New Favourite Band: Brockdorff Klang Labor

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…

Breakfast for Cyborgs

Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others

Sad-Eyed Punk

Festung Europa

19 thoughts on “New Favourite Band: Brockdorff Klang Labor

  1. I picked it up Mädchenmusik because of the track ‘Dusty Bin Laden’ – possible the funniest track title in history (in my tiny mind) – must dig it out. Cheers for the big up that’s there’s more to enjoy.

  2. Just listening to “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others”. Reminds me of Ladytron, particularly “He Took Her To A Movie”, I think. Good stuff. Will listen to the others shortly.

  3. As I’m always curious about your taste in music, Aba, I gave the first two a listen. I’m still completely baffled.
    My German is rather rusty and always was inadequate, so I relied on the second song for evidence of the ‘high-powered intellectualising’ you mention. Hmmm…..

      • From the ice-age to the dole-age
        There is but one concern
        I have just discovered:

        Some girls are bigger than others
        Some girl’s mothers are bigger than
        Other girl’s mothers

        this is a perfect double bluff:
        ‘one concern’ is correct – it is simplicity itself – some girls are bigger than others – that ‘one concern’ means (using the example of ‘some girls’) there is in fact infinite variety in all things – here we’ll use the example ‘some girls’ and some of those girls ‘mothers’ – just so you get the idea – everything is VARIED AND DIFFERENT. That one concern is HUGE.

        When we grow to discover that (or at least the writer does) – then the whole idea that people have differing and unique taste, it becomes a simple and joyous pleasure – you don’t have to understand – you just except that and move on … or as the last verse implies –

        Send me the pillow…
        The one that you dream on…
        And I’ll send you mine

        an acceptance and a desire to understand another persons taste and dreams and wishes creates the human relationships and interactions we know and understand …

        Tell me YOUR dreams/ desires/ beliefs/ imagination (however big or small / of different sizes) and I will try and accept them, understand them and hold them with mine – I will lay myself on the line and open up my fragile knowledge in return.

        It’s beautiful, funny and immensely touching – set up as a stupid joke to counterbalance the perfection of ‘There’s a light that never goes out’ – Most would have ended ‘the queen is dead’ with that track – but the juxtaposition of the two songs illustrates perfectly the ‘Some girls are bigger than others’ theory:

        Some Smiths mother’s would end ‘the queen is dead’ with ‘There’s a light that never goes out’ others, As Anthony said to Cleopatra, As he opened a crate of ale:
        think ‘Some girls are bigger than others’ shows (once upon a time) Morrissey could share emotion and humour, darkness and light with a perfect touch and tone.

      • OK, shane, I’ll yield to someone who has given these words and – more importantly, it seems – their context a lot of thought. I don’t have the inclination to investigate further. I’ll happily admit to disliking Morrissey enough to never give him the benefit of the doubt but is there a chance you’re putting more into these words than was intended (particularly the ‘perfect double bluff’ – surely there are more ‘concern’s than the truth that variation is an important fact of life? And, is that an earth-shattering revelation?)?
        Why are the lovers sharing a crate of ale, btw? Such an anachronistic scene must have more significance than as the excuse for a joke, shirley?
        Can’t stop….. How old were you when you discovered that people have differing and unique taste? 13? 14? Why is it such a revelation to Stephen Patrick (or impressive that he’s figured it out)?
        As a stand-alone song – as it is here by Brockdorff Klang Labor – I maintain that whatever limited profundity the lyrics may have had on Meat Is Murder is completely lost, leaving a half-song built around half an idea.

        But I do very much appreciate your response, shane, and your considered attempt to shed some light in my ageing mind. You’ll need a much stronger beam to make me give twatface some credit though.

      • No worries Chris – my tongue was rammed rather firmly in my cheek.

        But that’s just me – someone show me a point and I’ll scramble as far in the opposite direction to highlight the nail head … I look on it as a exercise in creative thinking. There’s a whole world of difference in how you and I take on board songs and music – this I find enormously entertaining – in a good way – because it makes me question songs and tunes and how I relate to them.

        Sometimes things are just dumb, frivolous pop songs – and can be enjoyed enormously for that fact – or it can be analysed deeper, for my own purposes, wether the songwriter meant it or not. Just as you/or I, can dismiss it too – but if the singer is already on your hit list, even tying you to the rails wouldn’t challenge your opinion.
        (You’d probably be hoping the light at the end of the tunnel would hurry up and put you out of your misery, I’d guess)

        cheers for the fun – I enjoyed the thought process.

      • Ho ho ho! Nice one, son.

        I don’t like having such ill-feeling towards an artist that others adore but I can’t shake off my initial thoughts about him, when he was nearly-singing a dreary ‘tune’ and waving daffodils about. The music was interesting yet he was so obviously an arrogant, self-absorbed twat. Nothing I’ve read or seen from/about him since has altered that view. I never liked or trusted (the similarly ‘asexual’) Jimmy Saville either…..

        I do enjoy exchanging words with you, shane. Even when you make me assert things I’m not completely confident about.

  4. I like very much, I hear Ladytron too and always appreciate the German language. Thanks for introducing me to this band.

  5. Will have a proper listen later when the wife has finished all the unimportant phone call stuff she does that earns money !
    Looks interesting.

  6. I’m not the biggest electronica fan, but i liked these a lot, they were very well done. It’s probably not something i’d go out and pick up, but totally enjoyed listening to.

    I love a lot of the old 80’s stuff too, but i have to wonder how dated it sounds to others who weren’t there. A few years ago i had control of the radio and put the 80’s new wave station on and was essentially happy as a clam until the college kids started screaming – Amy, turn that shit off! Don’t know if that’s sort of a universal sentiment among the young uns.

    • I’m really sorry about that, SR; it’s just that I wanted to shout the news from the rooftops asap, rather than waiting until the track would fit into your perfectly-crafted playlist.

  7. …liked the first album a lot, didn’t know that the second one was coming, thanks for the news, will make a bikeride to a german recordstore one of these days…

  8. Thank you very much for putting this up. It’s great stuff.

    Here’s Retropop form Finland. Very knowing. Very good lyrics. Sadly, knowledge of Finnish is required. There are many other such artists working in Finland.

    “The Northern Princess believes in freedom.
    The Northern Princess believes in love
    Put on your balaclava
    To the revolution”

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