Translated from German into English by Annie Garlid

 

Introduction

There is this wonderful blind electronic music composer named Pauline Anna Strom about whom I was preparing a piece for my blog recently. Doing a little research online I stumbled across a photo of my friend Hannes Grassegger, a noted swiss business journalist and net theorist – a serious cat really, but also a music lover – holding up Strom’s extremely rare record Trans-Millenia Consort. I was stunned and wondering about the story behind that image. So I reached out for Hannes and it turned out to be one of these really intimate emotional stories which oftentimes stand behind those records we love the most. Enjoy!
 

Trans-Millenia Consort

I usually keep the story of this LP, how I came across it, and what it means to me to myself, although people usually ask me about that record, how I found it etc. when I play it, just because it’s such an amazing album. I think a genuinely good record is somehow always the story of a relationship; "me and my beloved record." In the case of Pauline Anna Strom, though, I usually try to distract inquirers with stories of much rarer records or irritate them with fascinating facts about this unique synth fanatic who was blind but clairvoyant. So clearly could she see the coming of the New Age. Through her music Strom really makes me experience that first wave of Silicon Valley euphoria, the technological optimism and strange longing for the creation of a “spiritual machine” during the early 1980s in the Californian desert. Her small, opaline melodies feel as good as blowing on dandelion seed heads does to a two-year-old and they are accompanied by New Age textures reminiscent of beautiful sprawling landscapes over which those dandelions florets float, underlaid with gingerly flickering beats that wouldn’t be officially "invented" until fifteen years later, when they were called "breakbeats" or "drum&bass."

My decision not to talk about Pauline Anna Strom's Trans-Millenia Consort is a result of the fact that the album has become for me exactly that which a vinyl record can but a file cannot be: a carrier of personal memories. Files save data; records save feelings. I have no idea why that is—in essence, both media were developed to save data. I’m also not esoteric; the word ‘analog’ doesn’t hold a particularly special place in my heart. I'll put it like this: just as the pops and crackling noises of a record actually do bother me, so are the stored memories that attach themselves to my records not always only positive—the potential there for emotional storage shouldn’t be glorified. Some albums represent bad times, and sometimes you don’t want any of those memories to be saved and associated with your records. But selective forgetting doesn’t work. This particular album is steeped with the memories of both a hard blow and of one of the biggest highlights of my life. I love the record because of this, but also abhor it and can’t always listen to it.

The story is about love, about two women: my current wife and the woman before her. The latter I'd already met when she was 15. I was 25. She was the best friend of the little sister of a girl I’d had a fling with as a teenager. That's how I eventually met her. The little sister, who I’d still remembered as a screeching, clumsy, baby-toothed kid, called me one day out of the blue on Skype and asked if we could get together for drinks.

To my surprise that little sister had turned sixteen, had found me online, and had gotten the idea to call me out of nowhere. At the time, I didn’t have anything better to do than to hang out with a 16-year-old. I was intrigued and curious, so I met her in a bar. She’d turned into a delectable, babbling, giggling blonde girl who reacted to everything I said with “cool” or “super cool." Then, her best friend (BF) entered the room. We’ll call her Bifi. She was, more or less, the most irresistible girl I’d ever seen in my life.

She was a former ballerina with gorgeous dark brown hair, milk-white skin, a high, round forehead, and eyes like—hmm—Teletubbies. She came in and swore, in a bell-like voice, about something that had just happened to her. I was totally disoriented. I was standing there in a bar, in my mid-twenties and with nebulous self-awareness at best, a crisis on two legs, between two enchanting, much-too-young ladies who both idolized me—and who knows for what.

At the end of the evening, Bifi lay next to me in the bed of her best friend's mother and wanted to have sex. I wasn’t, however, YOLO enough. In any case, I’d given Bifi, who lived several hours away from me, my contact, and for years she reached out for me occasionally. We indulged in longe phone calls and mails going back and forth. In one of those conversations, she mentioned she liked MGMT. “A horrible band,” I said. I started dreaming what a perfect woman she might be with some good taste in music, and the idea of this dream woman excited me. I began to send her mixes and she reacted enthusiastically. I tried to convince myself that I was something like an older brother to her. Soon she began to send mixes back, and they got better and better. She also visited me once or twice. I controlled myself. Very much. 

Bifi became interested in photography and she tested out her tease pics on me. Her taste in music got better and better. Shortly before graduating from high school, she wrote me a love letter in which she said she’d soon be free and no longer a minor. I began to think how it might be to be with her. When Bifi was almost twenty, she moved to a bigger city for an internship or something (I forgot to mention earlier that she’d lived in the countryside). Her tapes and YouTube links were increasingly impressive. I found out she’d gotten together with an experimental DJ about 10 years older than me. She had tried to keep that information from me, but when I learned I was actually somewhat relieved. She collected affairs with older men, I thought, and forgot about her—until I began to think about her again. One time I sent her Woo.

Then, two years later, in December 2011, she was suddenly standing in front of my door. Long story short, I had the feeling that my secret dream had suddenly become a reality—that the past years suddenly all made sense and that I should say yes, goddamn it, to the happiness, the sparkling Bambi eyes, the dancers body that was throwing itself at me. She was gorgeous, had extraordinary taste in music, and was devoting herself passionately to what she studied now. I couldn’t really believe it all—it was as if I had cultivated my own dream. Sometimes it felt creepy. I had to wipe away those Frankenstein thoughts.

She showed me amazing minimal wave stuff I’d never heard of. I learned that there was this amazing 1980s electro fusion scene in Japan. This group named Mariah. We got together. I’d never had a girlfriend who’d brought so much good music into my life. Here’s one of her playlists, copied from an email:

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!
THE FOLLOWING TRACKS ARE ON MY ALPINE/SKI LIFT/PANORAMA
PLAYLIST

Xingu - Zenamon
Shirt No.7 - Durutti Column
Yodel 1, 2, Pauls Dance, Air Dancer - Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Charotte - Ernest Hembersin
Managua - Finis Africae
Are you Awake- Kevin Shields
Brass Pocket- Pretenders

WINTAUGE (do you think this is for real?)
http://cdreissuewishlist.blogspot.com/2012/02/wintauge-germany.html

THESE SAMPLES ARE ALL GOOD:
http://musk31as.blogspot.com/

I bought an old Thorens record player and carried it to her room as a sign that I was serious with her. At the same time, things began to click in my career.
I was in my early thirties and had a record-collecting perfect girlfriend and a dream job. One day she showed me Pauline Anna Strom. I think she'd had it as an untitled file from somewhere or other. Give it a listen
— it’s called Emerald Pool. That’s how my life felt then. 

I absolutely needed to have it on vinyl. I wanted to preserve those feelings. A hard disk felt far too impermanent for my love. 

I don’t think at the time the album had even been entered on Discogs yet. I employed absolutely everything I had in the way of research powers, and found both the artist name and the album. Like Google entry #217. Someone with the pseudonym Jagat Rainbow had left an email address on an obscure esoteric forum and written that he had just found a pile of old records. The name of the artist was Pauline Anna Strom and the price was $15. I wrote to him/her:

> From: hgrassegger (()) xxxxx.de
> Subject: Record: Anna Pauline Strom - Trans Millenia
> Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2012 21:10:45 +0100
> To: magicvisions {{}} yyyyyy.com
>
> Dear Sir or Madam,
>
> I would like to know if I can order
> Anna Pauline Strom - Trans Millenia
>
> with you?
>
> I read on the internetblog about you offering the record
>
> Kind regards from Zürich,
> Hannes
>
Am 19.02.2012 um 22:18 schrieb jagat rainbow:
Dear Hannes,
Yes, I will create a paypal link for you to place an order. You are aware that it is a LP record.
Will send link in next day or so. Thank you for touching in.
Best regards from California
Jagat
Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2012 22:26:51 +0100

Dear Jagat, no worries! thank you, it is a vinyl record?If so, thats good!
Hannes

Hi Hannes,
Yes it is a vinyl record and is shrink wrapped new condition..never opened.

The shipping from USA to Switzerland is $15.00 I accept payment via paypal

my address is

magicvisions@yyyyyy.com
or I have created a link for you.
https://www.xxxxx.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=PUFOSG6UBK6E5Y
I will ship as soon as I receive your payment. Please make sure your address below is correct.
Thank you!
Jagat

PS. I was listening to a documentary on youtube last night about Billy Meier.
Are you aware of this man?
Here's the link to part 1 of 12
http://youtu.be/jsp6lF4SCKI

Am 27.2. dann:
Hi Hannes,
I sent it last Wednesday via post. Should arrive this week. Marked it as gift.
Please let me know when it arrives.
Thank you
Jagat


While I waited for the record, something happened. There was a kind of riddle that had been left unsolved. Bifi had never really been able to explain to me how she'd found the songs that had helped get me so riled up about her. In a way, she was lacking the basic knowledge for an appreciation like the one she had. Something wasn’t quite right.

One morning, early, her cheap Migros phone went off. She had left the alarm on and I pressed buttons half-blind trying to make it stop. In the very process, I opened a text message. And read it. 

If I understand it all correctly today, Bifi had had numerous men in numerous cities. Almost all were music collectors, and some of quite high caliber. Her system seems to have been to impress her various men with each other’s music, probably in order to get her hands on even better music. That’s only a hypothesis—I never asked. In any case, one of the men was being used purely for sex, and it was his text that I opened.

When the album arrived a couple of days later, I took a picture of myself holding it. I don't look so happy in the photo, but in those March days after receiving the record, I grew up. For one thing, I decided never to date anyone under the age of 25. That was the last lesson in my farewell to youthful dreams. I thought those under 25 should just keep doing what they want to do. I’m out. That very morning, I'd demanded that Bifi get immediately out of my life once and for all. It hadn’t been pretty. Like screaming in doorways and throwing clothes out of the window. 

The record itself marked the beginning of a new era, or, to be more exact, acted as the soundtrack that separated one stage of my live from another, as a kind of bridge or borderline. In this sense, the title Trans-Milennia fits well—it was more a transitional moment than the soundtrack of a new era. 

The next year, when I met the love of my life, it became that, though. She's not only the same age as me and the owner of incredible almond eyes, red hair, a real job and a stunningly charming French accent, but she’s also more interested in art than in music. When I met her she liked Bloc Party—such horrible music that it's almost naïve to be able to tolerate it or anything like it (I can't even think of the right descriptive word). But startingly, I found that taste in music wild and refreshing, somehow savage and also incredibly likeable. I never even started to try to refine or interfere with her taste as I had with the girls before and especially Bifi. I found Miss Almond Eyes exactly right as she was—even in her liking things that I don't consider exactly right, like Bloc Party. Life isn't a design object. The Weird Science phase was definitely over for me. We were so in love that I moved in with her almost immediately, which meant schlepping my ten meters of records and filling her living room. She was the first woman whose heart I wasn’t trying to win over by constantly showing off my music. That had proved a dead end before. With Almond it was about something else. 

Still, apparently, she found it a little sad that I wouldn’t share music so much with her, and became curious enough to start dipping into my record collection on her own when I was away.

On one of the first evenings in my new home, just after finally setting up my record player, I arrived to find wonderful, delicate sounds filling our living room. My girlfriend sat there happily in the middle of the room and asked, "Where did you get this strange album? This Pauline Anne Strom? It's so beautiful, it made me cry." Then I cried a little bit too, inside. "Jagat Rainbow sent it to me," I said. 

Hannes Grassegger is a business reporter and net theorist from Switzerland. He is secretly in love with music which most recently led to him collaborating with San Franciscan composer and eventual web-pop starlet Holly Herndon for DIS Magazine. 

 

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