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MONDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2005

Bunker Goes East

V/A Stalingrad Vol 1 & 2 (Bunker 3040 & 3041)


Infamous Dutch electro label Bunker has never maintained any sort of politically correct distance towards World War Two. The label logo resembles the cross used on Wehrmacht military vehicles and artwork has featured photos of Stukas and the Afrika Korps. On Bunker 3032 (The Sixth Reich Pax Amerikkkana), Unit Moebius sampled a Hitler speech made on September 1st 1939. So far so sinister. Taking these references at face value, the uninitiated might assume this to be another ‘martial’ or neofolk release, but this confusion is all part of the (very black) Bunker joke. Equally, some of the track titles (Die Truppen Marschieren) suggest militarist noise and Orgue Electronique’s track shares the name of the Laibach classic Die Liebe.

In fact, these EPs showcase the darker side of Bunker’s electro sound of West Coast Holland. Besides the subjects and imagery, Bunker’s cynical ‘Dirty Brown World’ weltanschauung shares the bleak outlook of some ‘problematic’ industrial groups – but unlike them Bunker never let world weariness preclude decadent dancefloor pleasure. Possibly tasteless, and certainly no respecter of taboos, there is no malevolence or blut und boden ideology at work in the Bunker, just a uniquely Dutch take on the world. As victims of Nazi occupation the Dutch (like the Slovenes) arguably have more right to deal with the legacy of the war (even frivolously) than German artists. In reality, Bunker and its artists are heavily associated with the squat rave scene in Den Haag – not the most natural environment for anyone dreaming of a return to a lost Völkisch Heimat or fantasising about their future role in a New Order. For a project like this to emerge from such an unapologetically decadent scene even seems like a kind of symbolic postwar revenge on dark dreams of purity.

Anyone with serious taste reservations about this project has probably already stopped reading, yet although some of these artists can produce some very frivolous (though good) material, this is a serious and appropriately bleak set of tracks. Low key, raw ‘dirty brown’ cold analogue electronix (as they say in Den Haag). The only track that directly addresses the subject sonically is Rude 66’s Die Stärke Der Vernichtende Schltäge which feeds a sampled German commentary on the battle through a vocoder and adds a heavy New Beat style acid track. One possible precedent for this was the Bassline Boys’ infinitely more tasteless New Beat classic Germany Calling. Elsewhere the tracks veer between melancholic soundtrack pieces (Orgue Electronique) and heavier semi-industrial tracks (SWM). The harsher moments certainly evoke machinegun fire and mechanised war – a type of militarised ‘power electro.’

This is dark and harsh enough for many industrial listeners, but more importantly it offers a take on World War Two that doesn't make aesthetic compromises in the name of sonic or political correctness but also avoids uncritical Third Reich fetishism. This is well worth seeking out but time is of the essence. This series is limited to 200 copies only – winter rations in the Bunker are running low!