A3 Gardens Of Delight
A5 Distant Star
B2 Le Jour L'Ennuie
B3 My Destination
B4 Use It
New Wave /Cold Wave Reissue Gem from Zurich 1982, previously only released in parts on Cassete and 12" EP
Sven Regener, head of the band Element of Crime and one of Germany's most successful pop writer said a few years ago when asked if he knew of any Swiss music: "Of course! In 1983, a Swiss band called Aboriginal Voices played with us at a festival in Zurich. Great, avant-garde electro-pop. That was my first encounter."
For a quarter of an hour, Zürich was the navel of the world. Let's look back: at New York's CBGB's, pre-punks were shredding away, Malcolm McLaren, as a man with a fine-tuned taste for the hip, imported the sound to London, where his sweetheart Vivienne Westwood dressed the test-tube band The Sex Pistols. A few pop magazines later (we are in an analog world!) punk bands sprouted everywhere, like shiny pimples on poorly fed teenagers. Contrary to legend, even back then, it was often those with a musical background who were the most successful. One such example, Henrich "Wüste" Zwahlen, who had learned the violin, attended a jazz school and went into prog-rock before joining the Nasal Boys, one of the first punk bands in Zürich. The scene included the female band Kleenex (cover: Fischli of art heroes Fischli/Weiss), whose minimalism was praised by the London music press, while the world's most important rock theorist, Greil Marcus, wrote an ode highlighting Zürich's role as the birthplace of Dadaism. A fertile ground for the militant youth movement that exploded in 1980 and stirred up the city of banks, protestantism and boredom with raw wit and expressive violence. Gathering at concerts of local bands and fueled by endogenous and artificial substances - they paid homage to exuberance and self-indulgence.
The mantra of "everything-is-possible" was driven forward on the musical front by progress in terms of means of production: analog electronic instruments were no longer reserved for hippie nerds, who sat in front of large plug-in boards like autistic-psychedelic switchboard operators connecting cables for their sound carpets. Now snazzy stage personnel elicited fast-paced sounds from handy devices often made in Japan. Kraftwerk was fashionable, the Zurich duo Yello experimented with new synthetic sounds, and the groundbreaking album "Alles Ist Gut" by the Düsseldorf based duo D.A.F. (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft) was released, which chanted its program of provocation times danceability with lines such as "Tanz den Jesus Christus, tanz the Mussolini, tanz the Adolf Hitler." In England meanwhile, electronically backed New Romantic bands were replacing New Wave. The Human League, Heaven 17, Duran Duran, OMD, Depeche Mode or Visage stormed the charts.
In Zürich's underground, the duo Aboriginal Voices caused a stir at that time. A couple, good-looking, styled, looking cool into the cold neon light, with a danceable beat and sequenced electro sounds, to which Micheline Pfister gave a very unique touch when she sang in French and English. Micheline had a classical piano education, had left home early, worked as a lighting technician in a strip joint and at Booster, the hottest boutique in town (one of the relicts that still exists). Voilà: a musician who was as stylish as she was tough. She was already playing with Wüste in the band "Doobie Doos", a band where everyone played an instrument they didn't master. In 1980 the Aboriginal Voices were formed, initially with vocalist Magda Vogel (of later UnknownmiX fame), who was trained as a classical singer.
Frustrated by organizational friction and constant hassles with band lineups, Wüste and Misch decided to do everything as a twosome: self-mixed, self-styled, self-produced. With the top-of-the-line Linn drum machine clocking the beat, Wüste's guitar and Micheline on the Yamaha synthesizer created a unique sound of danceable electronic music. Whereby the Aboriginal Voices acted as a kind of proto-influencer, receiving the latest equipment to try out, especially since they made it a point not to work with tapes, but to design everything for live shows. They had an interface built for the legendary Roland MC-4B, who sequenced the modular Roland System 100M but where one output controlled a light show synchronized with the sound. A pioneering act that fit well into the DIY spirit of punk, with its self-distributed tapes and fuck-you attitude towards the cretins of the music industry. Consequently only two cassettes and an EP were released. There was something futuristic about the sound, the vestiary style and the electronics, while the attitude remained rebellious. Of course something so deeped in the Zeitgeist wasn't meant to last. Wüste moved to New York, Micheline stayed in Zurich, both still active in the music scene to this day.
If you ever saw them live, you never forgot them, and so over the years you belonged to a teeny-tiny circle of insiders, happy to be joined after all these years by new aficionados who appreciate the sound of that quarter-hour, when Zurich was ravishing, creative and exciting.
- Thomas Haemmerli