Apoptygma Berzerk - Exit Popularity Contest (HARD:DRIVE)

  Van Muylem    2 oktober 2016

I was jumping up and down when I noticed I got a mail with a link to the new Apoptygma Berzerk. The mail came from an ex member and a nice label owner, so I was assured that it wasn’t a troll. Apoptygma Berzerk is a legend for fans of underground electronic lovers. I expected something totally different and yet it’s still something for electronic lovers. Read more to understand what I mean …

The title of the album might actually already tell some part of the story: this album might be the exit for the popularity contest! You will only hear once the charming vocals of Stephan Groth, founder of Apoptygma Berzerk. I’ll quote the little note that goes along with the new album in order to make it very clear:

'"It's Apoptygma Berzerk, Jim - but not as we know it. APOP reinvents itself - again - with an exciting new sound; different from, but complimentary to, the electro rock future pop stylings of previous releases.

On Exit Popularity Contest (a fix-up of the 12" EPs Stop Feeding The Beast, Videodrome and Xenogenesis), APOP founder Stephan Groth distils the essence of carefully selected pioneers to construct a classic yet refreshingly contemporary sound. Varied and vital, it brings instrumental music back into the spotlight, and after the wildly enthusiastic audience reaction to the sold-out performance in Norway last year, it appears he has tapped into a rich seam of electronic pleasure for a new generation as well as older aficionados.

 Always a musical chameleon, Groth pays homage to his roots through emulating the analogue soundscapes of innovators like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Klaus Schulze, and the driving motorik Krautrock rhythms of Neu!, Cluster and La Duesseldorf, all filtered through his own unique Scandinavian sensibility. In doing so he has created a vibrant, colourful 21st century palette on which to blend these classic influences from the Golden Age of electronic music. 

 Exit Popularity Contest demonstrates an admirable musical purity and sincerity, channeling the best of the past to forge a path into the future.”

So far the quote. Let’s head back to the music. It starts with the retro feel of The Genesis 6 experiment v4: a mix of Kraftwerk with experimental minimal wave and typical 80’s Wave sound. Now that Kraftwerk is back on tour it’s a great moment to launch some new retro sound and this one is just fitting: mixing the old sound with new instrumental sounds and thus creating a newer retro sound! It’s all a bit floating, but I know that there are plenty lovers for this kind of tunes! Hegelian Dialectic v4 sounds a bit eclectic, mixed with some scary mechanical sounds and a female voice. For now we see through a looking, Darkly v2 feels like wandering around, travelling in time: stepping out and looking at what’s happening in the future. A more alienated sound comes from Still Nar Gruppe v4, it sounds as if aliens are communication with each other, but I don’t understand a damn thing from it. Old school SOS sounds? It sounds pretty strange, for sure! Back to Kraftwerk versus Fad Gadget (but without the Ladyshave vocals) with In A World of Locked Rooms v4. The Cosmic Chess Match v2 could be taken out of a Jean-Michel Jarre/Vangelis album. I can see the penguins moving in a funny way and an UFO flying over, all pretty weird and funny. U.T.E.O.T.W. (instrumental) v3 floats with now and then a nice tempo and interesting bits and bleeps. The Devil pays in Counterfeit Money v4 16 sounds like a remake of Das Autobahn and without the vocals. Just cruising, with now and then a little stop. Rhein Klang v3 lc 48 Hz sounds a bit like a mix of two songs: a happy one and then one that reminds me of the darkest album from The Cure (a track like The Figurehead).

The best surprise is the bonus track the extended version of U.T.E.O.T.W. v3 where I finally hear vocals: pretty cool and melancholic. It’s for me the highlight of the album, but I assume that lots of electronica lovers will disagree with me and cherish the album!

I must say that this album is a risk, as many fans may not want this kind of evolution, but hey: if you don’t dare you will never get somewhere and this is what keeps Apoptygma Berzerk fresh and strong! It’s clear that one don’t want to be part of the popularity contest and just wants to work in utterly artistic freedom and I totally respect that!