Inland (Ata Tak, 1979)
Pyrolator, sometimes referred to as Der Pyrolator, was the solo project of Kurt Dahlke, member of groundbreaking German new wave groups D.A.F. and Der Plan as well as the founder of (and in-house producer for) Ata Tak Records. I’m almost embarrassed to write this, considering my scant knowledge of the Neue Deutsche Welle and of German culture in general. The music is pretty new to me, so maybe it sounds stranger than it should. The gurus over at Mutant Sounds can feel free to correct me on any historical/stylistic faux pas. (And if you don’t read their blog, you should.)
Pyrolator’s Inland (1979) was the second release on the fledgling Ata Tak label, following the first D.A.F. lp and preceding Der Plan’s seminal Geri Reig (Ata Tak, 1980). Ata Tak’s website suggests that Inland was “a protest album,” following that claim with a question mark. It’s a valid query; Inland is entirely instrumental, so the only political conclusions one could draw would have to be from sound content alone. But, the website elaborates,
[Pyrolator’s] musical experimentation was eclipsed by feelings of protest -- the result of strongly politicized times, the 'Deutsche Herbst' (peak of post war anti-establishment activity in Germany) and its resulting build up of arms as well as an increasing conservatism in the liberal-socialist coalition in Germany, highlighting in NATO's resolution to station fire power in Germany, the failed atomic policy with symbolic incidents at Gorleben and Harrisburg as well as increasing worries about an atomic war.For me, Inland raises the question of whether or not any work from a tumultuous period in history is responsible for presenting an allegory of its era. The album is full of abrasive, uncompromising electronic soundscapes and computerized squelching that would sit comfortably alongside the modern noise experiments of Kevin Drumm and Merzbow. The series of titular tracks are the most concentrated in their assault, with “Inland 1” combining intense high-end tones with scrambled feedback and quasi-industrial rhythms. “Inland 3” lays shifting synth lines over a chainsaw-like drone, while “Inland 4” and “Bärenstrasse” take distorted vocal samples and pound the fuck out of them with noisy squall and rhythms so slow they would make Michael Gira wilt. The opener, “Minimal Tape 1/2.3”, is equally terrifying, its dense electronic mixture interrupted at crucial moments by screeching, guitar-based punctuations.
Inland's dark side isn’t without its counterpoint, however; there are plenty of tracks rooted in post-Suicide dance music, using infectious analog rhythms on “Danger Cruising”, “Minimal Tape 3/7.2”, and “Have a Good Ride”. There are also moments of ambience, whether they be serene (the sustained tones of “Minimal Tape 1/8”) or unnerving (“Nordatlantik” and its vampire organ swirling against the voices of young children). Overall, Inland displays the kind of emotional range one sees in a Fassbinder film from the same era: a paranoid reverie with escapist diversions from the terror of everyday life. The album begins with a field recording of crowd murmur, the voices then cut off abruptly and replaced with Dahlke’s harsh textures. It’s as if Pyrolator is crashing a party, serving up cold electronics in place of the human warmth we’ve lost; even his most danceable tunes sound curiously mechanical, inhuman, as if saying: “Go on and play, but you’ve got problems ahead.” Inland helped set the tone for much of the 1980s, not only for electronic music (ie., the similar work of Asmus Tietchens) but for a whole generation of angst-fueled noisemakers. Someone had to fill the void left by free jazz ten years earlier, showing that as soon as one spirit weakens, an equally virulent one will follow.
Pyrolator - It Always Rains in Wuppertal.mp3 (192 kbps, 4.6 mb)
[I have removed the link to Inland at the polite request of Kurt "Pyrolator" Dahlke. The album is available from Forced Exposure or directly from Ata Tak Records.]
The rerelease of Inland contains six extra tracks, each of them a gem.