From the heart of the industrial Rhineland...
a long forgotten footnote in the story of KOSMISCHE MUSIK.

STRUMPFEN officially came into being on the first day of April 1969, founded by Anton Halle and Dirk Parsifal, former members of the Wuppertal-based rhythm and blues group The Apricots. Like so many bands in Germany at that time, they had paid their dues on the US airbase circuit, sometimes supporting visiting international artists such as Les Chats Sauvages and The Bristol Eagles.

Towards the end of the decade, social upheavals in Europe (the student riots in 1968; the continuing Cold War) and the influence of other forms of experimental self-expression (including the drugs!) saw the band shake off its pop-dance roots and get... HEAVIER.

Gone were the “yeah yeah” vocals, jangly Rickenbacker guitars and cheesy organs of their earlier sound. In came the home-made voltage controlled sequencers and ring modulators, the garishly painted speaker cabinets and zealous use of fuzzbox, space reverb and echoplex. Obvious influences were the Pink Floyd, AMM, improvisational 'West Coast' bands such as the Grateful Dead and Germany's own avant-garde music experimentalists (Stockhausen, Zimmermann).

The Apricots had enjoyed a minor local hit with “Dance of the Helium Molecules”. As the band evolved into Strumpfen, in a live context this simple surf-instrumental number would form the basis for jam sessions of anything up to an hour long. The thirty-minute“Helium Tanz” from their third album (simply called “Drei”) is taken from one such session in 1971.

The band had an ever-changing membership, reflecting their free collective lifestyle. Founder member Dirk Parsifal left to join a monastery shortly after their debut album “Aprikoser Liebestrumpfen” was released. Only Anton Halle was a constant presence. Other members of the collective included Ralf Schlimmerkind, Walther Schott, Lothar Pfilter, Otto “Zenti” Mieter and a mysterious former nun known only as Sister Bleeg. They each played an eclectic range of musical instruments, many of them home-made.

The band released five complete albums during their brief lifespan - the first was “Aprikoser Liebestrumpfen” (originally a suggested name for the band itself), swiftly followed by “Strumpfen Zwei” (featuring four untitled sidelong pieces), “Drei” (with its distinctive see-through paper sleeve), “The Elaborate Roos” (an improvised soundtrack for a nature documentary about the macropods of New South Wales) and finally “Strumpfen Funf”.

Most of their recorded output resulted from lengthy, late-night, candlelit jam sessions at the Studio Gebäude, owned by producer Bruno Neuschloß.

I truly believe that, in hindsight, much of their music stands up well against that of the 'greats' of KRAUTROCK (there! I said the 'K' word!) such as Faust, Can or Ash Ra Tempel. But sadly, all of their albums are now long deleted and pretty hard to find, even the compilation CD “6beste” that I was allowed to release on my own label some years ago. You can however still hear a newly re-mastered “6beste” via my YouTube channel.

(Album sleeve pictures from the author's own collection.)

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