• Ideal
  • Ideal (Ger. Innovative Communications) 1980 
  • Der Ernst des Lebens (Ger. Eitel Optimal) 1981 
  • Bi Nuu (Ger. Eitel Optimal) 1983 
  • Humpe-Humpe
  • Humpe-Humpe (Warner Bros.) 1985 
  • Swimming with Sharks
  • Swimming with Sharks (Atlantic) 1987 

Odd pop from an innovative and intelligent German quartet. Ideal played kinetic, herky-jerky guitar-based rock; Anete Humpe, a rough but convincing vocalist, sang in her native tongue. Given the Teutonic predilection for electronics and progressive music, Ideal’s Anglo-American-styled approach — on Tangerine Dreamer Klaus Schulze’s label, no less — is quite unexpected. Although the band is not too structurally bizarre on the almost-rudimentary first LP, the record does display incipient invention, with all sorts of delightful bits thrown in to keep things hopping.

On the Conny Plank-produced Der Ernst des Lebens (The Seriousness of Life), however, the polished sound makes the record seem superficially less idiosyncratic, although drippy organ and surprises like cello and extraneous audio effects provide considerable evidence to the contrary. The songs concern some pretty interesting subjects as well — e.g., “Sex in the Desert,” “Tension” and “Shoot.” With Humpe letting one of her male bandmates sing a good portion of the tunes, they subtly absorb rockabilly, reggae and other influences into the stew.

Bi Nuu exposes Ideal’s singing and songwriting shortcomings and is inferior to the prior LPs. In an attempt to keep things happening, the band incorporates more Carib-beats and even jazzy stylings, as well as studio gimmickry, but all for naught — this brief album has precious little life in it.

Following the end of Ideal, Anete and her younger sister Inga formed a band which, with producer Roma Baran (a Laurie Anderson associate) as catalyst, transmuted into Humpe-Humpe. Baran wound up splitting the studio chores on Humpe-Humpe with Plank, Gareth Jones and the Humpes; somehow, they collectively came up with something like a modern-age electronic Eurovision record. Over what sounds like all-synthesized music, the sisters sing their compositions in English and German with agreeable harmonic skill, if not much raw vocal talent. Anderson’s ghost is audibly present in the gimmicky effects and self-amused tone, but commercial intentions put an utterly different bias on the proceedings. A neat, offbeat pop record.

In the US, the Humpe sisters’ next record was issued with the album’s title also serving as the band name. If the ploy was meant to improve sales, it didn’t work: Swimming with Sharks sank without a trace.

[Ira Robbins]