Abwärts : Amok Koma

When you say post-punk, you think of bands like Wire, The Cure, Mission of Burma, Joy Division, Magazine, Pere Ubu, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Fall. These were the artists that defined the genre and created the post-punk archetype. Abwärts may not be a household name, but Neat Neat Neat Records are trying to change that. At least, if your household includes anyone down with early post-punk pioneers.

You see, Abwärts was there at the beginning. Hidden from view in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, but making a noise as equally sharp, smart, and politically charged as those names you recognize. Started by Mark Chung and FM Einheit, the band began in 1979 and dropped the single “Computerstaat”. This led to the band hitting the studio to record their seminal debut Amok Koma. As far as post-punk goes, this record is as essential as they come. Built around jagged riffs, full-throttle rhythms, and a sense of art rock abandon mined from the German music movement a decade prior that gave us bands like Faust, Kraftwerk, and Popol Vuh.

Amok Koma was followed up by Der Westen ist Einsam(The West Is Lonely) in 1982. Not long after that Mark Chung and FM Einheit left the band to play full-time in Einstürzende Neubauten, a band they would be in until the mid-90s. Abwärts broke up for a brief time, but then reconvened with a new line-up and continues to record and play to this day, with the most recent album being 2018s Smart Bomb.

Though the band continued(and continues), Amok Koma is still a little known debut. It was never released in the US, so it remained this long lost post-punk delight for American ears. In fact, it never got a release out of Deutschland. Unless you were digging in import sections and knew what you were looking for Abwärts’ Amok Koma would remain hidden in the shadow of the Berlin Wall for years.

Which brings us back to Neat Neat Neat Records.

Thanks to the folks at Neat Neat Neat Records in Fort Wayne, Indiana the post-punk classic Amok Koma will be hitting American shores after all. According to NNN Records,  “250 copies will be available on clear smoke vinyl, while 750 copies will be available on black vinyl, with all new cover art by Guided By Voices mastermind, Robert Pollard. Neat Neat Neat Records will also be including a faithful reproduction of the original 16 page booklet that came with the original German pressing, along with an additional page that will have translated lyrics and a letter from Frank Zeigert talking about the history of the record and the reissue.”

Neat Neat Neat Records’ Morrison and Danielle, with longtime Abwärts band member Frank Zeigert have put something quite special together. And Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard reimagined new album art. How cool is that?

So how does the album sound?

Amok Koma is unbridled energy and unrelenting. “Maschinenland” is driving and manic like a caffeinated drive thru Deutschland. There’s the spirit of punk rock, but without its chains of conformity and utilitarianism. “Karo ¼ 08/15 Hoch2” is in and out in less that a minute. Short and sweet. “Monday on My Mind” brings to mind Wire, with a perfect mix of sweet and sinister. “Unfall” rides the rails of a manic urgency, with a Gang of Four punk rock pulse. “Mehr” mixes the perfect Abwärts cocktail, perfecting that mix of visceral delights and art rock freedom.

Amok Koma is essential listening. It captures the spirit of German music experimentation of the late 60s and early 70s, but no flights of analog synth fancy here, though. Abwärts replaces electronic drones with buzzing electric guitar and a frenetic, hyper pace. A perfect point of art, rock and roll, politics and grand creative gestures coalescing into something quite special.

Street date for Amok Koma is 8/23/19, and if you’re in the vicinity of 1836 S Calhoun St in Fort Wayne, IN this Friday around 7pm you should drop in to NNN Records for the Amok Koma listening party. Snag a record, listen to locals Wickerwolves, and then listen to this album in its entirety. Preorder Amok Koma here

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