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Vinyl Ventures #1 [TE]: Six Tears - Six Tears (1990)

I lied. I lied to you all!

Because actually, the first edition of Vinyl Ventures is not going to talk about a vinyl record at all! In fact, it's a cassette: and therefore, let us welcome the first episode in general and the first special Tape Edition of Vinyl Ventures, the blog series where I listen to one of the vintage music media that I got from my dad and write down my opinions and first impressions about all of it.

Among the records that my dad gifted me (as I explained in the introduction of this series), I could find not only vinyl, but also CDs and cassettes aplenty.

With my "new" Sony Diskman and my portable tape player, I can listen to them on the go, and because my phone's headphone jack is broken (and I also usually don't take it with me), it's my only way to listen to music outside. On a recent train ride, I took this particular cassette with me and decided to write my first "first impressions" music entry about it, because it is really quite fascinating. Don't worry, actual vinyl records coming soon!

Image: Cassette in question; red and black inlet saying SIX TEARS on the side included in the case. It appears hand-written.

INTRODUCTION

So, let us get into it.

This cassette is a recording you will have never heard of: a self-titled demo tape produced by the German band SIX TEARS. As far as I can tell, it is the only thing they have ever published, and it certainly is not well known anywhere in any shape or form. A cursory internet search yielded practically no results save for a Discogs entry, so we have something very obscure on our hands!

It actually caught my eye in the register of tapes because of its fancy outside dressing making it stick out visually among all the plain cassette cases with simple writing on them. I thought it looked super cool! I am not sure whether it's hand-made; it kind of looks like it, and the only other picture I could find of the outside had something different on it, so I suspect every copy of this tape is actually unique.

According to the booklet, it has three songs on each side:

Side A

  1. One Day Lonely Day (5:57)
  2. In A Blue Room (4:45)
  3. Magic Circle (3:07)

Side B

  1. Moonlight (7:28)
  2. Neben Dir (3:49)
  3. Der Schrei (4:25)

The band members are also named as the following:

So yes... I certainly wondered what this little piece of lost history is! As it turns out, it seems to be a super local, short lived punk band that perhaps a handful of people have ever heard of, let alone remember today. Perfect for a bunch of vinyl venture deep diving! And I hope that perhaps one of the band members or their friends finds this site and sulks in some memories; if so, let me know, that would be super cool!

Image: Only the red and black inlet, revealing a handwritten track list, and all of the additional information noted in the article written down.

SEARCHING FOR ITS ORIGINS

So, what is it and where did it come from?

My dad denies all knowledge of the tape and while I suspect it must have been one of the free extras the shops sometimes put with orders to promote a local band, he said it was probably gifted to him by a local friend.

As I mentioned, I first tried scouring the internet, but the only result is this Discogs listing that confirms the data I have with the physical edition in front of me. According to the inlet, it was "mixed at Mohrmann's, produced by Six Tears", and a little date says "1990" on it, which is probably its publication date. And as "contact info", they name a certain "A. Beyer", Bremerstra├če 4, 46 Dortmund. So it is actually a very local band to me! ... Although I assume that "A. Beyer", who will probably be either Andrea or Anne, has probably moved away from that address since the 1990s, so do not show up uninvited just because it says so on the cassette. Got it?

IMPRESSIONS

Let us get into the meat of this post. I have listened to the entire album and have written down my thoughts and impressions about this unique piece of music, which I will share with you in this section.

TRACK 1: ONE DAY LONELY DAY

The A side starts off with the track "One Day Lonely Day", which is with its almost six minutes also the second longest track only second to the seven and a half minute long Moonlight on side B. Immediately after pressing the play button (with the ten second delay typical for these manally recorded tapes), you will be greeted by a surprisingly tight bassline that gently introduces you to the fact that this is a 1990 obscure punk band. It is embraced by a very tight and open drumset that together with the bass provides the carpet of the song.

Soon after this has been established, a monotonous female-read voice begins singing the song title over and over again, growing more frustrated and aggressive as the song progresses. This is really the essence of the entire song: throughout the whole six minutes, the track continues to ramp up, with the vocals growing more and more intense, the beat becoming more irregular, and more noise being added to the percussion. However, on a note of personal criticism, the tempo never changes, and the entire song save for a very short (but welcome) section is entirely in one key. Listening to this multiple times can grow more monotonous than they perhaps intended: a section of musical relief, perhaps accompanying an additional intensification of the mood in a higher key, would have been very nice.

As the song progresses, the buildup takes various shapes and all instruments react accordingly. The high-pitched guitar screeches more often and more wildly, the xylophone that is prominent towards the beginning to provide some acoustic highs fades into the background, and various sources of noise that sound like metal crashing on metal are added. The singer changes the lyrics, however it stays monotonous. This does fit the song's atmosphere though, which evokes the image of frustration and emotional distress. The singer also frequently ventures into a well-tuned falsetto here, which gives this song a much-needed unique identity that actually makes me like the track a lot!

The song ends as it reaches its crescendo on a screaming guitar and a loud crash, however it could have built up to this climax a little stronger. The lack of key changes and the monotonous development would have been more effective if the latter half of the song subverted it, but that does not happen.

All in all, it is a strong opener that perhaps drags on a little long and could have used a little more variation. Either way, it introduces you to the style this album will be in.

TRACK 2: IN A BLUE ROOM

Track 2 starts off very differently. Again it is the bass that kicks off the song, but this time, it is a slow and opaque introduction that gives off a very different vibe from the first track. Throughout the solo bass part here, the background percussion again builds suspense with a quiet, occasional suppressed cymbal roll. The vocals set in and - wow - the singer has a wide range! Their voice is soft and emotional here, complementing the bass wonderfully.

This goes on like that and slowly builds narrative suspense, but this time as opposed to the first track, the suspense actually goes somewhere and does not overstay its welcome. Suddenly, the next line the vocalist sings is much louder and powerful than before, elevating the suspense to the next level. Again we can see that the concept of this track is building up suspense just like the last one, but this one actually releases the suspense at some point. I like this one more! The key also changes after a short while of this louder, more confident voice dominating the track. The percussion sets in and the vocals gain a very nice reverb effect, filling the room more and showcasing the progression this track goes through.

When the saxophone sets in, this track really drives home the difference between the first and the second song. This one's atmosphere is quite different from the first, but you can still feel the continuity through the once again oft-repeating and monotonous vocals. The percussion at this point drives the song, because it also gains a reverb effect. This is really the height of the song, and as it goes on further, Andrea's violin sets in and interweave with the saxophone for some melancholic, schizophrenic soundscape that carries the track's mood. There's a tempo change too, and the vocals begin interweaving just like the saxophone and the violin.

Eventually, the song fades out with the voice becoming as soft as in the beginning once more, and the instruments gradually fade away. It finishes on the saxophone and violin, both instruments that weren't there in the introduction; concluding the simple musical narrative that had been built up here from bass to leads.

Everything considered, on a technical level I like this song much more than One Day Lonely Day and I think it might have been a better intro track to the tape. Its suspense and buildups actually see a release, and its musical narrative is more coherent than the first one. Still, both tracks have their strong and weak points, and I would be hard pressed to choose one of them to kick out if I had to. I am still a fan of both.

TRACK 3: MAGIC CIRCLE

The final track on the A side starts with both bass and drums in a tight beat, not dissimilar to the first song, but a little bit closer to traditional rock music. This entire track actually feels more like a typical punk song than the other two. Although it is this track that made me finally put into words the way the vocals feel to me: the singers sound slightly bored or relaxed, as if they were singing while tiredly lying down on the couch; the traditional punk formula of either aggressive screaming or uppity casual almost-spoken vocals is nowhere to be seen here. This gives the band an identity that I'd recognize blindly (but perhaps not among its contemporary peers): which is also probably what makes me like this tape in the first place.

The voice, while bearing these qualities, is still repeating lines, but shows more dynamics in pitch and tempo. The key changes often, sometimes with interesting harmonics that would not have been my personal first choices but do actually fit very well. The focus is definitely on the vocals once more, with only the bass, the drums and the occasional guitar strum embracing the singer in the background. Eventually, two voices set in, battling each other in a 'call and response' section which I found rather cool. Once again, this track showcases the decent range of the band; not every song sounds exactly the same, and each of them is different in some significant way. This being a more traditionally 'rock' or 'punk' track certainly will have its fans.

In the end, I was found wanting a little more since this felt like a pretty short song despite its official 3:07 seconds having played duly. Either way, this one was a refreshing breather from the first two, and it made me excited for side B.

TRACK 4: MOONLIGHT

Side B is with us now, and the first track, Moonlight, which is also the longest song on the entire demo tape, begins strongly with leading violins playing a melody that almost makes me expect a fantasy or medieval soundtrack following. This impression is further driven home by the energetic drums that now once again build up suspense as if a barrage of orcs were heading the way of the friendly neighborhood tavern; a very interesting introduction to the B side.

This however is abruptly and intentionally subverted when a bass, almost with the sound of a synthesizer, kicks in, and confident and full vocals sing "I see the moonlight", dragged out in an interesting harmonic. There are plenty of good key changes that convey an almost spooky atmosphere. The vocals eventually will switch from the aforementioned confident, deeper sections into falsetto tunes, giving the track a fun dynamic. Talking about vocals; the lyrics, "My violin is broken now" keep hammering home the point, nicely supported by the fact that the violin does not return after this line appears. I can only imagine what they did to the poor violin during a live performance.

The bass eventually brings in a certain dissonance that is very cool; and then, only the bass and a rattling percussion section grace the ear, which is really nice since it brings a break into the song from where they can build up once more; a first on this album. In general, this appeared to be my favorite track at this point out of all of them. The percussion is also quite a bit more complicated in that one, with frequent breaks and off beat sections.

All things considered, after this was over, Moonlight became my favorite track up until this point, and I noted down as much. Let us see what the last two tracks have in store for us.

TRACK 5: NEBEN DIR

If the track title was not a giveaway already, here is a shocker for you: this German band is singing in German on this track, actually.

Once more, the violin kicks off the song, quickly joined by a fast paced beat and bass. It actually reminds me of a more traditional punk track (how many times have I uttered this phrase today?) more than anything on the A side, and it is a welcome change once again. The singer is clearly a little more comfortable singing in German than in English, as the vocals are now much less monotonous, even though they still have the trademark quality I touched upon earlier. During many stretches of the track, they sound almost like a pleading voice, and the lyrics that likewise wax around angsty word combinations such as bloody lips and a sore voice complement that well.

The lack of a guitar would be jarring for this type of track if it hadn't been for the bass player, who is clearly a bit more playful here and even has a little two-beat long solo in the middle.

The song with its almost four minutes in length does not at all overstay its welcome, and it is a solid midfielder for the second half.

TRACK 6: DER SCHREI

We have arrived at the last track, Der Schrei, and the beginning is something we have not heard before from Six Tears. A playful bass with a delay effect plays a suspenseful melody with an even more effect laden guitar playing sound effects over it. The vocals whisper away over this particularly intense sequence, gradually ebbing and fading more vibrato in and out. Again, the lyrics are in German.

Similar to track 4, Moonlight's, beginning, a plethora of drums build up even more suspense as the vocals reduce to simply yelling the word "schrei", which translates to "scream". It is a special atmosphere mostly carried by the bass, and it is certainly well executed.

When all of the suspense releases, it drops into a very cool, slow melancholic song with two vocalists at the microphone. They split up their talents well, with one continuing the desperate yelling of the word 'Schrei', and the other one singing lyrics with an almost classically trained voice. There are plenty of very good key changes in this section, sometimes dissonant, taking the listener with the band onto a ride. As a musician, I have particularly enjoyed these little details as the song feels very nice and technical, especially compared to some of the A side.

Listening to this song, I found this to be the catchiest, and in my opinion, this would have been the "hit" of this tape if it had seen more widespread commercial success. In fact, this last track also grew to be my favorite track of the whole demo tape! The very well crafted suspenseful beginning combined with the technical body of the song make for a great and well-rounded product that make me happy to have listened to the B side in full.

Image: Front cover of the cassette, illustrating a single-color, squareish and somewhat creepy looking simplified cartoon man laying on his back with an open and leaking mouth.

CONCLUSION

Despite the fact that, or perhaps even because, this is an obscure demo tape nobody seems to really remember, this has quickly become one of the early pride parts of my budding music collection. To think that somewhere, somehow, the original members of the Six Tears are around, unaware of me writing 3000+ words about their demo tape and sharing it with the world, makes me happy. I have actively listened to this cassette and written down my thoughts about it, and this made me gain a new understanding of this little EP that I would otherwise have never had. This is really why I am doing this entire series on album impressions: to actively interact with the music I own so it actually gets imprinted in my memories through these posts and me considering what I am hearing. Otherwise, I'd gloss over the music fast, forgetting about it soon after listening.

In general, this is not going to be one of my favorite albums of all time, but it was a solid listen for when one is in the mood for this specific type of music. I wish Six Tears continued making music, but from what I could find, they never published anything else, and only appeared once on a sampler summarizing local subculture music of the city they published in. It was a great deal of fun for me to listen to this obscure little tape, and it makes me all the more excited for what awaits in the future episodes of Vinyl Ventures; hopefully finally with actual vinyl by the second one.