by Scott Wilson
Before we get to Berlin’s Keinemusik and their celebratory compilation Workparty Five, which marks five years of business as a label, I shall provide a quick, self-serving, and gapping-hole filled history of synthpop and its connection to Germany.
Back in ’69, a German living in the US, named Gershon Kingsley, got a hold of a newfangled contraption called a Moog. The Moog is what we now call a synthesizer; it uses modulating voltage of electric currents to affect the flux transistors in a theremin or something – it’s not important how it works. Point is, it makes weird, alien noises and repetitive beats. There were a number of hobbyists making synthesizers back then, but the Moog was the first commercially available plug ‘n play system that anybody could use. Kingsley, a composer, took this new Moog thing and began using it for his compositions, the most famous result of which is the song “Popcorn” off the LP, Music To Moog By, which was later covered by Hot Butter.
By ’72, “Popcorn” became the first international electronic dance music hit, notably rising to #1 in Germany (it also rose to #1 in France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland, all powerhouses of EDM to this day).
Enter Kraftwerk. For around 45 years Kraftwerk has been one of the biggest, and for many years THE biggest electronic music band on the planet. They are also German. Kraftwerk and their repetitive, heavily synthesized beats – derived from analog instruments and the hearts of machines – helped create the Berlin dance scene as we know it. In Germany, synthetic or electronic music has been such a dominant force in their audio landscape for so long that it’s not seen as niche or avant garde, like in some countries, but as pop: synthpop.
Now back to Keinemusik.
Workparty Five is a four-track EP compiling new jams by Rampa, David Mayer, &ME, and Adam Port & Stereo MC’s. I bring up the history of synthpop in Germany, specifically Berlin, because Workparty Five is a distilled celebration of what the Berlin EDM scene is and how it’s evolving. Play the first track, “Mod” by Rampa side-by-side with “Popcorn”. There’s a similarity in the quick, repetitive, kitschy beats that bounce happily around like so many heated kernels. A clear connection can be drawn between the two. It’s like comparing an Apple II to a MacBook Pro: one is more sophisticated than the other, but they both bear the same mark and share similar guts.
The last song in the foursome, “Place” by Adam Port & Stereo MC’s, shows a different era of EDM. It’s faster, more trance-like and features a little singing in English, a la Kraftwerk.
The middle two tracks, “Birdland” and “Smoke”, play with exotic noises. “Birdland” could be covered with all analog instruments without losing mood or sounding cheesy, though it’s still EDM. “Smoke” brings in space-alien noises and mystery vocals but is the most conservative track on the album. It’s the kind of music you’d expect to hear in one of those nightclubs that serves tapas with the bottle service. You can move to it, but you can also talk over it.
Overall, Workparty Five is heavy on diversity. Each track represents a different background or scene in the EDM world of Berlin. Each track takes the genre in a different direction. Available November 17th, get this EP if you want a quick sample of what the Keinemusik label has to offer.
Release date: November 17, 2014