Beate Bartel was born in West Berlin. At the end of the 1970s, when she had just left her teens, punk and new wave influences were making their mark on the Walled City and fuelling a counterculture that had been encouraged by liberal welfare rules and exemption from military service for its residents. Bowie and Eno had drawn on the local atmosphere for the former’s Berlin trilogy, but they were tourists looking on. It fell to German youth to express themselves and the conflicts they experienced: trapped between two superpowers; confronting their country’s past and its scars on the present; growing up with things to say that couldn’t be whispered. What emerged was a succession of pioneering bands, who, in the search for a German musical form that matched their conditions, created innovative sounds and styles. Bartel found herself at a cultural Ground Zero, where anything could happen and usually did.
Although most closely associated with Liaisons Dangeureuses, the band she formed with Chrislo Haas and Krishna Goineau, Bartel was a key participant in the M-projects that involved Gudrun Gut and others: Mania D, Malaria! and Matador. These were bands made up of women who formed a creative nucleus for German post-punk and electronic music. Their songs were often brutal – as Bartel noted in an interview at the time, more brutalist that the sounds being made by their male counterparts – but also capable of a lighter touch. As the tracks collected below show, the experimental impulse could lead in different directions with equal success.
10. Mania D – Live in Dusseldorf
Mania D began in 1979, when a small group of German women connected to fulfil Karin Luner’s idea for an all-female band. Luner, a drummer who had been part of the New York arts scene, first raised the idea with her friend Eva Gößling. They were quickly joined by Bartel on bass, Gudrun Gut on synthesizer and Bettina Köster on sax and vocals. The band found their sound through improvisation, and within a short time were playing as far afield as New York. The line-up shrank as Luner and Gößling planted roots in America, leaving the remaining members to form Malaria!
9. Einstürzende Neubauten – Live in Kunstkopfstereo
Another Berlin resident, one Blixa Bargeld, had the idea to form his own band, and the members of Malaria! were drawn into a nascent project called Einstürzende Neubauten. For the band’s first ever show, at Berlin’s Moon club, there were as many women on stage as men. They left soon after for other projects, but the brutalist template was set. This recording was issued in a limited edition cassette tape by Bettina Köster’s clothing shop, Eisengrau.
8. CHBB – Metal
Bartel connected with Chrislo Haas, who had left Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, to make a limited run of C-10 cassette tapes in 1981. They put out the tape under a name formed from their initials. CHBB didn’t make further releases, but did go on to form Liaisons Dangeureuses.
7. Liaisons Dangeureuses – Etre aussi ou danser
Liaisons Dangeureuses was one of the most important electronic acts, alongside the Haas-less DAF, in the early 1980s. Its only album combined proto-EBM with more experimental tracks, shot through with the vocals of Krishna Goineau. Released in 1981, it benefits from Conny Plank production and is regularly heard in DJ sets to this day.
6. Matador – Angel
Bartel and Gut reunited for another M-project, Matador, in 1987. With Manon Pepita, they organised a heavy, post-punk sound across three albums. This track is from the first album, A Touch Beyond Canned Love.
5. Thomas Whydler – Traumania
Bartel performed on Thomas Whydler’s Soulsheriff album in 2007, playing guitar and adding effects. Whydler, the drummer for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, brought Bartel back to add magic on his 2012 release, On the Mat and Off.
4. Myra Davies – Hanoi
Myra Davies, an art historian, was working in Vancouver, putting together acts for Expo ’86, when she came into contact with the Berlin alternative scene. Credited by Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy as his “art mentor” and the person who “took him off the streets,” Davies was instrumental in organising an Expo-connected show by Einstürzende Neubauten. She started releasing her own music, and her 2008 album, Cities and Girls, includes this track with music by Bartel.
3. S.Y.P.H. – Traumraum
Bartel has recently re-emerged as a remixer. She took part in a 2012 remix compilation for the German punk band, S.Y.P.H. Other recent remix projects include the Swedish duo, Fatal Casualties.
2. Matador – Pushing
A song from Matador’s third and final album, Ecoute, “Pushing” shows the band crafting material from found sources around a tense rhythm track with an effect that is paranoid and claustrophobic.
1. Liaisons Dangeureuses – Los Ninos del Parque
Liaisons Dangeureuses is best known for this immortal track, which was recorded by Conny Plank and released in the UK by Mute Records. It has been remixed by Gabi Delgado of DAF and sampled a million times by lesser acts.