Various Artists

Wo Ist Zu Hause Mama #1

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The first of three CDs that highlight what was happening in Berlin's independent music scene in 1995, 1996, and 1997, respectively. It's tough to review these except by sound since all of the documentation is in German. The only American thing here is Johnny Cash??!! on one track by Mama from a gig at the Zu Hause. In 1995, the music documented here, ranged from Die Sterne's strangely late-'70s retro-electro music and crazy polka-punk to F.S.K.'s metallic thrash to Fleischlego's riff-laden '70s hard rock. But the favorites are Element of Crime's neo-Cajun stomp with accordions and screeching violins playing a Bo Diddley shuffle, and Saal 2's "Coco," which is a gorgeous Brazilian jazz-styled samba with breathy vocals and organic percussion paired with a Hammond B-3 playing like Jimmy Smith doing Jobim. Furthermore the tune is a tribute to German guitarist Coco Schumann. There are many more tracks here, 25 in all, and what they all seem to have in common is that all of these bands are high concept; they're either in costume or putting forth their shtick in their photograph in some way, as if the photograph were a manifesto of some sort. But the bottom line is whether it's compelling or not as a compilation. The answer is an undeniable, inarguable yes. This is far more consistent than most like-minded compilations of independent artists in the States. The coolest thing of all is that no track here is over three-and-a-half minutes!

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