‘Phase III’ retrospective of Berliners I.A.O. is blissful first 2020 release by Left Ear Records

Once again (and yes I find myself writing and thinking this time and time again when listening to Left Ear Records – Ed), the Australian label’s output is once again peerless, having chosen a hugely important band to compile: I.A.O. Left Ear are experts at crafting essential narratives on our musical history, the compilation is called Phase III and selects the cream of the Berlin collective’s music during 1988 to 1995. Their creations spanned huge political and social changes in Germany. The minimal, synthesised jams are gorgeous combinations of machine soul, ambient soundscapes and emotional reflection and these timeless compositions will inspire listeners from Detroit to Düsseldorf. The band were influential on the underground music scene in Berlin, both in music production and (particularly in terms of one band member’s contribution) are hugely significant to club culture and techno music.

The Left Ear label explains: “For LER 1023, we’ve put together a collection of recordings taken from the elusive Berlin band I.A.O., spanning their third phase from 1988 to 1995. Phase III commemorates the bands final line-up of three members; Achim Kohlberger, Ralf Östereich and Carsten Zielske. The sounds on this retrospective vary widely, however, link with threads of melancholic sequences, angular jamming and a focus on electronic soundscapes.

“The tracks are pinned against a backdrop of political and social unrest in Berlin at the time. Two different cities had become one with the fall of the wall, driving a bubbling subculture attempting to reunite the capital. Seemingly irrelevant to what I.A.O. was producing, these territories dance parallel to one another. In the late 1980’s, Achim Kohlberger of the band and partner Dimitri Hegemann, were orchestrating ‘Atonal Festival’, these days known as Berlin Atonal. Soon after, they set-up of one of the first techno clubs in the world – UFO, today known as Tresor.

“I.A.O. cites the cast of personalities they would come across in the clubs and pubs as influential in their songwriting, artists, outsiders or the ‘general dropouts.’ However, the works of IAO far resemble techno music. Phase III’s opening track Gospel IV introduces the band with their patience and restraint, synthesizers work to reveal folding melodies. The downtempo voyage continues with Marshmallow Girls, an insight into the band’s sensitive observations and hazy imagery. All Is Bliss presents a vocal mantra cooperating with nagging bass lines and euphonic percussion. Meanwhile, two instrumentals Love and Twinkle Twinkle Twinkle Little Star both typify and defy timeless dancefloor paradigms. The compilation signs off with Ferns, binding the icy yet bright tones found throughout.”

Distribution is through Rush Hour or Seance Centre and Phase III is out now.

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