If three young men unencumbered from previous musical knowledge try to play unconventional music, stunning and disturbing results are to expect in most cases; ingenuity and redundancy; inspiration and boredom. For the project ‘Abortive Gasp’ by Tim Paal (vocals and E-guitar), Harry Luehr (sequencer) and Stefan Trienes (sampler, vocals and E-guitar) from Hamburg and neighborhood this awareness applies exceptionally: They confront their audience during the just two years of their cooperation since 1988 with heavy – indeed, pleasantly danceable – electronic industrial experiments as well as with apparently clumsy persiflages on musically briefly as well as long-lasting trends, like ‘Front242′ or ‘Skinny Puppy’. Often the irony is clearly perceptible in their music to question itself at the next moment, however, again. Just very little seems to be long-living for the Aborties, which I visit in autumn on two weekends apart for an interview. The band members can apparently decide neither if they actually want to be a part of the identity-establishing Dark Wave movement, nor whether they are the right partners together for a respectable musical cooperation. With appearance of this interview in the first issue for 1990 the formation has resolved – by agreement, like they say. A reunion seems uncertain.
A few weeks ago, on the 19th of December 1989, Abortive Gasp gave their final concert in the Altona ‘Kir’ as a support act for the substantially more art-oriented Slovenes of ‘Borghesia’. The three boys from Hamburg ecstatically herald the almost immediately following new decade in a apparently last tour-de-force. Hence, it seems reasonable to take a concluding look on industrial and wave music of the eighties:
At the beginning of the decade new fresh bands under the etiquettes ‘New Wave’ and ‘Post-Punk’ continue the work of electronic pioneers of the seventies, like ‘Kraftwerk’, ‘Neu’ or also ‘Japan’. On this occasion acts like ‘Visage’, ‘A flock of Seagulls’, ‘Depeche Mode ‘and’ Gary Numan’ set the tone. By the middle of the eighties the available space for all bands of this direction rapidly became too small and the electronically oriented Wave and post-punk scene differentiates itself.
In the first wave Cabaret Voltaire, Portion Control and Nitzer Ebb from Great Britain are of any relevance. On the continent also follow Front242 and Clan of Xymox from Benelux quite early. From overseas Skinny Puppy, psyche and SPK become a talking point – and from Germany at this time, actually, ‘only’ DAF and Boytronic.
Then in the final wave of the second half of the decade we hear Cassandra Complex, Alien Sex Fiend and ClickClick from the British Isles; A Split Second, Klinik and à;GRUMH… from Benelux; from America Revolting Cocks, Frontline Assembly and Ministry and from Germany – if any, then – Invincible Spirit and Fair Sex.
From the middle of the eighties Hamburg with Ledernacken, KMFDM and Girls under Glass can show the internationally relevant dark Electro-Acts from the federal republic. However, the year 89 belongs apparently only to ‘Abortive Gasp’ there – the other Hamburg groups maybe take a rest, are electrified or made sick by the Fall of the Wall or at least busily packing their bags with destination ‘America‘: The splendid Hanseatic house at the Elbe is empty and unguarded. Paal, Luehr and Trienes use the opportunity to bang (‘BUllfrog’) their music directly to the living room beyond the boundaries of good taste and they leave a strong smell (‘Raw Scent’).
Besides, the Aborties allow themselves an unusual mascot: As a matter of form they engage the professional manager Ludwig ‘Ludo’ Kamberlein, however, not to obtain advice or even to get help from him. As a contrast to the dominant as well as scheming legendary manager of the ‘Sex Pistols’, Malcolm McLaren, the musicians from Hamburg keep ‘their’ Ludo as a whipping boy on which they abreact regularly by hitting his recommendations in the wind at best and more often still totally foiling them. Northern German musical action art, so to say. One can hardly imagine that the apparently slightly masochistically Kamberlein suffers this treatment still very long and remains active as a manager furthermore. On the other hand: Maybe he counts, nevertheless, still on a breakthrough of three young noise fetishists with the ‘Major-Labels’ ? However, this does´nt seem to be the case yet, really.
The naming of the band leaves no doubt about the affiliation to the provocative riot group of the Independent Wave scene of the late eighties: The fact that ‘Abortive Gasp’ musically as well as conceptually rather search the closeness to formations like ‘Klinik’ or ‘à; GRUMH…’ instead of ‘Depeche Mode’ or ‘Camouflage’, hardly surprises. Although their name seems to suggest it, Abortive Gasp on no account are a conservatively straightened band. If there´s actually anything provocative in their image, then it´s the high degree of their apoliticalness. Name finder Stefan Trienes: “Our combo is called so abnormal that there is nothing else we can do but to entrench together behind this headline”. Thus they combinedly stand to the disgusted reactions of parts of the music industry or also to parts of the not always voluntary audience. This should weld together, actually. It seems to evoke this effect to the Aborties almost, which is why the naming never stood really to the debate – in the pleasing contrast to other questions of style with which the group members had to fight together and still do so. Trienes: “If really our name is guilty for the fact that we get no contract with a major’s label, this exposes the inadequacy of the employees of the record companies.” It sounds a little defiant how the 19-year-old says this. As the political conscience of the band, from the three members he seems to suffer most from the fact that Abortive Gasp have a penchant for anti-professionalism, cultural fatalism and fun-oriented easiness. And thus they don´t fit in the context of the social-critical wave bands of our days and have to expect, hence, probably to a long niche existence in the ‘Temple of Darkwave’. This hits Trienes, who is equipped by the three mates certainly with the biggest social competence and might be used to manage teachers, employers and media people well, presumably especially hard.
The integration of Abortive Gasp in Hamburgs or North Germans independent scene isn´t really given. This may be due to the fact of the ostentatiously apolitical attitude of Paal and Luehr which will not be well received in left german media and artist circles like Alfred Hilsbergs of course. On the other hand the Aborties knocked themselves out over and over again with the defiant dilettantism cultivated by them – thus also with the public relations, for – if any – still Harry Luehr is mostly responsibly. Put into practice it primarily means the following: The 19 year-old not very ambitious grammar school pupil spends a lot of spare time in hanging in and around the record-shop ‘Unterm Durchschnitt’ which is pursued together with several smallest music labels by Uli Rehberg – the unofficial godfather of the North German indies and punks. Luehr:”For me only these absolutely authentic vinyl junk shop of Rehberg was thinkable as a distributor for our releases”. An attitude which is unwaveringly ignored by Rehberg. And this isn´t something Luehr can do anything about in spite of doing support- and sympathy-purchases at the questionable shop. “This costs quite a lot of money. And it´s far from satisfactory, because most records here don´t funk especially well and are only partially danceable.” Nobody knows, how long Luehr has to invest his scanty pocket money still in ‘Swans’- or ‘Foetus’-albums, before Uli ‘Do-You-Only-Want-To-Watch-Or-Buy-Something-Too?’ Rehberg answers his and those of his both colleagues prayers for a record contract with one of his independent labels. Until then, the distribution of the Abortive Gasp releases at ‘Harsh Reality Music’ (Tennessee; USA) and ‘Alternate media Tapes’ (Birmingham; GB), at least, seems assured.
The most unpredictable of the three Aborties is undoubtedly Tim Paal who took over the combo´s microphone rather reluctantly first. Because the singing – contrary to the artwork – isn´t tied together with his creative self-realisation too much, he live and at the sound recordings drops all inhibitions and offers an unsettled mix of failed aria, primal scream attempts and heavy metal bellow regularly. Here Abortive Gasp own a unique selling feature and the always calmly Paal seems to to be more and more relaxed with the position of the front man forced to him – even if he leaves regularly no doubt about the fact that his special interest is even more for the visual than the auditive arts: “Hot rhythms by ‘own brand’ of course are an excellently thing but only a successful ‘Nitzer Ebb’-plastic lets one fall asleep contently in the evening after the work is done.” It seems doubtful whether a waver with such an attitude is still preserved long for the independent scene – an enticement by the Hamburg cultural factory of ‘Kampnagel’ must be feared.
Presently, at least, the attractive long-term gurner seems to feel fine as a stage monster for Abortive Gasp in the Kir or in the Stairways still completely. And this, although groupies apparently are no option for the 20 year-old, differently than for the colleague Trienes, to gain his inspiration or just to sweeten his day. What may be also possibly due to the fact that beyond recognition made up dark wave girls are not going to appeal to everyone or Paal in this regard simply is a classical late bloomer, which could help to explain his often painful roar on the stage. Not every band leader has to be, finally, automatically also a womanizer. This is valid for electro punks still much more than for pop singers.
After trained themselves on old instrumentals by Luehr for the cassette production ‘To Have The Second Crack’ the guys in late autumn ’88 go to record a 4-track-player in the sound studio for the first time. In an industrial area of Hamburg they tape the bad-boys-track ‘Bastard Outrage’, the dramatic ‘Archaeology’ as well as the first version of ‘Psychgod’, their frivolous Synthiepop reference – all with the conventional audiotechnology of the ‘Lamplight Studio’.
In the studios family business the different generations separate the view on the new and not very harmonious sounds of the Aborties: The senior boss would like to go vomit best, the junior is glad to be allowed to look after something else than folklore and German rock. Harry Luehr: “I can´t help myself: Tim’s voice sounded anything but persuasive in this hippie studio, although he has really given everything. I have constantly screwed his record level up and down which haven´t improved necessarily the result. What came out, besides, sounded like in the wrong film. I´m just glad that Tim wasn´t discouraged as a singer then.”
The three notice that the regulated linear production method of proven recording studios does´nt do justice to their style and thus they henceforth believe in improvisation and anarchic `Dub´ à la Adrian Sherwood at the sound quality´s expense. This already proves itself with the first version of ‘Media Overload’, which was later taken over together with the ‘Lamplight’-tracks on the early `89 appearing longplayer ‘Raw Scent’. During the recordings it over and over again comes to frictions between Trienes, who wants to introduce himself more conceptually, and Luehr, who often puts both colleagues before perfect facts with his on umpteen disk preprogrammed sequences – maybe too often. But the unexpectedly good results of the first sessions beyond the studio help the comrades first to overcome their differences.
The new recording and rehearsal opportunities show a piece of luck for Abortive Gasp. Thanks to Trienes a spacious lecture hall is available to the three in the `German Electron Synchroton (DESY)´. While elementary particles circle in endless roads among them, the Aborties above mix the special ‘Dark Dub’ in the XXL auditorium for their longplayers. Most recently for ‘Bullfrog’ appearing in spring on their own substitute label ‘Nothing New But Normal’ for a start, which up to now is their best known album, circulating fast through Europe and North America on cassette. Beside newer versions of their hits ‘Psychgod’ and ‘Media Overload’ also join their third great success ‘Humanity’ and the techno-persiflage ‘Hounted House’. ‘Bullfrog’ marks the musical climax of the Aborties. Then one isn´t able to to thrash out ones differences again.
As already mentioned, it doesn´t look like a cooperation in the old line up anymore, after Tim Paal and Stefan Trienes have separated from Luehr.
A final live-album will become available shortly. It´s uncertain whether the three are preserved for the music and the black scene furthermore. It will be interesting to see how music journalists one day will estimate the relevance of Abortive Gasps short guest performance in the electronic postal punk’s circus.
In my opinion, without them something in this scene would have been missed.