Monday, July 09, 2007

The further I go the deeper I fall

Herrmann & Kleine - Where Have You Been
Herrmann & Kleine - Kickboard Girl
Herrmann & Kleine - Wonder

Sometimes you listen to a record or a song and it makes such an impression on you that it sparks an obsession of fierce intensity. Some records are OK, you enjoy them, listen to them a few times and then they are put on the shelf to gather dust, eventually ending up on eBay. But there are others that grab you, take control of your heart and mind and make you believe that because of this record, something irrevocable has happened. The ‘Transalpin EP’ by the German production duo Thaddi Herrmann and Christian Kleine was one such record for me. It was released in October 1999, and despite already being a massive fan of electronic music, it ignited a passion that lead to me buying every single release on the Berlin-based labels City Centre Offices (which was owned and run by Thaddi) and Morr Music for the next couple of years, and listening to little else during this period. All the vinyl releases on both labels were lovingly packaged and often extremely limited, making them highly desirable and collectable, and the music more than matched the thought that had gone into the presentation.

‘Transalpin EP’ was a sublime four-tracker, featuring two extended workouts (including ‘Where Have You Been’) and two shorter pieces, combining gently distorted breakbeats (betraying Thaddi’s previous role in Digital Hardcore noiseniks Sonic Subjunkies) and sublime electronic sounds. It was everything electronic music often fails to be – warm, emotive and evoking a mysterious yearning within me that I hadn’t really felt since my years as a teenage shoegazer. Oddly enough, etched into the run-out grooves of both sides of the vinyl of the EP were lyrics from Slowdive’s ‘Dagger’, so it was clear at this point that the artist’s influences were outside of the usual reference points for makers of music by machine. Herrmann & Kleine followed the release of the ‘Transalpin EP’ with a second EP in 2000. Entitled ‘Kickboard Girl EP’, it followed the same pattern as their debut offering, mixing gorgeous, melodious electronica with expert, intricate beatwork.

By now, a scene was building around the labels and the artists (which also included the likes of Ulrich Schnauss, Lali Puna and Arovane) under the horrific banner of ‘indietronica’. I guess all scenes suffer from a collective need to pigeonhole music into neat genre-boxes, but this was a particularly clumsy effort, focusing on the fact that the key players of the scene listed the likes of Slowdive and the Smiths as their influences, as well as name checking Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. Squish the two together and you have ‘indietronica’. Urrrghhh. The founder of Morr Music, Thomas Morr, even coined his own term for the genre – plinkerpop - which despite sounding like something you might do in the toilet, actually made some sort of sense in terms of the sounds being created.

Herrmann & Kleine released their one and only album, the excellent ‘Our Noise’, in April 2002. As Boomkat said, the album was “…a sun-drenched halfway house between the ethereal/lush guitar strums and electronic sceneries that Kleine has mastered across his work for the City Centre Offices and Morr Music, and Thaddi’s delicious, crunchy beat work and his adherence to all things analogue and blue.” In particular, the majestic ‘Wonder’ did what it said on the tin - a joyous evocation of sheer heart-bursting bliss, perhaps even outdoing the best efforts of Ulrich Schnauss to recreate the classic shoegazing sound from an electronic perspective. Shoetronica perhaps? This musical union was stretched to breaking point when Morr Music released an album of Slowdive covers by various electronic artists (entitled ‘Blue Skied An’ Clear’) on their roster. After this, the scene died a death, ending up on a life support machine with only Thomas Morr keeping a watchful vigil.

‘Our Noise’ was the last music created by the duo, though they didn’t officially split until 2005. Christian continued his solo career, releasing two well-received solo albums, the last of which, ‘Real Ghosts’, was released on CCO in 2004. Thaddi continued his work at the helm of CCO, undertaking the occasional remix, including a stunning acid house rework of Hey-O-Hansen’s ‘Moon’ in 2005.

All of the Herrmann & Kleine releases are no longer available, but you can purchase mp3's from or Boomkat
Herrmann & Kleine discography
Herrmann & Kleine website
City Centre Offices website
Morr Music website
Slowdive fansite