposure to cutting edge electronic equipment and the contentious subject of the continuation of TANGERINE DREAM without Edgar’s involvement.

To those that know your background, your musical upbringing might seem obvious, but could you describe how you got into music and some of your early experiences?

At first I was lucky enough to be brought up within a totally strange cultural environment! This was a concern to my parents as well as to the other band members and their circle of friends. Therefore almost all of their artistic activities were geared towards leaving well-beaten paths for entering an entirely new area of sounds and a completely different way of using instruments or things which hardly could be described as instruments.

Ever since I can remember, I was a fan of soundscapes and Sci-Fi technology; so naturally I was very keen to play with all kinds of items which looked or sounded like that. That’s why in the early 70s, an EMS VCS3 synthesizer may have been used by the baby of the family for other than its intended purpose!

Due to the fact that TANGERINE DREAM always wanted to be cutting-edge in terms of equipment, there was a lot of discarded stuff stored in a loft above our office in Berlin.

I’m remembering countless big units of Mellotron audio tape cartridges and many other curiosities which have filled the room to the brim for a certain time. Nevertheless, all the newest tech could always be seen at Chris Franke’s huge studio which was located in an old cinema and was definitely a ‘wow’ moment for any ‘electronic’ musician!

Once there, you were able to find prototypes of synth and computer legends like the PPG Wave, Oberheim or the E-mu Emulator as well as the first Apple Macintosh or just some strange custom-built stuff.

Chris was a real tech freak, putting his hands on any gadget which was accessible or could be game-changing in some kind of way.

Edgar was more pragmatic equipment-wise, selling his unneeded stuff after some time. Some years ago he told me that he only regrets the disposal of his Memory Moog and Oberheim 4 Voice. But I’m going off on tangents…

Were you surprised when you were asked to become part of TANGERINE DREAM?

No, because I slipped into it.

Do you feel that you joined TD at a high or low point in its overall history?

You must never forget that it’s a matter of common knowledge that things went down after Chris Franke left 😉

Well, all right, joking apart. Due to the effect that equipment got smaller, cheaper and all at once widely used by many more artists at that time, it was also much more demanding to be in contrast with the electronic music scene. The days where TD could comfortably run ahead were over and the only choice was to look forward, change tack and create something else, which still is the sound for a certain attitude towards life.

With regard to soundtracks, another strategy was necessary as well because TD’s trademark pioneering film music from the late 70s to mid-80s became undertaken and copied by many local session musicians working at a lower budget and being available 24/7. “Can you please make a score which sounds like TANGERINE DREAM?” suddenly became a common phrase in Hollywood and manys the time we’ve heard that said!

After joining TD in early 1990, I found myself right in the middle of a rebuilding process with lots of ambitions for another approach to the whole musical concept of the band. I won’t judge in public if this was a high or low point of TD, but six-digit sales of most 90s albums confirmed to us that there were still listeners out there.

Your growing up was anything but normal, what were the best and worst parts about having a touring / recording musician as a father?

That cannot be described easily. Certainly one of the best parts was that he encouraged me and others in making music with an abundance of patience and devotion. Edgar was really good in seeing and teasing skills out of people and when he was in a good mood it was always a pleasure to have him around but he could also be very possessive.

Your mother Monique created the wonderful sleeve designs for all of the early TD releases, how does it feel looking back at these and seeing your younger self featured in them?

Actually, it was my dad’s idea to put me on the album covers. Then, most people didn’t know what this was all about and because of my long hair, more than a few were asking: “Who is that little girl appearing on the covers!?”

Only once (for Edgar’s second solo album ‘Epsilon In Malaysian Pale’ in 1975) did my parents arrange some kind of photo session with me for the inner sleeve.

After all, Richard Branson from Virgin liked that picture so much that he used it for the album’s press campaign and he also hung the poster in his personal office.

You are quoted in a previous interview that you were unhappy about the adding of saxophone and live percussion within the group. What was it about this move that you disagreed with?

That’s not totally true. I really like drums and percussion and I think that they were placed very well in most of TD’s history. Especially in 1997 when our studio technician had the vision to build a custom made electric percussion set called Codotronics.

A huge set-up, that was based on MIDI-triggered microphones which were controlled by several sampling units.

Emil Hachfeld, the percussionist who played the whole thing, was an outstanding and charismatic musician who was able to set the house on fire. Unfortunately, he died of an asthma attack in 2000 and it became clear that for his replacement he was a really hard act to follow.

Saxophone is another story because I mostly don’t like the sound of this instrument unless you really mess with it. When using a saxophone within instrumental music, you are quickly finding yourself on a razor’s edge ride to muzak and I fear that some 90s TD tunes sounded a bit like that.

What factors influenced you into calling it a day with TANGERINE DREAM?

You know, being and working in a family business is a very special affair.

Quite often you’re not in complete agreement with each other, but on the surface there is always some sort of clannishness.

Unfortunately, our ‘blood is thicker than water’ concept completely turned upside down when my mother passed away in 2000 because she always managed to be some sort of an ombudsman within the family.

And that is how it came that some persons took their chance to enter our private and band life with an ambitious intention to blow up all family ties without a qualm.

It was clear from the outset that this wouldn’t go well, so I left TD in late 2006 after 16 years and never had any regrets about my decision.

When it became apparent that TD were going to continue without the involvement of your father, what were your initial feelings about this?

As years go by, Edgar was asking me several times whether I would be interested in continuing with ‘TD’ at some date. Because I know that he would have wanted to ensure that the band will go on within the family. He was therefore rather disappointed when I refused his offer. I did so, out of respect for what he had built up over years. I mean it’s a fact that one day the last light fades away.

I can understand, that people do have persisting manners of sticking to old habits. This applies especially when one is getting older, when memories and fond habits take a fixed place in daily life. But here I feel to say that Edgar has never authorised or selected anybody to continue with TD without him in any shape or form nor gave consent to access his tapes or hard drives.

I really had lots of private ‘father-son’ conversations with Edgar until his death and he precisely told me that he wanted to take things somewhat easier and gradually withdraw from the everyday running of the band from 2017 onwards. Many of the fans knew he already wasn’t in good shape any more. Originally, my aim was to protect his heritage from egotism and avarice from third parties but then everything turned out differently.

As for statements by the current regime and their subjects, I would only say that they have the right to talk such nonsense as they do, since talking rubbish is a human right as well.

If Peter Baumann had changed his mind and decided to rejoin, would this have changed your overall stance on TD still existing as a viable project?

No.

What made you setup your own record label Moonpop?

Back in 1998, we started TDI Music which was our first own label. At that time a huge part of our song catalogue was expiring from record companies and publishers, so we immediately took the chance to re-release all that music in our own way. After a short period of time we were pleasantly surprised about the possibility to open up new vistas. Having this in mind, I was encouraged to set-up another label for my solo projects, that’s all.

Which of your solo albums are you most proud of and why?

I think this still has to be my debut album ‘Neptunes’ from 2005. Just because of the intense use of my favourite instrument, the guitar.

During the recordings I was finally able to work out a lot of tricks, sounds and atmos which I’ve created for a while. Shortly after I had the idea to call it ‘Guitartronica’ because my main goal was to develop a guitar sound differently from expectations.

Electronic / synthetic musical instruments and musicians have evolved incredibly over the last 40 years, but there seems to be a lack of development in innovative guitar technology (or guitarists willing to take risks), why do you think this is?

I wouldn’t put it that way. There are many artists out there, creating great music while combining guitar sounds with weird or classic effects, synths and other stuff. It’s just that they aren’t omnipresent. For example: In 2006 I got an album from a band called HAMMOCK because we were label mates in the USA at that time and I really liked their spacey and dreamy guitars embedded in wide effect layers with the addition of colourful voices. Meanwhile they are a well-known name and just did parts of the score for Ubisoft’s ‘Far Cry 5’ game and they didn’t have to change their typical sound for that.

In comparison, synthetic musical instruments have evolved incredibly over the last 40 years but where are we now?

So many companies are re-releasing their old stuff in cheap or over-expensive boutique versions and tons of modular systems are congesting the market once again, hoping for a secondary breakthrough.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like this kind of resurgence, especially in regard to better usability and capability and needless to say that I also like to hit step sequencing pads or modulating sounds on a tablet and so on.

But due to my family situation, it’s just that I grew up with having a finger on the pulse of the time when this kind of gear has popped up for the first time, so I’m not going mental on new technology anymore! Nowadays, I only use what’s really suitable for my needs and that is much less than some might think. I mean for guitarists, a campfire is already half the battle 😉

Taking a cursory look at your studio, you seem less obsessed with modular / analogue gear than many producers who create electronic music, is there a particular reason for that?

I’m a sound aficionado and if I do like what I hear I’m not judging about its origin. Digital, analogue, fictional, bulldog … I don’t care. I think it’s much more important where to put the sound in terms of room, modulation and its presence within a composition.

Talking to producers who are philosophising for hours and hours about their monophonic analogue basslines like a horny dog isn’t really my thing!

I believe your studio and record label are based on two separate floors of an office block, when you go to compose / produce, does this not make it feel you are clocking into work?

No way, I really like to have all my needs at one place.

You’ve been Grammy nominated in the past, which musical achievement are you most proud of?

To take advantage of keeping my artistic integrity after all these years. Awards are nice but not important.

What is the situation with LOOM at present?

Calm. Unfortunately, the work on the second studio album has come to a standstill in 2017, so I kept my focus on other projects which were not all musically related. Basically LOOM was intended to be a line-up for live shows in the first place and maybe we’ll reduce it to that in the future.

On your website, there is information about the other LOOM guys Johannes and Robert working with Moya Brennan from CLANNAD, will this collaboration see a release?

I guess so, but not under the LOOM brand as previously announced.

You have been working with Claudia Brücken in the studio on the upcoming album ‘Beginn’, what can we expect from that collaboration?

Well I know that expectations are always high, but do not wait for a PROPAGANDA-like album with TANGERINE DREAM influences! For years I always fancied recording an album were I could merge my own sound with vocals and corresponding lyrics.

When Claudia and I met back in 2014, I played her some early demos of eligible songs which she liked very much and so the whole project was about to begin(n). Quickly we both recognized that we were on very good terms with each other, which made this collaboration very joyful and instructive as well. While in production we better and better localised the direction and style where the music should go to.

Anyway, after the first sessions here in Berlin, Paul Humphreys gave us the opportunity to use his London based studio for the final voice recordings while he was touring with OMD in the US for a couple of weeks. And to be honest, his studio was much better equipped for vocal takes than my place. After returning to Berlin, I entered a very intensive period of detail work on the album which lasted for quite a while. In the end it took a bit of time, but Claudia and myself are very happy with result and are now waiting eagerly until its release.

There’s a couple of FLEETWOOD MAC covers on the vinyl edition of the album, this is very intriguing!

Yeah! In the early stages of the production Claudia asked me about my opinion regarding the recording of some cover versions and I noticed that she is an admirer of Stevie Nicks as I am. Then I told her that TANGERINE DREAM were in contention for producing Mrs Nicks 1989 album ‘The Other Side Of The Mirror’ and that we’ve met her in L.A. around that time.

And so it happened that we both were digging out our FLEETWOOD MAC faves which were ‘Sara’ (Claudia) and ‘Gypsy’ (Me). The only condition was to give these compositions a bit of our own trademark. While ‘Gypsy’ is a bit more upbeat, we managed to create an almost ambient version of ‘Sara’.

If you weren’t a successful musician is there any other career that you would aspire to?

Maybe a pilot or at least to have a job at an airport to live out my wanderlust!


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Jerome Froese

The album ‘Beginn’ with Claudia Brücken is released by Cherry Red Records on 15th June 2018 in CD, digital and limited edition double vinyl LP, pre-order the latter from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/brucken-froese-beginn-limited-edition-gatefold-sleeve-2lp-vinyl/

http://www.jeromefroese.com

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Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
Photos © Jerome Froese Archive
9th May 2018

xPROPAGANDA Live at The Garage

Released in 1985 on ZTT, PROPAGANDA’s ‘A Secret Wish’ is often hailed as a classic album of the electronic era which heralded the advent of sampling and digital synthesis. 

Among its fans were the likes of Martin Gore, John Taylor and Jim Kerr; over the years, ‘A Secret Wish’ has grown in stature with its influence felt on MICHAEL JACKSON’s ‘Bad’ produced by Quincy Jones.

Meanwhile, the quartet of Claudia Brücken, Susanne Freytag, Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens dubbed “ABBA in hell” were a forerunner of acts such as LADYTRON.

But it all ended acrimoniously and despite attempts to reform PROPAGANDA over the last 30 years, they have all come to nought, although the quartet performed together at the ‘Produced by Trevor Horn’ celebratory concert for The Prince’s Trust in 2004, while Freytag and Dörper joined Brücken for her career retrospective show at The Scala in 2011.

More recently, Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag have teamed up with Stephen J Lipson, producer of ‘A Secret Wish’ and have been using social media to introduce their new project named D:UEL; so it was something of a surprise when it was announced that the pair would be playing two London shows performing ‘A Secret Wish’ billed as xPROPAGANDA.

Despite the online protestations of Michael Mertens, the two shows quickly sold out and it was interesting to see Ralf Dörper at the bar as an interested observer to hear how the songs he co-wrote with Mertens would come over in the 21st Century. Squeezed onto the comparatively small stage at The Garage, Brücken and Freytag were joined by Stephen J Lipson on guitar, famed ZTT percussionist Luis Jardim, regular CB sidemen James Watson and Philip Larsen, drummer Paul Jones and Sam Tate on flugelhorn.

Performing ‘A Secret Wish’ in order, it was Freytag who took centre stage first with ‘Dream Within A Dream’, her spoken Germanic tones reciting the stark poem by Edgar Allen Poe. With Brücken on vibraphone, the pair were backed by a progressive soundtrack of hypnotic bass guitar from Watson and some synthetically layered drama from Larsen. While Lipson’s transient soloing maintained the tension, the solid dual percussive backbone of Jones and Jardim were unable to recreate the frenzied attack of the original’s middle section.

The machine rhythm of ‘The Murder Of Love’ welcomed Brücken’s first lead vocal of the evening with an enthusiastic response from the audience, although whether they appreciated Lipson’s jazz guitar work was debatable.

‘Jewel’ brought Brücken and Freytag into an appealing shouting match as a barrage of aggressive textures sourced from the original album were brought into play, before Freytag left the stage for Brücken to give a spirited rendering of ‘Duel’, joyfully accompanied by the crowd. A supreme pop song, Stock Aitken & Waterman loved it so much that they recorded a version of it with Mandy Smith in 1988, while Sophie Ellis-Bextor covered it in 2007!

Freytag returned to offer her shade next to Brücken’s light on ‘Frozen Faces’ before the volume went up a gear for a magnificently powerful rendition of ‘P: Machinery’. The electronic cover of JOSEF K’s ‘Sorry For Laughing’ continued the power trip before the unsettling cinematic glory of ‘Dr Mabuse’; it seems amazing now that this slice of avant pop noir could have even entered the Top 30 of the UK singles chart in 1984, but it was a much more open-minded and visionary time back then… to close the main set, Brücken and Freytag playfully bashed Simmons drums side-by-side to the coda of ‘The Chase’ before departing to the haunting endsay of ‘The Last Word’.

After a short interlude during which the love could clearly be felt in the room, Freytag returned for the encore brandishing a whip for the welcome performance art of ‘Disziplin’.

Acknowledging the contribution of Ralf Dörper, Michael Mertens and late founder member Andreas Thein to PROPAGANDA in her introduction, ‘Disziplin’ was once presented live on ‘The Tube’ back in the day; inspired by THROBBING GRISTLE’s rather stern ‘Discipline’, it was Dörper who wrote some new German lyrics and the demo got PROPAGANDA signed to ZTT.

Brücken swapped places with Freytag and for her encore contribution, she performed a fabulous version of ‘Femme Fatale’, the Lou Reed song originally voiced by German chanteuse Nico for THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s debut album produced by Andy Warhol, which was the B-side to ‘Dr Mabuse’. With all the classic line-up PROPAGANDA material now performed, there was a reprise of ‘Duel’ to end proceedings on a nostalgic high.

Brücken and Freytag will have a busy year as they take xPROPAGANDA out on the road opening for HEAVEN 17 as well as playing select European festivals in the summer. But while Claudia Brücken celebrates her past, there is the mouthwatering prospect in June 2018 of her new collaborative album ‘Beginn’ with Jerome Froese (son of the late TANGERINE DREAM legend Edgar Froese) which is set to include electronic reimaginings of two FLEETWOOD MAC songs, ‘Sara’ and ‘Gypsy’.

Whether working in the past or present, another hope feeds another dream…


xPROPAGANDA open for HEAVEN 17 on ‘The Luxury Gap’ 35th Anniversary Tour, dates include:

Northampton Roadmender (Friday 9th November), Norwich UEA (Saturday 10th November), Bournemouth O2 Academy (Friday 16th November), Birmingham O2 Institute (Saturday 17th November), Glasgow O2 ABC (Friday 23rd November), Liverpool O2 Academy (Saturday 24 November), London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (Friday 30th November), Bristol O2 Academy (Saturday 1st December), Manchester O2 Ritz (Friday 7th December), Sheffield O2 Academy (Saturday 8th November)

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
29th March 2018

ELECTRI_CITY 1_2

Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf

German music has been compiled before, but it has often been a hit and miss affair.

electri_city2Soul Jazz Records’ lushly packaged ‘Deutsche Elektronische Musik’ sets over two volumes contained a wide range of freeform experimental works from Der Bundesrepublik, but occasionally forgot about the Trade Descriptions Act implications of its title.

Released to coincide with ‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’, the English translation of the acclaimed book by Rudi Esch about the city’s music heritage, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 2’ gathers together the more accessible elements of Deutsche Elektronische Musik, Kosmische and Neue Deutsche Welle.

Think of it as a direct journey of discovery, but with the benefit of a local tour guide as well. Issued by Grönland Records who handled the NEU! and HARMONIA remasters, the 2CD deluxe edition  ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ adds the first volume that came out in 2015 alongside the original German language book.

NEU! and DAF will probably be the best known acts of those included; produced by the legendary Conny Plank, both are more than well represented on ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’. But with the proto-synthpop of ‘Isi’ and the proto-punk of ‘Hero’ from the former, alongside the electro-body controversies of ‘Der Mussolini’ and ‘Kebabträume’ from the latter, there are also many other acts who are worthy graduates of the school.

One of the most welcome inclusions is that of the under rated Neue Deutsche Welle trio RHEINGOLD. Both ‘3Klangsdimensionen’ and ‘Fluß’ are almost up there with great international crossover hits like PETER SCHILLING’s ‘Major Tom’. But often, the German language was a barrier to wider recognition and apart from DAF, most of the material gathered here does not really break the lyric bank. Those of Klaus Dinger from NEU! in particular are amusingly close to ranting gibberish, especially on the two brilliant offerings from his more synth driven combo LA DÜSSELDORF.

Electri_city-cover-JPGMissing though are KRAFTWERK; but with Ralf Hütter’s well-known defensiveness of the Kling Klang legacy, representation instead comes from former percussionist Wolfgang Flür and his autobiographical party piece ‘I Was A Robot’.

There is also a special hidden cover of ‘Ruckzuck’ from THE TECHNOCRATS, a side project of Ralf Dörper, best known as a member of PROPAGANDA and DIE KRUPPS. Anyone getting as far as even listening to this set of compilations will probably have at least one KRAFTWERK album in their collection, so their absence is not really noticed.

As Andy McCluskey put it: “Whilst KRAFTWERK cement their position in the pantheon of the museums and the books, LA DÜSSELDORF and NEU! were very important. They also did something that was beautiful and different”. Of course, British acts like OMD championed the cause of Elektronische Musik aus Düsseldorf, eventually distilling the form into synthpop and even selling it back to Das Vaterland; in acknowledgement of that, a mysterious collective called MAKROSOFT cover ‘Electricity’ in a deadpan apocalyptic fashion.

Further evidence of cultural exchange comes with the 1976 HARMONIA & ENO collaboration ‘Luneberg Heath’, the effects of which were to later have a profound effect on DAVID BOWIE’s Berlin Trilogy of ‘Low’, ‘Heroes’ and ‘Lodger’. But the biggest surprise to many will be ‘Darling Don’t Leave Me’, a lost duet between DAF drummer Robert Görl and EURYTHMICS’ Annie Lennox which is a gloriously wiggly synthpop pleasure.

Diversity was one of the beauties of The Düsseldorf School Of Electronic Music and harder, edgier sounds emerged alongside more esoteric instrumental pieces. ‘Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn’ and ‘Zwei Herzen, Ein Rhythmus’ from DIE KRUPPS show how much of a debt is owed to them by the Industrial music scene.

Meanwhile LIAISONS DANGEREUSES led by Beate Bartel (MANIA D, EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, MALARIA!) and Chrislo Haas (DAF, DER PLAN) took Teutonic precision into the underground dance clubs with hypnotic numbers like ‘Etre Assis Ou Danser’ and ‘Los Ninos Del Parque’. However, those in the hunt for something even angrier will probably appreciate the more challenging platitudes of BELFEGORE.

With ‘Flammende Herzen’, NEU! guitarist Michael Rother opened his solo account to become Germany’s answer to Mike Oldfield while on ‘Karussell’, he also proved he could sound like a one-man ULTRAVOX. A former band mate of Rother’s, RIECHMANN is undoubtedly the great lost talent of the era; the lunar synth passages of ‘Abendlicht’ and the delicate melodic schaffel of ‘Wunderbar’ showcased his potential towards the musical magnificence that was never able to be fulfilled due to his tragic passing.

Of course, a vibrant art scene centred around Düsseldorf and provided a sympathetic environment for many to flourish. DER PLAN, TEJA and DIE LEMMINGE are good examples of that more experimental approach. PYROLATOR’s ‘Max’ in particular comes over like a Rhein-Ruhr version of THE NORMAL while ‘Mustafa’ by TOPOLINOS, a pre-PROPAGANDA girl group featuring Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag, is a jaunty, enjoyable piece of Middle Eastern flavoured avant pop that was not really a true indicator of what was to come.

All-in-all, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ is as Rudi Esch puts it “an intelligent and sophisticated roller coaster ride through one of the most integral chapters of recent German music history”. A fine collection of cathartic expressionism, the 29 tracks on offer provide a fine entry point into a fascinating post-war attitude that resulted in a highly influential musical aesthetic.

CD1
01 LA DÜSSELDORF Düsseldorf
02 RIECHMANN Wunderbar
03 HARMONIA & ENO Luneburg Heath
04 DER PLAN Wir Werden Immer Mehr
05 DAF Der Mussolini
06 NEU! Hero
07 TEJA Säuren Ätzen
08 DIE KRUPPS Wahre Arbeit Wahrer Lohn
09 LIAISONS DANGEREUSES Los Ninos Del Parque
10 WOLFGANG FLÜR I Was A Robot
11 RHEINGOLD 3Klangsdimensionen 2010
12 MICHAEL ROTHER Flammende Herzen
13 MAKROSOFT Electricity

CD2
01 RIECHMANN Abendlicht
02 NEU! Isi
03 RHEINGOLD Fluss
04 ROBERT GÖRL featuring ANNIE LENNOX Darling Don’t Leave Me
05 DIE KRUPPS Zwei Herzen, Ein Rhythmus
06 TEJA SCHMITZ Studieren
07 DAF Kebabträume
08 PYROLATOR Max
09 LA DÜSSELDORF La Düsseldorf
10 BELFEGORE Mensch Oder Gott
11 DER PLAN Gummitwist
12 LIAISONS DANGEREUSES Etre Assis Ou Danser
13 TOPOLINOS Mustafa
14 DIE LEMMINGE Himmel
15 MICHAEL ROTHER Karussell
16 THE TECHNOCRATS Ruckzuck (Hidden Track)


‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ is released by Grönland Records as a deluxe 2CD edition. Each compendium is also available separately as a CD, double vinyl LP and download

https://groenland.com/en/artist/electri_city/

ELECTRI_CITY The Dusseldorf School Of Electronic Music‘ELECTRI_CITY – The Düsseldorf School of Electronic Music’ by Rudi Esch is published by Omnibus Press on 26th August 2016.

Book launch events featuring Q&A sessions with Rudi Esch and special guests to be announced include: London Rough Trade East (10th September), Brighton Hotel Pelirocco (11th September), Liverpool Cavern (9th November), Birmingham and Midland Institute (12th November), Manchester Palace Hotel (13th November)

Please check https://www.facebook.com/Electri.city.Esch/ for details

This year’s ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE takes place at Düsseldorf CCD on 14th – 15th October 2016

http://www.electricity-conference.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ELECTRICITY.Conference/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
17th August 2016, updated 1st July 2017

A Beginner’s Guide To CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN

act_claudiaWith her distinctive ice maiden delivery, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is the undoubted queen of cinematic avant pop.

She first came to prominence with PROPAGANDA and the Trevor Horn produced film noir drama of ‘Dr Mabuse’.

Together with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper, the Düsseldorf based quartet released their acclaimed album ‘A Secret Wish’ on ZTT in 1985.

But despite the album being a favourite of musical figures such as Quincy Jones, Martin Gore, John Taylor and Jim Kerr, PROPAGANDA split following business and creative tensions as a result of their deal with ZTT.

Remaining with ZTT, Brücken formed ACT with early electronic pioneer Thomas Leer and released an album ‘Laughter Tears & Rage’ in 1988 which featured an array of lush synthetic dynamics glossed with a touch of starlet glamour. Not one to rest on her laurels, her first solo album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ came in 1991 on Island Records before she took a career break.

There was a brief reunion of PROPAGANDA in 1998, but when that came to nought, Brücken spent much of the new millennium’s first decade working and touring with OMD’s Paul Humphreys in ONETWO, supporting ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE along the way.

Since then, she has released two further solo albums and more recently been spotted in the studio with Susanne Freytag and Stephen J Lipson, while a new collaborative project with Jerome Froese is also in progress.

Although her catalogue is wide and varied, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is perhaps still very much regarded as a cult figure on the music scene. Certainly, she deserves greater recognition so with a restriction of one track per release, The Electricity Club offers a twenty track Beginner’s Guide to her work…


TOPOLINOS Mustafa (1982)

TOPOLINOSBrücken and Freytag first met in Düsseldorf around Die Ratinger Straße; “There was this interaction between art and music happening and everyone kind of knew one another” she said. Together they formed TOPOLINOS, literally translated as ‘The Mickey Mouses’! Using a rhythm unit, electric organ lines and Middle Eastern flavoured vocal phrasing, ‘Mustafa’ was a typical art school recording of the period and appeared on ‘Partysnäks’, the soundtrack to the film ‘Die Tanzbeinsammler’.

Available on the compilation album Electri_City 2 (V/A) via Grönland Records


PROPAGANDA p: Machinery (1985)

Propaganda ‎– pMachineryAt the suggestion of Freytag, Brücken was recruited into PROPAGANDA and their dynamic sound was marketed as “ABBA in Hell”! p: Machinery captured their Teutonic edge and the charm of state-of-the-art technology such as the PPG Wave and Synclavier systems. Produced by Stephen J Lipson, the song also had an unexpected contributor as Brücken recalled: “It was amazing when David Sylvian came in. On ‘p: Machinery there is this line he wrote on a little keyboard that he brought in…”

Available on the PROPAGANDA album ‘A Secret Wish’ via Union Square


GLENN GREGORY & CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time (1985)

Glenn+Claudia When Your HeartWritten by Will Jennings, best known for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ for the film ‘Titanic’ and ‘Up Where We Belong’ from ‘An Officer & A Gentleman’, ‘When Your Heart Runs Out of Time’ was recorded for the film ‘Insignificance’ directed by Nicolas Roeg. Brücken and the HEAVEN 17 vocalist met during the Anton Corbijn directed video shoot for ‘Dr Mabuse’ when Gregory’s then-wife Sarah was doing the make-up. The song was produced by Midge Ure, under the pseudonym of Otto Flake Junior.

Available on the compilation album ‘The Art Of The 12 Inch’ (V/A) via Union Square


ACT Absolutely Immune (1988)

ACT Absolutely ImmuneAfter PROPAGANDA fragmented, Brücken formed ACT with Thomas Leer in 1987. Working again with Stephen J Lipson, alongside the technological marvels came a more playful, decadent glamour with some political flirtations. ‘Absolutely Immune’ was a commentary on the apathy of the nation at large with its “I’m alright Jack” selfishness. Unfortunately, with the sentiment lost on a British public still drowned in blue emotion, it failed to gain interest in a landscape dominated by the bland blue eyed soul.

Available on the ACT album ‘Love & Hate’ via Union Square


JIMMY SOMERVILLE Run From Love (1990)

jimmy_somerville-the_singles_collection_1984-1990While not a sales success, the acclaim and respect that ‘A Secret Wish’ attained among fellow artists led to Brücken being offered many opportunities to collaborate. One of the first came from Jimmy Somerville. ‘Run From Love’ was a lesser known BRONSKI BEAT number reworked in a more house directed fashion by S’EXPRESS producer Pascal Gabriel for the diminutive Glaswegian’s greatest hits collection and Ms Brücken provided backing vocals in the chorus.

Available on the JIMMY SOMMERVILLE album ‘The Singles Collection 1984/1990’ via London Records


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Absolut[e] (1991)

Claudia Brucken Absolut(E)Despite ACT ending, Brücken signed a deal with Island Records which eventually spawned her debut solo album produced by Pascal Gabriel. The first single ‘Absolut[e]’ was very much dominated by Gabriel’s dancefloor instincts. But as the album was being recorded, all was not well within. “The MD from Island suddenly left and all the people who worked on my album left as well” she remembered, “A new guy came in and already I could sense what would happen, so Pascal and I decided to get really experimental”.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ via Cherry Red Records


CHROME SEDUCTION Light The Way (1993)

Claudia+SusanneThe reaction to ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ was muted and Brücken took a career break to bring up her daughter Maddy, emerging only occasionally to record the odd guest vocal. ‘Light The Way’ with CHROME SEDUCTION was a percussively frantic club number that also saw a reunion with former partner-in-crime Susanne Freytag. The project of Magnus Fiennes, brother of actors Joseph Fiennes and Ralph Fiennes, it first surfaced on an independently released 12 inch on Mother Alpha Delta.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square


THE BRAIN I’ll Find A Way (1996)

THE BRAIN I'll Find A WayThe project of Düsseldorf based DJ Dietmar Andreas Maier, ‘I’ll Find A Way’ was typical of the frantically paced Euro-Trance of the period. Co-written with Michael Mertens, the seed of a PROPAGANDA reunion began with a number of songs including ‘Ignorance’, ‘No Return’, ‘To The Future’ and ‘Turn To The Sun’ being demoed. Although a video for ‘No Return’ was produced, the title proved poignant and Brücken later announced: “The reunion was worth a try, but did not work out.”

Available on THE BRAIN single ‘I’ll Find A Way’ via BMG


OCEANHEAD Eyemotion (1997)

OCEANHEAD EyemotionContinuing to contribute the occasional guest vocal, ‘Eyemotion’ was a co-write with John Etkin-Bell which coupled a shuffling drum loop with some beautifully chilled out atmospheres. Brücken’s breathy whispers and a muted synthetic brass motif à la PET SHOP BOYS provided the colourful sonics on an elegant piece of downtempo electronica. Blowing away the likes of ENIGMA and SACRED SPIRIT, the original CD single release was limited to just 2000 copies however.

Available on the OCEANHEAD single ‘Eyemotion’ via Land Speed Records


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & PAUL RUTHERFORD This Is Not America (2000 – not released until 2011)

After the aborted reunion of PROPAGANDA, Brücken accepted an invitation in 2000 to join Paul Humphreys on his solo tour of the USA; one of the first recorded fruits of their partnership was a cover of ‘This Is Not America’ featuring FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s Paul Rutherford intended for a film soundtrack. A beautifully crafted synthesized tribute to DAVID BOWIE & THE PAT METHENY GROUP, although shelved, it finally saw the light of day on her ‘ComBined’ career retrospective.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square


APOPTYGMA BERZERK Unicorn – Duet Version (2002)

APOPTYGMA BERZERK HarmonizerEurope maintained a vibrant industrial music scene at the start of the new century and in a one-off collaboration with Norway’s cult electronic body merchants APOPTYGMA BERZERK, Brücken returned to the more Teutonic overtones that had been evident in PROPAGANDA. In an electronic rework of the heavier guitar focussed original, the combo provided a suitably aggressive but accessible backing track for her to duet with frontman Stephan Groth on ‘Unicorn’.

Available on the APOPTYGMA BERZERK album ‘Harmonizer’ via WEA


ONETWO Cloud 9ine (2004)

ONETWO ItemBrücken formalised her musical partnership with Paul Humphreys and together they named themselves ONETWO. They dusted off a track that had been demoed during the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion. The song in question was ‘Cloud 9ine’, a co-write with Martin Gore which also featured the guitar of DEPECHE MODE’s main songwriter. It was the stand-out song on ONETWO’s debut EP ‘Item’, but it would be a few years before their first album would be completed.

Available on the ONETWO EP ‘Item’ via There (there) at https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/item


ANDY BELL with CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Delicious (2005)

ANDY BELL Electric BlueBrücken joined ERASURE’s Andy Bell to sing on two tracks for his debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’. More club oriented than ERASURE, the long player was produced by THE MANHATTAN CLIQUE who were also part of the ONETWO live band, and provided the introduction. The call-and-response Hi-NRG stomp of ‘Delicious’ saw Brücken in her most playful mood since ACT and in rare poptastic glory, despite the bittersweet, reflective lyrical nature of the song.

Available on the ANDY BELL album ‘Electric Blue’ via Sanctuary Records


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & ANDREW POPPY Libertango (2005)

ANOTHER LANGUAGEBrücken teamed up with former ZTT label mate Poppy to record a number of stripped back cover versions, with just piano or guitar as accompaniment for her first long form release since 1991. Among the reinterpretations were songs originally performed by RADIOHEAD, MARIANNE FAITHFUL, ASSOCIATES and KATE BUSH. One of the highlights was a suitably dramatic take on ‘Libertango’, better known as ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’ made famous by GRACE JONES.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & ANDREW POPPY album ‘Another Language’ via There (there) at http://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/another-language


ONETWO Anonymous (2007)

Onetwo_InsteadHumphreys and Brücken finally released a full length album as ONETWO in 2007 and from it was ‘Anonymous’, a song that began life as a demo from the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and which had also been co-written with Andy McCluskey. The pretty ringing melodies and elegiac atmospheres were very reminiscent of classic OMD. But the collaboration had been unusual as at the time of the song’s conception, as Humphreys had not yet fully rejoined McCluskey in his old band.

Available on the ONETWO album ‘Instead’ via There (there) at https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/instead


BLANK & JONES Don’t Stop (2008)

BLANK & JONES The Logic of PleasureIn between the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and ONETWO, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN guested with the popular German dance duo on ‘Unknown Treasure’, a most gorgeously shuffled electrobeat ballad. The parties reunited in 2008 but while ‘Unknown Treasure’ was in Brücken’s words, “a real collaboration”, “’Don’t Stop’ was in reverse, they gave me all the music and then I did the words and sent it back to them”. Despite the remote detachment of the recording, ‘Don’t Stop’ was still elegantly enticing.

Available on the BLANK & JONES album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’ via Soundcolours


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & THE REAL TUESDAY WELD The Things I Love (2011)

=LA NoireRockstar Games wanted a German singer for a new game called ‘LA Noire’ soundtracked by THE REAL TUESDAY WELD’s Stephen Coates who was known for producing jazzy cabaret-style music with subtle electronica influences dubbed Antique Beat. “I thought: why not?” said Brücken, “I heard the songs and thought they were so beautiful. I found it a really good challenge doing something I hadn’t done before”. ‘The Things I Love’ was the alluring highlight of three songs recorded.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘L.A. Noire’ (V/A) via Rockstar Games


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN One Summer Dream (2012)

Claudia Brucken One Summer DreamThe B-side to ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA’s massive hit ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘One Summer Dream’ was the first song to emerge from Brücken’s reinterpretations project with producer Stephen Hague which also included material by DAVID BOWIE, PET SHOP BOYS, DUBSTAR, JULEE CRUISE and THE LILAC TIME. Beginning with a vintage gramophoned segment, it built to a dreamy John Barry influenced, ‘Felt Mountain’-era GOLDFRAPP string arrangement.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘The Lost Are Found’ via There (there)


OMD Kissing The Machine (2013)

OMD-English-ElectricAlthough this Andy McCluskey / Karl Bartos co-write first appeared in 1993 on the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’, Paul Humphreys completely reworked ‘Kissing The Machine’ from scratch for OMD. “Paul had the idea of asking Claudia to do the vocal in the middle eight” remembered McCluskey, “but I suggested we start it with the ‘I want you to want me – I need you to need me…’ bit through a vocoder and went ‘y’know, could you ask Claudia to do it in German as well?’!” The result was electronic magic.

Available on the OMD album ‘English Electric’ via BMG


CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Time To Make Changes (2014)

CLAUDIA BRUCKEN Where ElseThe biggest surprise musically on Brücken’s third solo album ‘Where Else…’ was her adoption of the acoustic guitar. Working with producer John Owen Williams whose credits also included BLANCMANGE, the songs dealt with the subjects of “emotion, beginnings, endings, past life and future hopes”. Almost like ABBA meeting MORRISSEY in a lush organic backdrop, ‘Time To Make Changes’ very much reflected her personal mindset following the end of her relationship with Paul Humphreys.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Where Else…’ via Cherry Red Records


For further information on the upcoming projects of CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN, please visit her official website and Facebook page

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaBruckenMusic


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th July 2016

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