Die geheimen Tageb├╝cher von einer verderbten Existenz

Behind these gates you will hear my thoughts screaming like nerves under the sun and feel my emotion laughing to the empty ether.
Welcome Dear Wanderer, make yourself at home.
The road is long and tortuous and I hope you enjoy yourself.

Fraternally Yours,
Poison Creeper

Monday, 13 July 2009

First Cd of the Day - Gerechtigkets Liga "Hypnotischer Existenzialismus"

The name Gerechtigkeits Liga is one which re-surfaced only recently, but which has recurred at key points since the early eighties. The group appeared alongside SPK, Laibach and others on the seminal compilation Vhutemas Archetypi on Graeme Revell’s Side Effects label. It also performed at the Berlin Atonal festival in 1985, an event which still casts a long shadow, and which, due to its reputation, is possibly even more significant for those who weren’t there than for those who were. Given GL’s association with these key moments in the development of second-wave industrial, the group has had a surprisingly low profile. Partly this was due to the vagaries and adversities of the music business: tracking the trajectory of such a group you discover that industrial groups also suffered from bad deals and neglect, even on independent and supposedly progressive labels. Yet although force of circumstance conspired to keep GL silent for long periods, particularly in the 1990s, this silence and the rarity of its works may have actually have helped maintain an aura of fascination and elusiveness that motivated collectors and others to track down rarities and which has now inspired both a re-issue programme and a return to recording.

In 2005, the long unavailable first album Hypnotischer Existenzialismus and single were re-released on CD, together with a live recording from New York in 1985. In recent years the group has released new material on the German compilations Statement 1961 (Ironflame) and Paranoise One (Paranoise) and the group is working on new collaborative projects. Further re-releases are planned, as well as new material, and this is a good opportunity to analyse the work of this obscure but still fascinating group. This article is based on conversations with founder member Till Bruggemann, initiated in March 2005.

GL emerged in Bremen in 1981 and its members were from the generation slightly too young to have been involved in, but creatively captured by, the first wave of Punk and industrial. Beginning as a punk/noise group it soon switched to using industrial-electronic textures and equipment. The group assumed the sinisterly fascinating name Gerechtigkeits Liga – certainly one factor in the aura surrounding the group. This was a ready-made name, taken from the American comic Justice League and translated into German. Like many key industrial groups, the choice of name instantly generated a sinister and ambivalent aura.

GL grew up in what was Bruggemann says was already a post-industrial society, but industry was an important presence. Like so many (post)-industrial producers, Bruggemann was interested in industrial buildings, but could never imagine doing factory work. He was fascinated by the impact such monotonous work must have had on people’s lives and the fact of being born into it and having no other options. GL were fascinated by post-industrial landscapes, and would always visit the ‘outer areas’ of towns they visited. Bruggemann was particularly inspired by London’s docklands in the 1980s. He recalls it being possible to imagine the most fantastic post-apocalyptic scenarios. It was possible to drive for 20-30 minutes across Docklands: an area that looked “as if a revolution or hell knows what” had taken place. In 1986, Bruggemann together with members of Laibach and Test Dept. were extras in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, partly filmed in the ready-made war-zones of Docklands.

GL also assimilated some of what could be called the “canonical” cultural sources particularly associated with first and second wave industrial. These included Dada and the work of John Heartfield (later also used by Laibach and Front Line Assembly amongst others). The montage Der Henker und Die Gerechtigkeit (The Hangman and Justice) was a source of particular inspiration and GL used it on the cover of a promo VHS in the early 1980s. Concerns over copyright issues and meant GL never used it more publicly but it remains clandestinely associated with their work. The combination of GL’s name and the disturbing Heartfield image of mutilated justice produce rich associations and contradict any right-wing interpretations of GL’s ironic and ambivalent name. In a way similar to other industrial groups, GL were using this type of image to hint at the group’s agenda without being explicit, even at the risk of misinterpretation. Since Heartfield’s imagery in itself now seems liable to misinterpretation by those unaware of its context, the chances of (ironic) misinterpretation remain high, even before the imagery is appropriated for counter-cultural use.

From an early stage, GL’s actions and images have been misperceived as rightist, but its art doesn’t seem marked by an unmediated will to power so much as an urgent, existential will to communicate some of the most disturbing aspects of present day life.

Heartfield and Dada style collage and montage techniques were an inherent part of the GL aesthetic, particularly in the designs of some of their now sought-after cassette releases but also in their early home-recorded sound collage work, which was closer to a sonic application of artistic techniques than to the sample culture that shaped industrial later in the decade. At this stage GL worked mainly with tapes and transferred sounds between numerous recorders, a method Bruggemann describes as having been quite an effective. They also had a primitive emulator and other devices built for them by a friend.

Unlike some of the other industrial groups, the young GL were then unaware of electro-acoustic or musique concrete, despite the similarity in techniques, if not resources. One definite influence was Einst├╝rzende Neubauten’s junk aesthetic, and GL went on sound-hunting sorties in Bremen and elsewhere; recording pure noises and raw material from whatever industrial debris they encountered. However, GL did not share Neubauten’s fascination with the objects themselves, but were interested in their sonic potentials. They would treat, accelerate and slow down the gathered sounds into more abstract yet still oppressive and confrontational sounds. The new group soon relegated the guitar to its proper role as an extra source of distortion with layers of tape loops. GL acquired a drum machine and the archetypal industrial synthesisers – first a korg ms10 then an ms20.

Equipped with this new sound arsenal GL moved into one of several former air raid bunkers that the city of Bremen made available to musicians and groups as rehearsal spaces. GL were one of the first groups to receive a double room in one of these bunkers. They removed the wall down between the rooms and created what Bruggemann describes as an ideal location for GL’s kind of music with a great acoustic. GL already had an interest in Germany’s suppressed past and so to operate in such a historically and literally resonant space certainly had an effect on its work. Here their first cassette releases were recorded straight to tape with amplification from standard bass and guitar amps. GL cassette releases had distinctive self-produced booklets and graphics, remembered by those on the scene at the time and still collected. They were issued between 1981-1986 under two different label names. The first label was GL’s Lausch label; almost all of these releases were limited editions of 20-50 copies which sold fairly fast. The second was GL’s Zyklus Records, which distributed tapes and also videos in larger numbers.
Although the primitive quality of cassette releases by GL and other groups was primarily the result of limited resources, this very roughness was almost integral to the industrial tape aesthetic. However, despite the similarities and some influences, the group were still working in isolation and only joined the emerging industrial scene when GL became a more professional project around mid 1983.

Around this time original member Frank Stroepken left and was replaced by Thomas Furch. The group continued working in the bunker but did see the need to go into a studio and make their first professional recordings. Through a personal contact they gained access to a four track studio at a cheap rate. However, GL had no studio experience and the engineer (who later worked with Neubauten in Berlin) was unfamiliar with the industrial aesthetic, being used to working with Punk and indie groups. Despite this he liked the GL sound and became their live mixer for a while. As in so many other cases, technical limitations and accidents have helped cement industrial’s aesthetic of D.I.Y. monumentalism. Flaws obvious to their creators were taken by new industrial listeners to be stylistic templates and inspirations, and the genre as a whole has been shaped by successor groups taking the inherent “wrongness” of early industrial recordings as a staring point to be developed and perfected rather than overcome.


[1] One of the central tenets of contemporary sonic correctness is that industrial was at best a regrettable necessity that shouldn’t be mentioned too much in polite society, and when it is, only certain groups are allowed into the charmed circle. Even some of industrial’s original advocates now seem embarrassed or afraid to attach themselves too closely to it, and now sometimes even teeter on the edge of self-denunciation. This is partly due to the degeneration of some types of industrial into one-dimensional provocation and unreflective rightist agitation, but also motivated by a fear of being associated with “unhealthy elements”. Distrust or wholesale dismissal of industrial is almost demanded by some of the same people who argue that all styles are equally valid. Yet, try to turn the tables and express a similar disdain for jazz or other favoured genres and the mask of liberal tolerance soon slips and it’s possible to watch a supposedly “liberal” person degenerate into hysterics or inarticulate abuse. In this sense, (selective) openness to industrial remains a harsh but necessary test of tolerance.

{CONTINUE HERE- http://icrn.blogspot.com/2007/04/icrn-paper-4-alexei-monroe.html ~}


Gerechtigkeits Liga - interview with Alexander Nym - on ICRN on blogspot.
http://icrn.blogspot.com/2007/06/gerechtigkeits-liga-interview-with.html

Gerechtigkeits Liga on lastfm
http://www.last.fm/music/Gerechtigkeits+Liga

Gerechtigkeits Liga on discogs
http://www.discogs.com/artist/Gerechtigkeits+Liga

Gerechtigkeit Liga myspace page
http://www.myspace.com/gerechtigkeitsliga

Gerechtigkeits Liga on Vynil-on-demand
http://www.vinyl-on-demand.com/Gerechtigkeits_Liga-1-285.htm

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