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Hitparade

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Album Review

Hitparade compiles remixes of tracks from four albums by Station 17, a German collective around since the late '80s but with no discernible exposure outside their native country. The record earned distribution by Mute primarily because of its cast of remixers, an assortment of downtempo German producers — including Pole, To Rococo Rot, Kreidler, the Modernist, Thomas Fehlmann, even F.M. Einheit from Einstürzende Neubauten — whose reputations have proceeded them all over the world. (Fehlmann and Einheit were undoubtedly influences on the all-star cast, since they'd worked with the group before.) Station 17's origins lie in a spontaneous improv band based in Hamburg and formed from the residents of a welfare center for the mentally disabled. Over the course of the '90s, the group moved from jazz-based improv to loop-based electronic pop to file alongside the likes of Yellow Magic Orchestra or Germany's own Kraftwerk. J. Burger's Modernist remix of the childlike "Die Arbeit" kicks off Hitparade with a minimalist slant on simplistic synth pop, while Automatique's "Tik Tak" explores the YMO connection in full. Perhaps it's a consequence of the wide-ranging source material, but Hitparade certainly isn't the lovefest of clicks-and-cuts experimental techno expected from the credit listing. Denyo 77's contribution weaves squelchy G-funk and detached rapping around the guitar out of Roni Size's "Brown Paper Bag," Antonelli Electr.'s ably strips dub down to its minimalist nadir, and Thomas Fehlmann's "Losjez" explores bass-heavy house and filtered disco with an eye toward Japanese video-game soundtracks. Pole's "Jesus Hat Gesagt" is another highlight, playing connect-the-dots with resourced guitars and spoken-word material. Pasted onto the end of Hitparade are two more brilliant remixes by To Rococo Rot and F.M. Einheit that find the two exploring ground far different than fans would expect. To tie it together is little more than a band few have heard of, but Hitparade is a great collection of electronic pop.

Biography

Formed: Hamburg, Germany

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Station 17 is a collective of improv musicians gathered from a Hamburg welfare community of mentally disabled persons. The group formed out of several late-'80s sessions led by social worker Kay Bosen. Recognizing the immense therapeutic value of music, he organized several jam sessions of spontaneous music. Record label Phonogram stepped in by 1989, financing an album on the condition that all proceeds were ploughed back into the Station 17 studio. With limited help from a few professional musicians...
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