Friday, 21 December 2012

Dopplereffekt - Gesamtkunstwerk

Dopplereffekt is an electronic music act which has been active since at least 1995 (year of first release). It is named after the German word for the Doppler effect. While the musical style and the act's image changed radically during a non-release period from 1999 to 2003, two steady characteristics are the display of a thematic affiliation with science and the obvious use of pseudonyms and the hence rumoured but unconfirmed identities of the members.

The main member during all periods has probably been producer/ artist Gerald Donald alias "Rudolf Klorzeiger". Donald is generally accepted to be also the author of the acts Heinrich Müller/ Der Zyklus, Japanese Telecom and Arpanet as well as one half of the band Drexciya (with James Stinson). During that period the sound of these two acts showed strong similarities, in their detroit electro sound that took influences from industrial, new wave, electro-pop and others, reforming them in a style which is musically complex, often using jazzy modal sequences, and alongside other Detroit based acts on the labels Underground Resistance and direct beat they were highly influential in the 90s' revival of electro. The 1999 compilation of all Dopplereffekt releases from this period, Gesamtkunstwerk, depicted Donald with a new member, "To Nhan Le Thi", who most likely had not been involved with the old material but was given credit anyway and who has been a steady and visible member since, giving occasional live performances.

There are no known interviews of Donald or other members concerning Dopplereffekt at this time, except for a feature in the October 2009 issue of new music magazine The Wire, containing exchanges with two people purporting to be associated with the group.

Dopplereffekt are one of the strangest and most mysterious units of the contemporary electronic music scene. There is only one known interview and very few live appearances.

The composers hide behind strange German pseudonyms whereas the track titles and lyrics are in English and make up a strange mixture of scientific, sexually explicit and political allusions. Dopplereffekt’s music is also highly eclectic and unusual. Even if at first sight the forefathers Kraftwerk seem to be more than present, Dopplereffekt have developed their very own and highly influential sound aesthetic, without which the current electro culture seems to be unthinkable.

Their best known album is Gesamtkunstwerk which appeared in 1999 on International Deejay Gigolo Records. This album featured a collection of tracks which were previously only available on the vinyl only releases: Fascist State & Infophysix.

This is indeed a classic techno album. Everything is appropriately done, from the titles of the tracks to the levels of the instruments, to the cover art. It's one giant cold slab of dance music that gives me a twisted vision of some white room in which scientists are creating pornographic movies starring mannequins. The hammer and sickle on the cover harks to an age or culture in which emotions are somewhere near last place. This could have been the soundtrack for much of the film Kontroll. No, it isn't overly ornate, impressively intricate, or ever time-signature bending. But Gesamtkunstwerk IS moving.

Amid the late 90s’ fascination with electro, Dopplereffekt’s first widely available record barely ever counted as a cult artefact. Gesamtkunstwerk may have been compiled from virtually unobtainable dispatches trickling out of Detroit, but received wisdom on its contents was well in place by International Deejay Gigolos’ original 1999 release. With the backing of DJ Hell’s label, word  then spread to the developing electroclash scene, whose prototypical acts already acknowledged an influence.

Adopted staples such as ‘Plastiphilia’ pervert Kraftwerk’s automaton shtick, in a way humanising it – “I want to make love to a manikin,” we’re informed in the mannerism of ‘The Robots’, “I want to suck it, I want to fuck it.” Combine this with the female vocals of ‘Pornoviewer’ and ‘Scientist’, and the model is evident for the blank-eyed but provocative delivery cultivated by Miss Kittin and ADULT.’s Nicola Kuperus.

It’s perhaps surprising that the sexual imagery appears to be more notorious than that of ‘Superior Race’, which comes from an EP entitled Fascist State, or ‘Sterilization’, with its body-mutilating sonic and the lyric “we had to sterilise the population.” Consider that Donald periodically assumes the identity Heinrich Mueller (which he claims doesn’t reference the Nazi Gestapo head of the same name) and the sense of an ambiguous outlook, rather than a wholeheartedly dystopian one, could be thought at least a little edgy.

Curious in this context is how often Dopplereffekt’s programming short-circuits to the Kraftwerk of Computer World, sonically deleting a good deal of the imprint of black music – as conventionally understood – made on electro from Cybotron and Model 500 onwards. Some like to debate techno and electro’s derivations from the Europhile interests of Detroit’s first wave, playing up instead the debt to synth-funk and even, supposedly, electric jazz fusion. It isn’t clear that Donald aims to satirise or confound such hand-wringing, but his chosen aesthetic obviously does contain a wry dimension.

Despite figuring in a genealogy of music that trades on notions of inhumanity, it’s the uneasily human, sometimes witty counterpoint that makes this more than an extremely well produced electro record, continuing to bring listeners back.
Robin Howells


Flit said...

Love the three 'Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller' Drexciya comps that Clone Classic Cuts put out recently. I have to cop the 'Gesamtkunstwerk' comp from 2007.
Thanks, tops my list now.

_Black_Acrylic said...

Still need part 3 of the Drexciya comps so I'll get that in the new year. Yeah Gesamtkunstwerk is essential, a true classic.

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