Various Artists

Zur Holle Mama #3

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The final volume in Trikont's survey of the independent music scene in Berlin is worth purchasing for the first track alone: William S. Burroughs in a tavern, singing a German love song, drunk off his ass, and finishing it with, "What do I give a sh*t about these papers?" This moment steals the rumbling thunder from the rest of the record, but that's not to say there aren't excellent things here -- there are, in spades. It's just that the Burroughs piece is him exactly as you'd picture him if he ever sang drunk -- and besides, this is a track for sampling if I ever heard one; it'll be on MP3 players everywhere, and probably is in Germany. Other than this inspired piece of madness, the Trikont crew has assembled the slippery hip-hop, groove-greased funk of Viva Maria! and the strange countrified desert blues of Fink, who would be right at home on a stage with Calexico or Giant Sand. From there we go to the drum machine/dude with a drum kit playing the same beat and acoustic guitar pop of Stella, who, although they sing the verses in German, sing the refrain (the same as the song title) in English, "Let's Forget All About This Year." It's a beautiful pop song, minimal, one hook, and a bit of distortion in the vocals on the middle eight that is reminiscent of the Fall on a good day. Also featured on this, the finest of all three collections, is Tom Combo's "Ging Zu," a nasty little funk tune that would be as at home with Beck as it would with a senile James Brown. But in the middle of their groove, toward the end of the song, they haul out the riff from Television's "Marquee Moon." The gorgeous noir jazz of Katharina Franck on "Das Finde Ich Schön" quickly gives way to a house groove with the same bassline, and all the while she recites poetry over the top. She is followed by another wonderful piece of odd German pop pastiche -- or is it montage? You decide. Kinderzimmer Productions samples Bessie Smith's "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues" and juxtaposes it against a cross-house riff that has the two members freestyling over the top. Weird stuff, to be sure. Finally, there is the tiny sci-fi pop of Barbara Morgenstern on "Am Rand," who cannot sing in time with her rhythm machine to save her life. Or is she syncopating it? Who knows? It's cool with all its cheesy B-movie ambience and shimmering Farfisa organs creeping around all underneath her voice that is distorted as hell about halfway through the track. Sadly, this third volume is all Trikont released, ending in 1997. If only there were six more volumes to watch a culture evolve through its underground pop music. I have no idea how the U.S would stack up against it year for year, but this stuff is self-consciously underground. Their scene is a complete rejection of mainstream anything, except to make fun of it. It's an extreme position to be sure, but it's also a lot of fun to listen to.

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