[1981] – ‘How To Say 1981 In German’ (2005)

Posted in Mixes, Talking by Soundslike on March 19, 2009


How to Say 1981 in German‘ is a Musicophilia’s first “addendum mix” to the ‘1981’ box set (and is based on a mix I put together partially from tracks in the ‘1981 Briefcase‘ in 2005).  It explores the tip of the iceberg of Deutsche Neue Welle and DNW-inflected music, and in terms of quality could well have been the 10th “main disc mix” in the box.  If DNW is new to you, this should serve as a reasonable introduction, despite being limited to just one year: ’81 was as peak for Germanic-speaking synthy, dark, reassuringly non-virtuosic  pop as it was for post-punk at large–though like Italo Disco, DNW seems to have carried on strong longer than non-New Wave/New Romantic post-punk in Britain and the U.S. did.  Within basic parameters described above, this compilation reveals the considerable breadth within the DNW umbrella: songs of tuneful joy; sultry saxed-up rockers; dubby or D.A.F.-lite dance-pop; playful squelchy synth-funk silliness; sentimental romanticism; minimal ambient horror-shows; odes to evil robot CIA/KGB; precient proto-house (if Pole tackled house instead of dub); “dance-punk” that you’d swear came from 2003; and of course a good dash of pre-apocalyptic rumination, as expected from the front-lines of the cold war, but offset by an equal measure neo-kosmiche optimism.

Few generally recognised names are found here (unless they’re better known in Germany): Neonbabies are sort of the German Bush Tetras; theres Absolute Body Control, Grauzone, Palais Schaumburg, Beranek, Geisterfahrer, Pyrolater (perhaps the best-known name here); Klopferbande, Sudenten Creche, Din a Testbild, Kitchen and the Plastic Spoons, Metro Pakt, Kosmonautentraum, Mythos, 1000 Ohm, Les Vampyrettes (actually Holger Czukay & Conny Plank, but which fits right in); and Deutsche Wertabeit, Matthais Schuster, Van Kaye & Ignit, Starter, Exkurs, and Weltklang.  Not a great deal of this stuff is readily available, though there are a few scattered “best ofs” and the occasional CD reissue of some of them; others are still waiting for their due.  As a couple of these tracks have been shared from the ‘1981 Briefcase‘ at Musicophilia Daily, I’ll stream them below as a preview of the mix.  Full tracklist and download below the “more…” link. [This mix is presented in its original form, as individual tracks, non-mixed.]

1 9 8 1  |  How To Say 1981 In German

01  Neonbabies – “Profi” [3:51]
02  Absolute Body Control – “Is There an Exit” [4:09]
03  Grauzone – “Ich Lieb Sie” [3:16]
04  Palais Schaumburg – “Gute Luft” [2:38]
05  Beranek – “Crystal Dream” [3:23]
06  Geisterfahrer – “Himmel auf Erden” [1:56]
07  Pyrolator – “Elefantendisco” [3:10]
08  Klopferbande – “Am Hauptfelsen” [4:45]
09  Sudenten Creche – “Are Kisses Out of Fashion?” [3:19]
10  Din a Testbild – “Logischer Gefrierpunkt” [4:11]
11  Kitchen and The Plastic Spoons – “Filmen” [3:35]
12  Metro Pakt – “Neue Straßen” [2:40]
13  Kosmonautentraum – “Kosmonautentraum No. 6” [1:12]
14  Mythos – “Robot Secret Agents” [3:05]
15  1000 Ohm – “A.G.N.E.S.” [6:22]
16  Les Vampyrettes – “Biomutanten” [4:39]
17  Deutsche Wertarbeit – “Deutscher Wald” [4:01]
18  Matthias Schuster – “Schlaglichter” [2:38]
19  Van Kaye and Ignit – “Opera of Worms” [3:59]
20  Starter – “Part of You” [3:10]
21  Exkurs – “Fakten” [3:55]
22  Weltklang – “Veb Heimat” [2:26]

[Total Time 76:20]

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23 Responses

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  1. ohrensause said, on March 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    neunzehnhunderteinundachtzig. das jahr in dem ich volljährig wurde.

  2. Soundslike said, on March 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I should’ve gone with “neunzehnhunderteinundachtzig” as the mix title, no?

  3. greg said, on March 20, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Hey Ian – Are you familiar with Ja Ja Ja (band name not the Trio song) ? They sang in english- at least the one song i have now is, I forget if the whole lp was- so maybe that disqualifies them as echt Deutsche?

  4. Soundslike said, on March 20, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Only track I know by them (if it’s the same band) is called “I Am an Animal” from one of those Flexipop compilations–bouncy, quirky, cute girly vocals (listening just now for the first time in ages). Same band?

    I wouldn’t exclude stuff sung in English from DNW, certainly I didn’t on the ‘How To Say 1981 in German’ comp–is being sung in Deutsche generally considered essential for something to qualify as DNW? I’m no expert, so that well could be. . .

    Tangentally–I love Trio, such a shame they’re generally thought of as one-hit-wonders in the US.

  5. greg said, on March 20, 2009 at 7:46 am

    That’s them. I am an animal is the only thing have now. That’s one of the poppier tracks on the lp as i remember it. You don’t hear it so much on that track but they had this crazy pro-flea (as in hyper-active white funk) bass player.

    I missed out on Trio- besides the singles.

    Ideal was another DNW band I enjoyed. Their sound was much more conventional though, closer to the harder side of Pretenders or X (female singer).

    always had a soft spot for Palais Schaumberg. I look forward to hearing the mix.

  6. […] necessarily representative of their work, which tends more toward a Eurocentric, American take on a Deutsche Neue Welle-esque noir-synth-pop.  But it is a lovely little piece, somehow blending a violin melody that […]

  7. […] in the even earlier Girl Group sound.  Beranek were a Norwegian group working very much in the DNW idiom, albiet its sunnier side here.  Dara Birnbaum brings a tiny bit of fast-paced collage from the […]

  8. Andy said, on March 24, 2009 at 10:17 am

    “Are Kisses Out of Fashion” is the song I want to hear playing when I die.

    Do you know that Silvia song Zuerst Ich? Gorgeous, virtually duophonic.

  9. Soundslike said, on March 24, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Not ringing a bell off the top of my head–I’ll have to look for it. Thanks for the recommendation!

    “Are Kisses” is a slight cheat for this mix, don’t tell anybody–but I just had to put it on there.

  10. Andy said, on March 24, 2009 at 11:02 am

    The German record store HORSTURZ has put out a 36+ compilations featuring a lot of German new wave under the titles Tribute to Flexipop, Return of Flexipop, None Night of Flexipop, and New Wave Complex.

    You can find full tracklists at


    I downloaded all of these back in the day and put together a collection of my favorites. They focus isn’t exclusively Deutsch, but readers might be interested if they like the mix above. (Soft Cell eventually made it to the mainstream, but Girl With the Patent Leather face is dark, twisted pop at its finest.)


    Paean to Flexipop for Soundslike: 21 Songs

    Portion Control Across the Fence
    Popular History of Signs Crowds
    3rd Man Oral Pleasure
    The Screen Inertia
    Cinema 90 In Ultraviolet
    Asmodaeus Radiation Dance
    Iron Curtains The Condos
    Nocturnal Emissions Don’t Believe It’s Over
    Salaligan Gubben I Skogen
    Ray Buttigieg Love Will Make Us One
    Portion Control Sweet Julia
    1000 Ohm AGNES (Faster mix)
    Absolute Body Control A Broken Dream
    Artist Unknown The Autumn
    End of Your Garden The Celebration
    Silvia (Tommy Stumpf) Zuerst Ich
    Artist Unknown To Hold You
    Soft Cell The Girl With the Patent Leather Face
    Vita Noctis Hade
    Steve Parker Keys and Colleges
    Sudeten Creche Are Kisses Out of Fashion

  11. Soundslike said, on March 24, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I didn’t know any label/shop was responsible for those. But they’re immense, and often fantastic. Thanks for sharing your best-of, I need to revisit them in full one day.

  12. Andy said, on March 25, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Do you know the “Tribute to Some Bizarre” amateur compilation series? I have the first 10, not sure if there are more out there.

    A Tribute To Some Bizarre Compilation assembled 12/13/02

    This compilation was a collective project….assembled by a multitude of different archivists in the community. It represents a sum of concentrated efforts of individuals in restoring old vinyl and tape. We centralized our efforts in collecting old new-wave bent to the synthier side of the 80’s. There is also interest in the new artists whose obvious influences were to the analog and synth side of the 80’s….. I hate trying to categorize these things….It has been tried to many times before…. However the artists that have spent their own money to put out a record or CD and who have labored over a 4 track recorder to get their ideas across to whoever might listen. Only to produce the best damn music …. never heard ….. This is the spirit we are trying to save…. Recover the lost masterpieces in the way that AMC salvages old celluloid film….. This Compilation represents users and archivists doing the same thing ….. saving the classics…… Please enjoy this work in progress and if you know any of the lost artists….. Please lets get them involved…..

  13. ohrensause said, on March 26, 2009 at 6:12 am

    is there a reason that most of the bands and songs are relatively unknown? i mean in 1981 there were lots of more prominent german bands around which made lots of fascinating music. as a primer i find this mix a little too esoteric. trio and ideal have been mentioned already. what about fehlfarben, the ultimate german band of those years in my eyes. they stand in between punk and ndw. then of course deutsch-amerikanische freundschaft, precursors of techno who were rather versatile (check the lullaby-like “der räuber und der prinz”). or der plan which were more about cut and paste and collages. or freiwillige selbstkontrolle. not to forget einstürzende neubauten who more or less started in 1981. die tote doris was a weird arty experimental outfit. other bands more in the vein of punk were die toten hosen (the only still succesfull band), s.y.p.h. or the kfc. you can find those and many more on the excellent german 2 cd sampler on german punk and ndw from a couple of years ago. it is called “verschwende deine jugend”. actually this compilation came with the well selling book on the subject by jürgen teipel who interviewed most of the bands and artists. there was also a movie and an exhibition in düsseldorf. i didn’t attend neither.

  14. ohrensause said, on March 26, 2009 at 6:34 am

    i hope my last comment was not too negative. i really love and enjoy what you are doing here and i find it quite sad that there seems to be not very much feed-back (that’s how it looks like from outside, especially concerning the daily blog). but i had to get that remark out of my system. sorry.

  15. Soundslike said, on March 26, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Well–this mix isn’t meant to be representative of the better-known German music from 1981–a lot of the bands you mentioned are covered on the main mixes, such as DAF, Einsturzende, Der Plan, Trio, et al. This one is meant to explore the things listeners of this blog might be less likely to know, though many will still know some of them. If the implication is that the reason they’re less known is because they’re less good than more prominent bands–for my personal taste, I’d have to say “no”. They were probably less prolific, less well connected/promoted, or just a little outside of what a mainstream audience is looking for–but I think this is quality music. Anyway, no worries, and I appreciate your regular feedback. I don’t mind the relative lack of feedback (via comments) generally–it’d be cool if people felt less shy generally, but the fact that every mix gets downloaded 100+ times, linked to elsewhere, blogged about, etc. makes me know people are listening and enjoying, which is my objective. Anyway–no worries, no offense taken.

  16. Nick said, on March 27, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Awesome! Thanks

  17. Andy said, on March 27, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    I found an alternate, extended mix of Silvia/Tommi Stumpff’s “Zuerst Ich”

    The original is posted in the 21 songs above.

    Also, if anyone could identify the two “Artist Unknown” tracks in my compilation posted above, I’d be much obliged!

  18. midnightusurper said, on March 30, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Great mix, I had an account here but have not found much use in them until hearing about these two blogs you have (though i’ve known this site since Janurary).

  19. […] and Beranek (also featured in higher quality as part of the “1981 addendum” mix, ‘How To Say 1981 in German‘); early A Flock of Seagulls and ABC; Adam & The Ants; Alternative TV; 49 Americans […]

  20. […] the 8th mix, ‘Fire;’ the first set of ‘Briefcase‘ tracks; and a new Deutsche Neue Welle in ‘81 mix.   There’s was also ‘Electromance,’ an accessible electronic pop mix; another […]

  21. […] posts at Musicophilia Daily from the box set’s mp3 disc; keep your eyes peeled for new 1981-themed mixes; and if you dig it, share them with friends and help spread the word–I still love this music, […]

  22. WideOpenRoad said, on July 13, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Some great stuff here, thx!
    But, 1000 ohm isn’t a German band, neither is Absolute Body Conrtol. Both of them are from Belgium… Oh well, a minor issue since both are covered here with great songs!

  23. Soundslike said, on July 15, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Hehe I knew I was cheating a little bit–some Belgian/French/Italian stuff is just so clearly in the DNW vein as far as sound–the title is something of a joke, not meant to indicate it’s all in German or made by German artists. . .

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