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CARAMBOLAGE

Carambolage

Carambolage - 2022 Reissue

    Originally released 1980. Carambolage never set out to be a "girl band" but they were one of the first German new wave bands whose members were all female. The punk alliance comprising Britta Neander, Elfie-Esther Steitz and Angie Olbrich emerged organically from the environs of Ton Steine Scherben, friends united by a common interest in musical experimentation. With the first demo tapes in circulation, Burkhardt " Zensor" Seiler organized a gig for Carambolage in the hip Kreuzberg club SO36. At a time when anything that could be labelled "Neuen Deutschen Welle" (German New Wave) was stamped accordingly, the trio played by their own rules.

    The eponymous debut album Carambolage, produced by Rio Reiser and R.P.S. Lanrue in the summer of 1980 and released on the Scherben label David Volksmund Produktion, could not be constrained by NDW marketing concepts. Instead, the disc was defined by its "colossal, inventive sound" which fed on Elfie's curiously autodidactic "Fantasiegriffen" guitar style and her "Fresenhagen sparrow" voice, counter-balanced by Angie's organ and inimitable basslines and energized by Britta's relentless drumming. Backed by quirky organ and ragged drums, Elfie spits her lyrics with emphatic simplicity. Once her words are in your head, they stay there.

    Tracks like "Die Farbe war Mord" hint at a sense of feminist awareness. Carambolage may not have coined the phrase, but "lipstick feminism" became a thing, consciously playing with feminine clichés and hammering them home in performative fashion, rather than boxing them off. Towards the end of the record, vocals and sound are transcended in the monotone shimmer of "22 rue Chenoise". In the words of Carambolage's "City-Großmarkt" song: "So, ladies and semen, are you ready? Time to go shopping." Their sound was not the only aspect of the group which resulted from experimental tinkering. Keen to have their own space, away from a male-dominated environment, they used cardboard and carpets to build their own practice room inside an old grain silo. Strictly out of reach of the Scherben.

    It's fair to say that Carambolage helped to shape the DIY approach which the Riot Grrrls of the 1990s would emulate. Forty years later, it's still mostly men standing on festival stages, but the Carambolage story ought not be consigned to the shelves marked nostalgia. On the contrary, it is a thread which most definitely needs to be picked up. As Julie Miess, who later joined Christiane Rösinger and Britta in the Lassie Singers offshoot Britta (the band) noted so succinctly in her Carambolage text (›Damaged Goods‹, Ventil Verlag): "Role models every seven-year-old girl should have!"

    Carambolage

    Eilzutellung-Expres - 2022 Reissue

      Originally released 1982. On their sophomore album Eilzustellung-Exprès, Carambolage's ranks were bolstered by the arrival of Janett Lemmen, who had deputized for the pregnant Angie on a recent tour. Like its predecessor Carambolage (1980), the record was produced in Fresenhagen by R.P.S. Lanrue and released on the Scherben label David Volksmund Produktion. Like a whirlwind girl gang on the road, the LP revs up with dynamic guitar riffs, indulging their "turned on to the max" sexual desires, before the mood shifts to the deeper realms of life on the Eilzustellung-Exprès (express delivery): melancholy musings on dismaying love affairs, a song about contradictory feelings experienced in childbirth, culminating in a declaration of love for Angie's new daughter Lisa.

      The baby was always on board when Carambolage went on tour. The idea of her father Kai Sichtermann (Scherben bass player) taking her on tour would have been too much even for the left-leaning alternative Ton Steine Scherben. Making a mockery of male privilege, Carambolage delivered an album orbiting punk and pop in a classic line-up: Britta on drums, Elfie's snotty vocals and effects-drenched guitar and keyboards, Angie on bass. The trio is augmented by Janett's screeching saxophone on the instrumental track "Maschine" and a squeaky baby sample (Lisa?). "I Remember You" brings proceedings to a close in something approaching Schlager*

      Carambolage

      Bon Voyage - 2022 Reissue

        The Bon Voyage recordings sound far more mature than the band's earlier music, whilst losing some of the playful insouciance that ran through the first two albums. Strains of ska and chanson complement the latter-day NDW (German new wave) flavoured power pop. After four successful years of extensive touring, new perspectives presented themselves to Carambolage. Having outgrown the somewhat languid Scherben scene and label life at David Volksmund Produktion, the trio upped sticks and headed for Berlin, curious to see what the big city had to offer, namely a close-up view of the pop business. Manne Praeker, former Spliff bass player and Nina Hagen's producer, offered to produce their third record, anticipating a shot at success with a major label. Bon Voyage was recorded in 1984 in Praeker's Mad-Mix studio in Berlin with various guest musicians. Even the pop mag Bravo took note, featuring the punkish North Frisians in a home story. Alas, any aspirations of becoming stars quickly dissipated during the recording process as aesthetic differences came to the fore. In one corner, Britta and Angie were determined to follow the DIY principles of the two preceding albums. In the opposite corner, Manne Praeker and Elfie felt compelled to introduce a stronger element of professionalism and Praeker increasingly weighed into the creative process. "You might say our story practically came to an end with a collision**, just to match our name," Britta Neander recalled in an interview with Tine Plesch. We're happy to report that the girls renewed their friendship after a while. The third record is well worth a listen, a divergent coda to the band's history. Bon Voyage spent 34 years under lock and key before the FUEGO label released a digital version in the year 2019.


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