Listen with pain!

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Listen with pain!

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Klaus Walter | TAZ

“Klangkrieg”, an album by Echokrank was recently released. Thirty years after Susan Sontag’s classic, “sickness as metaphor” is apparently gaining new validity in electronic music. And thirty-six years after Jimi Hendrix: he trafficked his electric guitar against the instruction manual, and suddenly noise was considered sexy. The phrase “feedback orgy” became established in the catalog of rock criticism. The sexual metaphor signals the desire for a targeted loss of control. The guitar body follows its own libido, its owner loses power over it – and enjoys it.

“Feedback orgies”, “noise cascades” and “noise attacks” – as quickly as these terms found their way into the language of rock criticism, so quickly were the musical border crossings thus designated reformatted into stereotypical transgression gestures.

At the beginning of the 70s, feedback and similar noises were part of the good tone of rock music: ornaments of a musical form that had congealed into the convention. Hendrix had said goodbye in time. The short phase of artistic and socio-political deterritorialization after 1965 was followed by a reterritorialization forced by the culture industry: new markets emerged, pop became the acoustic wallpaper of everyday life, the just-as-noise became the trademark of western youth cultures.

Pop music experienced comparable cycles of de- and reterritorialization after the punk revolt and most recently in techno, the “Revolution 909” (Daft Punk). In both cases, one could observe the change in values of genre-typical sounds: from noise to ornamentation.

Especially in digital music, this metamorphosis is taking place in ever more rapid spurts. This brings us back to Echokrank. In the accompanying letter to the record, Alain Pacadis proclaims: “While electronic music has prevailed in which every environmental noise can be integrated without any problems, in Echokrank every additional sound is disturbing. Music is just another word for the noise in this world. Go see the doctor.”

Curiously, Echokrank’s critique of the integrated everyday sound draws on the sign repertoire of the ’68 revolt. The band’s name – “Echokrank refers to an acoustic hallucination that deep-sea divers suffer from when they surface too quickly” – is reminiscent of the “turn illness into a weapon” slogans of the anti-psychiatry movement of the post-68s, decisively propagated in the FRG by the Socialist Patient Collective (SPK) in Heidelberg.

The SPK, like the anti-torture committees, has the historical merit of being the first to educate people about domination techniques such as “white torture” and “sensory deprivation” – the clinical vocabulary for the AC/DC & Metallica method.

Logically and fatally, the fight against white and other torture led some SPK activists to urban guerrilla – vulgo: RAF & Co; prison/death. As a late consequence, an industrial band from England called itself SPK in the 1980s. They too knew about the decorative appeal of sick sounds. Just as in no other genre has the metaphor of illness been exploited as much as in industrial, the only music in the world for which Belgium can claim sovereignty of interpretation. That’s also where one of the most stupid bands ever came from: The Klinik.

Back to Echokrank. Their manifesto culminates in a paraphrase of the most famous slogan of Berlin’s most famous band: “Mach Nervös Was Dich Nervös Macht!!!” (Make Nervous What Makes You Nervous!). Echokrank know that their music doesn’t make anyone nervous or sick today. They use the “additional sounds” less in a “disturbing” way than in a commenting, animating way, for example when they take the digital dancehall classic “Tempo” by Anthony Red Rose one-to-one and drape it with well-placed sound accessories more than alienate it.

Technically, this procedure is similar to that of the US “band” Culturcide, who bootlegged current pop hits in the 80s and deliberately dilettante (or ingeniously dilettante, as Merve wrote at the time) sang their own lyrics over them, with an unmasking, ideology-critical intention: “We are the world” became “They aren’t the world”, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” was bastardized into “Act like the rich”.

It is hard to understand today why people were once prepared to appreciate such party jokes as a subversive sound guerrilla attack against the ailing US culture and a serious assault on copyright. For all their soundguerrilla disruptive rhetoric – tracks are called “Assword Required” or “Level Of Technology: Primitive” – Echokrank profit from the affective stimulus potential of the “nasty” and “sick” sounds.

They know about the dwindling half-life of disruptive sound strategies and are far too much fans of “horny” nasty sounds. Otherwise, they would never have come up with the idea to tickle a digital reggae reduced to the most necessary nasty bleeps, and Jamaican stylee at that: “Tempo” opens side 2 of the LP, “More Tempo!” – the dub version, so to speak – closes it.”