CULT CLASSIC: ADELBERT VON DEYEN-NORBORG
Cult Classic: Adelbert Von Deyen-Norborg.
After Adelbert Von Deyen released his debut album Sternzeit on Günter Körber’s Sky Records in 1978, the label became his home for the next nine years. This was the most productive period of Adelbert Von Deyen’s career. His creativity blossomed and he released eight studio albums and one live album. This included his third album Atmosphere. It marked the next chapter in the story of Adelbert Von Deyen, who originally, began making music as a hobby.
By 1977, Adelbert Von Deyen was working as a retoucher for a Berlin newspaper. While this kept him busy during the day, Adelbert had plenty of free time in the evenings. Wanting to put his free time to good use, Adelbert decided to take up a hobby. The hobby Adelbert Von Deyen chose was music.
This was no surprise, as at that time, Berlin had a thriving music scene. Many of the Krautrock bands, were formed in Berlin. Meanwhile, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Manuel Göttsching were pioneering the Berlin School of Electronic Music. However, Adelbert Von Deyen didn’t just want to listen to the music being made in Berlin, he wanted to make music.
The type of music Adelbert Von Deyen wanted to make was electronic music. So he began to working out what type of equipment he would need to buy. Having made a “shopping list” of equipment, Adelbert headed out and bought a second hand synth, a Revox A77 tape recorder and keyboards. Little did he realise that this was just the first of numerous shopping trips he would make.
Having started making music in the evenings as a hobby, gradually Adelbert Von Deyen was bitten by the music making bug. Soon, he was adding new pieces of equipment to his home studio. This meant making sacrifices. Sometimes, when Adelbert hadn’t enough money to buy new pieces of equipment, he borrowed from the funds from the bank. Adelbert was dedicated to making music.
When he returned from work each night, Adelbert Von Deyen began making music. He often worked late into the night, and sometimes, into the early hours of the morning as he perfected his elegiac soundscapes. This took time, patience and determination.
After eight months, Adelbert Von Deyen had finished his first compositions. He decided to tape the compositions, and send a copy to various German record companies. Maybe he hoped, one of the record companies would interested in his album? This was a long shot. Adelbert Von Deyen was a new artist, who had only been making music for eight months. However, it was a case of fortune favouring the brave.
One of the record companies Adelbert Von Deyen had sent his tape to, was Hamburg based Sky Records. They had been formed just three years earlier, in 1975 by Günter Körber. Since then, Sky Records’ had only released eighteen albums. However, Sky Records had released albums by Bullfrog, Streetmark, Wolfgang Riechmann, Michael Rother, Cluster, and Hans-Joachim Roedelius. This was already an impressive roster, and one that many musicians were keen to sign to.
Sky Records had already established a reputation for releasing groundbreaking music. Just like most record companies, Sky Records were being sent many tapes during 1978. Usually, the tapes would range from good and bad to indifferent. One of the tapes that Günter Körber had been sent was Adelbert Von Deyen’s. Having listened to the tape, Günter Körber made the decision to add a new name to the Sky Records’ roster,.. Adelbert Von Deyen.
Günter Körber contacted Adelbert Von Deyen to offer him a recording contract. Sky Records were willing to record Adelbert Von Deyen’s debut album worldwide. The as yet unnamed album became Sternzeit, which featured a distinctive cover painted by Adelbert Von Deyen.
Sky Records’ release of Sternzeit rewarded all the time and effort Adelbert Von Deyen’s had spent recording his debut album. From March to August 1978, Adelbert worked on the two lengthy tracks that became Sternzeit. They were Per Aspera Ad Astra ,which was a three-part suite, featuring Mental Voyage, Stellardance and Astral Projection. Then on the second side of Sternzeit was the title-track a twenty-five minute epic. These tracks were recorded in Adelbert new home studio.
Although Sternzeit was recorded in his home studio, Adelbert Von Deyen had access to an enviable array of equipment. This included a myriad of strings including an ARP Odyssey. They were joined by synth strings, an organ, electric piano and electric guitar. Adelbert Von Deyen played each instrument, and produced Sternzeit. Once the album was recorded, it was mixed at Star-Studio, in Hamburg. Now Sternzeit was ready for release.
When Sternzeit was released later in 1978, it was well received by critics. Sternzeit sold reasonably, well and certainly was more successful than many Krautrock and Berlin School albums. It was only later that Adelbert Von Deyen’s music would receive the credit and critical acclaim it deserved. By then, Adelbert Von Deyen had an enviable back-catalogue.
After the commercial success of Sternzeit, Adelbert Von Deyen was able to give up his job as a a retoucher for a Berlin newspaper and devote his energies to making music. This was a dream come true. Adelbert Von Deyen had also become something of a celebrity in his home town of Lübeck. He began to receive fan mail from record buyers, and was being booked to sign autographs. However, Adelbert Von Deyen wasn’t going to let his newfound celebrity status go to his head. Not when he had music to make.
When Adelbert Von Deyen had signed with Günter Körber’s Sky Records, the contract specified that he must deliver one album each year. So Adelbert Von Deyen’s thought’s turned to his sophomore album. Part of the inspiration for one of the tracks came something that happened during a short holiday after the release of Sternzeit.
To celebrate the success of Sternzeit, Adelbert Von Deyen decided to book a short holiday in Nordborg, on the Danish island of Alsen. This would allow Adelbert to recharge his batteries. He had spent the best part of a year juggling his full-time job and recording his debut album. Sometimes, Adelbert had worked into the wee small hours of the morning. So he was due a break. Little did Adelbert realise as he journeyed to Norborg, that his short break would later, provide the inspiration for his much-anticipated sophomore album.
On his return to Lübeck, Adelbert Von Deyen began work on his sophomore album, which he decided to call Norborg. His holiday provided plenty of inspiration for an album. On Side One, which Adelbert decided to call Moonrise, he decided to replicate sounds of life on Norborg from the moment the moon begins to rise. To do this, Adelbert decided to recreate the sound of nature and the elements taking their toll on Norborg. He remembered the wind blowing, eddying and swirling. Meanwhile, Seagulls cry and protest as they battled the buffeting wind. Other times, Adelbert remembered a calmness that descended. This brought with it a sense of serenity that he planned to replicate in a ruminative, ethereal and elegiac soundscape. It would invite introspection and reflection. Then on the B-Side, Adelbert planned to recreate a ferocious blizzard that he had witnessed during his break. This he decided to call Iceland. Having plotted the ideas for his sophomore album, Adelbert Von Deyen headed into his Turm-Studio, in Lübeck.
That was where Adelbert Von Deyen kept his enviable array of instruments. He was gradually adding new equipment to the studio. He would play on Norborg, a variety of instruments. This would include his ARP Odyssey, It was joined by a Farfisa String Orchestra, Hohner Electronic Piano, Farfisa Organ and Rhythm-Computer. These instruments were recorded into a Revox A 77 Taperecorder and mixed using a Roland Mixer. Gradually, the album began to shape.
Eventually, Norborg was completed. By then, Adelbert Von Deyen had written, recorded, played each instrument, produced and mixed Norborg. This was quite incredible, considering Adelbert was still a relative newcomer to music. He was making up for lost time.
With Norborg complete, Adelbert Von Deyen turned his attention to the album cover. Just like Sternzeit, Adelbert painted a picture that became the album cover to Norborg. This distinctive painting depicts perfectly the music on Norborg.
Now that the album was completed, Adelbert Von Deyen delivered the album to Günter Körber at Sky Records. Just like Sternzeit, he was won over by the music on Norborg. Its release was scheduled for later in 1979.
Before that, copies of Norborg were sent to critics. They too, were won over by the music on Norborg and the album received critical acclaim. That was no surprise.
Norborg is evocative, ethereal, elegiac and has a cinematic quality. So much so, that it’s possible to imagine the moon rising over Norborg as nature and the elements take centre-stage on Moonrise. Synths swirl, replicating the gusts of eddying winds, before the sound of seagulls battle the buffeting winds. Meanwhile, Adelbert Von Deyen continues to improvise, sculpting and carefully creating the ruminative, introspective, meditative and sometimes dramatic soundscape that is Moonrise.
Iceland where Adelbert Von Deyen recreates the ferocious blizzard he witnessed during his holiday in Norborg. What follows is the perfect musical storm. To create this, he deploys his arsenal of instruments effectively and creates an authentic sounding soundscape. It builds, ebbing and flowing, veering between dramatic to wistful and melancholy. Always, there’s a cinematic quality to this second ambient soundscape. It finds Adelbert successfully combining ambient, avant-garde, Berlin School and electronica on much-anticipated sophomore album Norburg. Its ethereal beauty was sure to find an audience.
That proved to be the case. When Norborg was released by Sky Records later in 1979 it was to widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. The album sold reasonably well, outselling many similar albums and surpassed the success of Adelbert Von Deyen’s debut album Sternzeit. The many months of hard work and dedication had paid off.
In his home studio, gradually, Adelbert Von Deyen honed and sculpted what was regarded as the finest album of his nascent career, Norborg. It’s variously atmospheric, cinematic, elegiac and ethereal. Occasionally an element of drama and darkness is introduced and so are futuristic, sci-fi sounds. Sometimes the soundscapes reveal a melancholy, wistful sound. They’re sometimes ruminative and invite introspection and reflection. There’s also beauty and a sense of melancholia and wistfulness on Norborg as Adelbert Von Deyen’s cult classic reveals its nuances, secrets and subtleties.
Nowadays, Norborg is regarded as Adelbert Von Deyen’s second genre classic. So would the followup album Atmosphere. He’s one of the few Berlin School artists whose first three albums are regarded as genre classics.
Despite this, they didn’t find the wider audience audience it deserved outside of Germany. Even at home, success was relative, and that was a case with Norborg which sold well compared to similar releases.
Forty-one years later, and sadly, Norborg is an oft-overlooked cult classic that most people won’t have heard of. However, connoisseurs of the Berlin School of Electronic Music hold Adelbert Von Deyen and his music in the highest regard. Especially his first three albums, including Norborg where the Berlin School pioneer fuses elements of ambient, avant-garde, electronica, experimental and Krautrock on this critically acclaimed and genre-melting cult classic that belongs in the collection of anyone with even a passing interest in electronic music.
Cult Classic: Adelbert Von Deyen-Norborg.
- Posted in: Ambient ♦ Avant Garde ♦ Berlin School ♦ Electronic ♦ Krautrock
- Tagged: Adelbert Von Deyen, Atmosphere, Günter Körber, Lars Hidde, Norborg, Sky Records, Star Studio Hamburg, Sternzeit, Wolfgang Zabba Lindner
I have to confess that I had not heard about this musician until you blogged about him. He’s on my check him out list.
He’s definitely worth checking out. Especially the first three albums. They were released on CD and LP a few years ago, but it’s still possible to buy original copies for reasonable prices.