Kosmischer Läufer: Volume Three: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83 Review

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Kosmischer Läufer: <i>Volume Three: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972-83</i> Review

The story of Kosmischer Läufer is one of the most wonderfully apocryphal tales in the current music world. According to Unknown Capability Recordings, the tracks compiled on this and the previous two volumes they’ve released so far were created by musician Martin Zeichnete as part of a training soundtrack for East Germany’s Olympic athletes. It’s a great story and one that you wish were true, but no one has ever been able to corroborate it. Nor do I think they really should. Much like Chuck Barris’ supposed work as an assassin with the CIA (as documented in his book Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), you almost prefer that it doesn’t get confirmed or denied. The mystery is just too delicious.

The backstory is also a great device to draw people’s attention towards what might otherwise be dismissed as just another Krautrock homage using vintage modular synths, or synth patches built into a Eurorack system or computer hard drive. Even then, you have to give credit to the meticulous work that the creators of Kosmischer Läufer (or “Cosmic Runner”) did to evoke the musical era that they’re paying tribute to. The rolling melody lines and little synth trills in “Jenseits des Horizonts” sound like an abandoned offramp on Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn.” And the opening track “Zeit sum Laufen 164” could easily get snuck into the recent vinyl box set of Harmonia’s collected works without anyone being the wiser.

On this volume, the story of Zeichnete goes even deeper, with the entirety of side two of the vinyl edition (tracks four through 10 on the digital version) given over to a supposed soundtrack to an animated film meant to “launch a bid to bring the 1984 Summer Games to East Berlin.” Again, a great concept made even better by the evocative track titles (“In the city and in the countryside,” “The Girl’s Dream,” “Arrival at the Stadium/The race”), even when the music sometimes feels like it’s straining to keep within the tone of the times.

There’s zero doubt at this point that the music here is being made by a modern band or single artist. The sound the recording is far too clean and some of the instrumentation doesn’t feel like it fits the supposed era when these tracks were laid down. But, again, a little suspension of disbelief never hurt anyone and certainly takes nothing away from the enjoyment of a throwback lark like this.