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CSR Label portrait by Bart Plantega

For Radio 100 / Radio Patapoe, Amsterdam NL

The CSR catalog is also replete with examples of his other passions and obsessions: UR-Musig (2 CD set) [and UR-Musig vol. 2] [CD 91512, 91542] is a collection of three CDs that give an excellent sonic portrait of the incredibly interesting documentary UR-Musig, which in its non-narrative minimal-academic-musicological approach manages to capture a scene, a slice of life, a preserved instant of Appenzell (mountainfolk) life that is rendered with such loving care that one is blown away not only by the music, the mystical quality of the yodeling, the yodeled prayer calls, the zäureli or natural yodels without text, a kind of pagan scat singing, the accordion improvs, but the conviviality of one of the more isolated regions of Switzerland, the Appenzell.

Cyrill Schläpfer is one of those classic obsessed genius nerds. And yet, he is both very present as a guiding force but also very absent as an ego in the CSR catalog. A man of incredible focus and fervor that followed a number of musical stints in the rock and pop world with bands that should have made it. At one time he was all about denying and obliterating the traditional past of Swiss music which bears heavy paper-weight like clouds on the creative furrowed brows of many a sonic artist in Switzerland… I felt Cyrill's angst and irritation in Switzerland's inability to come to a happy detente between creativity and tradition. This is not entirely true either: I note that many of the Swiss experimenters in sound and song incorporate and employ traditional themes in their catalogs and repertoires. But, in general, yes. This makes the mission and musical catalog of Cyrill all the more important and controversial. Because in his growing dissatisfaction with the solipsistic pop world, Cyrill found himself turning ever more inventively back toward tradition, so far into tradition that he has managed to leave behind most of the bureacratic gargoyles of tradition. He admits to sometimes still really yearning to just be in a simple garage band…

In his pursuits of the 'true' traditional, Cyrill went so deep as to find a kind of Ur-music that is both mystical, improvisational, true folk in the sense that much of it is passed down not through sheet music but through cafe gigs and celebrations. The music is also actually somewhat "ignored" by the bureaucratic traditionalists. On CSR, his own label, he has put out a wide array of Swiss music including some worthy and necessary compilations that reassess Switzerland's small but not totally absent contribution to modern [post] pop music with Officiel Swiss Kult Hits [CD 91812]. Yello, for instance, are one of the most enduringly creative bands to emerge in the 80s. They managed to combine the best of Cabaret Voltaire with the best of new wave bands like Talking Heads and were the forerunners of hip complex and fun dance music that was picked up by bands like Was Not Was, Mano Negro, les Negresses Vertes, even Pizzicato Five... et al. 

Also included are bands like Kleenex/Liliput, one of the most inventive primitive funky off-kilter girl groups to emerge in the 1980s. In league with Bush Tetras and the Raincoats. Also the Young Gods, their refabrication of Brecht-Weill songs not withstanding, probably the best heavy metal band in the world. He has also brought attention to lesser known bands like Taxi, the Real Popes, Stephan Eicher, and more...

The two collections of traditional yodels on Rio 6 Starkä Tubak Älpler-Liedli und Jüüzli [CD 91752] and Rössli 7 Starkä Tubak Älpler-Liedli und Jüüzli [CD 91742] are a must if you want to hear real roots-style yodeling and the Swiss style accordion [a small non-chromatic thing made of wood]. Rio 6 is a fairly complete collection of the recent repertoire of the Pragelchörlis from the canton of Muotathal, here interpreted by Toni Büehler and others. Rössli 7 is a compilation of yodels from the Luzern and Brünig region. It includes material from the archives of the Entlebucher Älpler-Jodlergruppe Zihlmann and other work. The overall effect is like the best of Folkways ethnomusicological material - there is an absence of heavy academic framing/dictating although you are not totally left clueless as to where and how it all came about. Personal choices as gathered and assembled by Schläpfer.

['s Glüüt] on CSR are another in this series of incredibly enchanting soundscape CDs which are intoxicatingly representative sonic portraits of certain aspects of Swiss [vanshing] culture. "True Tone" volumes 1-5 including: ['s Glüüt vols. 1-2], [ 's Fahr Glüüt], [Les Sonailles] [CD 91522, 91532, 91482, 91492] is a series of ambient recordings of, yes, the pastoral / pastaural Swiss scenery. What do the Alps, the pastures, the rolling hills sound like? They are alive and filled with the atmospherically pregnant sounds of intoxicating cow bells of the herds grazing the steep rolling pastures. While [Morgeluft] [CD 91582] captures the sound of the lake Vierwaldstattersee, the lake which he lives near and which Luzern stretches along, 6-7:30 a.m., 6 May 1990. You can picture Schläpfer tromping around the Alps in the thin air, sneaking up on the herds with his sound equipment. Clear and resonant as a - well - as a bell. 

"Echo der Zeit" on CSR. A great label producing an under-reegarded mad yodeler in the vein of Shelley Hirsch from a snowy peak. Inspired reinvention of ethno-über-music combining real yodeling with hints of other-worldly musics splintered and melted into a mix worthy of Hector Zazou. 

Contact bart plantega at

ninplant@xs4all.nl

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