The Nearly Forgotten Poison Dwarfs

Hans Castrup and Ralf Dublatz of Poison Dwarfs
Hans Castrup and Ralf Dublatz of Poison Dwarfs

If you’re into the whole underground cassette culture that bloomed in Europe and America during the 1980’s, you know that a lot of the European electronic/ industrial/ minimalistic/ acts sound very similar. A typical album example often features hand crafted cover and insert art, contact information, and a cassette full of similar sounding pieces with that lo-fi aura to it. Poison Dwarfs fits into this niche nicely; their cassettes were often designed by the members themselves, there was a reasonable amount of information about the band (credits, contacts, date etc.), and a lot of their lo-fi ambient music sounded similar. Understandably, many people simply treat their work as a nostalgic vestige of that corny post-punk 80’s culture. I believe that there is more to this group. Although it is easy to categorize Poison Dwarfs with other cassette groups of the time, their music has an intelligent structure that is not immediately recognizable in their first release (a sample of which is featured below). The cold ambiance of the synths that is augmented by bass, guitar, and drums comes into its own in 1983’s Wechselbad. This release was limited to 100 copies, each featuring art designed by the band. The sound is all about the atmosphere: various components of the sound combine neatly into a unique track. This alone sets the release apart from the brute , hackneyed electronic noodling of other bands. I fondly remember first discovering the world of esoteric music on the Mutant Sounds Blog. This was my first discovery so there is some bias. That being said, judge for yourself.

Information concerning the band:

Poison Dwarf is a German band from Osnabrück that was formed in 1980 by Helmut Westerfeld (guitar + electronics) and Hans Castrup (electronics, tapes + Studio). They got their name from the fact that Castrup’s English teacher used this title to refer to angry, little men. Though Westerfield left, others would come and go before Poison Dwarfs was distilled into the duo of Castrup and Ralf Dublatz. They toured in various clubs and released several albums before taking a hiatus in 1990. They’re back together and still making music. I’ve had the pleasure of talking to them over e-mail so I got to delve a little deeper into this neat act. Their influences include New Wave, Krautrock, Psychedelia and Jazz. The singer is also a fan of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and Alan Vega.

Discography

Poison Dwarfs (Cass, C-10) Eigenvertrieb, 1981
Angst und Ekstase (Cass, C-40) Eigenvertrieb, 1982
Wechselbad (Cass, C-40) Eigenvertrieb, 1983
Take Care (Split-Cass, Poison Dwarfs – Set Fatale) IndepenDance, 1985
La Ronde (LP, Album) Roof Records, Rough Trade, 1988
…CUT! (Cass, C40) Irre Tapes, 1989
La Ronde (CD) WOM, jpc, 2010
…CUT! (CD), WOM, jpc, 2010
labil (CD, Cass), Timezone Records, 2012

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