Rising: Enter the searing soundworlds of Plattenbau
The often misattributed quote that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” is an all-time eye-roller, but in the case of Berlin’s spirited post-punk four-piece Plattenbau, the cliché has at least a small ring of truth. Taking their name from a “large panel system-building constructed of large, ready-assembled concrete slabs” might not suggest the most auspicious foundations for transcendence, but Plattenbau, formed in 2011 by frontman, singer and synth player Lewis Lloyd, offer a take on contemporary life that’s anything but prefabricated.
Lloyd first moved to Berlin in 2009, finding freedom in the city’s post-Communist sprawl, as well as an early rehearsal space situated below a former Stasi headquarters in Lichtenberg. His band’s name, Lloyd explains, was “inspired by the concept of modern society trying to fit everything in a box, which is easier to see within a crumbled ideological system”.
Although the plattenbau building style still modestly dominates Berlin’s skyline, much has changed in Germany’s reunified capital over the 15 years since Lloyd’s move, including Plattenbau’s line-up. Originally a duo, the group’s sole founding member, Lloyd, is currently joined by Sally Brown on bass, Brandon Walsh on drums and Jesper Munk on synths. Representing Wales, the US and Germany, this motley arrangement shines on their forthcoming album Net Prophet, a propulsive and somewhat tongue-in-cheek exploration of what the band call “post-ideological surrealism”, encompassing darkwave, punk and anti-capitalist pop. It’s a searing but always playful sound.
“It’s a cynical record, but not a miserable one,” stresses Lloyd, the leader of a gang who clearly love each other’s company and ideas. “For me, making art has an important cathartic element. A lot of us have negative thoughts and feelings, but the most powerful and accessible thing I know is to embody the source of the negativity, but then celebrate it together.”
Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti’s proposition that “it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” sits front and centre on Net Prophet, handily encompassing the band’s core perspective. Plattenbau’s prolific approach has so far remained proudly DIY, including underground shows further afield in New York – home to their label, Dedstrange, founded by Oliver Ackermann of noise rock band A Place to Bury Strangers. Sensing their creative momentum, Ackermann proposed a fast follow-up to 2022’s Shape/Shifting, and the band turned around Net Prophet with visceral urgency.
“I was a fan of Plattenbau before I was in the band,” explains Brown. “The songwriting always gave me a similar feeling of catharsis that really good comedy delivers – working through some of the stuff that can really keep you hostage with fear, simply by addressing it.”
Net Prophet unapologetically confronts, as its release text notes, “a world in which power casually corrupts absolutely and the mental netscape is more deranged in the membrane than we ever knew possible”. Wrestling with the temptation of doom scrolling, and seeking distraction from ambient climate anxiety, Plattenbau instead choose to transcend the tyranny of choice with the old school pleasures of collaborating as an IRL group.
“The thing to aim for in creativity is economy in expression,” asserts Lloyd. “To get across the most possible with limited tools or palette. We realised it was important for the record to be ‘primary colours’ of synth, guitars, drums and vocals. Our limitations make it more interesting.”
From the angular melodrama of lead single Cloaking Love to the modular synth-speckled spookiness of A New Dawn, and concluding with the cathartic guitar shred of Stadtgrenze, Net Prophet’s calculated minimalism proves a worthy riposte to dire forces that continue to expand unchecked.
Net Prophet is out now via Dedstrange