Der Plan-Uncapitulable!

Label: Bureau B.

When Der Plan eventually split-up in 1992, the writing had been on the wall for several years. Part of the problem was that by 1992, Der Plan found themselves spending more time working for their record label Ata Tak, and its record distribution business.By 1992, the three members of Der Plan found that the business was taking up so much of their time, that it was overshadowing their music. 

It had been three years since Der Plan released Die Peitsche Des Lebens in 1989. Since then, Der Plan seemed to be spending less time making or playing music. This was hugely frustrating for Moritz R®, who was one of the three founding members of Der Plan. Eventually, things came to a head and Moritz R® left and indeed Der Plan in 1992.

Moritz R® left Düsseldorf and moved to Hamburg, which became his new home. That was where Moritz R® began to make plans for the future. Der Plan was now part of his past, after what had been a somewhat acrimonious split. It looked as if Moritz R®, Kurt Dahlke aka Pyrolator and Frank Fenstermacher would ever be reunited and record another album together.

Twenty-five years passed before Moritz R®, Pyrolator and Frank Fenstermacher before were reunited in the studio and recorded a new album together. That album, Uncapitulable!, was recently released by Bureau B and marks the comeback of the original members of Der Plan after a quarter of a century apart. 

Der Plan’s roots can be traced to Düsseldorf in 1979, when Moritz Reichelt aka Moritz R®, Frank Fenstermacher and Kai Horn formed a new group together, Weltaufstandsplan (World Rebellion Plan). Before long, the nascent group decided to record their debut single. However, just before the recording took place Kai Horn suddenly left the band. This was a huge blow for the two remaining band members.

Despite being reduced to a duo, the two members of Weltaufstandsplan were determined to record their debut single. Fortunately, Chrislo Haas and Robert Görl, who at the time, were then both members of DAF, augmented Weltaufstandsplan during a jam session that was recorded with a Dictaphone in an underground session. Now Weltaufstandsplan set about releasing their debut single.

In keeping with the DIY spirit of punk and post punk, the two members of Weltaufstandsplan decided to release their debut single on their own label, Warning Records, which later, became Ata Tak. Warning Records had 1,500 copies of Weltaufstandsplan’s debut single pressed.

When Weltaufstandsplan’s debut single was released on Warning Records, it showcased an industrial sound. There was a similar sound emerging in America, which bands like Chrome were pioneering. In West Germany, Weltaufstandsplan were hailed as pioneers, and the founders of Neue Deutsche Welle (New German Wave) movement. This wouldn’t be the last time that Moritz R® and Frank Fenstermacher were hailed as pioneers.

Not long after Weltaufstandsplan released their debut single, two became three when Kurt Dahlke aka Pyrolator joined the band. His addition transformed the band’s sound and the tracks took on a much more experimental sound. Gone was the extreme noise of their earlier music. This new sound made its debut on the band’s debut album.

By the time Geri Reig was released on Warning Records, in 1980, the band was known as Der Plan, and their music was a fusion of experimental pop and electronics. Geri Reig found favour with the critics, and this was the start of the most productive period of Der Plan’s recording career.

After the release of Geri Reig, major labels started showing interest in Der Plan. Despite the offer of lucrative recording contracts, Der Plan was determined to remain on their own independent label. The only compromise they made was to allow Teldec to rerelease their debut single Da Vorne Steht ‘Ne Ampe. 

Apart from that one single, Der Plan were remained on their own label.

When Der Plan returned with their sophomore album Normalette Surprise in 1981, it featured their unique and inimitable new sound, electronic schlager. This was essentially a form of synth pop, or Der Plan had taken to calling it “Synthi Pop”. The new “Synthi Pop” sound that made its debut on Normalette Surprise would become Der Plan’s trademark sound.

In 1982, film director Rainer Kirberg asked Der Plan to record the soundtrack to the film Die letzte Rache (The Last Revenge). This was a first for Der Plan, who also were responsible for the surrealistic scenography. Frank Fenstermacher even played a part in the film, which when it was shown by ZDF, received critical acclaim. Der Plan’s soundtrack featured a fusion experimental sounds and imaginative melodies that was quite different from previous albums.

Nearly two years passed before Der Plan released two singles during 1984. Der Plan had high hopes for Gummitwist, which stalled in the lower reaches of the chart. Despite this, WEA were willing to take a chance on the single. This lead to Der Plan featuring on ARP’s music program Formel Eins. Not long after this, Der Plan released their second single of 1984, Golden Cheapos Volume 1 and 2, which featured a trio of instrumentals. However, the single wasn’t the success that Der Plan had hoped, and 1984 wasn’t proving to be the success that they had hoped.

Later in 1984, Der Plan released a video Japlan, and then embarked upon a successful Japanese tour. The tour was so successful, that Der Plan decided to release an album in Japan. This was Japlan, which wasn’t released in Der Plan’s native West Germany.

The next album that Der Plan released was a compilation album Fette Jahre in 1985. It features a mixture of singles, remixes and outtakes, which Der Plan hoped would keep their fans happy until they returned with a new album.

Two years later, and Der Plan released Es Ist Eine Fremde Und Seltsame Welt. This translates as It Is A Strange World, which is a quotation from film director David Lynch’s cult classic Blue Velvet. Es Ist Eine Fremde Und Seltsame Welt was Der Plan’s first studio in six years, and received praise and plaudits from critics. Buoyed by the success of the album, Der Plan returned to the studio.

They returned in 1988 with Perlen, which was Der Plan’s first album of the CD age. Perlen was also their finest hour, and was released to critical acclaim. However, behind the scenes all wasn’t well within Der Plan.

The problems could be traced back to 1983, when their was a disagreement within Der Plan about what their priorities were. There were two options available to the members of Der Plan. They could concentrate their efforts on music full-time, or divide their time between Der Plan and their Ata Tak label. The band decided to divide their time between the band and the label. This wasn’t a unanimous decision, and by 1988 it had come back to haunt Der Plan.

Despite this, they returned with a new album Die Peitsche Des Lebens in 1989. It was well received by critics who didn’t realise that this was the last album the original lineup of the band would release for twenty-eight years.

Three years later, in 1992, and the three members of Der Plan were spending most of their time on the Ata Tak record label and the record distribution business. It had gotten that the business was taking up so much of their time, that it had started to  overshadow their music. Der Plan hadn’t released an album since Die Peitsche Des Lebens in 1989. Since then, Der Plan seemed to be spending less time making or playing music. This was hugely frustrating for the band  and especially, for Moritz R®. Eventually, things came to a head and he left Ata Tak and Der Plan in 1992. 

The departure of Moritz R® spelt the end of Der Plan. The band split-up in 1992, and as is often the case when things have been left to fester in a band, it was an acrimonious split. Der Plan divided into two factions. 

Moritz R® settled in Hamburg where he embarked upon a career as a painter. For Moritz R®, this was a new start and the chance to do something he was passionate about. 

Back in Düsseldorf, the two remaining members of Der Plan decided that the band would become an occasional side project. Later, Kurt Dahlke aka Pyrolator and Frank Fenstermacher went on to form the trance project, A Certain Frank. Before that, Der Plan released their swan-song.

In 1993, Der Plan released Live At The Tiki Ballroom Of The Senior Maoris Recreation Center In Maketu, Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand. This was Der Plan’s infamous fake live album, which was released on Ata Tak as Der Plan’s belated swan-song. The album was well received, and brought to an end the Der Plan story. 

Over the next few years, the three former members of were all working on different projects. Moritz Reichelt aka Moritz R® designed album covers for a variety of artists and bands, including Depeche Mode. He was also responsible for the Tiki revival of the early nineties.   

Meanwhile, Frank Fenstermacher and Kurt Dahlke concentrated their efforts on their trance project, A Certain Frank. Frank Fenstermacher also embarked upon a solo career and released several solo albums. Then in 2002, Frank Fenstermacher and Kurt Dahlke decided to join a new band, Fehlfarben. 

By then, Kurt Dahlke had reinvented himself as a programmer and producer. He had continued working with Frank Fenstermacher in A Certain Frank, and in 2002 as part of Fehlfarben. Later, he would work with former Tangerine Dream founder Edgar Froese. That was still to come. Meanwhile, Kurt Dahlke and Frank Fenstermacher were in for a surprise.

Moritz R® decided to reform Der Plan in Berlin as Der Plan v4.0. The newly named Der Plan v4.0 featured a new lineup, with Achim Treu and JJ Jones joining in 2003. They recorded what would the first new Der Plan album in eleven years Die Verschwörung (The Conspiracy). It was released by Marina Records in 2004. However, Der Plan’s comeback was short-lived and the members of Der Plan v4.0 went their separate ways.

Four years after the release of Die Verschwörung, Der Plan v5.0 were formed and existed only in the virtual world Second World. This was fitting as Kurt Dahlke later described the original lineup of Der Plan always wanting to: “work with the current state of technology and express ourselves… and if the current state of technology wasn’t sufficient, they simply plugged in the soldering iron.” What Kurt Dahlke thought of Der Plan v5.0’s use of the latest technology is unknown.

Back in 2008, the virtual lineup of Der Plan v5.0 played two gigs in the virtual world Second World. These shows featured scans of the Der Plan’s original stage designs and the masks from their real life the early 1980s. This was new and totally unheard of. Just like the original lineup of Der Plan, Der Plan v5.0 were pioneers. However, Der Plan v5.0 was a short-lived affair and never got as far as recording an album together.

Following the demise of Der Plan v5.0, that looked like the end of the Der Plan story. That was until the original members of Der Plan were asked to play a fiftieth birthday party for Andreas Dorau. Der Plan were the very special guests, and provided the soundtrack to the evening. As Der Plan played, they realised that they were enjoying making music together. The guests at the party enjoyed Der Plan’s comeback which was billed as one night only. Or was it?

In the days and weeks after their comeback at the party, the members of Der Plan started thinking about the band’s future. They had been apart for quarter of a century. Surely, it was the time to let bygones be bygones and return to the studio?

Before long, the members of Der Plan were collecting sketches, fragments of songs and ideas that they had gathered over the years. They took these to Pyrolator’s Ata Tak Studio Berlin, where Uncapitulable! was recorded.Moritz R® remembers the three weeks Der Plan spent recording what became Uncapitulable! “It worked incredibly well. This time the music was created on the basis of ideas and lyrics. Earlier, we often played improvised sessions and later added lyrics to it. One could say that in the meantime we have become something like songwriters.” That isn’t all that has changed. So has Der Plan’s music. Moritz R® explains: “Der Plan 2017 is no longer so angular and swings better.”  It seems that Der Plan have been reborn, and no longer have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Instead, Der Plan are back doing what they best…making music.

Recently, Hamburg based label Bureau B released Uncapitulable! which signifies continuity.  That is somewhat ironic, given it’s the first album the original three members of Der Plan have released since 1992. After quarter of a century away, Der Plan make a welcome return with their comeback album Uncapitulable!

Just like the previous albums featuring the three original members of Der Plan, there’s a sense of playfulness to the music on Uncapitulable! Der Plan don’t shy away from trying something new, as they switch between and combine disparate musical genres during Uncapitulable!’s fifteen tracks. They’re almost fearless as curiosity gets the better of them and they try something new and moderne. That comes as no surprise, as Der Plan have always been a cerebral band. Their motto was “more art in music, more music in art.”  That is still the case today, on Uncapitulable! which is an ambitious and innovative genre-melting album. There’s also a timeless quality to the music on Uncapitulable! 

That is the case from the opening bars of Wie der Wind, which  sounds as if it’s been inspired by Kraftwerk’s later music. Der Plan then bowl their first curveball of the album, as a memorable and melodic electronic shanty unfolds. In doing so, it references Der Plan’s trademark “Synthi Pop” sound. This gives way Lass die Katze stehn which like Der Rabe, is a carefully crafted, modernè electronic pop song. After this, it’s all change.

On the ballad Man leidet herrlich Der Plan fuse elements of reggae and dub. This is something they used to do on a regular basis prior to their split in 1992. By returning to this sound, Der Plan create of the most mellow tracks on Uncapitulable! Then on Grundrecht elements of electronica and dub combine to create dark, dramatic track. 

Very different is Es heisst die Sonne, Come Fly with Me and Was kostet der Austritt which showcase the psychedelic side to Der Plan’s music. It’s also dreamy and features a tender, feel-good sound. These trio of tracks are among the highlights of Uncapitulable! The changes keep on coming on Es heisst die Sonne, which is a melodic reminder of Der Plan’s electronic schlager sound. 

Dark, moody, sinister and cinematic describes Gesicht ohne Buch and Ich kann die Stille hören. Equally cinematic and dark is Stille hören. There’s a slight cinematic sound on the mesmeric sounding Flohmarkt der Gefühle. It’s an understated sounding track where crackling electronica, jazz and melodic pop combine to create another of Uncapitulable!’s highlights. Musical chameleons Der Plan continue their mission to reinvent themselves on Der Herbst which showcases an electronic cabaret sound. Futuristic describes Körperlos im Cyberspace, which another genre-melting track. Zu Besuch bei N. Senada combines small music with Musique concrète as jangling piano provides a backdrop to birdsong. Closing Uncapitulable! which veers between understated to otherworldly and melodic. Always though, it’s memorable, especially with the occasional addition of Beach Boys’ inspired harmonies. This ensures the album ends on a high.

After twenty-five years apart, Der Plan make a welcome return with Uncapitulable! It’s marks the second coming of one of the important German bands of the past forty years. They put their differences in the past and recorded an album of groundbreaking and genre-melting music. That music is also melodic and memorable as musical chameleons Der Plan combine elements of avant-garde, electronica, experimental, indie pop, Musique concrète and psychedelia with their own trademark “Synthi Pop” and electronic schlager sounds. Der Plan also combine elements of jazz and small music, while drawing inspiration from the pioneers of the Berlin School and Krautrock on their fifteen track comeback album Uncapitulable! All these musical genres play their part in the majestic musical tapestry that is Uncapitulable!

It’s akin to a magical mystery tour, with Der Plan taking the listener on musical adventure where the music veers between melodic and memorable to dark and dramatic to dreamy and lysergic. Other times, it’s dubby, otherworldly and cinematic. Always though, the music is ambitious, and after a few tracks, the listener realises it’s impossible to second guess Der Plan. They throw curveball and spring surprises during Uncapitulable! as Der Plan continue on their mission that began in 1979. 

Thirty-eight years later, and Der Plan are the comeback Kings having recently released Uncapitulable! which is one of the finest albums of their long and eventful career. Let’s hope that it’s not another twenty-five years before Der Plan return with followup to Uncapitulable!

Der Plan-Uncapitulable!


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