CH BB- 1-4 (cassettes) 1981
With a bit of luck, Liaisons Dangereuses will release these recordings as a boxed set next month. Though the impact of Neger Brauchen Keine Elektronik has been severely narrowed here due to a 48kbps upload (me narrowly avoiding controversy), you can still hear how it was one of the most convincing early stabs at what would later become acid techno. And similarly, that accompanying series of plain, faceless 'artworks', and the fact they were only available for one week from a mysterious shop that closed its doors soon after... it's the blueprint for underground techno all over. The rest of the recordings pioneered more of an EBM/ electroclash style, but in an erratic and uncompromising delivery only DIY cassette recording seems to produce, especially compared to the duller moments on Liaisons' studio effort of the same year. You can download a video of Chris Haas and Beate Bartel performing their more commercial stuff under the Liaisons Dangereuses name here.
CH BB's recordings were bootlegged sometime in 1998, and have done the rounds within hipster circles ever since, which is how I and many others came to hear these for the first time. They were initially released as four C-10 tapes, 50 copies each, and available via special mail order from Rainer Rabowski's Klar! 80 establishment, run from Aachener Street 115, Düsseldorf 4000, for a limited amount of time only.
Sea Wanton apparently did some early cassette reviews for Hamburg's Sounds magazine, though it was in the summer of 1980 when Alfred Hilsberg was writing Sounds' Neuestes Deutschland column, where Hilsberg would be the first to mention, outside of the fanzines, West Deutschland's first real DIY NDW cassette releases (Spex magazine caught on soon after). Some of the earliest self-compiled tapes from Düsseldorf, the birthplace of German punk in and around the Ratinger Hof, were demos sent out in the hope of impressing a label boss or concert organiser. According to Günter Sahler, a free Charley's Girls demo was given away in 1977 with a copy of Franz Bielmeier's Ostrich fanzine, Bielmeier also being a member of that group. Günter recently documented almost every area of the German cassette underground in Edition 4 of his Blechluft publication. The journal, now downloadable in PDF format, is essential for those interested in the early NDW cassette culture (and, of course, for those who are able to read German!), as it includes interviews with all the scene's major players at the time such as Rainer Rabowski himself.
Excluding live bootlegs, Günter goes on to mention one of the earliest DIY tapes to come from Düsseldorf, a recording most of us here are familiar with: Kurt Dahlke's Inland, from 1979. However, because it was soon pressed to vinyl under the name Pyrolator, it can only really be seen as a demo for the official LP release. Deutschdenck, recorded by Ralf Dörper and friends, released the following year, was far more pioneering. Many of the early cassette labels grew out of record shops or previously set up independents, and this tape happened to be Pure Freude's fifth release, so it was not strictly DIY, but because Dörper had no ambition for the project to reach vinyl (not that I'm aware of, except for his Eraserhead idea), its worth as a DIY cassette release through and through stood out. Anyone have the tape? By this time, the cassette was discovered to be a viable option for those unsigned, ill-equipped for a label, and/or plain cynical towards the whole professional route of distribution, which I'm presuming there were many of. The use of the cassette amongst the Düsseldorf artists seemed to be used in a slightly different context to begin with however.
Little gets written about the early 80s cassette underground. It can be seen as one of the first real international networks of likeminded pranksters and practitioners of sound trading cheap but enthusiastically executed ideas, before the internet made the whole thing effortless via shifting the technology and subsequently wiping out the cassette fetish altogether. By 1981, many a tape only label sprung up, and Rabowski's Klar! 80, whom Xao Seffcheque were heavily involved with, was one of the more well known. However, the label's roster was actually made up of groups that were releasing their own vinyl at the same time. It has been said before that the early 80s Düsseldorf scene was pure incest, where artists spider-webbed there way in and out of each other's projects and labels in order to build a scene. Therefore, it would seem to me that the early days of selling mail order tapes in Düsseldorf was simply another cog in the wheel to fuel the activities and discourse surrounding the city as a hotbed for multimedia projects, idea Büros, and alternative network and marketing strategies, all stuff thought up by the Ata Tak crowd. I suspect that a newer breed, detached from the scene but eager to have their own voice heard, was a breakthrough point at which things started to really get interesting. I'd suggest hunting down any WSDP reissues sharpish; you might find some still available from outlets like Fusetron, for instance. Oh yeah, and watch out for that CH BB boxed set, should be a corker.
Neger Brauchen Keine Elektronik/Liaisons Dangereuses video (