As you all know West Germany during the 1970s was an explosion of musical creativitiy as bands like Can, Neu and Amon Duul married wonderful meandering psychedelic melodies to that very special Motorik Kraut Rock Groove. As for East Germany. Well the music soundtrack was just a little more conservative.
With a totalitarian Communist government running the show and the Stasi secret Police ready to pounce on anyone who stepped out of line, making music that had echoes of the decadent west was not a great career move.
Except for one fella. In a story so perfect that part of me still thinks it might be one giant hoax (UPDATE – this may be the case see the comments), film-sound editor and composer Martin Ziechnete not only managed to create the definitive East German Kraut Rock suite but at the same time beat Nike to the punch in inventing music to exercise to by a good thirty years.
The story runs that Ziechnete’s experiments with electronic music came to the attention of the ruling party who sent a a couple of representatives to pay him a call.
“I feared I would lose my job, at the very least. It would be very bad for someone who worked on party films to be seen to be influenced by the enemy. We drove in silence to the outskirts of Berlin to what I later found out was an athletics camp. They knew all about me and my idea. They questioned me about the concept for hours then left me alone in the room.
“Later an official from the Nationales Olympisches Komitee came in and told me I would begin to work on the project immediately.”
That project was an attempt to create music that would inspire the East German athletes of the day – remember at this time they were ultra successful – to even greater heights. So so the music that has just been reissued as Kosmischer Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83, Volume One was born.
It is a fascinating listen to with or without your shorts on. The opener Zeit Zum Laufen 156 is an ambient piece designed to accompany your warm up. Things then move up a gear with Sandtrommel in which an odd spacey keyboard battles with a very strange, off kilter beat.
The highlight is track four Tonband Laufspur (above) which is closest to the Kraut Rock visionaries that Ziechnete was so inspired by, especially in its mental push yourself to the line finale.
Overall it is a marvellous listen and you really don’t need to care too much about its genesis or its athletics ambitions to enjoy it.
Ziechnete’s music obviously did the business as East German athletes dominated track and field for much of the 70s. Well State Plan 14.25 may have played a role too.
The album is available via Bandcamp for £3.50 here.
And while we are on a Kraut Rock trip check out this superb track from new Aussie psych band Buried Feather who are clearly on nodding terms with the odd Neu record.