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MP3 Zyklon - The Heartland

Post-punk Industrial noise from the heartland of America, circa 1981.

17 MP3 Songs
ELECTRONIC: Industrial


“From 1979-1982 there was only ONE minimal synth / industrial band in Michigan and that band was ZYKLON…. Killer washes of heavy electronic noise connected by buzzes of melodic synth.… Totally WEIRD SHIT that sounded like nothing else. This CD is a heavy historical document of NOISE!”
– Aaron Dilloway, WOLF EYES

Key early records establishing Industrial music as genre: first CABARET VOLTAIRE album (1979); first EINSTUERZENDE NEUBAUTEN (1980); and in the US, in 1981—

“America’s answer to THROBBING GRISTLE comes pulsating and vibrating out of … where?” (see note #1)

Grand Rapids, MI = GRiM Records electro-industrial pioneers ZYKLON.

Snap up this 25th anniversary limited edition CD documenting derailed dark synthpop at its outermost limit: The Heartland.

Z y• k l o n
(zī ′ klôn)

n. 1. A three-man, three-synthesizer “Industrial-Electro” pop group from Grand Rapids, Michigan comprising T. Purdy, B. Younker and S. Zuidema (all 1960– ). Active 1979–1982. Self-produced single “Wir Sind” b/w “Gary, IN” and “Part-Time” (GRiM Records, 1981) distinguishes Zyklon as first US electronica recording artist to champion Industrial noise as music genre. Progenitors of later sub-genre Glitch. [German : Zyklon, cyclone or tornado]

“A tornado was what a lot of their music sounded like.”
This was never more true than on 2-21-81, the day Zyklon first performed live—in a cavernous hall packed with drunken adolescents impatiently awaiting a punk lite cover band.
Probably Zyklon would have met with much the same reception in any other American city. Namely, a welcome of the sort Earthlings in 1950s movies accorded unexpected guests from outer space.
If Zyklon’s public emergence in 1981 coincided with the peak of post-punk creativity, sadly, “New Wave” fans and critics tended to be hostile to any deviation from safety pins and skinny ties. And as if Zyklon’s sound wasn’t foreign enough, here they were on stage—three guys “playing” three “boxes on slide projector stands,” as one witness described it.
Twenty five years ago, audiences had no reference point for a live band with no drums, no guitars, not even a recognizable keyboard. They felt exposed to something alien and did not like it. They cheered when someone pulled the plug.

Today it’s kind of funny to consider the resemblance between Zyklon’s 1981 stage set up and Kraftwerk on tour in 2006 (four men with laptops on slide projector stands).
But Zyklon were unwittingly ahead of their time, and had not calculated their presentation. None of them had been to art school. They didn’t come out of any scene; they had no mentor.
There wasn’t anyone like them within a thousand mile radius.
Stateside, the only still-living bands they felt any kinship with were Pere Ubu and Devo (significantly, both from neighbor state Ohio). But TG, the Cabs, Ubu et al. all performed using conventional rock instruments. And every synth-pop act from Kraftwerk on down at the very least had somebody reassuringly hitting a syndrum.
Not Zyklon.
In 1981 America, they were the only band of their generation playing live using voice and synthesizers only (sometimes augmented with backing tapes of machine rhythms recorded by Tom Purdy at the refrigerator factory where he worked). This sort of activity was marginal enough in 1981 West Berlin. Zyklon’s hometown was the last possible place on earth you would expect.
Grand Rapids is so normal it’s strange. (see note #2)
Zyklon was as all-American as Skafish, Sparks and Suicide. They didn’t need to act strange. By the time of Heartland (late 1981, cat. no. GR002, distributed by Rough Trade US; track 10 included on SUB POP 7) they were even making some effort to fit in— Like a tornado that, in between reducing your neighborhood to the waste you knew it always was, has the nerve to turn friendly, try to be funny, then losing patience laughs itself sick.
Nowadays, almost anyone with a computer can create electronic noise—with basic software replete with presets named “industrial.” But if there’s one thing you can’t do with a computer, it’s make the music on Heartland.


GRiM Records
PO Box 230502
Grand Rapids, MI 49523-0502 USA

Note #1 = Unidentified zine clipping in GRiM archives. More online at https://www.tradebit.com

Note #2 = Geographically, Grand Rapids (GR) is a curious confluence of northern end stations. Last stop north of the bible belt. Last Michigan (MI) stop of the “rust belt.” Meteorologically, the MI terminus of “tornado alley.” A mid-sized Midwestern city more or less midway between Chicago and Detroit, GR is also the hometown of Gerald R. Ford, the Amway Corporation, NIV Bible publisher Zondervan, and the Hardcore (Paul Schrader film starring George C. Scott [1979]) conservative Christian Reformed Church.

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