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Music From The Outer Fringes David Elliot's seminal early 80's underground Krautrock publication Neumusik is collected together in a new book

Music From The Outer Fringes

David Elliot's seminal early 80's underground Krautrock publication Neumusik is collected together in a new book

by Alan Rider, Contributing Editor
first published: June, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

"In those days bands would print their home addresses and phone numbers on album sleeves, so two scrawny English students writing a small Krautrock fanzine could simply rock up in Berlin, phone their heroes, and be invited round to their homes."

coverNeumusik: The Complete Edition
by David Elliot
(Korm Plastics)

Mention Krautrock and most people will probably think of Kraftwerk, and maybe Tangerine Dream. Go beyond that and it immediately starts to get more obscure, with mysterious names like Can, Faust, Amon Düül, Ash Ra Tempel, Cluster, Popol Vu, Neu! and others that are not that well known even now. In the internet age it is easy to find out about these things, but if you hop into your time machine and set the dials for 1979, you would find it vanishingly hard to discover releases by any of these artists in any UK record store, or even find out where to order them from, so exotic and underground were they. There were, however, a small number of dedicated enthusiasts in the UK who were determined to do just that. Step forward David Elliot, who had just started a degree course at Sussex University and took advantage of the now unheard of luxury of a full grant (something which happened in those far off days) and a light academic workload to team up with fellow Sussex Uni student and Krautrock enthusiast, Andew Cox, to produce a small fanzine called Neumusik to cover that scene, along with emerging French and UK underground artists. The six issues that appeared have now been reprinted in book form by Dutch publisher, Korm Plastics.

The first issue was produced on a clapped out manual typewriter (in fanzine world, typewriters are always described as ‘clapped out’!) and copied on the university library photocopier where Elliot would stand for hours feeding 50p pieces into the machine to run off 200 copies of the 26 page A5 sized fanzine, whilst a long queue of more diligent students built up behind him. That debut issue was simple to look at, with no design to speak of, just closely typed text, and was comprised mainly of album reviews along with a rather dull review of a Wasp Synthesiser and a technical article on making rhythms using a calculator and a radio. It was an odd mix, but it was a start.

The second issue was a big step up, in both size and scope. At 60 pages, alongside expanded record reviews and another synthesizer review there was space to include interviews from a trip to Berlin where they managed to talk to many of the scene’s main players such as Edgar Frose, Conrad Schnitzler, and Michael Hoenig. It’s a cliché to say that reading these things offer a window into a different world, but it really does. In those days bands would print their home addresses and phone numbers on album sleeves, so two scrawny English students writing a small Krautrock fanzine could simply rock up in Berlin, phone their heroes, and be invited round to their homes and studios to spend the day there, with no gatekeeper PRs or managers to stop them. The conversations captured resulted in surprising revelations such as one that Conrad Schnitzler, who had recently left Tangerine Dream, worked as a porter in a small block of flats and didn’t even own a record player, so got all of his music from the radio.

By the third issue Neumusik had expanded to 78 pages, covering the French scene as well as the UK cassette scene and even Israel and East Germany. Standout article is the one on the truly bizarre French act Urban Sax, comprising 30 overall clad Saxophone players, coupled with 40 FM transmitters, and an 11 piece choir. I saw them perform once at County Hall in London where the Saxophonists were suspended from cranes and surrounded by fire trucks spraying foam over the audience!

coverFurther issues continued in this vein, covering music not only from Berlin and Paris, but extending out to Greece (Vangelis), Japan, and the UK industrial scene (Throbbing Gristle, Nurse With Wound, and so on) and other locations. Now professionally printed, though still produced using a typewriter and Letraset, circulation was up to 500 with sales outlets in US, Canada, France, and Norway. Each issue was a treasure trove of reviews and contacts spanning the globe, including other magazines and fanzines to check out, and details of mail order outlets and distributors. They were also issuing their own music, and that of others, through their cassette label, YHR. By the time of what was to be the final, sixth, issue in April 1982, Elliot was theoretically studying for his final year at Uni on an enrolment at Strasbourg University, though in reality he spent most of that year travelling across the continent visiting bands, taking in concerts, recording and releasing tapes, and producing Neumusik. That level of freedom to do not very much studying, but instead spend your grant money and time indulging your musical passions, writing a fanzine, and releasing cassettes, is very definitely a thing of the past. Today’s parentally brow beaten, career focused, cash strapped, and indebted students have no such opportunities. That surprising ‘80s laissez-faire attitude from authority, which extended to the unemployed, is a major contributor to the innovation and musical invention that decade produced, and a powerful argument today for state support for the arts. As for Neumusic, the planned seventh issue never materialised, as Elliot had now completed his studies, moved to London, taken up freelance writing for Sounds music paper and started a career in the real world.

In the two-and-a-bit short years of its existence, Neumusik achieved a lot in its own small corner of the music universe. Reading these now unlocks a romantically experimental world where people were creating sounds that were genuinely new, and major labels were prepared to take a chance on some pretty far out acts. That a few students and like-minded individuals could set off on expeditions across countries and even into Communist East Germany to discover this music in a pre-internet age with nothing more than a phone number or an address to guide them is inspiring, and must seem unimaginable to many now. Thanks to innovative publishers like Korm Plastics, these historical documents (for that is what they now are) have been preserved and made available. Whilst this won’t be for everyone, for anyone interested in the outer fringes of music from that time, this book is gold dust and is recommended by me at least.

Essential information
‘Neumusik – The Complete Edition’ is available from the Korm Plastics shop here

Alan Rider
Contributing Editor

Alan Rider is a Norfolk based writer and electronic musician from Coventry, who splits his time between excavating his own musical past and feeding his growing band of hedgehogs, usually ending up combining the two. Alan also performs in Dark Electronic act Senestra and manages the indie label Adventures in Reality.

about Alan Rider »»



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