Meudiademorte/Tape Tektoniks & more
For pretty much a decade now, the droning, noisy, psychedelic underground has brought up tons of great likeminded artists and a slew of releases well worth to be called classics. Some places have crystallized as central for local scenes. In continental Europe, Belgium has made a name through such labels as Funeral Folk, Imvated, Kraak, Audiobot or Sloow Tapes. Of course, Finland shouldn´t be forgotten. And also Italy has some names on its map.
This given, it seemed funny that Germany has somehow missed out on taking part in this worldwide scene. Maybe everyone was too busy drooling over Ricardo Villalobos´ turntables. Anyhow, there are first indicators that the country of Karl-Heinz Stockhausen and Krautrock may make a return to the experimental music stage. For already a while now, the Dekorder label in Hamburg has been releasing wax of the highest possible quality, albeit mostly by non-German artists. Animal Collective are playing sold out shows at Berlin´s Volksbühne. And more and more promising bands are coming out of the shadow.
Among the most active supporters of experimental free/drone/noise/etc. – you know the deal – kind of music are Ulf Schütte and Pascal Hector. Pascal runs the Meudiademorte label and leads the ever expanding Datashock collective while Ulf is responsible for loads of good tapes on his Tape Tektoniks imprint and releases music solo as Shivers and in the bands Cones and Aosuke. Time to ask the two some questions (and scroll down for short reviews of some titles of these two labels).
ULF: We met a couple of years ago. I sent Pascal a demo of what would later become Aosuke. After this we somehow kept in touch and I finally visited him in Saarlouis.
So we became friends. He was already doing his label and I started Tape Tektoniks in this time. So the story behind our working together is basically friendship, respect for each other´s work and art. And he makes the best breakfast. Like ice coffee with café latte flavoured ice cream suddenly appears beside your bed the second you open your eyes.
PASCAL: Yeah, and we talked a few times about it. If we would live closer to each other it would be one Family with a lot of happy children. Love is in the air!
PASCAL: My favourite format is vinyl and for sure if i had enough money every release would be on vinyl. Like everybody who is into underground music I'm a total nerd and love small prints in amazing packages for my wettest collector dreams. Tapes are the easiest and best way to release your favourite band in a good looking package. I don’t have to think too long about the format for a release. It depends on my idea for the layout and how much money i can spend for it. I'm not a tape maniac like Ulf.
ULF: I was always attracted to cassettes for no special reason. I simply love how they look and sound. Plus they fit into every pocket. Tapes have something magical. Maybe it is that if you don´t have them dubbed at a professional place they have been dubbed in real time. You have to put much time and work into a tape release. It is the most personal format. Another thing is that you can make small editions and keep the price low which is kind of impossible with vinyl.
When I ask an artist or a band I always ask for a tape release. Most of them are down with that. Only Tobert explicitly asked for a 3”cdr. The other few cdrs where made due to a lack of time. Like last minute before a tour started or something like that.
PASCAL: I have a lot of Am Tapes records and at the beginning the Olson release style was an influence for me, but not really to get the label started.. at that time Meudiademorte was already around. It was more this attitude which impressed me when i saw the pictures on the old Am Tapes Website. The “layout” was for me at this point more important than the music.
But you can't talk about layout because it was more art or sculptures. So it was important to see that a record label can do something like this, to see that you really can do what you want... but yeah i think i stop here now and talk about the rest...
I like a lot of the stuff on all the mentioned labels and i have a lot of their records in my distro, trade with them, etc. but at the same time i think not everything what they release is my cup of tea. For sure in a way it is the same scene or something, diy aesthetic, a lot of overlaps with bands on the labels, but i don't care. Would you ask them the same question?
ULF: I think it’s cool that these labels are around and do what they are doing. Some where influential and inspiring to me to start a label. It’s some kind of scene because there are a lot of aspects and ideas that are shared and there is a lot of great stuff going around due to these labels.
ULF: It is outsider music. Sounds from the crystal cave and the depth of the swamp.
PASCAL: I release what I like. So everything is possible, but yeah at the moment a lot of free improvisation, psych and jazz stuff.
ULF: The birth of Tape Tektoniks was 2004 or 2005. Hmm…sorry for being vague but I really don´t know when…at first it was a name for Aosuke releases which we wanted to sell at shows but we both prefer hanging out way more than sitting behind a merch table. So we never sold them because all our merch stays in the van at most shows. Back home we had to distribute the tapes or cdrs. I guess bad salesman skills where the reason why it finally became a label. But the idea for a cassette based label was in my mind for some time. I dunno why I hesitated for so long. The first non-Aosuke release was a Spykes tape. From this point on I just kept going on asking artists who’s work I admire for tape releases.
PASCAL: I started the label 2003 with a friend called Chris. The first release was a Datashock release on a 3,5 floppy disc... after that we released a few things from friends of us who played in post punk bands. After a few releases Chris and I had different opinions which music we want to release. He was more into Post Punk / HC andI was more interested in experimental music. He left Meudiademorte and started started his own label.
So i started to ask more and more of my favourite experimental artists if they want to release something on Mddm. So in the end I do a label because I want to release my own stuff, friends´ stuff and bands which i like. And btw Ulf started Tape Tektoniks in 2005...
PASCAL: Like Ulf said “The scene in Saarlouis lives in a cellar, it is Pascal, Pascal and a dude named Pascal”, so you can't talk about a experimental scene in Saarlouis.
If I do a show here may be a handful of people, or let´s say 10 to 30 people are interested in experimental music and most of them are friends of mine. It took a lot of time till they got interested in that kind of music and most of my best friends joined Datashock. It is time to move to Hamburg with the whole gang to hang out with Ulf.
I started to get interested in weird music after I listened to all that Vermiform, Men's Recovery Project , Sinking Body etc stuff.. also a Dave Phillips remix on a kid commando put me in the right way.
ULF: I think Hamburg has a few microcosms which are not too open for new kids. Mostly accademic people that don’t seem to be interested in stuff. For example I was at a Skaters / Axolotl / Tomutonttu show last year and there where like two other people. Doesn’t look like a huge and supportive or interested scene to me. There are a few people from Hamburg I’m in touch with who are doing stuff. If there’s a scene then I’m not aware of it.
PASCAL: Germany is a dead i think only a few people doing stuff there..
Berlin: Marcel Türkowsky, Le Petit Mignon / Staalplaat.
Mülheim: Two nice dudes named Sisto and Peter, they are doing the bands Ciao Bird and Dead Seagul, the label Sound Einz, a lot of circuit bending and a art space where they do shows and for sure art.
Bremen: Drone Records and some dudes who doing shows under the name Syntrox
Cologne: there is a cool shop called A Musik, nice record distribution and people
Hamburg: home of Dekorder Records... maybe Ulf knows more.
ULF: I think some people get very slowly interested in this music. There are some people that do this for a long time and a handful of new kids. But Pascal is right…Germany is dead.
ULF: The only Industrial kind of thing that I like is Einstürzende Neubauten. So I can´t say a lot about the influence of Industrial. Krautrock had a huge impact on music I think. It’s like everywhere from dance music to modern psychedelia. But great stuff didn’t only happen here. Like Morton Subotnik or David Behrman or a couple of others where influencial to the same extent.
PASCAL: I love Krautrock. But first got deep into it after somebody said Datashock sounds like Tangerine Dream.. haha. So today I listen to a lot of kraut influence in some bands of today. With early industrial stuff ... not my cup of tea and I don't care about it. Maybe I'm just stupid. I remember that Neel of Fat Worm of Error said to me: “Stop listening to Wolf Eyes! Listen to Einstürzende Neubauten“
ULF: In most cases I contact the artists directly for a release. When I hear something exciting that I think should be out there I ask them. There is no special rule or something like that. It’s mostly music that knocks me off or a artist that I always wanted to work with. Pretty usual I guess. I get some demos. There are periods where I get more. Right now it’s quiet.
PASCAL: Most of the time i contact the artist. Till now I only released two artists which sent me a demo .. the first one was from Aosuke the second from Cloudland Canyon.
ULF: Aosuke is all about creating atmospheres or maybe sound pictures. Most of the times we have a vague image or a vague feeling that we like to create with sound. Loops and repitition is very important in our music. The song writing process takes a lot of time. We sometimes work on a certain sound like forever until we think it’s good.
Tobert and I have basicly the same vision of how our next stuff should sound. We have almost the same sense of humor. Like when we hear a certain sound on a record or while searching for one in our rehearsals we get the same funny or stupid images popping up in our minds. I guess that’s why working with him is that unique.
Shivers is mostly about feedbacks. Feedbacks are like getting everything out of nothing to me. I totally love and am fascinated by the sound of a feedbacked mixing desk and decided to dedicate Shivers to feedbacks. There are feedbacks being used in Aosuke too but in a more musical way. Shivers is more like a plug in and play kinda thing while we are working very thoughtfully on Aosuke material.
PASCAL: Datashock is a neo hippie collective, kraut roots with contemporary psych folk vibes, heavy waves of vocal layers, swampy ritual percussion and dizzy electronics heading towards multidimensional dreams of chocolate flavored cafe latte. It’s all about improvising with old and new friends who are around. Datashock is constantly growing, new sounds and aspects with each new member. The latest addition is Marcel Türkowsky from Berlin.
PASCAL: There is the idea to do some solo stuff in the future and also a duo with Ulf which is planned since years. But yeah I’m lazy and have to record something to realize it. I don't know how Ulf handles all his 1000 projects.
But besides of music i'm a lot into drawing bla bla bla. And I also run the Jugendkulturzentrum in Saarlouis with friends where I do also shows. It is an alternative place where young people can do whatever they want besides of a mainstream culture. They can do art, music, shows, or only hang out there. Btw it is also our Datashock rehearsal room and recording place.
ULF: I´m in Cones. It’s a duo with Marcel Türkowsky from Berlin. We just came back from a great tour with Datashock. There will be a cdr on Finland’s Ikuisuus label soon and a tape on Meudiademorte a bit later.
Scanners is another duo with Tobert Knopp but we do not work on a regular basis with this project. It’s like lo-fi creepy collages. There will be a cdr on Meudiademorte and there are rumors going around that there will be a limited edition with an incredible packaging. We’ll see. And I’m a member of Datashock. I’d love to play with them more regularly but time and distance.
ULF: I’m a compulsive record collector so I have to moderate myself. There is no specific genre that I’m into. It’s kind of impossible to answer this question without leaving out a great band. Everything from hip hop to psychedelic to noise to synth stuff to early punk and indendent to free jazz to drone to whatever. The list goes on and on.Right now I’m constantly spinning Reflection Eternal “Train Of Thought”, the Smegma LP on Qbico, Gang Starr “ The Ownerz” and Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch”.
I think listening to Kraftwerk’s “We are the robots” as a child had a major impact on me. Early electronic music pioneers and experimentalists, stuff like Silver Apples and Morton Subotnik and some Krautrock stuff like Harmonia and Cluster where influential for my music. More recent inspiring artists are Black Dice, Nonhorse, Tomutonttu and Demons.
PASCAL: At the moment my record player is spinning: Pandith Pran Nath, Popol Vuh, Amy Winehouse, The One Ensemble, Religious Knives and bands which I release on my label. And a few others who I love to put out but never got a reply because they don't want or they are dead. But I listen to a lot of music from all genres. My most played record is the Wu Tang Clan “Enter the Wu Tang (36 chambers)”. My Biggest Influence is for sure Ulf Schütte & each other Datashock member.
ULF: Actually, I don’t think that Aosuke has such a tight release schedule due to being very picky and working slowly. Shivers is more functioning in episodes. In a recording phase I collect a lot of material that I go through after some time passed. What I still think is good will end up on a release.
PASCAL: I don't think we release so much. We only record twice a year besides of recording some live shows (and we are not playing often because 2 of us living in Gießen and Ulf is living in Hamburg). We release what we like and what is important to us. If something is boring for you maybe we want to bore you haha. Maybe for you it is much to do 14 releases in 5 years but i don't think so.
PASCAL: In the next batch we will have tapes from: Silvester Anfang, Sunburned, Cones, a Loosers / Datashock split cassette and a repress of the Cloudland Canyon “Silver Tongued Sisyphus” 12” (Cd Version out on Kranky). After that there are a lot of tapes from Demons, Inca Ore, Memorize The Sky, Uuhuu, Family Battle Snake etc. Also a lot of vinyl is in the pipeline: (Ex) Graveyards 2xLP, Zodiac Mountain LP (Clay Ruby & Wooden Wand, split release with Release The Bats) and for sure a lot of Datashock, Shivers or Aosuke related projects.
ULF: Next in the pipeline are tapes by Anti / Uton, Slither and Tunnels and a split 7” by Tobert Knopp / In Flux is about to hit the pressing plant.
ULF: A split LP between Aosuke / Black To Comm has been released this summer on the amazing Dekorder label. There will be a Aosuke 7” called “Gold Pedallion” with an awesome remix of a song from the “Monotone Spirits” LP by Andy Ortmann on the flipside. We just started to work on a new Album but it’ll take a long time til it’s done.
There is a new Shivers tape out on Ursa Minor Musik from Cologne. And a German version of a split cdr with James Fella will be out on Tape Tektoniks a little later. There will be a split tape with Shearing Pinx on IMW later this year.
PASCAL Next year will be our MTV top 10 breakthrough with the Datashock & Shivers “Vol IV” LP on Textile Records in January 2008, the Datashock LP on Qbico records in March 2008, a split tape with Loosers and a split tape with Uuhuu (ex Jackie O Motherfucker + Marcel Türkowsky). There is also an idea to do a 4 way collab with Aosuke, Black To Comm and Cloudland Canyon and a few things on other labels which are not ready and too mysterious to be told.
PASCAL: Thank you too.. can we tell a joke as last words? Or maybe greetings to my mum?
ULF: Thank you!!!!
John Wiese – Spectral Hand b/w Trapped in a Spell (Meudiademorte)
This 7” was one of the very first releases on the Meudiademorte label featuring some heavily damaged noise gibberish from Sissy Spacek member John Wiese. Side A has “Spectral Hand”, a stop motion noise piece with alternating heavy blasts of noise and quieter passages. On Side B, “Trapped in a Spell” is more of an industrial style drone piece featuring ghostly metallic tones that do not move very much. It´s – ahem – boring. Anyway, for Wiese fans the wax features at least one real goodie. (5/10)
Aosuke – Monotone Spirits (Audiolith/Meudiademorte) / Live at FSK (Tape Tektoniks)
After a few limited edition cassettes and CD-Rs, “Monotone Spirits” was the first more widely available release by the guitar / electronics duo of Tobert Knopp and Tape Tek chef Ulf Schütte. The very beginning of the first tune on the CD entitled “At the Shores” seems to hint at just another guitar / electronics duo, but one or two minutes into the track the unique qualities of Aosuke settle in. There are Black Dice like vocal moans, the electronics get more dense and somehow you´re completely taken away by the gentle washes of sound.
The same goes for the long “Trails” which features nicely treated guitar and vocals, bubbly electronics and just enough variety to not bore the listener. It´s a tad too long though. The absolute highlight of “Monotone Spirits” is its title track which somehow sounds like a less cute version of some Morr Music band – just what was missing. The vocals are not intelligible at all, but somehow the track brings back distant memories of a time before birth. The final track “Ant Architecture” is quite different than the rest featuring almost no guitar. If Aosuke have ever produced a dance track, this would be it.
The single sided “Live at FSK” cassette contains a live show from early 2006 at Hamburg´s freewheeling indie ratio station FSK. On there, Aosuke play two tracks from their “Monotone Spirits” albums as well as the additional track “Hey Mow”. “Monotone Spirits” seems to be a bit slower than on the album and has less of a rock feel. Somehow this version is not quite as atmospheric than the album version. “Trails” on the other hand is slightly more playful than the album version with more electronic fuckery going on and a great take on the ending sequence here culminating in what sounds almost like rock´n´roll. The final track is a summery breeze of guitars and is a soothing finish to a worthwhile live release. (7/10)
Davenport Family – At the Foot of Zodiac Mountain (Meudiademorte)
It´s kind of hard to keep track of all the different teaming ups going on around Clay Ruby. While as of late he´s been busy recording with James Toth and Keith Wood in the Zodiacs (or Zodiac Mountain), there´s also still the Davenport moniker around. On “At the Foot of Zodiac Mountain”, it´s the Davenport Family. Who knows who´s playing with Clay Ruby on this one, but actually it doesn´t matter. The 35-minute piece on the single-sided limited cassette is slightly more cohesive than a lot else that Ruby has produced.
“At the Foot of Zodiac Mountain” is all about climaxing. It can be divided into three parts, all of which evolve slowly and peak in near-chaos. The first part is a locked Kraut-groove that takes its time to pick up the right pace. It gets more and more shamanic until it explodes and gives way to the second and more chaotic part, which is a loose and noisy affair also getting thicker and thicker until breaking up. The third and final part then is all flutes, chants, percussion and dancing around a campfire (the last one is a guess). All of this just underlines that out of all “freak” collectives (meaning Sunburned, NNCK and JOMF for example), Clay Ruby and the Davenport clan are probably the freakiest. (8/10)
Acre – Physicality (Tape Tektoniks)
Acre is one dude from Portland/Oregon in the US and produces heavily distorted drones. His cassingle on Tape Tek features three pieces in total all of which come straight to the point. Of course there´s only subtle movement, but in the case of Acre that´s ok because he immediately finds a good point of filling all necessary layers of sound with enough meat to survive. Sometimes he speeds it up and slows it down and there are a few shrieking overtones here and there, but that´s about the most variation you have. All of this may get a little boring on album length, but it´s good enough for a decent short cassette. (5/10)
The Vanishing Voice – Vellum (Meudiademorte)
Since going separate ways, Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice have moved into quite different directions. If WW has become today´s Bob Dylan, VV are now today´s Can. But maybe not because the one-sided “Vellum” cassette explores entirely different territory than they have set foot on previous releases like the LPs on Gipsy Sphinx and Important Records.
There´s no info on the beautifully styled tape, but my guess would be that this incarnation of the Vanishing Voice consists of Heidi Diehl, G. Lucas Crane and Steven the Harvester. While “Vellum” begins peacefully, the band soon leaves no doubt that they´re in confrontation mode. But this dress suits the band just fine and gives them a new edge that is well worth pursuing further in the future. The middle part of the long track is full of abrasive noise that is just listenable enough to appeal not just to noise fans. In the end they also add some clattering percussion to the mix. All in all one of the best Vanishing Voice releases so far and promising for future releases. (9/10)
-- Stephan Bauer (3 October, 2007)