Once again the German label ERSTE THEKE TONTRAEGER has succeeded in pressing yet another killer album by a fairly obscure band signed to SUPER SECRET RECORDS [Austin, Texas]. Following a string of insane releases focussing on wild and gritty (garage) punk, the Mannheim label now presents NEW BERLIN – BASIC FUNCTION.
Hailing from Austin [TX, USA] NEW BERLIN saw first light as a recording experiment by Michael Flanagan (guitar) accompanied by several rotating cast musicians. Live performances at the time were one-man shows built around drum machines and looping effects. After a series of line-up changes NEW BERLIN settled as a three-piece consisting of Michael Flanagan (guitar), Gustavo Martinez (bass) and Andrew Richardson (drums).
Their debut album BASIC FUNCTION is a somewhat strange album. The A side consists purely of solo recording experiments in their purest form – all carefully written, taped and mastered in what’s expected to be a living room filled with a bunch of early post-punk records like Wire’s Pink Flag, a complete collection of the Killed by Death compilations and a fridge full of beer. The opening track FAN BOY drops like the first bomb during wartime – paralyzing, devastating and most of all grabbing everyone’s full attention. The nearly agitated and overwrought bassline and primitive (analog) drum loops combined with a signature-style screaming and shrill guitar sound brace all for full impact delivered by the sophomore tracks “HARDCORE PUNK”, “SEED”, “INTERVIEW”, “NEW EYES” and “THE DRAWBACK”. Each one more brutal and paranoid than it’s predecessor – with each composition finished off by aggressive, monotone vocals bordering on mechanical speech. NEW BERLIN’s harsh and discordant riffs, primitive solo works, the ever-present obnoxious hollow bassline, machine-driven drums and bordering on mechanical vocals paired with a complete lack of fancy overly-elaborate chord progressions and guitar overdubs deliver a terrifyingly pleasant sound will surely provoke Ian Curtis-like frantic dancing and an overall vibe to go completely berserk. There are no favorites seeing how all tracks are absolute killer and cut-throat.
Then, last but not least, the album’s B side in which the band’s aesthetic concerning that signature sound of dystopia and dysphoria is not abandoned in the least but executed with a systematic and admirable precision by the current full band set up. Favorites “HAWAII IN MY MIND”, “BASIC FUNCTION” and “IOWA” – still fully driven by a primitive sense of paranoia and dysphoria in a society heading towards dystopia – see a somewhat more accessible sound whilst not losing any of it’s appeal and attraction. Whilst the string- and vocal section remains untouched, the use of actual drums (still carrying out mechanical rhythms with robot-like precision tho), more defined recordings and a cleaner more balanced mixdown provides NEW BERLIN takes out some of the sheer anger, agressiveness and hostilty as previously shown on BASIC FUNCTION’s A Side. On the bright side, this does provide the band with the utterly rare oppurtinity to infiltrate middle class homes and make sure that those preppy kids realize that life actually does suck and it’s not gonna change any time soon.
Overall, BASIC FUNCTION provides a style of postpunk that could very well be an obscure demo recorded by WIRE with Howard Devoto in WARSAW’s studio filled with paranoia and despair that nearly forces everyone in the room to freak out and go berserk. PLUS, for all you Dutchies, TIMOTHY F & KUTLUL have provided you with the rare opportunity to experience all of the above in REAL LIFE on the 18th of May. Where? AMSTERDAM! Where exactly?! PACIFIC PARC OFCOURSE! (Honestly, like you had any doubts about the venue).
By Timothy F
NEW BERLIN – BASIC FUNCTION
DJ TIMOTHY F
SUPER SECRET RECORDS
ERSTE THEKE TONTRAEGER