This is cosmic music from the “other side” – literally. It’s electronic music from East Germany aka the GDR. Reinhard Lakomy (who died in March 2013) was already a very famous musician when he decided to record electronic music on synthesizers that is heavily influenced by Tangerine Dream (he was friends with and bought a synthesizer from Edgar Froese) and Klaus Schulze. These three records were released during the early 1980’s (1982, 1983, 1985) on the AMIGA label and produced by the only pressing plant in GDR (VEB Deutsche Schallplatten Berlin; VEB for “volkseigener Betrieb”, labeled according to the socialist ideology and meaning that every factory and all manufacturing plants are “owned by the people”).
Besides releasing music by homegrown artists AMIGA licensed a lot of music from the “Klassenfeind”: the “capitalist western world”. For example – I bet Lakomy was involved in this – the first two West-German electronic music records on AMIGA were Tangerine Dream’s “Quichotte” (1981, recorded live at “Palast der Repubik” in East-Berlin!) and Klaus Schulze’s “Elektronik-Impressionen” (1982, the GDR-version of “Dig it”, originally released in 1980 on Brain). So, there is a strong connection between the Berlin School and Reinhard Lakomy who lived in East-Berlin.
Starting in the 1960’s as a jazz-musician Lakomy became widely known during the 1970’s by singing Schlager-/Pop-Songs like “Heute bin ich allein” before quitting that kind of music by the end of the 1970’s and focusing on music and audio plays for children (if you grew up during the 1980’s in the GDR you are most likely familiar with Lakomy’s audio play “Traumzauberbaum”).
Having that said, it is no surprise that Lakomy’s electronic debut is entitled “Das geheime Leben” (“The secret life” ) – and the electronic music he recorded during the 1980’s and besides his work for children seemed to be Lakomy’s (secret) passion. A passion so “weird” and “strange” (or maybe “suspicious”?) that the heads at AMIGA assumed it might be a good idea to explain Lakomy’s artistic move to the people who knew “Lacky” for his music from the 1960’s and 1970’s: The hilarious sleeve-notes on the back of “Das geheime Leben” explain and even excuse Lakomy’s interest in electronic music – and (no surprise) the (only?) music magazine in the GDR “Melodie & Rhythmus” disliked it.
But people knew better and the record sold about 100,000 copies and of course the majority of the people in the GDR that had an interest in popular music were already familiar with a lot of music that wasn’t available officially. It was a common thing among music enthusiasts in the GDR to secretly listen to and record music broadcasted by West-German radio stations, to watch West-German TV-Programs or even trade records with people from the western part of Germany (many had relatives living there or other contacts).
So much for history – let’s talk about the music. The first side of “Das geheime Leben” features the sidelong title-track and there is a strong Tangerine Dream vibe to it: a spheric yet dynamic symphony. And I think there’s a good chance that Reinhard Lakomy was familiar with Jean-Michel Jarre’s “Oxygene” by the time he recorded “Das geheime Leben”. The b-side continues with “Es wächst das Gras nicht über alles” a rhythmic 10-minute track with a dreamy coda and two shorter pieces follow before the records over after about 40 minutes.
“Der Traum von Asgard” starts with some otherworldly soundscapes before morphing into a futuristic somewhat nervous composition with an airy fade-out. After that it’s “Die Gotischen Narren”, a nice, cautiously built and slowly evolving track that closes side a. Flipping the record over to side b you get three tracks that can be described as Klaus Schulze with some kind of dancefloor-vibe from time to time. (I bet nowadays electronic contemporaries like Christelle Gualdi aka Stellar Om Source dig Lakomy’s attitude towards a more beat-driven electronic music.)
“Zeiten”, a record executed together with fellow composer Rainer Oleak, is the last of the three recordings released in the early to mid 1980’s. It is themed around various ideas or concepts of “times” (“Zeiten”) and a bit more academic, so to speak. “Gleichzeit”, the opening track for example, is in comparison to the recordings on “Das geheime Leben” and “Traum von Asgard” more sparse and stern. It comes across like a bizarre mix of Berlin School and early experimental electronic music from Xenakis, or – maybe this comparison more appropriate – the music is not unlike some of the scores that Eduard Artemiev recorded for Andrej Tarkowskij’s movies.
So, if you ever wondered if there was electronic music made back in the GDR then start with these three recordings by Reinhard Lakomy. The music isn’t only interesting for obscurity – it fits next to your Klaus Schulze and Edgar Froese and is a necessary addition to any Krautrock-friendly household.
review by Holger Adam