RLW / PAAK – Zur Arbeit I


(attenuation circuit, 2016)

Ugh, work sucks, am I right? Another day, another dollar, or Deutschmark if you’re from Germany, like the Augsburg-based label attenuation circuit is. They use euros there now, you say? Figures. But hey, I love a good round of Kumbaya, a little bit of Namaste, and a whole big chorus of “Come Together” now and again. That’s what makes us all good people in the end, our sense of camaraderie. The EU is one big happy family. I think. I imagine they are anyway.

But still, you gotta get through that workday, and once you do, once you’re on the other side, you can appreciate the parts of your life that aren’t governed by “the Man.” That’s the beauty of it – compared to the 9-to-5, the rest of your day comes off pretty swell, filled with laughter and friends, joy and comfort. Listen, you’re not just a wage slave, in it for the bare living – there’s more to you than that. There’s flavor and color, and you just have to hang on long enough to take advantage of it.

Zur Arbeit I, a collaboration between Ralf Wehowsky and Peter Kastner, aka RLW and PAAK, emphasizes that hanging on is just about the extent the vast majority of people are able to do these days. As a concept, it’s pretty hefty – almost every moment of the record recalls human beings toiling at something, whether it’s in a factory or collaborating in an office or even having lunch with the other stupid drones you’re forced to interact with. I’m not even kidding, though, I’m having a hard time keeping it together, because I feel like “the Man” – there it is again! – is right over my shoulder, watching my every move. He’s siphoning off my future anyway, why shouldn’t he be all up in my business on a daily basis?

RLW / PAAK keep it moving though, from the bizarre harpsichord comedy of errors “Schnaps” to the Terry Gilliam-on-acid lunch break of “Kantine” (and when is Terry Gilliam not on acid, honestly?), finally veering into straight paranoia on “Gerberei.” You know those rose-colored glasses you’re clearly wearing after the whistle blows at the end of the day, the ones that make the evening hours way more acceptable (if you’re not stuck in the graveyard shift)? Liars. Your crummy life really is just better compared to your working one. Time to shake off the haze and think like a human being, not a zombie.

You wanna talk Marx? You wanna talk Social Security? How about our current system where the middle class and the little guy are getting straight railroaded by big business? RLW / PAAK writes odes to the downtrodden in their sleep, then pieces together the results in a musique concrète pastiche as mesmerizing as it is horrifying. But mostly mesmerizing. And even in the horrific parts, it generates more hope than maybe it ought to. That’s probably all on the musicians though. Can’t trust that to the fatcats on Madison Avenue (or whatever the German equivalent of Madison Avenue is).

Grand statements about economic hardship and the plight of the downtrodden aren’t new manifestos, as it were. We’re all just wage slaves. We’re all subject to the safety nets of our respective countries. And when it all comes down to it, are you secure in the knowledge of assistance?  Do you trust “the Man”? Are RLW and PAAK blowing smoke? Are you part of one big happy family? Better reevaluate everything, if you ask me.


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