[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Oh the dirt, ah the grime. If you were lucky in the United States, a copy of this record was in your collection when it was released. Das Ich up until that point had been a very difficult commodity to obtain here, their debut was neigh impossible to order (no internet, folks) and what interviews there were could only be found in magazines like Orkus and Zillo. Not exactly an easy read for we English speakers. I’d gotten bits and pieces on compilations, there was also the odd airing of “Von Der Armut” at some of the clubs around the city but in the larger sense of general awareness: little if anything by them or about them was known.
Then I found a copy of this monster in a local shop and everything changed.
No longer did I have to keep playing worn out tapes I’d dubbed from a friend or cherry pick through various artists albums to pin them down, I had the full picture at last. In a time where Neubauten were about the only German band known to a lot of us, the very idea of someone else besides Blixa ranting in it was a foreign concept. Add to this the movement which Das Ich (along with the criminally forgotten Goethes Erben) spearheaded and you had all the setting for a massive overhaul of dark electronics emanating from continental Europe. There simply has been, and continues to be, no one like Das Ich. This release was where the mechanisms snapped into place and the disturbing lullabies of Stefan and Bruno took root in the rocky soil of people’s subconscious.
Many of the themes which the band discusses on here are the product of disturbing reflections, Das Ich remain about the only group from their home country to actively address and openly reference the Holocaust. Looking at Ackermann, you’d think you were witnessing a camp survivor twitch and contort himself like a skeletal marionette. Listening to his words, the intensity and burning clarity of purpose could have come right out of Wiesel’s terrifying tome ‘Night’. That violin stomped into an unrecognizable ruin on the train floor; this one is channeling pain and misery on an unimaginable scale when he gets behind that microphone… you can imagine how well this sort of work went over in my parent’s home. Catholics don’t like their sins spit back at them in list form, especially when they’ve taken such pains to paint their faith as a stalwart defender of the sanctity of life.
So long as it involves no personal risk on their part.
Bruno Kramm wrote this music. Let that sink in for a moment. He alternated between classical nuances and electronic basis without missing any of his cues, nothing on ‘Staub’ could ever be called monotonous. For one piece he’d drop a few stray notes in from the piano and then shred them up into a mixture of swirling menace, a waltz all the way to the end of the world. His compositions went further than merely hitting their marks, they gracefully twirled you into the abyss. For many friends of mine, ‘Staub’ became the subject of disdain; they might not have been able to make out the words entirely but the emphasis and focus behind them could not have been clearer. It’s similar to when a person takes on the command tone in their own language and you just freeze, there’s no need to translate because the emotion is obvious.
Somehow, this is what Das Ich transmuted onto disc. Their own concepts of rational thought driven right out of the picture; I listened and thought that this pair could have a few issues. However, when you’re young and you hear this sort of thing the only response you have is to turn it up, which is what I did. I’d play this around whoever I could, I taped a copy and ran all over town with it exploding into my ears. “Unschuld Erde” became a fixture for me and it’s remarkable to bear witness to the timelessness of it’s subject matter and diabolical rolling rhythms. They demanded your attention with this, introducing themselves quite eloquently. We have come to burn this house to the foundations, with or without you in it. Choose wisely.
Many years may have passed and the band themselves are now fully functional again after Ackermann’s health crisis, they’re playing shows once more and so I have to ask: has the time come for something new, gentlemen? So many have let time tarnish your legacy, I read a lot of write ups which are dismissive; I think it’s safe to say Das Ich are far from over and we fans had better be grateful for this. In 1994, no one was considering the impact which your work would have on future generations but they are starting to. In chat rooms and on forums, Bruno Kramm and Stefan Ackermann’s achievements provoke either adoration or condemnation but never marginalization.