Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sterilization/Gesamtkunswerk

The third Dopplereffekt 12" was 'Sterilization' which came out as usual on their own label, Dataphysix, sometime in 1997. Coming 2 years after their initial burst of creativity which spawned their first 2 EPs it's rather surprising that they only bring two very similar mixes of the same track to the table after this long lay off. Of course this could itself be a leftover from 1995. Not that any of this early period of Dopplereffekt sounds in anyway dated, as already discussed elsewhere, and this track is no exception. It's just that in releasing one track they have to be making some kind of statement with it. So obviously we need to examine the subject matter to find out what it is.

Which is difficult or perhaps not so as the sole lyric goes, "We had to sterilise the population." I feel a strong urge to put an exclamation point at the end of that line, as if it was being said ironically or for shock value but really it's a hard one to call and I don't personally believe that the author would agree so I will leave it's intent hanging ambiguously. Luckily they expand somewhat on this theme with the line ‘Racial Hygiene and Selective Breeding’ on the label. Of course it’s a Nazi thing, sadly, laid bare this time with nothing else to balance it out. I have it on very good authority that the original artwork for this 12” also featured a prominent swastika on the label which were even printed up but left unattached when it was realised that this is a banned symbol in Germany which was one of Dopplereffekts biggest markets at the time. Some evidence of this change of mind can be seen in the choice of apparel sported by Gerald Donald's very Kraftwerk-esq robot pose, the blacked out square on his brown shirt collar hides an SS insignia to match his brown shirt and tie. Interestingly the Clone website use the original untouched photo of this for their Der Zyklus artist profile which clearly shows the insignia. In the previous two articles, using quotes of his from the recent past, I put this fascination with Nazism down to his obvious acceptance of progress, you could even call it evolution, at any costs, an extreme sort of honesty to the situation. Staying in the same territory you could use the example of those Nazi doctors and scientists which suddenly became prized possessions to the Allied forces after World War Two. I think Donald would ask us what benefits did we gain from this but more importantly would we reject these benefits, especially if it meant saving our lives, or even just making them slightly easier? He might feel we are all complicit in the most atrocious of acts by not doing so. He might want us to at least consider this. If I was being very open minded and giving him the full benefit of the doubt I could see this period as Donald first making the point of assuaging any guilt he may feel connected to the onward march of science before fully embracing it as he would later on and up to today. Now I don’t know if that is what he was actually doing, as I said before he could just be thoughtlessly flirting with these very powerful images as many have before but he could on the other hand be seen to be coming across as a particularly honest type, if a little extreme in his methods. Hopefully it did make people question and debate it and perhaps this was their intention after all. So if this is their statement it is one final stare into the face of the cold harsh reality of progress, if we accept the good we must also accept the bad, no matter how debased aspects of it undoubtedly are.

The persona’s they take on for this release are predictably Germanic, Rudolf Fisher for Donald, Helena Eichmann for Kim Karli but their most enigmatic member, William Scott, is the exception being listed as himself. Special thanks is given to Doug Wagner which I am hoping is his real name and not a reference to Hitler’s favourite composer and the more innocuous sounding Sana Schuton(actually Sara Scruton, a DJ/promoter/music writer from Toronto). If you think you’ve seen the female mannequin pictured beside Donald on the label before well it bears a striking resemblance to the one on the label for Ultradyne’s 2004 12“ ‘The Privilege of Sacrifice’. I’m sure they won’t thank me for dragging them into such confusing waters but check out the likeness, if it is the same then these friends don’t mind sharing their mannequins! Perhaps this image would have fitted better on the previous 'Fascist State' EP and its infamous mannequin themed track 'Plasiphilia'. Musically 'Sterilization' itself is a strong and memorable track but also short at just under the 2 and a half minute mark, but of course it's quality not quantity that counts. Mix 2 is such a slight variation it is no wonder it was not included on the standard CD version of the 1999 ‘Gesamtkunswerk’ compilation which is our next port of call. There was however a bonus 7" on Gigolo's original double vinyl edition which contains both versions of 'Sterilization' for good measure.

The German word ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ fittingly means complete art work or total work of art or simply in this context, compilation, and a deal was struck for all the material of the three EP’s to date and one new extra track to be included here and released on the French label Source for the territories of France, the UK and Ireland, and with DJ Hells German based International Deejay Gigolo Records for everywhere else. To help promote the album a second time Gigolo produced a 10” in 2001 which paired the original version of ‘Scientist’ with its video mix on the flip, there was also a 12" version which confusingly had the same tracks. As mentioned previously the big difference in this version is that Kim Karli’s essential vocal is cut. Just previous to this Gigolo had marked it's first release involving Gerald Donald by putting out the first Der Zyklus 12" in 1998. They would go on to work extensively together over the coming years and were arguably the label that made his name, or that of his aliases, in Europe and the World. Surprisingly even this early connection with Source would continue up to today as Record Makers which put out the first and third Arpanet albums is one of their sub-labels.

Some striking artwork and the definitive Dopplereffekt pose of this period were contained in the artwork for this release. In the text they also very cleverly balance their previous German totalitarian stance with an equally totalitarian but crucially Communist version. The statement here reads 'Biological Socialism Leads Towards Victory.' So here they are four years later managing the tricky feat of putting a new but subtle spin on their previous stance. The small hammer and sickle logo and soviet star works really well on the black and white cover but these are still the symbols of the enemy, but an old one. Old or not they were still ultimately responsible for even more deaths than the Nazis over a period which stretched long after the war. From what we know of Dopplereffekt it would have seemed more likely of them to have used a swastika, if they had been allowed that is. What would our opinion have been of that? Would I still be saying how brilliantly it works on a design level? While the Russian symbols have successfully been reduced to the level of kitsch over time the other is still potent and liable to inflame opinion. Maybe they were even consciously making a point about this very double standard?

I’ve written before about the identity of the female who does not seem to match up with the girl seen in artwork previously but she does seem to be the same girl featured on the next Dopplereffekt album, 2003's ‘Linear Accelerator’. The identity of the girl who played live with Arpanet in Paris in June 2006 would also be interesting to know, the same? Personnel credits here read in lower case as Rudolf Klorzeiger and To Nhan Le Thi, the latter being Vietnamese, which also nicely refers to a Communist backed country, the northern half anyway. The black and white photo of the group make them look like members of a clandestine political party where the individual, both male and female, is nothing. They both wear black suit, shirt and tie, their faces dramatically illuminated from below, which at a glance makes Donald appear weirdly caucasian. The Russian and Chinese flags which hover above their heads dominate however and what they symbolise in this context is brought into focus. The ideology is all, it’s adherents anonymous, only working for the good of the collective.

I've written previously about the sole new unreleased track here, 'Gesamtkunswerk,' and how it prefigures the future experimental Dopplereffekt sound which they explored more fully on 'Linear Accelerator' and beyond. This slowly uncoiling 6 minutes of sound is evidence that they knew exactly where they were going next with this project, even if the first fruits of this thinking would only be revealed to the public 4 years later.
Again as already discussed the music here stands up so well today never mind four years later, this is well ahead of the curve and set the standards for a time, helping to inspire more than a few musicians and even genre’s along the way. The revival must be just around the corner! It must be creatively, not to mention financially, reassuring that this small but influential body of work is money in the bank (no doubt in small amounts) for its creators for years to come. For evidence of this check out the huge on-going list of compilations this stuff has been licensed to at their Discogs page.
An old email address for Dataphysix is listed here, telecom@scientist.com, of course telecom would very much turn out to be a key word in the years to come as both his debut Arpanet project and also the name of the soon to be Japanese Telecom.

The period of Dopplereffekt so neatly and conveniently compiled on ‘Gesamtkunswerk’ is so different from what came next that with hindsight it was essential to separate it as distinct and now extinct. It can certainly be said that they really achieved something laudable and impressive in this compact body of work which a lot of other artists could take a lesson from. They could have signed a major deal and possibly cleaned up if they had wanted to pursue money and fame, but of course this does not appear to be in their nature. I see The Hacker and Miss Kitten as having travelled further along this road, check out their ‘First Album’, itself on Gigolo, to see how this template would become more mainstream if still largely remaining underground. Their choice to take a break and change direction did not happen overnight and this is where my gradual approach to the work of Gerald Donald will hopefully spotlight and help us to better understand the essential twists and turns he takes which lead up to today, as we have seen by this time he was already on his way.

A slight return to the beginning of Der Zyklus and Heinrich Mueller will be our next stop on this journey.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check this link http://www.doepfer.de on some of the pictures in the gallery you'll find a certain Douglas Wagner (who works for Enport, the US distibutor for Doepfer). He might have something to do with the actual sound of Dopplereffekt.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Well spotted, interesting site,that's some serious equipment, anyone for doepfereffekt.

8:01 PM  
Blogger pHinn said...

Just found this blog. Keep up the good work!

All the best,
pHinn

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Logan 5 said...

"To Nhan Le Thi" isn't Japanese, it's Vietnamese.

nice work, though. fascinating.

6:13 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

thanks, will up date that, was'nt sure.

7:06 PM  

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