Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


KRAUSE, Dagmar

(b 4 June '50, Hamburg, Germany) Vocalist, her career encapsulating much of the history of German and British avant-garde rock. Her father was an organ builder. By '64 Krause was singing with Horst Runkel in Hamburg clubs on the Reeperbahn (Hamburg's red-light district) and in the port area. She was invited to join the City Preachers '68, a contemporary folk group formed '64, led by John O'Brien- Docker. Only half-jokingly, Krause described them as developing into a German version of the Mamas and Papas. She contributed lead vocals to 'Betty Dupree' and backing vocals on their Decca album ponderously entitled Der K]auu[rbis, Das Transportproblem und Die Traumtänzer ('The Pumpkin, The Problem Of Transport And The Dream-dancers') '68, a spin-off from a German TV show. O'Brien-Docker departed after long-running arguments with lead vocalist Inge Rumpf, who became the natural focus of the band. O'Brien-Docker remained in Germany and worked as an accompanist and performer of incidental music; the band broke up '69 with Rumpf forming Frumpy and other groups which had a loyal local Northern German following in the early '70s. Krause and Rumpf reunited '70 for the schizophrenic I.D. Company (Electrola/Hör Zu), also the name of a short-lived aggregation convened for the studio project, each vocalist singing lead on and determining the direction of one side of the LP, Krause's side indicating her future direction with its delvings into avant- garde music. A further attempt to resurrect the City Preachers under the name the New City Preachers foundered, though an album Comeback -- Back To The City (Metronome/Hör Zu) emerged '71; neither O'Brien-Docker nor Rumpf contributed to this album and Krause's lead vocals were restricted to those on 'Franky And Johnny' and 'Old Shanty Town'. In Hamburg she met Anthony Moore who was working with experimental film producers and on a series of solo projects. Of these only Pieces Of The Cloudland Ballroom '71 and Secrets Of The Blue Bag '72 would see a release by Polydor; another, Reed, Whistle And Sticks, remained in the can.

Moore was persuaded to try something more commercial and the studio-orientated group Slapp Happy was formed; under this name they made singles and albums for Polydor and later Virgin; the debut was the rare single 'Just A Conversation'/'Jumpin' Jonah' on Polydor. Krause also worked with the film-maker David Larcher on his film Monkey's Birthday '73 and appeared on Sort Of '72 on Polydor (reissued by ReR/Recommended '80), Casablanca Moon '73 (withheld until ReR/Recommended released it, with backward logic, as Acnalbasac Noom in '80) and Slapp Happy '74 on Virgin. Slapp Happy combined forces with Henry Cow '73 for Desperate Straights (released on Virgin '75, remixed on ReR/Recommended '82) and In Praise Of Learning (also on Virgin '75, remixed on Broadcast '86). (Henry Cow's Unrest, Legend and In Praise Of Learning were gathered together as Henry Cow: The Virgin Years by ESD in '91 as a boxed set with supporting literature and family tree.) Krause's vocal powers continued to grow with the intellectual, musical and lyrical demands of the milieu. Henry Cow toured extensively in Europe '75--7. The live double album Concerts '75 (on Caroline, reissued by Broadcast '85) also featured Robert Wyatt. Krause's departure '77 precipitated a change in the band's direction; thereafter they became an instrumental ensemble but after Western Culture on Broadcast '78 they announced their disbandment, making space for a new band called the Art Bears, featuring Chris Cutler, Fred Frith and Krause. The Art Bears' recorded legacy comprised Hopes And Fears '78, Winter Songs '79 and The World As It Is Today '81, all on Ré (this material reissued by ReR/Recommended on CD). Other projects on which she worked around this period were a London art-theatre production of The Rise And Fall Of Mahagonny '78, a jointly billed album Babble '79 on Virgin with Kevin Coyne, Anthony Moore's Flying Doesn't Help '79 on Quango and Heiner Goebbels and Alfred Harth's Zeit Wird Knapp '81 on Suhrkamp Verlag (and on Riskant '86) and the Commuters' eponymous album '82 on Amphibious. Less likely, she also guested on 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' on Paul Young's No Parlez '83 on CBS and the Stranglers' 'Skin Deep' '84 on Epic. Following the break-up of the Art Bears, she worked with its successors, Duck and Cover and News from Babel, as well as on a series of solo projects from members of the loosely linked collective. Consequently she appeared on News from Babel's Work Resumed On The Tower '84 and Letters Home '86 (both Ré), Moore's The Only Choice '84 on Parlophone and former Henry Cow member Lindsay Cooper's The Small Screen -- Music For Television '84 and Music For Other Occasions '85 both on Sync Pulse. A suite recorded early '86 with Duck and Cover was subsequently anthologized on ReR Quarterly Vol. 1: Selections on ReR '91, the publisher of ReR Quarterly, an audio-magazine; Krause sings with Tom Cora, Cutler, Frith, Goebbels, Harth and George Lewis making up the rest of the ensemble. The '80s saw her guesting as an occasional vocalist with composer Michael Nyman; she sang on his The Kiss And Other Movements '85 on Editions EG and his 'Nothing To Declare' in concert '89. A long-term interest in the works of Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill and Hanns Eisler, evidenced by her appearance in Mahagonny and on Zeit Wird Knapp ('Time Is Running Out') which was an album of playwright Brecht interpretations, also saw her guest on the Hal Willner tribute album Lost In The Stars singing the Brecht/Weill song 'Surabaya Johnny'.

There followed four impressive albums of songs mining the lode: Supply And Demand and its German-language counterpart Angebot Und Nachfrage '86 on Hannibal were followed by Tank Battles and its German counterpart Panzerschlacht '88 on Island. Lyrically the songs could be seen as forming a continuum with earlier songs of social conscience (cf. Henry Cow's 'Living In The Heart Of The Beast') but Brecht holds a special place in German literature and inevitably Krause was drawn to his work; the Island albums especially were forceful statements, arranged by Tom Waits's producer/arranger Greg Cohen. Krause's Northern German inflexions made these albums all the more realistic and hard-hitting; Panzerschlacht remains one of the finest ever interpretations of Eisler's work. Contemporaneous live shows to support the album made most of the pared-down arrangements; performances included Sarah Homer on saxes and clarinet who, as a member of Shopping Trolley, contributed to their eponymous '90 album on Hannibal. Krause was particularly impassioned in the con- text of these musical vignettes. Krause was commissioned by Britain's Channel 4 '90 to create an opera for television with Peter Blegvad and Anthony Moore, her former husband; the result was called Camera (Italian for 'room') and she played Melusina in the opera as well as devising the premise. It absorbed much of her energies, though its eventual emergence '93 reflected television schedules, not artistic tantrums. She gave a series of duo performances of Brecht/Eisler/Weill compositions '91 with music director Andrew Dodge on piano, harmonium and piano-accordion, as well as collaborating on Smokescreen with the Carousel dance company and saxophonist, singer and songwriter Heather Joyce at the Brighton Festival; this was an ambitious performance piece using players with and without learning difficulties. She sang alongside Jörg Ritzenhoff with the Dirk Raulf Orchestra on the anthology Friedrich Hollaender Or The Laughter Of Loneliness on New Classic Colours (Hollander wrote songs for over 150 films; see entry for Marlene Dietrich); the album incl. 'Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt' ('Falling In Love Again') as well as 'Love Or Infatuation', 'Jonny', 'That Sentimental Sandwich' and others in contemporary or retro settings. Krause wrote new material with the French-Canadian sampler extraordinaire dc10 Marie Goyette for Berlin's Frauenfestival (Women's dc0 Festival) '96 as part of that year's Wie es ihr gefällt ('As She Likes It') programme. Dagmar Krause's strength lies in her ability to move effortlessly between improvisatory and tightly arranged works without compromising her vocal style or diluting the message of either.