A-MUSIK: A PROFILE

Another in the seemingly ever-expanding roster of quality Germanic record labels releasing interesting new electronic music. Arguably the most eclectic of the new Germanic labels, a quick look at their releases picks out Microstoria's twitchy digital game-play, L@N's post-Kraftwerk polyrhythmic machine disco, Wabi Sabi's installation-friendly ambient drone, and, more recently, the lopsided electronic pop of FX Randomiz and Schlammpeitziger. Some ties to the "regular" cologne techno scene appear in the form of Sweet Reinhard's remix on the SCHLAMMPEITZIGER remix 10", and A-Musik's DJ turn at the Liquid Sky Cologne club. Perhaps most notable in their discography is the vinyl version of Microstoria's debut LP, which has received widespread attention through the CD versions on Mille Plateaux in Europe and Thrill Jockey in the USA.

Less "techno" in posture than Mego, less dry and humorless than Mille Plateaux or Raster, they sit comfortably in the center of that nether region of "new electronica" which has yet to be completely pinned down as a genre, no matter what its detractors and proponents might claim. Their music manages to be industrial without the atrocity photos, techno without the funk, new wave without the funny haircuts, electro-acoustic without the acoustics. The most recent releases see them expanding (or contracting) into certifiably "pop" territory - abstract "pop" worthy of the Residents or the oddest new wave (or maybe "neue deutsche welle"), to be sure, yet "pop" nonetheless.

A-Musik's roots seem to emerge out of two projects: Kontakta, an electronic-industrial outfit formed in 1991 by Christian Schulz, Monika Westpfahl, Hajsch (Hans-Jurgen Schunk?), Frank Dommert & Georg Odijk, and the Erflog label, owned by Christian Schulz, Frank Dommert, Marcus Schmickler and Georg Odijk. Kontakta released a self-titled CD on the French Odd Size label, which incidentally has one foot even further back into the recent past of the industrial underground, reissuing some old Selektion titles. Variations of the Kontakta crew also had music released on Odd Size: Marcus Schmickler's "Onea Gako" and POL's "Transomuba" CDs. The Erflog label managed to produce three releases in 1991-92: "7 Party Disco", a Christian Schulz 12" that also featured Schmickler and Odijk, and two 7" singles from basically the same musicians.

Like Mego their releases are visually flawless (unless flawless design turns you off, that is) and mysterious, with just enough information on the liner notes to leave you more confused than you started. Perfect for obssessive record hounds - you know who you are.

A ONE-QUESTION INTERVIEW WITH GEORG ODIJK

1. Can you tell me about the origin of A-Musik? What came first, the store or the label? Who owns the store (and or label)? About how many copies of each of your releases have you pressed (Wabi Sabi and L@N CDs specifically)? Can you describe the area in Köln where the store is, the size of it, and if you have a performance space?

A-Musik first started as a mailorder about nine years ago. At that time I still lived with my parents. Then the shop was opened May, 11th 1995. The label started in 1996 with Microstoria. The shop and label is run by myself with big help from Frank Dommert and Constantin Rothkopf. Before there was a label called ERFOLG which was owned by C-Schulz, Frank Dommert, Marcus Schmickler and me. This was in 1992. Only three releases came to light: C-SCHULZ: 7. Party Disco 12"; MARCGRAF 7" and BLOCKWART 7" (SCHMICKLER/C-SCHULZ/
ODIJK) these were pressed in 500 units.

A-Musik discography:

A1 MICROSTORIA "Init Ding" LP (850)
A2 SCHLAMMPEITZIGER "Freundlichbaracudamelodieliedgut" LP (1000)
A3 WABI SABI "Wabi Sabi" CD (2000)
A4 L@N "L@N" LP (1000)
A5 L@N "L@N" CD (2000)
A6 SCHLAMMPEITZIGER "Freundlichbaracudaremix" 10" (1500)
(Remixed by Mouse On Mars, F.X.Randomiz, Sweet Reinhard, Marcus Schmickler)
A7 L@N "L@N 2" MLP (1000)
A8 HOLOSUD "Holosud" EP 12" (999)
A9 F.X. RAMDOMIZ "Goflex" CD (1500)/LP (1000)
A10 SCHLAMMPEITZIGER "Spacerokkmountainrutschquartier" CD (1500)/LP (600)

The shop is based in a souterrain [basement] of a usual house, for many difficult to find, there's no showroom, just a copied sign of the shop. The part of our town is called the "Belgian Quarter" because of the street names. There are most of the record shops here: KOMPAKT (STUDIO 1/PROFAN/EAT RAW/NTA/KOMPAKT), FORMIC RECORDS (ELECTRECORD/FORMIC, GROOVE ATTACK. A-Musik shop is quite small, about 20 square meters. Many people are really wondering that it's so small when they read about it first. We do not have a special performance space. But we had three concert in this tiny shop: Jim O'Rourke, Schlammpeitziger, Carl Stone One of the most important locations is the LIQUID SKY COLOGNE club. We have a regular dj evening each monday, sometimes with live events like ILLUSION OF SAFETY, ORIGAMI REPLICA and others. It's more a place to hang around, having beer at the bar and listen. The Place where the A-Musik night was during last PopKomm is and old factory-part. Where usually are parties, concerts and theatre.

INTERVIEW WITH MARCUS SCHMICKLER

1. The Wabi Sabi CD says of "Wabi Sabi": "...2-channel version of the spatial composition. Composed and performed in Cologne, December 95". Was this piece part of an art installation? Can you tell me a little about the process of composition and the performance of this? How were the sounds produced? Who else was involved in the performance?

"Space" is a further compositional parameter. It's as important as "duration", "pitch", "dynamics" or "instrument". It multiplies the levels of musical reception. A sound can be transformed or modulated, transposed start to correlate ie. Counterpoint to another sound also under respect of it's spatial composition. By introducing multidimensional space a comolex composition or combination of musical motives becomes much more transparent and it's easier to concentrate on certain events or processes within the whole. Insofar "Wabi Sabi" was not an installation. It's a composition. But, before the performance I asked a video artist from Cologne, Joerg Pfeiffer, if he wanted to create a visual counter point to the music, (which was projected by 8 speakers). What he did was he filmed a streetcrossing with several cameras at a time treated the material and installed screens under the speakers. The basic concept besides, what You can read on the cd (and this is important for my other works, also) that I start my planning from very research in this case the development of impulses and their relation to noise. (Both beeing two of three the basic materials of electronic music).

2. "Param" makes reference to "Drift/Dense" - can you tell me what that was?

"Drift/Dense" is a piece for chamber orchestra with 4-channel electronic music. The instrument score is derived from "Param". Again, "Param" is integrated into "Drift Dense".

3. The packaging of the CD is very exquisite - can you give me some more information about Heike Sperling and Jorg Follert?

In this case, Heike was the one who designed the cover. I'm really happy about her work. She is a "comunication-designer". She does graphik desingn and works as director. She was responsible for the design during the first two years of a private tv station "VOX". We also did a Pluramon (which is a music-project of mine) video. In the case of Wabi Sabi Jorg Follert was basically involved as a creative operator, but he does design for covers and alsoTV design for the German Music TV-channel "VIVA".

4. I am aware of your music releases on the Odd Size label, the Blockwart 7" which Georg mentioned and the Pluramon LP on Mille Plateaux. Can you tell me of some of your other musical activities, alone or in collaboration? What are you working on now? Do you have any plans to work with A-Musik in the future?

I just finished a new Pluramon work which involves quite some other musicians (to be released on Mille Plateaux in May), I got asked to write a piece for a Parisian chamber-ensemble, which is directed by Peter Eotvos, whom I gave the score, yesterday. We're going to do a kind of A-Musik showcase through Germany, I'm going to play a lot of concerts in Europe. We're preparing with "brusseler Platz 10 a musik" which is a project of Georg and me sometimes Jan Werner or F.X. Randomiz. And in one or the other way I'll probabably work with A-Musik again, anyway.

5. Is there any way you could explain this germanic "electronic" music phenomenon of the A-Musik, Mego, Mille Plateaux, Raster labels which I (and other lowly Americans like myself) lump together mindlessly? Is there any sort of feeling that these other contemporary artists on these labels are doing something compatible with what you are doing? Or is there no connection whatsoever?

Huuh, that's a difficult one. Maybe You're in a better position to answer it (through the distance) than me. It's about the aesthetics of what You call "germanic" electronic music. For me the output of these labels quite diverse. What seems obvious is that all of them don't insist on an explicit concept about their output. Maybe exact this lack becomes their paradigm. It'seem to have to do with intuition quite a lot. Maybe Mego is the most stringent, although it maybe only seems so because they, allways work with the same bunch of people. What most of their artists have in common, is that at first sound is not used to express something else (that could be rhythm or melody or to complete an arrangement) but the transformation of synthesized sound creates such. The sound is the song or introduces it. The unsystematic (except maybe "oval") research about soundtransformation is the topic. Also "techno" seems to have had an influence on the aesthetic output. But maybe "techno" was made possible by what You're asking for. It's a sociological thing definitely. Concerning my work there are parallels or compatibilities. Some of the releases I'm really really happy about and I wouldn't miss. But because of the impossibility to unify approach and intensions of these artists the compatibilities must be of aesthetic nature. And as Bazon Brock says aesthetic is the difference between what was intended to achieve and what came out of it in the end. But they exist, and if not aestheticwise maybe only because we appear in the same venues or events, work with similar tools. But at the same time, there are no parallels at all....

Contact:

A-Musik
Kleiner Griechenmarkt 28-30
50676 Köln
Germany

Tel: 0221-5107591
Fax: 0221-5107592

Website: www.a-musik.com/
E-mail: mail@a-musik.com