Although they've become quite a sensation in their home country of Germany, I was one of many people who'd never heard of Station 17 before I started hearing about this most recent release of theirs. The concept of the group alone is interesting enough by itself. In 1988, a social worker in the Alsterdork Institution (a welfare center for the mentally handicapped in Hamburg) named Kay Bosen came up with the idea of trying to further develop musical experiments of the inhabitants and actually create an album.
Although the initial and main goal of the experiment was to have fun creating sounds and therapy, a year later an album was created which helped to fund better instruments and caught the eye (and ear) of musicians including Can's Holger Czukay and FM Einheit. Soon after that, another album was released and the project expanded in size as interest in the music grew among the occupants. Over the course of the next couple years, the group played several live shows, formed a theatre group, and even were the subjects of a film. Musical styles changed over the years from a more improvised free jazz sound into a more loop-based electronic sound (with the help and interest of Thomas Fehlmann (of the Orb) and others for the release of their 4th full-length release.
That fast forward history of the group brings us to this present release, in which many of their most well known tracks are given the remix treatment by tons of big name artists from the German electronic scene. One of the strange things to me upon listening to the release is that it's actually a lot less varied than I thought it would be given the source material. Although there are lots of different people involved and styles definitely show through, the overwhelming warm sounds of German electronic music occur over and over again, whether it's in the thick, dubby sounds of Pole's reworking of "Jesus Hat Gesagt" (which is basically a Pole track with some German vocals over the top) or The Modernists house-lite mix of "Die Arbeit." (which also basically sounds like a Modernist track with German vocals layered over it).
Because of this, the tracks that shine the most are the ones that stray from those sounds the most. Although I've never heard of them before, Andreas Dorau & Justus Kohnke turn in a lovely, downtempo mix of "Bei Manni Und Bine" that rumbles along with a thick beat and some nicely cheesy synth strings. Likewise, Steve Bug turns "Backerblume" into a moody, rolling track while To Rococo Rot keep up their winning streak with "Der Weg Nach Nirgendwo" which sounds like it could have come off one of their own releases.
FM Einheit (of Einsturzende Neubauten) tears things apart and adds the most deconstructed and dark remix on the entire release to close out the release with "Wollnwirpeterauchmitnehm," and after all the ligher, bubbly fair, it makes you wish that more of the artists included would have tweaked things more. Overall, there's definitely some fun stuff on the release, but if you're not into vocal tracks, you might want to steer clear. Whether it's ragga-style male vocals or the sing-song voice of a child, almost every track has some sort of German voice included (if only I would have paid more attention in high-school, I could figure out part of what was being said). As mentioned above, it probably would have worked even better with more variety, but it makes me happy just knowing that programs like Station 17 are working to help make music available to people.