Schwabinggrad ballet - s/t [Staubgold - 2005]Staubgold only releases interesting and / or challenging albums, so Iíve come to expect nothing but quality. However it was a surprise to see that their most recent release is the fruit of the work of a group of political activists.
Schwabinggrad ballet was born five years ago at a No Border camp, an international gathering of leftists against worldwide borders. They aim to confuse, surprise, politicize and bring new life to the listener. Most of the are Germans and their activities were centered around a political and cultural club in Hamburg called the Buttclub. They come from various fields, but the music fans should be familiar with Ekkehard Ehlers, Thomas Butteweg (Cow), Bernadette La Hengst, DJ Patex and Knarf Rellom.
It is undeniable that, quite often, overtly political art is crap. The actual art is too often buried under the message, and to make things worse the message is often mediocre and alienates the few people who might have enjoyed the creation bases on its own merits. Thankfully, SB donít fall in that trap, since on their album, itís the music that does the talking.
To record this album they all spent a few weeks together just like in the good all days of community living, when the important was the collective, not the individual. In between games, food and other substances, they managed to record a good few seventeen tracks.
The quasi-punk attitude doesnít get heard really often on this album. Of course, one might think there is a The Ex link in their free improví moments that trace back to the glory days of the second half of the seventies. However, the most pregnant influences seem to be Kurt Weill and cabaret music; traditional European music; marching bands; street arts, all those things that were so integral to bohemian life over the last century, plus some free jazz and contemporary music traces, as well as a marked tendency to go all operatic on you.
Without the shadow of a doubt, itís one of the most interesting and surprising album of the year. There is fun to be found, but also thinking to be made. You can take this solely as a musical artifact, or decide to push things further into the political dimension.FranÁois Monti