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Organic Intelligence XXX: The Baader Meinhof Bum Dungeon
Luke Turner , March 15th, 2024 10:09

In this month’s antidote to the algorithm, Luke Turner heads back a decade to a riotous and fruity moment where techno got the horn, and decided to have a massive laugh

Just over a decade ago, something seemed to shift in the clubbing firmament. Given a home by long-standing London techno nights such as Plex, venues like Corsica Studios, and released on the likes of Perc Trax, Diagonal, Killekill, R&S, Downwards, and Blackest Ever Black, a new form of techno started to take on a fresh sense of vigour and vim, breaking free of the dry constraints of minimal, embracing the workshop metal and soot of 90s Birmingham techno, the sweaty boom of Berlin, the swing of Detroit. It was not a time of sonic purity – there was acid here, the returning influence of EBM, especially the outré fruitiness of Nitzer Ebb and DAF, along with the deep sonics of Throbbing Gristle and Coil, big boot industrial, even some of the glitz of electroclash. What united it all for me was the sense of fresh attitude to techno that wasn’t head-noddy, completist, crate-digging or dour, but at times ludicrously fun and fairly horny, an embracing of entertainment, greasepaint, revelling in being utterly whacked to pieces by sound. 

 Take, for example, the Regis live set from Plex at Corsica Studios on 2 November 2012 (you can hear it here, the regular set uploads from Plex are an essential document of the scene). Karl O’Connor had played with Ugandan Methods earlier in the night, starting the familiar chugging menace of the live set at some ungodly hour, before clearly getting a bit bored and shouting “alright let’s fuck that off, let’s have a fucking disco, FUCKING POGO! FUCKING POGO!” and dropping ‘Strings of Life’ (not to mark out O’Connor as the Carry On actor of the scene, this came not long after he’d interrupted a set at the same venue by playing the theme from Dad’s Army).

That attitude characterised what was going on. There was a sense that to take this astoundingly heavy music and fairly fierce BPM on face value as being austere and macho was a mistake – it was very playful, while also being performed with incredibly serious intent. It was heady, physical, steamy. As I wrote at the time, there was something about the vibe of those nights that reminded me of that Coil concept of music and the ritual accumulation of sexual energy. Despite most of the artists being male, it was noticeable that clubs started to get a lot more mixed in terms of gender. And again, while few of those involved were explicitly queer, there was a fluidity to the energy of the music that certainly was, no doubt due to the influence of Berlin’s Berghain nightclub. This leathery slap & tickle, wit and abandon (plus it sounding vaguely Teutonic) led tQHQ naming this loose genre of our own making Baader Meinhof Bum Dungeon, in part inspired to what yours truly used to get up to on trips to the German capital, stories that are not fit for this family newsletter. So, without further ado, here are five essential slappers from much-missed BMBD:

Nitzer Ebb – ‘Join In The Chant‘ (Surgeon Rework)

As mentioned, you can draw a direct line from 80s industrial and EBM into the music of the BMDB, not that it was necessarily a conscious influence for everyone involved. Nitzer Ebb made a fairly regular appearance on the dancefloor at the time, with this retooling by Tony Surgeon absolutely chopping my head off when it appeared unexpectedly during some set or other. ‘Join The Chant’ is already obscenely heavy; to make it bang quite as hard as this without sacrificing any of the core brilliance of Nitzer Ebb (Douglas McCarthy’s vocals, the high energy kick) for donk alone is, dare we say it, genius. 

Daniel Avery – ‘Reception’ (Perc remix)

Daniel Avery’s fusion of genre and club techtonics stems in part from his days in the early 2000s as a regular at London’s Monday night institution Trash, the night that did so much to launch electroclash in the UK. I hear that in his 2012 track ‘Reception’, which was then radically transformed by Perc in this slicing, stomping remix that used to send Corsica Studios crackers and perhaps is the only thing that makes me understand what EDM bros are on about when they get a semi for ‘the drop’. Mixes beautifully with ‘Wriggle Like A Fucking Eel’ by Whitehouse, btw.

Furfriend – ‘Shepherd’

Anonymous, hairy duo Furfriend (pictured above) were the queerest group of the BMBD, with a string of 12” that revelled in chemsex (‘Geck’), fisting (‘Fistfuck’), and the carnal appeal of sheep of all colours (‘Shepherd’). The music, released on Berghain-affiliated label Killekill and the UK’s Perc Trax, did not struggle to live up to the titles in any way whatsoever, all gristly kick drums and knee-scarred noise and utterly deadpan, preposterously filthy lyrics: “I love my sheep yellow / I share them with my fellow / I love my sheep purple / They love to chew on my turtle”, etc etc. 

Blacknecks – ‘To The Cosmos, Let's Go’

Blacknecks were another mystery pairing, though one that – in my only piece of successful professional musical detective work – I worked out was a collaboration between Truss (now boshing it out of the park with Overmono) and Bleaching Agent. Again, they embraced the tongue-in-cheek approach to naming tracks (‘Death Before Eastenders’) with a series of 12” that snarled, grated, pumped, throbbed and so on. Best of all was ‘To The Cosmos, Let’s Go’ an utterly wild interpretation of the spirit of Patrick Cowley in the context of hectic techno and acid guaranteed to raise you from the horrific pit we call life. Oh, and the third track on the 12” was called ‘A Wandering Sense Of Disillusionment Eats The Soul Within This Decomposing Establishment Of Pain And Suffering (Bollocks To The Custard, Where's The Suet Pudding Edit)’ which I am going to call the longest title we’ve ever mentioned on tQ.

Blawan – ‘Why They Hide The Bodies Under My Garage?’

 This was the biggest breakout tune of the BMBD, the pop moment, the ‘Agadoo’ if you will, stupidly catchy, singalong, but still infused with the seediness that made this entirely invented genre what it was. Testament to quite how massive ‘…Garage’ had become was watching tens of thousands of mangled Europeans lose their proverbial when Skrillex played it from his ludicrous onstage space ship during his headline set at Sonar 2013. A few years later, BPMs would get faster, the influence of trance and gabba crept in, the daftness went, and the BMBD was no more than a memory, a pissy mop sadly crusting under the concrete stairs.