Our Daily Bread 364: INTENTA: Experimental & Electronic Music From Switzerland 1981 – 1993

February 21, 2020

ALBUM REVIEW
Dominic Valvona




Various   ‘INTENTA: Experimental & Electronic Music From Switzerland 1981 – 1993’   (Les Disques Bongo Joe/Décalé Records)   LP/28th February 2020


Overshadowed by its neighbours, the landlocked trans-alpine polyglot nation of Switzerland has a mixed history, both politically and culturally. The neutralized haven for at least the last century, the 26 canton state has proved a fertile climate for the arts especially; a key incubator for the birth of Dadaism and in turn, from its ashes, Surrealism (dreamed up in part by the Zurich Cabaret Voltaire of such luminaries Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck and Hans Arp, to name just a few), to the role of modern conceptual stars such as Urs Fischer, Thomas Hirschhorn and Sylvie Fleury.

Musically though, I draw a bit of a blank.

Bongo Joe along with their partners on this electrified Swiss odyssey, Décalé Records, are here to help, filling in those blanks with at least one important transitional period in the country’s music history; a twelve-year window in which the synthesized ‘hedonism’ of club and burgeoning Techno scenes emerged from a more politicized radical youth-led movement.

From 1981 onwards the great and good and more obscure mavericks of Switzerland embraced the technology and production; experimenting to varying degrees of success, from louche Euro-pop to the avant-garde; Kosmische style peregrinations to lo fi futurism. Plucked from the crates by Matthias Orsett and Maxi Fischer, a mixed bag of the ‘under-appreciated’, ‘sought-after’ and plain odd are brought together under the INTENTA title.

An intergenerational compilation, old hands like the multi-tasker artist/actor/poet/ski instructor and Jacques Brel adapt Jean-Pierre Huser feature alongside a rabble of Swiss post-punk-turn-synth-pioneers such as the ex-Grauzone saxophonist Claudine Chirac. The former, Huser, high on the Gauloises nicotine of Gainsbourg wraps a seedy Yello-esque gauze-y electro production around the 1984 down and out cocaine languor in ‘Chinatown’; the latter, sees Chirac reimagine what it might sound like if Wendy Carlos had been signed to the early Mute label, composing a Baroque-futurist elegy on the 1982 ‘Etudes’ exercise: part neoclassical, part videogame.





Quality and access, from the privately pressed to bigger full-on slick productions, this collection – which is neither linear nor thematic – dots Eurovision starlets amongst the most rudimentary of early synth tinkerings. At the more polished end, Swiss pop-chanteuse Carol Rich makes the cut with the vaporous hushed air-y ‘Computered Love’; the congruous flip side to Rich’s 1984 Eurovision entry ‘Tokyo Boy’. At the more lofi level, Dressed Up Animals 1983 serialism and ritualistic sound experiment ‘Mondtanz’, morphs Faust and Cabaret Voltaire.

The influences are just as wide-ranging; smoky, sexy Grace Jones vibes and Trevor Horn on Peter Philippe Weiss’ soulfully sultry underground transport diorama ‘Subway’ – a private pressing with high production values, remastered especially for this compilation – and D-Sire’s French-esque bluesy drumpad splash crescendo ‘Wintertime’.





Other notable attractions on this selection include the opening ‘Untitled’ Krautrock traverse, attributed to the 19th century Swiss folk hero Andreas Hofer – the Tyrolean innkeeper/drover turn rebel leader in the fight against Bonaparte; captured and later executed -; the Ryuichi Sakamoto with touches of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, dance across the Alpine glacial, ‘Swiss Air’, by Bells Of Kyoto; and mechanical water-treading ‘Django’, labeled as the Unknownmix.

As varied as Juan Atkins is to the 39 Clocks or Niles Rodger’s 80s Bowie production is to The Normal, the differences in synthesizer production and style is numerous. You can hear more or less every development in electronic music, from soundscaping to city lights NYC electro funk on this eager compilation that traces a less cherished passage in the evolution of European electronica. A collection of artists that absorbed but lent a certain Swiss bent to the genre. INTENTA is well worth seeking out, if not only to own some very rare and expensive sounds.





The Monolith Cocktail is now on Ko-Fi

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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