Boomkat Product Review:
First major retrospective of James Dean Brown’s legendary Hypnobeat in over 30 years!
For the uninitiated, Hypnobeat have been a dirty electronic concern since 1983, working with everyone from Tobias Freund to Helena Hauff in their time, and responsible for an endless slew of haywire, driving hardware improvisations comparable with proto-techno, EBM, electro and tribal psychedelia, but basically best referred to as Hypnobeat. Inside Prototech, you may well recognise Kilian from inclusion on a Light Sounds Dark compilation, but unless you’ve properly neeked out and collected their hard to find tapes, the rest will be new and very tasty to anyone who likes their jams live and dirty, a la Smersh, Frak, $hit & $hine, Not Waving. All tracks remastered by George Horn at Fantasy studios, Berkeley.
“Dark Entries and Serendip Lab have teamed up to release ‘Prototech’, the first vinyl retrospective by German electronic trio Hypnobeat, recorded 1984-86. James Dean Brown and Pietro Insipido formed Hypnobeat in 1983, but it was the addition of Victor Sol only a few months later that found the project reaching, as Brown puts it, “the desired level of technical sophistication.” In time, Tobias Freund also lent his talents (and equipment) to this loose-fit sonic scheme, where the protagonists sought a new, electronic manifestation of mankind’s tribal music roots. Two cassette releases surfaced – 1985’s “Huggables”, and “Specials/Spatials” the following year. By this point the Frankfurt-based group had already explored fiercely mechanical creative expression through various configurations of hardware and personnel, revolving around core ingredients such as the TR-808, TB-303 and MC-202. The project lived on in spirit as Brown activated Narcotic Syntax in the 90s. While a more modern, digital concern, rooted in the Perlon label family, NS still channeled the Hypnobeat concept of a “new tribalism”, not least on their “Provocative Percussion” double 12″ released in 2006.
For all the punky veneer, there are instances where these tracks reach staggering levels of sophistication, not least on “Slash! Buffalo Eats Brass” with its intricately programmed 303 lines and nimble beats that sound a far cry from most machine music made in 1986. Prescient “Can God Rewind?” is also dazzling in the complexity of its percussion and the richness of its synth lines in C as they throb out a bastardised version of acidic Disco straight out of the rhythm collider. Elsewhere, some tracks are more primal in their execution. Visceral opening track “The Arumbaya Fetish” was a cathartic venting of Brown’s least favourite sound on the 808, the iconic cowbell, while the astounding proto-Acid miniature “Moon Jump” places limber 303 lead lines in a hail of thunderstruck patterns. “Kilian” has a stripped down quality that speaks more to the industrial era that Hypnobeat was conceived in, and “Mission In Congo” is a raw, reverb-soaked drum workout that captures the percussive-obsessive nature of Hypnobeat perfectly. Six of the seven tracks selected on this collection were primarily powered by two 808s. “I am amazed that the release sounds like we really had a plan back then…” states Brown, but this accidental magic is in fact the raison d’etre of Hypnobeat. They weren’t the only ones prefiguring the next big revolutions in electronic music in the mid 80s, but there certainly weren’t many artists stumbling across modes of expression that sound so relevant today.”