Category: Experimental / Industrial
Blurb: The latest album from this German experimental group delivers a poignant and harrowing examination on World War I and the persistence of war throughout the world.
After almost 35 years, Einstürzende Neubauten remains a singularly incomparable entity in music. Often referenced but only occasionally imitated, the influential German quintet has steadfastly held to its unorthodox audio/visual aesthetic since 1980, continuing to challenge the parameters by which modern music can be identified; originally considered part of the early wave of industrial music, Neubauten defies classification through the group’s trademark use of non-traditional instruments, utilizing everything from scraping violin bows across metal sheets to plastic pipes and rubber tubes as bass or percussion. Coming seven years after Alles Wieder Offen, Neubauten’s latest release, titled Lament, returns to the territory of the concept album, this time focusing on World War I.
With “Kriegsmaschinerie” providing the almost expected collage of ambient noise produced from random objects to evoke a factory-like feel, the album begins rather quirkily and sardonically as the track builds to a cacophonous howl that subsides to “Hymnen,” wherein the lyrics comprise several hymns in praise of European monarchal figures set to the melody of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” The monarchy is further targeted in the duet of “The Willy – Nicky Telegrams,” the lyrics adapted directly from telegrams exchanged between Tsar Nicholas of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, set to a languid bass pulse with various swoops of mechanical noise rising in volume for added tension at the inevitability of the impending war.
From this point on, the war’s history is drawn out as each track unfolds, with “Der 1. Weltkrieg” being especially notable as a 13 minute composition in which each minute represents a single day in the war, with spoken words and phrases – each corresponding to a country or event as it occurred – over a tapestry of plastic pipe percussion and swells of ambience. In contrast to its tonal simplicity, it’s a unique and clever piece of musical construction. With the Lament suite encompassing three parts, the first part is one of the album’s most beautiful and chilling moments as waves of voices wax and wane to create a harrowing chorale. The second part, “Abwärstsspirale” bursts from the speakers as segue of explosive percussion, fading into a ghostly exhibit of the recorded voices of prisoners of war on “Pater Peccavi.”
The final moments of the album are characterized by examinations of the aftermath, with the cover of Peter Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” evoking Marlene Dietrich’s renowned version and along with “Der Beginn des Weltkrieges 1914,” recalling Germany’s transition from one war to the next. “All of No Man’s Land is Our” ends the album on a somber note as the Harlem Hellfighters (whose exploits are featured in the earlier track, “On Patrol in No Man’s Land”) return victorious, greeted by a home country still wrought with racism and segregation, and further indicating the attitudes that lead to cycles of perpetual conflict.
Originally commissioned by the city of Diksmuide to commemorate the first hundred years since the start of World War I, Lament stands as an atypical Einstürzende Neubauten album, drawing as much on the history of the last century as it does on the band’s own perspectives of living in the so-called post-war society. There is more to this album than a simple reiteration of historical events, as evidenced by notes about the album featured on the band’s website, culminating in an even greater analysis on the persistence of war throughout the world. While hardly new territory sonically for the group, still filled to the brim with non-standard instrumentation and collages of sound, it is for the lyrical and thematic content that Lament counts among Einstürzende Neubauten’s most poignant and personal albums.
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)