I recently discovered this really cool box-set from the German label Amiga. Amiga has been releasing popular music since at least the 1950’s and possibly prior. Before finding this nice little box I had only been familiar with Amiga for some of their Progressive-Rock, Jazz-Rock and Psyche-Rock releases.
Germany is well known for being the birthplace of Krautrock or “Kosmische Musik” [Cosmic Music] and with the success as such bands as Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Cluster and so on, Synth music became quite popular in the 1970’s. Fast-forward to the 1980’s and the technological advances offered to home studio musicians via synthesizers for home/private use & recording and you have a whole new generation of synth based musicians. Here we have five discs of synth/electronic works that each have their own unique flair and style. To some these albums may sound dull or dated compared to what can now be achieved in electronic music, But I think that gives them extra character and charm. Personally I love a dated analog sound so this is right up my alley.
The first of the five discs contains a collaborative work by two artists named Reinhard Lakomy & Rainer Oleak. The album is titled “Zeiten” or in English; “Times” and it was originally released in 1985. Reinhard Lakomy began making electronic music in 1982. Previously he operated in more traditional Pop/Rock styles. Rainer Oleak is a new name to me and I am not sure what else he’s been involved with but together with Lakomy they’ve both crafted an excellent album. Probably the spaciest album in the group.
The disc contains long extensive tracks that explore cosmic sounds with a classic Sci-Fi vibe to them. The first and second track are my favorites on this one. Otherworldly atmospheres are explored until we shift into pulsating sequencer patterns. Midway through things take a more laid back approach and we enter drifting ambient territory. The remaining two pieces are somewhere in-between the above in style and approach with the closing track standing out with it’s epic overall sound. Definitely the most “exploratory” album of the bunch.
Second in the collection is “Rückkehr Aus Ithaka” by an artist named Servi. Released in 1986.
This is a fairly diverse album with much to enjoy. I was instantly drawn into this one. This also happened to be the first album I selected from the set, Likely due to the appeal of the album art which instantly caught my eye. Everything from energetic sequencer works to atmospheric ambient is featured here. At times I am reminded of 70’s Krautrock artists, Especially on the more sequencer based pieces. The influence is pretty apparent. Many tempos and moods are explored which keeps things interesting overall. A few dull moments here and there but they never last very long.
Next we have “Sound-Synthese” by Jürgen Ecke, Released in 1986. This album is also quite diverse but doesn’t feel as completely realized as the others here. At times it just feels a little too random. This one has a poppy sound overall with many upbeat tracks. The drum portions sound especially old-school which you will either love or hate depending on your stance on 80’s synth sounds. Although this is a very fun and amusing album, There are times where the ideas don’t seem to come across as that great. The drum sounds and their timing really throw me off at times and I like off-beat rhythms so maybe it just needs to grow on me. Probably my least favorite CD in the box but sometimes those end up being my favorites later. Only time will tell. Don’t get me wrong, This isn’t completely horrible and it is quite a fun listen but in comparison the the other discs it’s just my last pick.
Second to last is a self-titled album by a duo called “Key.” Not only is this one of the best albums in the set, but it was also released in 1988, the year I was born. This album is also very upbeat and up-tempo but it really works for these guys. Really fun Synth-Pop/Electronic jams make up the album and they even threw in some excellent covers of well known synth classics. Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F” from the soundtrack to 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop and Jan Hammer’s 1985 “Crockett’s Theme” from the hit-show Miami Vice. There are a ton of great booty shaking jams here. Great rhythms with an old-school Dance/Electro vibe. You can’t help but want to move it when listening to this disc. If I ever throw a retro 80’s party this may be my go to soundtrack. Even if I’m the only one enjoying myself.
Finally we have the last CD in the box. “Digital Life” by Hans-Hasso Stamer, Released in 1989. This is another artist that I’ve never heard of. Apparently he was a windsurfer and computer programmer, Which says a lot about the way this album sounds. If I was going to make a windsurfing video in the 1980’s I’d probably use this as the soundtrack. I’d also use a lot of cheesey editing effects like screen-swipes and neat fade-outs but I happen to be a cheese ball so there’s that… Anyways, Back to the music. This one is pretty fun. Not in quite the same way that the Key album was fun but still enjoyable. At times it sounds like the score to an old computer game. Like the Ecke album this one can sound a little random and scattered but it has it’s redeeming moments like a pretty cool cover of “Bolero.” A well-known Classical masterpiece by the French composer Maurice Ravel. It sounds like a video game rendition of Ravel, But it sounds like a very well done video game rendition of Ravel so I must say that I approve and am glad that it was included on the album. Again not my favorite here but not the worst thing I’ve ever heard.
Well that about sums it up. Thanks for reading and I hope if you check this box-set out that you enjoy what you hear.
It’s a lot of fun overall and a great historical document of this era in Electronic music.