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"German experimental electronic composer Asmus Tietchens isn't exactly the first person most people think of when they discuss synth pop. In fact, even among hardcore electronic music fans, he's more known for his longstanding dedication to academic electronic music in the spirit of Stockhausen and Pierre Henry, and in fact holds a position at the University of Hamburg. However, having also worked with Tangerine Dream's Peter Baumann, Conny Plank, Cluster, and Thomas Köner, he's had more than a trivial say in the development of electronic pop. His first record for the Sky Records (also home to LPs by Cluster & Eno and Neu!'s Michael Rother)-- 1981's Biotop-- sounded like the work of a composer obviously at home with discordant textures and off-kilter beats, yet had a patchwork, DIY charm belying his pedigree as a "serious" composer. Die Stadt is engaged in an ongoing series of Tietchens reissues, and the three records he made after Biotop are full of small pleasures and electro-vignettes, the likes of which should readily appeal to fans of old-school electronica and new school lo-fi experimentation. 1981's Spät-Europa (or Late Europe), like Biotop from earlier in the same year, sticks with short tunes as a matter of practice. Tietchens had planned to compose an album featuring nothing but two-minute songs, though without the benefit of a laptop or high-tech digital editing software, he settles for analog instrumentals ranging from 1:48 to just over two-and-a-half minutes. This kind of homemade efficiency is perfectly suited to his buoyant, if slightly out of focus instrumentals: "Poanpo" spirals upwards in waltz time, using mini-Moog electro-rays with a warped counterpoint; the title track, after a short, barely audible introduction of church bells and choral singing, pushes ahead at glacier pace, with its high-pitched, melancholy moan serving as a cold, lonely hymn. "Ausverkauf" picks up the pace, allowing some archaic drum machine to mimic Neu!'s Klaus Dinger while bizzaro-circus melodies fly by overheard. In fact,Spät-Europa would make a fine soundtrack to an S&M; fete taking place in the darkest corners of Berlin, replete with bruised mimes and aluminum-plated dancing boys. The cool pitter-patter of "Passaukontrolle" plays over credits to what is by turns a disturbing and almost precious scene. The following year's In die Nacht (or In the Night) lightens the length restriction, and seems a bit less claustrophic by comparison. "Aus dem Tag" ("From the Day") sounds almost benevolent compared to the semi-twisted pieces on Spät-Europa, and long stretches of breezy synth lines coupled with faux-music box ambience lend the track a cartoonish charm. The lengthy title track is much darker, with cavernous echo and a minor-key bass ostinato lurching behind a minimal, elongated melody that gradually morphs into something more bouncy. The obviously synthesized tambourine adds to the modest industrial feel, though Tietchens version of synth pop is always a little on the queasy side of goth. CD bonus tracks like "Würgstoffe" and "Niedermacher" are less accommodating, seeming mystical and dark, and foreshadow the composer's headfirst dive into abstraction starting in the mid-1980s. 1983's Litia is an entirely different beast, at times closer to the quantized, Eno-fueled version of electronic music favored by contemporary synth pop think tanks like Kompakt, and elsewhere approaching the retro-futurism of Broadcast or Stereolab. "Zeebrügge" might even fit on a Pop Ambient compilation if you ignored the alien, pin-prickled sounds at the bridge, though the steady, down-tempo beat keeps things earthbound. (In fact, at the time, the Tietchens was worried his tunes were getting so robotic, he was compromising his own creativity.) Yet, on "Abhuster Nebulizer", he predicts the experimental techno of Cristian Vogel and Felix Kubin, using crisp hi-hat and the barest hint of melody to make something very sleek, if slightly demented. "Vorsaison" uses a beat kin to Wire's "Three Girl Rhumba", sprinkled with more of Tietchens' take on circus music, though not nearly so bizarre as on the previous records. If his earlier Sky LPs were seminal for IDM, Litia is a convenient antecedent for electro-house and poppier end of minimal techno. Although Litia is the most approachable of this trio of reissues, all of Tietchens' Sky material will be of interest to fans of vintage electronic pop. Immediately afterwards, beginning with 1984's Formen Letzter Hausmusik, originally issued on Steven Stapleton's (Nurse With Wound) United Dairies imprint-- and part of Die Stadt's series of reissues-- he abandoned synth pop for musique concrete and some pretty uncompromisingly experimental music. I consider these albums something of an oasis in Tietchens' canon of concise, no-frills electronic pop, and though he may not quite be a household name for most people, he was certainly dedicated to making the most of his foray into the field." (Pitchfork)