A re-working of classic New Wave electro-pop, in German, with songs citing Guy Debord and Christa Wolf? A secret laboratory in Leipzig has been busy creating a new group to my exact specifications, and I’ve only just discovered this: welcome to Brockdorff Klang Labor.
As many of you know, my formative years were the early 1980s, the moment when the futuristic soundscapes of early electronica, the radical conscience and situationist sloganeering of punk and post-punk and the sheer joy of disco collided to produce some of the greatest pop records ever. The last couple of years have thus been deeply annoying, as the media have regularly heralded a return to those glory years, only for the end result to be Little Boots or Florence and the Bloody Machine.
My wait is over. Perhaps I should have known that the land of Kraftwerk, Nena, Atari Teenage Riot and Brandt Brauer Frick would be the place to look, but so much German pop/rock is so bloody awful that it was only passing reference the fact that one of the songs on their just-released new album was based on a novel by one of my favourite authors, the late lamented Christa Wolf, that tempted me to have a listen. That was this morning; I’ve now listened to that album and its predecessor four times each, and can think of nothing else than to let you all know about it. After all, the British music media isn’t likely to be rushing to bring this to your attention.
The Brockdorff Klang Labor began in the late 1990s as a 12-piece ‘sitting-room orchestra’ in Erika-von-Brockdorff-Straße in Leipzig, using electronic instruments and tapes. The group gradually shrunk to a trio (and briefly a duo), ending up with the line-up of Nadja von Brockdorff, Sergej Klang and Ekki Labor (n.b. not their real names), occasionally supplemented by other musicians. Their first album, Mädchenmusik, dramatising the night-life of a fictional city, appeared in 2007, including their deadpan cover of a Smiths song; their second album, Die Fälschung der Welt, has just appeared, after they had won a 2011 competition for Best Protest Song with Festung Europa, a critique of anti-immigration policies that references Kraftwerk’s Europe Endless for good measure.
I hear Kraftwerk and St Etienne, the Human League and the Knife, and a good ear for slogans and sound effects that takes me straight back to Gang of Four. This is no ransacking of the past to make up for the deficiencies of the present, however, just a way with great pop melodies and lots of high-powered intellectualising that never overpowers the song. Politics you can dance to, pop to make you think…