Review Summary: In cold sweat, in constant unrest.
A great part of the underground post-punk movement was electronic music. From its minimal implementation in new wave and its synth layers, to darkwave that could either be fully electronic or have merely heavily electronic and densely dark production, to other subgenres that utilised it to a much fuller extent, like proto-synthpop or minimal wave. And concurrently with all that, the underground music got divided into their geographical sections. Hence the Dutch noise scene, English goth and darkwave, Russian pop-rock/new wave mixture, or – as we’ll see right now – no wave and idiosyncratic pop-y minimalism from Germanic lands (so no, it’s not only Nena and”99 Luftballoons”). Grauzone entered the scene at around that time and left it pretty much imminently thereafter.
The sound here seems easy to swallow, but simultaneously feels in a constant state of unease and exhaust. It’s fractured and raw, a pure amalgam of disorientation and nervous break-down. A certain industrial creepiness lurks at every corner, a certain uncertainty and anxiety, a certain chaos cloaked in strict order. This is an album of paranoia, where the atmosphere just makes you feel like a prisoner of some inescapable foggy labyrinth, where an exit only leads to another labyrinth. And all that is only supported by the suspiciously innocent and often uplifting lyrics and themes, mostly tackling love and general youthful fun.
But don’t go away thinking that there is not a ray of light within, the album is still quite sweet at times and songs like “Ich und Du” or “Träume mit mir” are just upbeat all the way through. It’s just that a lot of the times it happens that the vibes are slightly diabolical in disguise. Prime example would be songs like “Kälte Kriecht” and “In der Nacht”, where the electronics intensify to a head-spinning extent, taking over the steering wheel from the more traditional instrumentation. “Kunstgewerbe and “Moskau” then present themselves as a tad more ethereal ballads, while “Marmelade und Himbeereis”, “Hinter den Bergen” and “Der Weg zu zweit” poise almost refreshingly breezy and relaxed tunes.
Upon closer inspection, this album seems like a mixed bag, but Grauzone manage to even things out with mostly dense electronic production and layers upon layers of low fidelity execution. Therefore, when it comes to individual songs, they might even have an encouragingly optimistic effect, but the album at large is most definitely, if not uncomfortably peculiar, at the very least overwrought and noir experience.
On a side note, it really makes you think of how the world changed, aye" A band could exist for two years only (in this case, 1980-1982) and record nearly an hour-long genre-defining material and more that didn’t make the cut, have an international hit song in “Eisbär”, get a cult status, and dissolve shortly after. Nowadays it takes a band two years to first learn each other’s names.