20.7.15

SPK : At The Crypt (Sterile Records 1-sided C-90, 1981).

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Though arguably responsible for more unintentionally titter-worthy sub-T.G. codswallop than most Industrial acts in the early 1980s - i.e. viscera-encrusted sour-faced Antipodeans barking in die Muttersprache over looped recordings of Der Führer & camp Bobby O (...if only they'd known!) sequencers & ultimately sounding about as frightening as Freddie Starr's farcical Hitler-in-gumboots - on a good night SPK were still more than capable of engendering a venally thrilling typhoon of blood-tinglingly brutal white noise & depraved synth corruption, providing the planets aligned & the drugs kicked in on time, as this tour-de-force London performance-cum-assault demonstrates. It's an profoundly oppressive din.

"In 1980 we were performing in a squatted railway arch in Atlantic Road, Brixton. There were riots going on at the time, a response ti Thatcher's racist policing operations. The street outside was strewn with rocks & the burned-out shells of cars, the end of the road was blocked by rows of policeman. we'd seen SPK perform a few weeks earlier in Heaven, a gay nightclub, where they'd turned strobe lights on in the face of the audience. Whether this was an SPK stunt, or Heaven's usual policy, I never found out. But we knew they were coming to see us in the railway arch, so in homage we'd turned the strobe lights on the audience. I remember Graeme (Ravell, aka Operator, aka Oblivion) complaining in the pub afterwards that he thought he was going to have a fit. We became friendly & they invited us to play with them at The Crypt, a youth centre in North London, at the height of their noisy period. I recorded the show on my Walkman, & I think it's the only live recording they ever allowed to be released. If you listen carefully you can hear me & my brother arguing over the Walkman's switched on or not" - Nigel Ayers, Nocturnal Emissions.

A 1-sided cassette, At The Crypt was recorded at the venue of the same name in Paddington (also known as the Cryptic One Club) on 25th April 1981 & was released later that year on Sterile Records, a label founded by that evening's support band Nocturnal Emissions. SPK's line-up on this occasion was Operator (synth, tapes, metal, & vocals), Tone Generator, aka Dominik Guerin, (synths & visuals) & Mike Wilkins (guitar & bass).

By 1984 it was all over. Signed to WEA on the back of a Neubauten / Test Dept.-led metal-banging music press fad, the by-then hopelessly watered-down SPK (complete with a newly-instated "sexy" female vocalist) secured an appearance on The Tube & managed to make themselves look not only completely ridiculous, but also pitifully ineffectual. Machine Age Voodoo, their debut major label LP, arrived & departed without anybody really noticing & shortly thereafter they were discreetly dropped.

Ex-frontman Revell disbanded SPK in 1988 & now makes a mint composing scores for big budget schlock in Hollywood.

Set-list: Berufsverbot / Emanation Machine R.Gie 1916 / Ground Zero : Infinity Dose / Stammheium Torturkammer / Serenade / "John" / Victim.

●  SRC 4

6.7.15

MANIA D.: Li(f)ve In Düsseldorf & SO (Eisengrau C-50, 1980).

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"Bettina (Köster) & I ran this store called Eisengrau in Golzstrasse. It was a clothing store, but also a hangout for peopl eot exchange ideas & listen to music. There weren't many places like that in West Berlin. We had a pinball machine that someone had brought round. It was a big, empty store we had painted iron grey. That's where the name came from. We sold dyed shoes & T-shirts from New York by Wiebe whose clothes we had on commission. Wolfgang Müller sold his fanzines. And out of sheer boredom I put up a knitting machine & designed by own knitwear - lots of grey & colours that didn't match, weird patterns, simple hems, fringes & those multi-coloured knit pants for men. Later, I continued the store with Blixa Bargeld & we also sold the Eisengrau Allstars Tapes, which were live & rehearsal recordings. Unfortunately I don't have a single one left.

The first Mania D. took place in September 1979 in Wuppertal. We rehearsed in the basement of Blixa Bargeld's storefront apartment in Langenscheidstrasse. Blixa wanted to start a band too, & asked us if we were interested in joining. We said "Sure we do!". Those were the beginnings of Einstürzende Neubauten. As spontaneously as we came together, we went our separate ways again. The most important thing for us was having fun, getting along. We didn't have a business strategy or anything, like they did in England, where pop music was conquering the world.

We were strong women, not delicate fairies, not flute players. We wanted to make a point of that. The hippies did the exact opposite. Although I did knit. But on a knitting machine. That was the slight but significant difference!" - Extracts from a conversation between Gudrun Gut & Robert Defcon, June 2014.

Recorded at Düsseldforf's Ratinger Hof pub & the SO36 club in Berlin (which, remarkably, is still open for business), released in miniscule quantities (possibly as few as 20 copies) on their own hand-crafted Eisngrau cassette label, & allying punishing post-punk bedlam with clandestine Weimar-era cabaret jazz, the music contained on this often astonishing Mania D. tape (their only other "official" release besides a precursory 3-song 7") reminds me of absolutely nobody else. Virtually every other Eisengrau title I've heard to date has been just as extraordinary - be it an anarchic early Einstürzende Neubauten performance or the eccentric Die Tödliche Doris' vulgar vaudeville - indispensable stuff. Box-set now please.

The striking colour photographs were taken on location at Teufelsberg (aka Devil's Mountain), Grunewald, West Berlin by saxophonist Eva Gössling in 1979.

History: here / interview: here.