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Dutch Electro Pre-History

V/A Trumpett Sounds LP (Enfant Terrible Enfant 02)

Ever since compilations such as Hell’s New Deutsch and Teutonik Disaster began to appear, Germany has been scoured for lost, obscure and unreleased projects from the late 70s and early 80s. Besides the more high profile compilations, specialist labels such as Vinyl on Demand issue specialist limited vinyl releases to meet a growing appetite for the lost and rediscovered sounds of this period. While these sounds have fuelled much contemporary electropop and the general “next step of the new wave” there seems to be something else at stake here. From our current perspective there seems to be some unique quality about this time, and even people hardly born at the time seem to feel nostalgic towards it. The fact that this New Cold War period was actually very tense politically doesn’t diminish this feeling, and perhaps intensifies it. In any case, although the supply of “lost” German material shows no sign of drying up yet, other markets are now following the trend. The lure of re-discovery (which could easily be provoked by fake “classics”) is a strong one.

Trumpett Sounds documents the work of a group of largely unknown Dutch electronic producers from the period 1981-3. The first question it raises is how many other similar small labels, studios and micro-scenes were there just in Holland, let alone the rest of Europe. While some of these Dutch tracks are in German and share some similar sounds, there is also something tangibly different here, something previously lost and deeply romantic. For an audience separated by age, language or location, these tracks do seem to reconstruct the specific time and place they came from. Even if the reality was quite different, this version is certainly charming and intriguing.

We find a mix of raw NDW style analogue sequences and smoother Depeche Mode style synths, though even the smoother tracks sound a little primitive – one of the qualities present listeners are so captivated by. The brighter tracks somehow have an early spring quality to them, slightly melancholic yet optimistic, if only bleakly. This is especially true of the tracks by The Actor – the best-known of the groups here, who originally released on the Trumpett cassette label, and are now active again. Ende Shneafliet’s tracks veer between primitive, harsh details and more bittersweet sentiment. The more experimental, semi-industrial tracks are especially interesting. Thromboh’s Deutschland Rundfahrt is a stylish noir electro track, while Doxa Sinistra’s dark Conversation a la Chaine buries paranoiac American military dialogue beneath banks of raw electronics. Elsewhere there are some overt but skilful Kraftwerk references, particularly to the sounds of Radioaktivität and Trans Europa Express. While there are some less impressive tracks, the general standard is high and this is one of the most consistent of the current “archaeological” compilations. Not just a document of its time, Trumpett Sounds still sounds fresh and inspiring, and perhaps even provides some clues to the pre-history of the current Dutch electro scene. “Music from then for now.”