Not exactly the stock-in-trade set list of goth clubs and vampire movies, yet as suitable a soundtrack for reflection on mortality as any Rosetta Stone album could aspire to be.
A current favorite, last year's Roll Your Moneymaker: Early Black Rock 'n' Roll 1948-1958, plumbs the earliest incarnations of rock music. It includes the first recording of the Preston Foster song "Got My Mojo Working" (sung by the enigmatic Ann Cole), two classic Ike Turner tracks, the powerhouse Etta James anthem "W-O-M-A-N," and the hilariously snarky "Pneumonia" by Joe Tex. Trikont's acclaimed swamp music series nine albums' worth of forgotten zydeco and Cajun gems evolved from a crash course in music appreciation. Bergmann reminisces: "We came to Floyd Soileau of Flat Town Music ... and told him to go to the cellar where the music that he couldn't sell anymore was stored ... [afterward] we were sitting here for weeks, reading things, listening to big boxes of it without any knowledge [of the genre] and ended up with the first three compilations, which were an incredible success."
One of the most outré of Trikont's compilations is also perhaps one of its most universal: the "La Paloma" series an audacious collection of 141 versions of one song. Originally penned around 1863 by a Basque national called Sebastian Iraider, the stately habanera spread from continent to continent, insinuating itself into the collective musical consciousness. In Mexico, it's a call to arms (or to amor). In Romania, it's a funeral march. In Tanzania, it's chanted at weddings. In Germany, it's a seafarer's anthem. In Hawaii, it's plucked out on the slack key guitar first introduced to the island by Spanish-speaking vaqueros. In fact, series curator Kalle Laar estimates that "La Paloma" has been recorded well over 2,000 times, in every possible language and style.
Even though his label is open to experimentation and quirk, Bergmann admits that when the "La Paloma" project was first pitched by Laar a prominent sound artist and "a collector of very strange music" Trikont's first reaction was unequivocal: "We said, hey, Kalle Laar, we are crazy, but not that crazy." But Laar persisted, bringing mixed tapes of the song, presenting the history of the tune, and expounding on its worldwide popularity. "It was very interesting to hear," Bergmann recalls. "It was the same song each time, but it wasn't. You could listen to all these versions at one time and it wasn't boring or repetitive."
In 1995, the first volume of La Paloma: One Song for All Worlds was released. With versions recorded by Amon Duul II, Hans Albers, Carla Bley, Jelly Roll Morton, and Szedo Miklos, it documents a full 100 years' worth of "La Palomania," and has since led to the eventual release of five more volumes. In turn Laar's project inspired Sigrid Faltin's 2008 documentary La Paloma. Sehnsucht. Weltwide (a.k.a. La Paloma. Longing, Worldwide) which screened at San Francisco's Berlin and Beyond festival last January.
In addition to genre-crossing compilations, Trikont's lineup of German-language folk, jazz, and avant-garde pop musicians keeps the label connected to its original mission. Collectively, the label's single-artist albums are as varied as its compilations: they include recordings by Bayrische Rastafarian Hans Söllner, Berlin-based jazzman Coco Schumann, and Bavaria's contribution to the anarchist brass band genre, La Brass Banda.
Though Trikont's desire to free music from the narrow confines of regionalism applies to its German-language artists, the label is best recognized for its compilations of obscure Americana. American music, Bergmann points out, has long been the preferred music of German youth in regions occupied by the U.S. Armed Forces.