Tag: Susanne Freytag (Page 1 of 2)

xPROPAGANDA Interview

Photo by Kai Freytag

As PROPAGANDA, die klassik quartett of Claudia Brücken, Susanne Freytag, Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens dubbed “ABBA in hell” released their only album together ‘A Secret Wish’ in 1985 on ZTT.

Featuring the hit singles ‘Dr Mabuse’, ‘Duel’ and ‘P: Machinery’, ‘A Secret Wish’ was highly regarded with admirers including Martin Gore, John Taylor, Jim Kerr and Quincy Jones. PROPAGANDA had emerged from Düsseldorf’s post-punk art scene which had often gathered at the Ratinger Hof pub on Ratinger Straße.

Previously, Brücken and Freytag had been in an all-girl group called TOPOLINOS who appeared on the compilation ‘Partysnäks’ in 1982; their track ‘Mustafa’ became a favourite of the late John Peel who played it on his late night BBC Radio1 show.

But “x” marks the spot and with it, Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag have rebooted the esteemed brand as xPROPAGANDA with ‘A Secret Wish’ producer Stephen Lipson helming for an excellent collection of all-new material entitled ‘The Heart Is Strange’.

As another hope feeds another dream, during a break from live rehearsals for the upcoming London showcase of ‘The Heart Is Strange’, Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag kindly talked to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about the album’s creative genesis and realisation.

Over the past few years, you have worked together on the ‘This Happened’ shows and the song ‘Sweet Sense (Of) Liberation’ on the ‘Beginn’ album with Jerome Froese, but when did the impetus to do a project together come about?

Susanne: It started in 2018 when we played ‘A Secret Wish’ at The Garage and we thought we needed some new material. We had been thinking about this for a long time and thought it would be nice to have some new songs to expand our repertoire a bit.

Photo by Jimmy King

How do you look back the reception for those shows at The Garage?

Claudia: Amazing, it was just incredible that people from all over the world came, from Japan, America, Mexico and Europe. It was fantastic to see and you could feel it while we were performing. It was great to be working with Stephen Lipson and Luís Jardim in the band and it worked so well. During rehearsals back then, we already thought it would be nice to have new material.

You initially launched yourselves as D:UEL and did gigs under that name but how was it decided to settle on being called xPROPAGANDA?

Claudia: At some point, we thought we would call ourselves after a song we’d done but we questioned it. For that moment, we thought it would do, but we thought we should maybe find a different name…

Susanne: …and find an arrangement with Ralf and Michael to be able to call ourselves xPROPAGANDA. But this took us some time to negotiate; that’s why went under D:UEL.

What are you own favourite recollections of making ‘A Secret Wish’?

Claudia: Mine is being in Sarm West in this amazing atmosphere in Basing Street, surrounded by really creative people. There were three studios, Bob Marley recorded there in the 70s, and it had an incredible vibe. At that point, ZTT were in the same building so it felt really electrifying.

Susanne: It was about being in London, being in the studios, working with Trevor Horn, Stephen Lipson, meeting David Sylvian… KILLING JOKE were in the studio and obviously FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, it was just a very exciting time.

What was it like to meet David Sylvian, did either of you have a crush on him?

Claudia: We were real admirers of him and his work but we weren’t star struck or anything, we took it in our stride…

Susanne: … I loved JAPAN so I think I was a little bit! *laughs*

Photo by Jimmy King

Given your history and the fact that he was in the xPROPAGANDA live band, was it a no brainer that Stephen Lipson would be involved in ‘The Heart Is Strange’?

Claudia: It seemed so obvious as he did ‘A Secret Wish’… both Susanne and I had this sentiment that we wished there had been another album after that with our involvement. Throughout the years, Stephen said “Girls, if you ever want to do something, I’m here”

Susanne: He’s a very busy guy working with Hans Zimmer on films so it took a bit of time…

Claudia: …but then at some point, it was the right time. But the dynamic didn’t change too much because for us, the Stephen then and the Stephen now, although we have all changed in some ways, it was all so easy. We had common ground, shared experiences and stories to tell, so we are still the same people.

Another name on ‘The Heart Is Strange’ is John Owen Williams who produced the Claudia solo album ‘Where Else…’

Claudia: John lives locally to me as does Stephen, I worked with him so well on the ‘Where Else…’ album that I thought it would be good to work on melodies and lyrics with him again. He was really open, it was just a natural process, it’s good to have someone to throw ideas to, but not as a band member as such.

Did you consciously decide to incorporate some classic ZTT references into ‘The Heart Is Strange’? I’m thinking of trumpets and proggy guitars alongside the crafted electronic backdrop etc…

Claudia: That’s Stephen’s production style so I guess it would naturally resemble that, because that was the sound. It’s just what comes out of us, it wasn’t like “oh, we need to make sure it sounds like PROPAGANDA”.

Photo by Kai Freytag

The opener ‘The Night’ does not disappoint with a dancey cacophony of sequenced digitised bass and percolating percussive colours, it does have that classic widescreen Lipson sound… 

Claudia: On this, we collaborated with Pete Murray who is a producer friend of Stephen. We asked Stephen if he had any ideas flying around in his library which he shared with us. So we picked a few as a starting point. I wanted to make a kind of poem or prayer, and then the whole idea came about, it’s a three parter. When Covid came, we would continue to develop things by file sharing but luckily, we had all the vocal parts already recorded. Stephen then worked his magic.

There’s quite a long intro ‘The Night’ before the vocal comes in which adds to the tension, it’s something that is missing from a lot music now, that anticipation…

Claudia: I’m really happy you say that because I like music to breathe and take you on a journey… a lot of songs these days are just designed for radio and they put on lot into that three and a half minute timeframe. I like things when they are stretched.

‘Beauty Is The Truth’ is more aggressive with the two of you sparring?

Claudia: We are just having a dialogue aren’t we? Susanne says something, then I say the opposite to prove her point, it’s very much a play and it’s inspired by John Keats, the romantic poet. It’s challenging romanticism as well. It has lots of different layers, like about fake news and warning people to be alert and be careful.

Susanne: For me, it also deals with social media and all this beauty culture, especially all these teenage girls and the image they want to present which is not real.

How you feel about social media, both in the context as artists and as mothers?

Photo by Kai Freytag

Claudia: I think it’s terribly addictive in how you are drawn to it, it’s a bit insane really how many hours people spend on it.

Susanne: As mothers, I am glad my two children are grown-up and that I don’t have teenage daughters. I see friends with teenage daughters where they can quickly get into this wanting the miration from others, looking at the clicks and struggling with themselves… it’s sad to see and I know somebody in Sweden where use of computers in schools started earlier than in Germany. But the amount of anorexia in school girls in Sweden is so high and my friend sees the direct link as being the age when they start using computers or are given mobile devices. I thought it was interesting, I never saw this connection with the age that children are introduced to computers…

Claudia: …and there’s this obsession with self-image…

Susanne: …and that’s what starts it, they become 11-12-13 and there’s this peer pressure to appear beautiful on social media.

Social media brings the fans a step closer to the artist than back in the day when they would have been more on a pedestal…

Susanne: For me, it’s really stressful, I’m happy if I don’t have to look at it. But you also need it because this is the modern way of advertising yourself and your product so…

Claudia: …it’s a double edged sword *laughs*

‘Only Human’ offers a mid-album breather?

Claudia: We felt a bit odd and vulnerable at that point of writing, it was thinking “hey, we’re all human”, all this uncertainty that’s going on…

Susanne: …it was Covid related.

Is ‘Don’t (You Mess with Me)’ something of a female empowerment song, given some of the challenges in your creative past?

Claudia: Yes, it is! *laughs*

Susanne: It is also about personal lives, being angry and female empowerment.

Claudia: It’s being fed up, we went to Stephen’s studio and he said “I’ve started this riff” and we were really impressed. So instead of what we came in for, we concentrated on this…

Susanne: ….it happened very quickly…

Claudia: …and we just wrote it on the spot basically! By the end of the session, we had finished the song and recorded it. At the time, it was cathartic for all of us, this burst of energy got captured. This is something that doesn’t happen that often. But I think we were all in this p*ssed off mood and that drove it *laughs*

There’s an exotic mystical swirl in ‘No Ordinary Girl’ with a knowing “Don’t be a fool!”, where did this combination come from?

Susanne: We were joking around with references to ‘A Secret Wish’ *laughs*

Claudia: We were thinking of sinister things that Susanne should say in contrast to the vocal melody so that came up *laughs*

Photo by Jimmy King

The melody is quite Eastern?

Susanne: It is, it’s a little bit strange, the things I am saying are a bit…

Claudia: …disturbed! But I think the melody sounds a bit French and filmic. I also really like the string steps, those figures at the end, I think that was Pete Murray with his beautiful keyboard playing. But it also has something exotic so that was me following the sound. I thought it would be nice to have a torch song on the album.

So are you dictating ideas and sketches to your phone now?

Claudia: All the time, a melody just pops into your head and you can immediately sing it. I’ve got about 1000 voice recordings on my phone, I just capture things.

Is it generally through vocal melodies that you write your musical ideas or do you have a mini-keyboard or software on a device?

Claudia: It’s pretty much in my head… or I will hear some nice chords somewhere and I will use that for referencing.

From the bounce of the track, the vocals from the two of you and a magnificent sax solo from Terry Edwards, ‘The Wolves Are Returning’ with its narrative on the rise of new far right using Brothers Grimm imagery really gels with a big expansive sound, it’s my favourite on the album…

Claudia: That’s so great that you say that, I think it’s so mad that there is such a long saxophone solo, it’s really bold to do that in a song these days! When I heard it, I thought “I love that!”, it’s so unexpected.

I love the confusion the sax causes, its processed so it sounds like a guitar but towards the end of the solo, the intonation is such that you are thinking “that’s not a guitar!” *laughs*

Claudia: That’s what I like about Stephen’s production, he just keeps messing and makes bold choices.

Susanne: It’s such a mad sax solo, it really fits the song.

Susanne’s son Alex also did some programming on The Wolves Are Returning’?

Susanne: Yes, he was working on some basslines and other things. We had talked about getting some different elements in there. One was Terry Edwards and the other was Alex; he lives in Berlin so that weird vibe came in. I was working with him on a few things so we looked at something we could integrate.

Claudia: Stephen is very open to ideas from others, he has this experimental mind which is great to have for creativity.

I’ve always felt the best producers are the ones who have progressive rock sensibilities, like Trevor Horn, Stephen Lipson, Mike Howlett, Zeus B Held and Conny Plank, they dare to apply this stuff to pop music…

Claudia: Yes, I like the mixing of genres so that you’re not this or that, I don’t have a purist mind, neither has Susanne or Stephen. A good song is a good song and you can style it in any way.

The closer ‘Ribbons of Steel’ could be considered the follow-up to ‘Dream Within A Dream’?

Susanne: The ‘Ribbons of Steel’ are a reference to barbed wire, it was inspired by The Berlin Wall. When it was built in the 60s, it just divided the people and the streets. So it’s about two people, one is in the East and one is in the West, who are unable to see each other again.

Claudia: There’s this loss of contact, this feeling of not knowing and having a lot of unanswered questions, it’s a story about the unknown, being plagued by uncertainty.

That feeling resonates with current world events…

Susanne: I was thinking that.

Was there the fascination for Berlin in Düsseldorf back in the day like there was for people in the UK and the US?

Claudia: In the 80s, definitely. The Berlin club scene in particular, it was completely mad… I remember going to clubs there and it was like WOW!

Susanne: Also, in Düsseldorf, places had to close at 1.00am but in Berlin, they were open all night. I remember being in an amazing discotheque and somebody opened the door and there was this really strange light coming in, not realising it was daylight! It was fascinating but it was quite dark, being in the Eastern Bloc…

Claudia: …but that is what made it so special.

Susanne: Of course, Berlin was full of students and people who didn’t want to go in the army so they brought a whole different culture to the place.

How are rehearsals going to present ‘The Heart Is Strange’ live alongside songs from ‘A Secret Wish’, who is in the band?

Susanne: It’s going well, it’s quite a big thing to present the new songs and everything, it’s huge. It’s a lot of work and we have lots of great musicians, it will be exciting!

Claudia: It’s going to be a nine piece band this time, Stephen is joining us in the band, along with Luís Jardim again. There’s also David Rainger who played a lot of guitar on the new album plus James Watson and Philip Larsen on keyboards and the drummer Paul Jones. Rehearsals are going great. We’re doing all the songs from ‘The Heart Is Strange’ and a big chunk of ‘A Secret Wish’.

Will there be any more xPROPAGANDA shows after this May date in London?

Susanne: Yes, there are gigs in Germany in November which have just been announced.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag

Special thanks to Stuart Kirkham

‘The Heart is Strange’ is released by ZTT on 20th May 2022 as in CD, 2CD, vinyl LP, red vinyl LP, Bluray audio and digital formats

xPROPAGANDA perform at The Garage in London on 24th May 2022

The ‘Secretstrange’ 2022 tour of Germany includes:
Berlin Columbia Theater (2nd November), München Schlachthof (4th November), Frankfurt Nachtleben (5th November), Bochum Zeche (6th November), Hamburg Kent Club (8th November)

https://www.xpropaganda.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/xPropagandaOfficial

https://twitter.com/_xPropaganda

https://www.instagram.com/_xpropaganda/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
21st May 2022

xPROPAGANDA The Heart Is Strange

The legend of German quartet PROPAGANDA was etched into the psyche of the music cognoscenti with the 1985 release of ‘A Secret Wish’ on ZTT, a classic of the electronic era which heralded the advent of sampling and digital synthesis.

Among its fans were 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 foursome 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 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, Brücken and Freytag have teamed up with Stephen J Lipson, producer of ‘A Secret Wish’ and had introduced their new project as D:UEL – so it was a surprise when it was announced that the pair would be playing two London shows performing ‘A Secret Wish’ as xPROPAGANDA in 2018.

‘The Heart Is Strange’ is the first fruit of labour from xPROPAGANDA; with that classic widescreen Lipson sound, the impressive opener ‘The Night’ does not disappoint with a dancey cacophony of sequenced digitised bass, crashing beats and sweeping synthetic strings. Additional brass flourishes, orchestrated bursts and percolating percussive colours permeate over multi-minute intro before Claudia Brücken delivers a fabulous vocal.

The spacious metronomic template of ‘Chasing Utopia’ hypnotically builds with the addition of guitars from the pleasuredome and snappy live drums as Susanne Freytag provides a spoken harmony next to Brücken before an alluring German monologue and a flugelhorn solo. Although tapping with rimshot before packing a punch, ‘Beauty Is The Truth’ is more aggressive with Freytag sparring with Brücken as their contrasting styles provide the tension over the buzzy trance-laden air.

‘Only Human’ is less pacey, crossing six string strums with electronics, acting almost as a mid-album breather. However, ‘Don’t (You Mess with Me)’ provides a synthetic rock edge and a piano motif that could have come straight from the Gary Numan playbook but the end result actually comes over like ABBA although not quite in hell but more a jungle full of tigers. With an exotic swirl ‘No Ordinary Girl’ heads towards the Mystical East and is bolstered by some heavy guitar and choppy strings plus a reference to the past with a knowing “Don’t be a fool!”

A warning on the rise of the extreme right wing using Brothers Grimm imagery, ‘The Wolves Are Returning’ is back to classic Lipson. It’s a bouncy driving number with another superb vocal from Brücken, an enticing middle eight phrase from Freytag and a magnificent sax solo from Terry Edwards, processed to the point of sounding like a guitar. Over 9 minutes, the cinematic closer ‘Ribbons of Steel’ provides a fitting atmospheric backdrop to showcase Susanne Freytag’s poetry. With references to The Cold War that are equally applicable to today’s world events, it’s a starker 21st Century follow-up to ‘Dream Within A Dream’ declaring “I never heard The Division Bell… I’m trapped on the wrong side, or is it the right side”.

As Brücken and Freytag summarised: “We always thought it was a shame that an album as distinctive and acclaimed as ‘A Secret Wish’ seemed destined to be a one-off. It certainly meant a lot to us, and it never seemed right that the story stopped there. Working again with Stephen Lipson and means that we can turn our dreams about what the ZTT follow up to ‘A Secret Wish’ would sound like into a reality. The reality is ‘The Heart is Strange’”.

While the distinct pop approach of ‘The Heart Is Strange’ perhaps is missing the gothic industrial spike of Ralf Dörper and the classically schooled eccentricity of Michael Mertens that added some of the character to ‘A Secret Wish’, where it does not disappoint is vocally and sonically; fans of PROPAGANDA and ZTT will relish and savour this thoughtfully crafted work.

Surpassing both the Brücken-less PROPAGANDA long player ‘1234’ and ACT’s ‘Laughter, Tears & Rage’, ‘The Heart Is Strange’ can be considered a worthy follow-up to ‘A Secret Wish’.


‘The Heart is Strange’ is released by ZTT on 20th May 2022 as in CD, 2CD, vinyl LP, red vinyl LP, Bluray audio and digital formats

xPROPAGANDA perform at The Garage in London on 24th May 2022

The ‘Secretstrange’ 2022 tour of Germany includes:
Berlin Columbia Theater (2nd November), München Schlachthof (4th November), Frankfurt Nachtleben (5th November), Bochum Zeche (6th November), Hamburg Kent Club (8th November)

https://www.xpropaganda.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/xPropagandaOfficial

https://twitter.com/_xPropaganda

https://www.instagram.com/_xpropaganda/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Jimmy King
15th May 2022

PROPAGANDA The Murder Of Love

A new fan-made PROPAGANDA video which founder member Ralf Dörper has described as “unglaublich” has just hit the web. Set against ‘The Murder Of Love’ from ‘A Secret Wish’, it reimagines a visit to New York by PROPAGANDA during their ‘Outside World’ tour in 1985 when they performed at the Irving Plaza.

With cinematography by Rick Martinez plus makeup by Connie Ojeda Smith and Jaelene Jaquez, the superb and affectionate visual presentation is directed and edited by Vlad Panov. A humorous and nostalgic tribute to PROPAGANDA, Hannah Fleming and Talia Shvedova as respectfully Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag are quite convincing, while Panov himself could pass for Michael Mertens in the way the actors who played Stephen Morris in ’24 Hour Party People’ and ‘Control’ did.

However, Vladimir Putin lookalike Michael DeGrandpre could do with a pair of stack heels or stilts as Ralf Dörper. As is always the way, these type of films play with artistic licence and in this instance, the very tall Düsseldorfer actually declined to be part of the ‘Outside World’ tour so was not even in New York on 26th September 1985.

Ralf Dörper told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK in Autumn 2012: “I had a quite stubborn view on playing live as PROPAGANDA as I believed it would be not possible to give a proper impression without lifting the studio on stage. And I did not consider it an option to use guest musicians … especially no guitar player.” – their label ZTT just issued a press release to say he was at his day-job in a bank to cover for his absence!

While Dörper continues today touring and recording as a member of DIE KRUPPS, Brücken and Freytag will be opening as xPROPAGANDA for HEAVEN 17 on ‘The Luxury Gap’ tour this Autumn.

Meanwhile, Mertens continues as a successful freelance composer whose production company Escape Route has had commissions from Volkswagen, Renault, Ford, Autostadt and C&A.


‘The Murder Of Love’ is from ‘A Secret Wish’, available via BMG in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats

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)

DIE KRUPPS go on ‘The Machinists United Tour’ with FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY in 2018, dates include:

London O2 Islington Academy (19th August), Paris La Machine (20th August), Utrecht De Helling (21 August), Krefeld Kulturfabrik (22 August), Gothenburg Truck Stop (24 august 2018), Stockholm Klubben (25 August), Wroclaw Stary Klasztor (29 August), Prague Lucerna Music Bar (30 August),
Budapest A38 (31 August), Bratislava Majestic Music Club (1st September), Vienna Viper Room (2nd September, Munich Backstage Halle (4th September), Frankfurt Batschkapp (5th September)

https://www.facebook.com/claudiaandsusanne/

http://www.diekrupps.com/

http://escaperoute.de/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th August 2018

xPROPAGANDA A Secret Wish Live at The Garage

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)

http://xpropaganda.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/propagandamabuse/

https://www.facebook.com/claudiaandsusanne/

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaBruckenMusic/

https://twitter.com/ClaudiaBrucken1


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.

Soul 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.

Missing 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

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