Boomkat Product Review:
Described as "krautfolk" by Sonig, long-running duo Workshop have their catalog cherry-picked on 'WORKSHOP 1987-2004', a collection of highlights that works as a great introduction for newcomers to their whimsical sound.
Formed by visual artist Kai Althoff and Stephan Abry in 1985, Workshop have long been making "the music they wanted to hear", despite describing themselves as being "musically quite limited". The result of their experimentation was an assemblage of acoustic instrumentation and electronics that gestured towards Faust and Neu! as much as it did The Magnetic Fields or Yo La Tengo. 'WORKSHOP 1987-2004' sweeps up some of the highlights from their seven album catalogue, trimming the fat and providing a starting point for anyone intrigued by their innovative sound.
The excellent 15-minute 'Fabienne' starts us off, snipped from their unreleased album 'Mudwinkelplage', that was eventually bundled with their first two records on the Ladomat label in 2000. Recorded in 1992, it's a foggy, lo-fi jam that immediately gets to the heart of the Workshop sound, with repetitive, lulling drum patterns and delicate riffs that remind us of later German indie outsiders like Tied and Tickled Trio and The Notwist. Elsewhere, 'The House of Marvick', the brief, disco-referencing opening track from their '95-release 'Talent' full length pre-empts what Farben would be doing only a few years later, and 'Luke's Boutique' from their 1990 debut reminds us how funky Althoff and Abry can be when they put their minds to it.
But the standout moments here are undoubtedly the extended freak-outs, like 'Schlehe' from '97's 'Meiguiweisheng Xiang', a 10-minute collapse of angular drums and razor-sharp guitar vamps that dissolves into stopwatch beeps, screaming feedback and operatic vocals.