Friday, August 17, 2007

Der Zyklus II

The Der Zyklus II 12” came out on Gigolo Records in 2000 and must stand as one of the many high points of Heinrich Mueller’s production career to date. Featuring 4 tracks, each one truly incredible, all united by a fairly dark feel they still manage to come across as accessible. This EP did a lot to cement his reputation and deservedly had some of its tracks reissued awhile back on Clone’s Frustrated Funk label. A lot of the tracks here were also featured on numerous compilations of the time and hopefully of the future too.

The minimal style of the artwork is very much in keeping with his previous 12” debut as Der Zyklus, although with no picture sleeve that would not be hard but he keeps up the German language shtick with Seit Eins, Phax etc as well as having the titles of course again in German. However even with all this attention to detail a spelling mistake does manage to creep in. If you can spot it then you are as sad as I am, ‘Geschrieben und produziert von Heinrich Müller'. In fact now that I think about it the two dots on the u might be the correct way to spell Mueller, the proper German spelling, do you know?

The first track, ‘Elektronisches Zeitecho’ is very minimal and ably displays this early Der Zyklus template which seems to have been the feel Mueller had been going for since the first and previous Der Zyklus release. Also one of the two instrumentals here it is certainly dark and what little light that does get through may be found only in the quick tempo. This is sleek, highly engineered, no space for slack, it works perfectly, if it was a car it would have to be a top of the line Mercedes.

‘Mxyzptik’does have a few more light moments courtesy of its lengthy vocal. I’ve written about this before in my entry for Transllusion ‘L.I.F.E.’ because the same type of space alien voice is used there on the track ‘Bump It’. The complete lyric here goes, “I am Mxyzptik coming from a black hole on the other side of the gamma quadrant. (laughs) I am now conducting tests with your bio-ports. (laughs) It's an experiment in bio technology. I’m up to my old dirty tricks again. (laughs) Mxyzptik This is Mxyzptik conducting biological experiments and testing new theories in alien concepts. I am levitating, testing your mental parameters, can you feel my presence, levitation is so neat, isn't it . I am now in connection with your mind, I shall now exit.” I get more of a humour vibe from this than anything too serious, I think that Mueller at this point could still have a laugh with this type of subject matter but not for much longer. Mxyzptik is the name of a trickster character from the Superman comics. In mythology and folklore, a trickster is an entity that plays tricks and disobeys normal rules of time and space and conventional behaviour. Interestingly in the comic, if he himself is tricked into saying his name backwards this will bring back to the fifth dimension. Anyone else saying it too would also be brought back to the fifth dimension. A way to return to your home dimension? Musically it has a great big bass line, the first minute could be booty! It’s easily the most distinct production of the four, still quite dark as I said, it just has a more busy production with more elements coming at you.

‘Formenverwandler’ is quite simply superb, from another very familiar sounding minimal Mueller template it includes a truly lovely male vocal that loops “I’m shape-shifting from place to place, bending time, curving space.” You know if The Other People Place album wasn’t so damn cohesive and self-contained this might have fitted on there, it’s that good. I can’t not comment on these lyrics though, it doesn’t surprise me that Mueller’s head is at this stage concerned with this stuff of the universe and the theories about it like time travel and other dimensions which the so-called 'new physics', post Newton, very quickly lead you to consider. It’s interesting to see how he is at this stage beginning to incorporate this passion and interest into his music. We are witnessing the start of a major transition for him and his music here, but at this stage it is simply a personal one.

I’ve heard unsubstantiated verbal accounts of Heinrich Mueller around this period saying to people in the middle of a normal conversation something like, “I wonder what Kraftwerk are doing right now?“ Now this might not be true but I have a feeling this guy has or has had a fascination for that pioneering German group. Disregarding a decade of lazy journalism he was never blatantly ripped them off or even to my ears has done anything too close to them, until now that is and in this case it appears to be a calculated one-off move. If you don’t already know, let me tell you that ‘Mathematische Modelle’ could easily have been included on Kraftwerk’s Autobahn album, and I mean that if it was reissued with this as an extra track you would totally believe it belonged there. It matches the style, the tempo and even has the authentic sounding technical production. Incidentally all the titles on that album are in German as well, the last time they could do this as their popularity spread outside their own country. On ‘Mathematische Modelle’ Heinrich Mueller is Kraftwerk circa 1974. My hat is off to you sir! Maybe it’s his reaction to all that rubbish about Dopplereffekt being directly inspired by Kraftwerk. Like he’s saying that if he really wanted to do that he could do an exact copy, he’s that good. On the other hand this might not have been a conscious attempt to do Kraftwerk but it's still a great track none the less as I furiously back-peddle on my assumption!

Just prior to this he also did a remix of 'What Use' by Tuxedo Moon. Gigolo Records were generous enough to give him a whole side of a 12" to himself to stretch out with a dark but pacey interpretation of the original which has all the hallmarks of the classic Mueller production of this time. He unsurprisingly used his Heinrich Mueller pseudonym for his 'Technik Mix'. It sounds very much like his own voice to haltingly say “What is the use” and there is also an atmospheric female vocal sample or some other sound running throughout. Interestingly the other remix artist on the single was Ectomorph which featured one of his key past collaborators from the Flexitone project, Brendan M Gillen.

There doesn’t appear to be a solid theme with this release, but whether Heinrich Mueller knew it or not at the time it tells a story nonetheless. 1 part is business as usual, continuing the perfection of technology theme which was started on Der Zyklus I, then the next 2 parts look to his own future and the final part is a nod/farewell to the past. Spread out over these 5 tracks Heinrich Mueller seems to have reached a moment of perfection, long strived towards for sure but he seems to have reached some sort of plateau with his music. It is no coincidence that in tandem with this he appears to have begun to undergo a more personal change which in time will reveal itself in his music also. His next chronological release, Japanese Telecom’s ‘Virtual Geisha’ seems like such a backwards step in this light but it could have already been done before these tracks. But even this is not without its merits but they are of a cheapened variety compared with what we have just considered. Also at this time the concept for the Strom Series would have been formulating between him and his Drexciyan partner James Stinson. Just 2 years after this the first of their dimensional waves would break with the already mentioned The Other People Place. For sure this 2000/2001 period is indeed a crucial time of change for both of them.

Physics and music might seem a strange mix but Heisenberg, responsible for the Uncertainty Principle, is quoted as saying, "...in the history of human thinking, the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet...so that a real interaction can take place, then one can hope that new and interesting developments may follow." This is from 'The Tao of Physics' by Fritjof Capra. I think you'll agree that 'new and interesting developments' do indeed begin to occur in his music from this point on and that the term fruitful would be an understatement judging by his recent work rate.

7 Comments:

Blogger skkatter said...

"Physics and music might seem a strange mix": not at all music *is* physics in action! Longitudinal waves being generated by a vibrating object and in turn vibrating a piece of your anatomy. In fact it's physics *and* biology!

4:22 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Always good to have your input Skkatter!

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Müller" is the correct german spelling, yes!

9:00 PM  
Blogger Howard said...

I have the Musik Magazine interview with Drexciya from 1997 where they claim it's their last interview. I'm not sure if you still need it (I haven't checked every post yet) but if you do, e-mail me and I'll type you up a copy. I just recently stumbled upon this site, and it's wonderful. I own most Drexciyan releases (from L.A.M. to Glass Domain).

If you want to know where James Stinson got the name Clarence G. for his one release under that alias, and where he must have taken tons of influence from, look for books by the author 'Clarence G Hamilton,' some of the titles include:

- Sound and Its Relation to Music
- Outlines of Music History
- Epochs in Musical Progress

Most of the books are written from 1905 - 1912.

8:38 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Yeah Howard, can't get access to your profile but do send me that interview that would be much appreciated. Thanks alot.

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG can someone delete that nut's post? Adding an "e" behind a vowel is the way to signify an umlaut (the two dots) when you don't have a German keyboard. So Müller becomes Mueller or Universität (University) becomes Universitaet.

Awesome site, keep a rockin'!!

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Der Zyklus track posted on Frustrated Funk's myspace site just to let you know.

2:14 PM  

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