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Old 10-05-2009, 05:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Einstürzende Neubauten albums



Reviews:
1981 - Kollaps
1983 - Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T.
1985 - Halber Mensch
1987 - Fünf auf der nach oben offenen Richterskala

Ratings system:
I am now rating albums in retro game sprites (whose characteristics I feel in some
way reflect the album. Maybe.), and in binary operators: maximum score is three
plus signs '+++'. The lowest score is, theoretically, three minuses '---'.
If a plus sign is followed by a minus this indicates a half point. E.g. '+-' = 1 and a half out of 3





For lack of a truly inventive idea for a thread... Here I will be making my way through (at the very least) the 80's output of Blixa Bargeld's long-running, innovative, experimental-industrial group Einstürzende Neubauten ('collapsing new buildings').
For a couple of decades Bargeld alternated between this, his original band, and his central role within the Bad Seeds (Nick Cave's band). He has since left that group to focus on Neubauten, who apparently were the first band to offer a web-based subscription service to their fans(?). Their sound has varied over the years from minimalist, punishing noise to dark ambient and even something resembling electronic pop along the way. The idea is that I am writing this now so I have to see it through. If anybody else is dying to review one of their albums for this please PM me x
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Last edited by Molecules; 10-18-2009 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 10-05-2009, 05:05 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I've got Kollaps but that's it. Haven't listened to it for donkey's years, but I did like. I'll be a-lookin' forward to this one though, and I know at least a couple of other members will be too.
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Old 10-05-2009, 08:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I've only heard Halber Mensch, but it was pretty good. I want to see what you say about other albums of theirs.
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Old 10-07-2009, 11:03 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Kollaps (1981)
For our interests this is the first album proper.
Kollaps is where I started and it's perhaps the best starting point in that it's a manifesto of sorts, it's the purest expression of the Neubauten philosophy. Unlike later albums there are hardly any electronics underlying F.M. Einheit's infamous custom-built percussion. And it's Einheit's racket that obviously hits you first; whether or not you were aware of 'industrial' music and the work of pioneers like Throbbing Gristle beforehand, nothing prepares you for the avant-garde onslaught and the harsh sounds of Kollaps have not diminished as much as other once-'extreme' genres. Part of the fun is trying to guess just what is being thumped or manipulated... Road drills, hollow things, flat things, radiator grills... The singer's toes?

You shouldn't let the 'avant-garde' part scare you off though, Blixa Bargeld's throat-shredding screams are quite mantra-like, and it certainly has a hip-swingin' beat... Albeit a predominantly plodding, oppressive and minimalist one. Also the mantras are not mantras because they are about things like greed, wounds, bombs, disgust and the decline of civilization. One short interlude, 'Vorm Krieg', samples some scratchy old jazz a la the Caretaker, perhaps highlighting Neubauten's obsession with the dehumanizing wartime production of the time and a new industrial boom era. This isn't metal fetish, it's the world we live in and the mass-produced materials we depend on, and it's great for clearing a room at parties!

When not enjoying the illusion that this was recorded on the spot after breaking into a car parts factory, you realize there are many strings to Neubauten's bow, even at this early stage... If contemporaries and buddies the Birthday Party were dismembering rockabilly, bringing it's inherent perversions to their natural conclusion and shoving them in your face, Neubauten were doing the same with technology whilst completely eschewing the American 'rock' part. Very much in keeping with the dark/coldwave, Gothic underground of the time.
It's not all totally unpop and European though! When synthesizer does surface on tracks like 'Jet'm' and the intro to the masterfully sinister 'Kollaps', it sounds like a distilled/amped end-product of one album that is just too easy to namecheck: David Bowie's Low. A guitar and an electric bass feature on two tracks but are used unconventionally (See below).


This album is uncomfortable, but you soon come to understand its ways. It sounds nothing like a Trent Reznor pop song, although you might hear a familiar clank somewhere. Kollaps is a literal take on heavy metal, and whilst on the face of it it is the most abrasive EN album, I think many of the others are just as confrontational/challenging in different ways. Alles klar?


++-
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Last edited by Molecules; 10-11-2009 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 10-07-2009, 02:13 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Great review. Kollaps is the embodiment of the term 'Industrial' and as you said despite the array of objects used it's tight and cohesive and eminently listenable (although you do have to be in the mood!)
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Old 10-08-2009, 06:45 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I met some German kids when I was in Europe a long time ago and one of them asked me if I knew about the band. I said I had heard of them but didn't know their music and he proceeded to rave about them for a while. I asked him what the band's name is in English and he thought for a moment and said "Breaking New Houses" - I'm not sure that's the best translation but I have always loved that name.
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Old 10-11-2009, 10:06 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Zeichnungen des Patienten O. T. (1983)


Here the Berlin group, led by the positively demonic Blixa Bargeld, expands its sound, underlying the metallic clatter and grating noises of the first album with something resembling a pulse (quite literally, on one track). The disturbing, minimalist sound still reigns but it's much more textured and varied this time around; O.T. is one of those albums where you will have it on in the background and mistakenly think you have been through half of it, only to check the tracklisting and find you've been listening to but a single epic composition. This progression is one reason I consider Neubauten's 80's period worth tracing.

We are not in the territory of conventional songwriting yet, no choruses or verses are here to give you a tether into popular music or safe familiarity, this is the world of Collapsing New Buildings - the constant disintegration and perpetuation of disposable modern structures (ideals as trends, cultures, powers-that-be, people?). You might say that musically and lyrically Neubauten are deconstructing it all themselves, but I think they had aspirations to destruction as well:
'I am waiting on the edge of the world for the new sun which burns more than it shines /The president howls at the grave of the HMV dog / And the newsreader bears his honest as bones face / The station ID, a blow on the bones.'

A few aspects of the broadening and deepening of the Neubauten sound, which has a resonance different to that of the masochistic appeal of the debut:
- synth burbles, circuit buzzes and static that provide a lower register to the found-sound ambience, which are fleshed out with a wider range of objects being struck/plucked/scraped etc
- at least twice the number of tape tracks (seemingly) in use, with several dedicated to analogue sampling and field recordings (a Hamburg fish market being one, apparently)
- occasional use of atmospheric, Central African-sounding woodwind and percussion, even dissonant strings ('Armenia')
- instrumentation that resemble everyday sounds (couldn't recall the term for this) like water, animals and, erm, race cars...
The eclectic whole makes perfect sense as a coherent, continuous record, with an atmosphere so beautifully executed yet brooding and malevolent it probably belongs in TL's 'scariest albums' list. Has to be heard to be believed!

The album title means 'Drawings of Patient O.T.', O.T. refers to this man and gives you some idea as to the darker themes of the album, and perhaps Bargeld's growing sense of isolation from the world. Most of us may not be able to understand the lyrics, but this is not essential, especially when the music is perhaps a most effective narrator that often threatens to drown out Blixa's tortured exultations and improv. Not to detract from his talent as a vocalist (which is part of what defines the group) however, but it is a presence less dominant on this album.

I wanted to include a stream of a standout track, the neo-classical 'Armenia', but can only find live versions which have a totally different sound.
You can hear snippets here, but bear in mind that the tracklisting's messed up the so 'Armenia' isn't 'Armenia': Drawings of Patient O.T. – Einstürzende Neubauten – Listen free and discover music at Last.fm


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Old 10-11-2009, 07:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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i can say without any reservations that Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T. is the most hauntingly beautiful abrasive album ever. i prefer some other industrial work to it but for being so seemingly unstructured it's pretty fucking awesome.
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Old 10-13-2009, 06:55 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Halber Mensch (1985)

Perhaps to the relief of some, ½ Mensch is often referred to as a breakthrough album and a fan favourite. Melody and a more tangible song structure make their first real appearance, and to the hardened Neubauten listener this album will feel somewhat accessible. To me it is like the edges have been sanded down, resulting in something closer to the gruff, Rammstein-esque (let's not get carried away now) German industrial stereotype, with everything from imperialistic marching rhythms to doom-laden bass doubling as the film orchestra from hell. But they haven't descended into self-parody just yet, remember that for 1985 this is about as fresh as it gets.

Bargeld's voice is back to the fore displaying as much dynamic range as ever (his inhaled screams are particularly entertaining) and you realise just how apt the German language is with for this kind of music with its guttural harshness. This is balanced by Neubauten's first English lyrics and one of the best songs on the album in 'Sand', where Bargeld showcases a tantalizing singing potential. In fact, appropriately enough, ½ Mensch is probably the best entry point for fans of Bargeld's other band at the time, the Bad Seeds, whose Louisiana swamp-chants and pounding devil's blues seem to have infiltrated the machinist purity of the Neubauten.

The move towards a more EBM-influenced sound is evident, particularly in the rhythm of 'Yü-Gung (Fütter Mein Ego)', a sub-underground club anthem from a bad cyberpunk film. In this track a typically intricate, building found-sound backing is meshed with a techno throb and even keyboard hits. The finger-snapping of 'Z.N.S.' is positively sassy, even the pleasingly hideous rusted screeching in 'Der Tot ist ein Dandy' (the sound of a ghost train passing by) has brash lyrics, it's almost like they're starting to have fun or something:
'A drag deep in the void / No nag, no mare / Like the knight in the game of games / Death is a dandy / Death is a dandy on a horse / The horseman has style / Flattering to the eyes / Hands in bandage'

A black humour can be heard throughout and read in the lyrics (go to their website), but surely the first kick in the teeth on 1985's new building is the title track 'Halber Mensch (Half Man)'. This could have been the anthem of the disempowered salaryman - 'cables laid long ago, hanging from your nerve' - a multi-tracked a cappella nightmare to open proceedings and remind you of Tetsuo, as most music from our intrepid industrial adventurers tends to do.


Halber Mensch is also much shorter than anything up to this point, and the anything-goes structure of the album is enough to keep any Neubauten virgin on their toes. Not my favourite of theirs, subject to mood, but a trailblazing and popular one nonetheless with plenty to recommend it. NOT their partay album.


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Old 10-18-2009, 06:14 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Fünf auf der nach oben offenen Richterskala (1987)

The 'bauten subdue noise and chaos for their own nefarious means with their fourth album, 'Five On the Open Ended Richter Scale'. This title would even seem to imply a compromise/progression on the part of its creators; with 0 on the scale being the naked racket of their debut Kollaps (appreciated by the minority) and 9 being an attempt to make their shockwaves felt by a larger audience.

So everything you have come to expect from our industrial fetishists but with an unprecedented, rough and metallic musicality - at least on the first side, which is more rhythmic. 'Morning Dew' reeks of Bad Seeds cactus sweat and constitutes one of Bargeld's greatest moments as singer. The bass dirge and lush strings (!) of track 1 are a noteable exception for this half of the album (which but for its subtle variations might have fallen into cliché) and it heralds more to come; for side 2 is a far more intriguing proposition...


The subversive original cover

From '12 Städte' to 'Adler kommt später' there is little accentuating percussion to break the esoteric malevolence of creaking doors, moaning two-note feedback guitar, unravelling masking tape (my interpretation), dissonant flutes that conjure endless snow drifts and nomadic peoples...
We are lost. But wait...

The echo-chamber plucking of a solitary string on an unidentifiable instrument leads us by the hand to shelter. An ice cave, walls inscribed with mysterious glyphs and symbols - suddenly Einstürzende Neubauten's logo makes sense. After all, what are this band if not primitivist?
Suddenly: torrents of scrap blows, struck and struck in reverse, a mounting, undulating cacophony that recedes, slinking back into the cave... a timely reminder to the listener of the landscape from which Neubauten and their music originates.

The closing track resigns, shambolically, to the mechanical slavery which Bargeld & co. attempt to subvert. This time they failed perhaps, but we got a glimpse of that mystical driving force behind the artists.
'Dark ambient', they call it. Touched upon in 1983's Zeichnungen des Patienten O. T. most effectively (albeit in the grip of paranoia and, without doubt, heroin), it is a handy term to describe Neubauten's most beautiful passages, for there is beauty to be found. And it is these elements of Fünf... that mark it as an album worth hearing. For me they recalled the Residents' greatest achievement 'Eskimo' whilst providing an alternative to the contemporaraneous trends of 'ethereal' darkwave, some of which was, let's face it, kinda cheesy. I am eager to be proven wrong in this opinion.


Nick Cave mit Blixa Bargeld... fucking junkies


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