CD+DVD, Synthetic Symphony, 2006
The trend for retro electropop sounds has continued unabated for some time now since the close of the 1990s, and given the state of more supposedly modern and progressive styles of electro and techno, I see this as no bad thing at all. One band apparently foresaw this development several years earlier, or rather just stayed true to their roots in the face of contemporary trends of the early 90s, and have been producing quality synthpop in the original early 80s style for nearly 15 years. Unsurprisingly, but really unjustifiably, commercial success has always eluded Welle:Erdball, who continue to work hard and refine their trademark sound, their cult following growing steadily over the years.
With their pristine fusion of the concise elegance of Kraftwerk and the youthful energy of the Neue Deutsche Welle, their smart suits and love of old technology, Welle:Erdball are a thoroughly charming and loveable group. Their recorded output changes little from one album to the next, therefore if you have enjoyed one you should have no fear about enjoying the next. “Chaos Total” is an excellent album full of exciting and moving synthpop anthems produced in the true Welle:Erdball style; that is all you need to know, end of review!
Of course if all Welle:Erdball albums were the same they would not be such a great band and always there are some pleasant surprises and subtle new flavours. After just a short snippet of the usual eponymous opener, the album track kicks off proceedings with a slightly harder sound than usual, possibly a concession to the EBM scene, and a thoroughly stirring melody and tales of chaos and seeing God! Then “Das Souvenir” provides quite a shock with its cheery electro rock ‘n’ roll sounds, almost like a German version of the Beach Boys, and a fitting soundtrack to the cover artwork of Honey, A.L.F and the girls enjoying a caravanning holiday by a scenic lake! But then the pleasure is disrupted by the aggressive “Das Alpha Tier,” one of many tracks sure to get fans of a darker persuasion moving on the dancefloor.
Every track here is close to wonderful and there are far too many to mention. A rare break from German lyrics can be experienced in the Serge Gainsbourg cover, “Poupée de Cire,” sung by the girls with a delightful 60s feel, and followed skilfully by the romantic originals “Nur Tote Frauen Sind Schön” and “Der Telegraph.” “Kneif Mich!” is an urgent, masochistic computer game soundtrack, contrasting effectively with the rousing call to arms of next song, “Hoch Die Fahnen,” a great moment for flag waving and marching! Really the strength here is that the emotional songs seem to have been improved somehow, turned up just a notch, and surely there will be some tears in eyes and longing in hearts for beautiful pieces like “Grüsse von der Orion,” “Alles Lüge” and melancholic closer “Schalte Mich Aus!”
If you’re a retro synthpop fan and you need any more convincing to buy this outstanding album then seek out the deluxe version, which features an amazing moving fractal picture, a window sticker and a DVD packed full of exciting treats for your eyes and ears! In addition to live renditions of classic tracks from various festival appearances and photo albums spanning Welle:Erdball’s illustrious career, there is the quirky “Out Of Body Experience” drama, where Honey freaks out in a travel agent, and a musical tribute to the old Commodore C=64 game, “Wizard of Wor.” The centrepiece is the 35-minute documentary, “Die Funkschau,” tracing the band’s history from their formation in 1993, which is enjoyable even if you can’t understand German. So in conclusion, “Chaos Total” is the synthpop album of 2006, quite possibly something resembling true genius.
— Nathan Clemence