The Quietus | Features | Grauzone

The Quietus | Features | Grauzone

Grauzone courtesy Off Course Information

The standard of “coldness” knowledgeable many creative agendas again in 1981. Billy Mackenzie sang of Düsseldorf being a “chilly place” on Associates’ ‘White Automotive In Germany’ while Nijmegen’s sensible Mekanik Kommando chipped in with the atmospheric ‘Icefield’. There are additionally quite a lot of visible works to quote, probably the most well-known within the pop world most likely being Jan Van Munster’s 1981 construction ‘Energie-Piek ijs’, a picture of which finally discovered its method onto the within cowl of the 1988 Pleasure Division compilation, Substance. The title instantly interprets because the “peak moment of an energy” captured in time and frozen in ice. Van Munster’s picture suggests there isn’t any want for additional embellishment or growth. You’ll be able to say the identical in regards to the popularity of shadowy Swiss artwork punk band Grauzone, their one album and their gloriously sub-zero, zeitgeist-defining debut single, ‘Eisbär’.

Considering of Grauzone’s ‘Eisbär’, it’s unattainable to think about a document to be extra consultant of its time. A airtight slab of proto chilly wave, pushed by probably the most rudimentary of beats, the only brilliantly captures the ambiance of that fractious, alienated and paranoid time. The tortured, romantic thoughtforms that singer Martin Eicher delivers in a half-shout completely captures the period’s “look, however don’t contact!” angle.

“Ich möchte ein Eisbär sein im kalten Polar / Dann müsste ich nicht mehr schrei’n / Alles wär’ so klar… [I want to be a polar bear in the cold arctic / Then I wouldn’t have to scream anymore / Everything would be so clear…]

‘Eisbär’ was a smash in Europe, scoring notably excessive within the German and Austrian charts. What offers the monitor its plain magic is the mysterious, “frosty” sonic ambiance, constructed up by the usually muffled, quasi-futurist synths, the saxophone squeaks that inform the tail-off and spindly guitar strains that noticed and buzz across the thud of the beat. The whole lot informs the entire and nothing distracts from the job of wrapping the listener up in a scrumptious fog of their very own imaginings.

One outstanding instance of how completely ‘Eisbär’ captured the brittle indeterminacy and restlessness of the younger in Western Europe at the moment is the way it has been given the prospect to soundtrack a phase from a Dutch pirate TV broadcast from PKP TV, a film of Dutch-Latvian graffiti pioneer Dr Rat, taken days earlier than his demise from an overdose in June 1981. The one accompanies Rat portray his tag within the Pissteeg [Piss alley], off Amsterdam’s most important purchasing avenue, Kalverstraat. Two legendary artists of that point, every leaving a string of unanswered questions of their wake.

However ‘Eisbär’ isn’t some ghostly echo of an typically over-eulogised period. It could be a defining minimize of Chilly Conflict various music, however it has additionally efficiently disengaged itself from the constraints of any explicit trope. The one’s preliminary success most likely led to the band being lumped into the Neue Deutsche Welle, a advertising trick that no punter on the time, exterior of the nations in query, would have been bothered to appropriate. There once more it’s value mentioning that Grauzone weren’t the one Swiss press-ganged into the NDW, because the time period more and more grew to become related to compilations of modern-sounding bands singing in German. Dieter Meier’s Yello, for instance, additionally discovered themselves on such a enterprise, launched by the Vertigo label in 1981. And ‘Eisbär’ has survived a number of reinterpretations over time, together with variations which have taken in home, arduous home, dance steel, heavy steel, stoner, lounge, various pop, comedy, and a Europe-wide dance hit with ‘GrooveZone’. It’s additionally appeared in a Swiss-French animated movie referred to as My Life As A Courgette.

Grauzone courtesy Off Course Information

The band themselves, although, are nonetheless locked in that legendary put up punk/new wave period and no surprise. Dwelling as much as the obscure nature of their identify, Grauzone performed their first gig underneath the equally mauve moniker of XXX, made one album and three singles and performed ten gigs of their lifetime. At these reveals, they typically turned their backs to the viewers and used black lights to play in close to darkness. In addition they gave a handful of passive-aggressive interviews to the press. Their art work revelled in creating a way of ambiguity and a predilection for leaving semi-obscure visible references. To prime all of it they cut up up earlier than ever enjoying exterior of their native nation. All “very” 1981. Making issues much more time-locked, Grauzone haven’t indulged within the latest reunion craze that has engulfed their 80s friends. Not that there was a lot likelihood of a reunion given one of many Eicher brothers, Martin, appears fairly joyful staying in his mountain hut, in true Swiss mage type. A Grauzone in permafrost, with their future without end shrouded in mountain mist. A band that is still resolutely within the margins whereas making one thing that wholly captures the zeitgeist of their time, the kind of trick J. D. Salinger pulled off with Catcher In The Rye.

Sill; Grauzone didn’t simply magically appear as if Athena, totally shaped from Zeus’s forehead. The core of the band had a punk pedigree, some members enjoying within the powerful Glueams, a part of a febrile Swiss punk scene that boasted enjoyably antsy acts like CRAZY, TNT and Sperma. Switzerland wasn’t a land that handed modern cultural historical past by, both. Like these in lots of different European cities, notably Amsterdam and Berlin, Swiss punks, artists, squatters and college students had been actively concerned in wider civic unrest that appeared endemic within the western Europe of 1980. A set of actions that, in a single Swiss metropolis at the least, earned the moniker Züri Brännt (Zurich is burning); a reputation that’s also the title of TNT’s 50 seconds of excessive octane punk howl. For the curious, there’s loads of modern Swiss music to take pleasure in that sits nearer in type and angle to that heard on Grauzone’s LP. The outstanding Kleenex/LiLiPUT, Grauzone soulmates, conjured up some unbelievable “art punk” music. Yello, too, performed with minimal beats and ingenious digital soundscapes, although the duo’s debut LP, Stable Pleasure and its comply with up, the magnificent Claro Que Si drops big hints over the extra baroque, expansive, self-reverential Nineteen Eighties that had been about to beat well-liked music in Europe.

No matter context, Grauzone are nonetheless in lots of pop mythologies a band that appeared after which disappeared, leaving 4 singles (one posthumous) and one nice album of their wake. With the singer dwelling in a hut up a Swiss mountain. That is the kind of story that may, within the present local weather, enable itself quite a lot of sequels with the identical materials. The unique LP had been rereleased ten years beforehand however now, with the masters within the possession of Stephen Eicher, it seems once more as an prolonged anniversary version in a field set format, filled with tantalising Xerox artwork and with a reside gig from 1980 in tow. Launched on the very aptly named, (for Grauzone), We Launch What The Fuck We Need Information.

What may be heard when reside tape and album are performed in chronological order, is a band fully reforming and remodelling itself as an idea. The bonus reside gig, recorded at Gaskessel in Bern on the 12 April 1980, could be very unfastened and really pleasing; merely as a result of it feels “alive”, human, and on the mercy of likelihood. Plus there are tracks you’ll by no means affiliate with Grauzone in case your introduction was ‘Eisbär’ or ‘Moskau’. The band rips by a set of numbers that by no means make their legendary LP with aplomb. Energy chords slash and jab by these overheated artwork punk tracks, making an amazing counterpoint to some fevered, tried on-the-one beats and hollered repeat choruses. This actually is efficiency punk, hammered into form on the artistic anvil there after which. Tracks like ‘I Reside In A Jungle’ are messy, arty and glam racket yelpalongs. Stripping away one other layer of the Grauzone delusion we discover that many of the numbers are howled out in English. The band, then, sounds extra like a punk Palais Schaumberg or a chaotic Subway Sect than the Ice Males of legend. And there’s greater than a nod every now and then, nevertheless ill-formed or wayward, to the Velvet Underground. Although we do get a recognisable album monitor in ‘Moskau’ and the opening ‘Grauzone’.

Because the band began to document the singles and album in late 1980, the looseness, wit and vitality of their reside reveals was changed by a self-discipline born of a necessity of simply conserving in time and doing the fundamentals proper in a studio. This seemingly reductive strategy knowledgeable the hypnotic beat and minimal romanticisms discovered on the ‘Eisbär’ and the ‘Moskau’/ ‘Ein Tanz mit dem Tod’/ ‘Ich lieb sie’ singles, and album tracks, equivalent to the attractive opening instrumental, ‘Movie 2’, the brilliantly spooky ‘Kälte Kriecht’ and the candy, melancholic ‘Hinter den Bergen’.

Quite a lot of experimentation, utilizing home-built gadgetry and gear, and on-the-spot track writing additionally offers the debut document a vitality and internal reality, in addition to a artistic flexibility that’s unattainable to dismiss, even after 40 years. This inventiveness, springing from the just about clean template, is to be heard in tracks like ‘Schlachtet!’ which adopts Neu!’s “Apache beat” (take heed to the Düsseldorf duo’s 1972 monitor, ‘Lila Engel’). Then there’s ‘Marmelade Und Himbeereis’, a mixture of jagged post-punk guitar strains and psychicke synths that come on a bit like Klaus “vier kanal” Schultz. The energetic ‘Wutendes Glas’ is pushed by a superbly easy melody and a stomping bassline that – when taken as an entire – nearly might be seen as a superior piss take of NDW sound.

These references to older krautrockers permits point out of engineer Etienne Conod, setting the controls for the guts of the ice caps within the fastness of his personal studios, Dawn. Dawn was a spot the place many artwork rock luminaries equivalent to Aksak Maboul, Artwork Zoyd, Artwork Bears and Fred Frith, Henry Cow and Embryo recorded alongside the Swiss Wave and punk scene bands equivalent to Sperma and Chaos. Conod possibly acted like some mage passing on bizarre internal knowledge to Grauzone. His fledgling label (additionally referred to as Dawn) actually launched some offbeat sounds round this time, together with Vogel’s sensible post-hippy trippy mash up, ‘Bananas Gas’/ ‘No Nie Mee’.

Conod’s experiences additionally throw a rope bridge to varied kosmische and various German post-hippy scenes. That is whole projection however tracks like ‘Maikäfer Flieg’ have a way of heady otherworldliness and sehnsucht that may be heard on the “Mage” releases from Rolf Ulrich Kaiser’s infamous Cosmic Couriers label; themselves merchandise of an out-there Swiss scene. Whether or not these excessive altitude weirdnesses additionally discover a place on later various Swiss music is anybody’s guess. Grauzone’s stringent, Younger Werther-esque sense of melancholy and nearly fragile if managed sense of grandeur doesn’t actually appear to seek out an echo in different Swiss acts who gained acclaim on this interval, particularly The Younger Gods, one other band who mined the studio to create their very own world. Perhaps that’s the final level of Grauzone, an act who exists within the without end. Who is aware of?

Grauzone’s 40 Years Anniversary Box Set is out now on We Release What The Fuck We Want records

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