5.56am

Lord, lord. Sounds like any other day, sounds like any old day.
(The Nomad Song, The Stroer Duo with Howard Fine)

Google returns three hits on them, none of which are relevant. A brilliant conflation of ahead of its time jazz and electronics and a unique and poetic lyrical sensibility. It’s the ‘lord, lord’ spoken in a measured tone with a hint of weariness that I’ve picked up from that lyric. The only other line I can recall is “We cut the map with Occam’s razor.” I’d quote the thing in full, except that it’s not there on the internet - oh wondrous, but fallible system - and the recording is vinyl-only, it came out on Mood Records based in Munich when I lived there ooooh how long ago? 18 years ago. Lord, lord. It sits upstairs in the cupboard where Is is sleeping, while my Leak Truespeed record deck gathers dust on top of the cupboard. Same River Twice (which seemed to be about geology and repetition), Arecibo Bag (concerning the messages the earth is releasing into deep space via radio waves and the possibility that there might be some form of life that might consume those waves like a whale consumes krill), there was a short strange track like a bad dream about stalks and being pursued.

What a first week back at work. I’m working hard, but I’m a part of the darkness - rising in darkness before 6.30, arriving at work at 7.30, leaving a little after 4 just as it gets dark - time has concertina’ed down and I’m tired by the time Amy and Gabriel are asleep and the evening’s arrived. Such an existence feels unnatural. I’ve taken on the Fine Art Guild work so I’m going to have to work through the evenings until the end of January when the deadline is. Hey ho. Oh and we’ve got to work out what we’re doing with the rest of our lives…

Later… (12.51pm)

Is is up and gone with Amy and Gabriel to Oxford. Amy has been to ballet, Gabriel is surely still wearing his Captain Scarlet cap (with roundel ‘S’ badge sellotaped to its peak) in the car at this moment. I’m working on the Fine Art Trade Guild site, implementing wireframe templates, draft navigation, etc. Except that I’m on my tea break and have just popped upstairs to the bedroom and recovered the two lps I was thinking about earlier:

  • Stroer Duo (there should be an umlaut on the ‘o’) - Fluchtweg Madagaskar (Fluchtweg meaning escape route). This was their first lp dressed in trademark Mood Records (”nur bei Zweitausendeins”) black and white cover and released in 1982. Predominantly instrumental, it kicks off with ‘Vietnam’ which is pure Kruder & Dorfmeister (complete with sample from ‘Musique Mnong Gar du Vietnam’) 15 or so years before they came into being or Coldcut 10 years early.
  • Stroer Duo mit Howard Fine - Nomaden, the second and final lp, again dressed in Mood Records’ b&w. Howard Fine was an American vocalist with an antagonistic tone and an all too rare ability to write lyrics which explored original, stimulating ideas and married them to atmospheric poetry. Waiting to be Carried Out (about the banality of modern travel); the aforementioned Arecibo Bag; Are We Really Going?; Shaman Dances; Same River Twice; Triptych and Running for My Life are what my memory conflated into one track - both nightmarish, the former is about stillness, the latter about pursuit; Nomad Song; When You Stopped Sleeping (”When you stopped sleeping in my bed, I began to sleep diagonally. I turned my head to the north; put my pillow at the north end of the bed. In the morning I found stars scattered round my ears”; A Point In Motion (”A line, a plane, a cube, a tessaract. A to the fourth power, Enlightenment. Don’t turn back, you no longer have a back to turn”); and finally Safe Distances, an ambient, moody masterpiece.

Time to get my record player sorted out.

Sounds like any other day.
Sounds like any old day,
Lord, lord.

Fold the tents and load the camels.
Sandy beach ain’t got no ocean.
We slashed the map with Occam’s razor.
Did we paste it back together wrong?

I don’t recognise this mirror.
And what new birds are these?
Sounds like any other day.
And nothing ever like it.

The map got trampled on the run.
Did we paste the pieces back together wrong?
Where’s the next interstate?
Got a six pack or some dates?
Are you our waitress?
Pain in my joints.
Looks like a dusty oasis.

This place is a new place.
Just like the old place;
looks like any other place
like any old place.

Where are you now Ernst and Hans P. Stroer? And Howard Fine? And my old friends Florian Achthaler (who introduced me to this music) and Andy Appel? I hope life is treating you well.

8 Responses to “5.56am”

  1. Howard Fine Says:

    Hi,
    This is Howard writing. Pleased to read about your interest in our work. I’m still around, and I’m listed in the Munich phone book. I’m also still working with the Ströer Brothers: we’re collaborating on another project, sort of a follow up to “Nomaden” after all these years. Keep in touch and I’ll let you know when there’s some music and verse to share with you.
    Howard

  2. 11V Says:

    Wow! What a pleasure to hear from you Howard. That album you made with the Stroer Duo remains one of my favourites. Your lyrics were brilliant mixtures of wondering, atmosphere and psychodrama. I’ve always been surprised that they weren’t - to my knowledge - picked up outside Germany. There’s lots of questions I’d like to ask, for example how you came to record Nomaden, why it was only a one-off, what you and the Stroers did before and since then. What you were listening to then that led to the recording. I don’t know whether you noticed, but I write for a few small magazines - my writing archive can be found here. It would be a pleasure to write something about those recordings and the follow-up you mention. Would you be interested? I’m London-based so don’t have access to a Munich phonebook though. Now I really must get my record player connected or at least find someone who can digitise those records for me. Since thanks for getting in touch.

  3. Fredrick Freekowtski Says:

    Hi there,

    I found “Fluchtweg Madagaskar” in a record shop in Freiburg the other day. The name Ströer sounded familiar to me - probably because I read it on some Volker Kriegel album before - so I gave it a listen… and was blown away. Great album. The choice of instruments (see inside sleeve) is interesting: TV and radio tapes, “sounds”, electronic language-teacher… This stuff is way ahead of its time. I need to find that “Nomaden” album.

    Just a hint: try www.telefonbuch.de - you’ll find the number you are looking for there.

    Thanks for the article!

    Fredrick Freekowtski

  4. 11V Says:

    Hello Fredrick, thanks a lot for the tip. I’ll give it a go and report back on any progress. I’m glad you like Fluchtweg and I agree with you 100%: it is far ahead of its time. If you can’t find Nomaden, please get in touch and I’ll see if I can help you out. I only offer this of course because I don’t think there are any new copies available. BTW, I like your site - even though I can’t understand much of it! I think you might like my friend Dan’s site: Houndworld.

  5. Fredrick Freekowtski Says:

    Thanks for the offer. I’ll try to get a copy from eBay first. There are currently 2 cheap offers for Fluchtweg but none for Nomaden. Just a matter of time I guess. If I don’t succeed: I’ll be in London in early April, so maybe that would be a chance to meet.

    BTW, I found the Ströer brothers’ websites:

    www.hpstroeer.com
    www.estroeer.com

  6. 11V Says:

    Give me a shout. Thanks for the pointers on the Ströer sites, I’ll have to brush up my rusty German. Good to see that they’ve been active all these years. I did a Google search a while back and didn’t turn up anything, which struck me as puzzling given the quality of those two albums.

  7. Fredrick Freekowtski Says:

    I finally got my copy of Nomaden last week. €10.50 incl. shipping - in excellent condition. Brilliant album! When I told my uncle about the two albums he was like “WHAT? You’re listening to Ströer Duo?!”. He says there were only a few thousand copies of both albums made (… but he has them both as well). Guess I made quite a deal :) I’ll probably digitize the albums for him, because his copies are in quite a bad condition - If you want those files, just let me know.

  8. 11V Says:

    I’m glad you like Nomaden - it is excellent isn’t it - imo very much of equal standing to, say, Laurie Anderson’s work around the time of Mister Heartbreak/United States/Big Science. Fine’s writing is highly original, I’m very much wondering what he did thereafter. Many thanks for the kind offer to supply digital copies - I’d very much like to take you up on it. If there’s anything I can send you in return please give me a shout and I’ll be happy to oblige.

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