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פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: Neukoln

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'Neuköln' sharpens the disparity between the ambient tracks on "Heroes" and those on its predecessor Low. While it too is inspired by a place in Berlin, the atmosphere is very different. While Low was all about the atmosphere and the emotions were muted, here we have outbursts that are very emotional. And while in Low the sounds all came together to create a seamless, beautiful texture, here it sounds like they are pitted against each other in a ruthless struggle to be heard. The ambient of Low is soothing; 'Neuköln' is frightening.

Neukölln is a poor district in Berlin populated mainly by immigrants, and in 1977 those immigrants were mainly Turks. The track (which misspells the name of the place) seems to be representing the clash of culture, with Bowie blowing Turkish flavored scales on his saxophone against the backdrop of powerful and oppressive synthesizers playing European scales. The saxophone sounds anguished, expressing the hardships of life as a poor immigrant. But it also sounds soulful and defiant.

We are reminded of 'Subterraneans'. Just like 'Neuköln' closes the ambient part of "Heroes", it closed the ambient part of Low with what sounded like the return of humanity into the synthetic urban world the previous tracks expressed. While there it was a subterranean murmur, here it is a scream, a scream of a humanity that refuses to be subdued. This album marks not only the return of emotions into Bowie's zombified body, but also the return of defiance against the human condition. What he saw in Neukölln was apparently not only depression, but also determination to overcome and live a happy life. The saxophones wails and rails against the wall of electronic sound, and in the end, it is the last one standing.

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