Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 16: Einstürzende Neubauten, "Kollaps"

Artist: Einstürzende Neubauten
Album: Kollaps
Year: 1981
Label: ZickZack

Often times, "artsy" albums are revolutionary upon their debut, but the "edge" and mystique around the album fade over time as the rest of the world catches up. For example, Elvis' infamous dancing in the 1950's was well beyond "lewd," yet it is almost comical in modern times. However, even to a generation raised with bands like Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM, the noise-rock of German legends, Einstürzende Neubauten, is still both stunning and startling. Creating some of the most harsh and original music ever heard, some of which borders on "unlistenable," the music of Einstürzende Neubauten has helped to shape many aspects of the modern music scene. While their later albums incorporated far more mainstream aesthetics, their 1981 debut album, Kollaps, reveals the band in their finest, purest form.

Einstürzende Neubauten are undoubtedly the architects for what is now known as both "noise rock" as well as the entire "industrial" music scene. Taking influence from groups like Suicide, Gang Of Four, and Can among others, the sound that the group produces once again opened the issue of "what" is music. With fierce, often unintelligible lyrics and music that is, in every way, the definition of mayhem, there has never been a band that even remotely resembles the sound of Einstürzende Neubauten. Loud, chaotic, and avant music; they are all there in large quantities throughout the entire album. The sound is has a hauntingly futuristic feel to it, yet at the same time, it is staggeringly primitive. Even the bands' logo (featured on the cover) is taken from an ancient cave drawing. Reflecting further on this idea, the band is made up of musicians who are primarily percussionists, with drumming being the earliest known musical form. The man responsible for a majority of the percussion is N.U. Unruh (real name Andrew Chudy), and it is he who also built a number of the instruments used on Kollaps.

Einstürzende Neubauten truly take anything and everything as a possible musical instrument. From banging on railings . A majority of the time, the band is playing instruments that they themselves made, primarily made of scrap metal and random tools (the drill on "Steh Auf Berlin" is particularly awesome.) Alongside these mutants of instruments, the band also plays more traditional instruments with guitars and standard drums finding their way onto many of the tracks on Kollaps. The band showcases and proves that they are truly masters of percussion with the blisteringly fast, polyrhymic masterpiece, "Steh Auf Berlin." While there are seemingly disordered songs like "Tanz Debil," there are also signs of the more mainstream style they would later incorporate with songs like the title track. The song "Kollaps" runs over eight minutes, and perfectly personifies the band, with a looping guitar piece, overlain with random percussion and seemingly disjointed singing. The band creates one of their most haunting pieces in the piano led, and organ infused "Sehnsucht." Though not even ninety seconds long, it is a brilliant bit of musical exploration, and is just as creepy as songs double and triple the length. It is this ability to turn the minimal, both in instrument type and usage, into fantastic musical works that makes Einstürzende Neubauten so extraordinary.

The one constant throughout the entire thirty year career of Einstürzende Neubauten is founder and frontman, Blixa Bargeld. His name alone contains a small reference to a large influence behind his music and his band; that being his "chosen" last name is a reference to German Dada artist, Johannes Theodor Baargeld. Along with his singing for Einstürzende Neubauten, Blixa is also well known for his poetry, as well as being one of the original "Bad Seeds" in Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Though he occasionally approaches something that one might consider "singing," a majority of the time Bilxa is speaking, shouting, or just making noise. Yet, the manner in which he delivers his vocals are a perfect fit for the music over which he sings. Working with different volumes, degrees of force, and rhythms of speech, Blixa makes his vocal delivery just as experimental and varied as the bands' music. Even upon translation (as much as one can), it is clear that the lyrics rarely have any direct connection to the music, or even to themselves, and it solidifies the idea that Bargeld sees his vocals as "just another instrument" on the album.

Few bands have created such astounding and unorthodox debut records as one will find in Einstürzende Neubauten's Kollaps. Doing away with nearly every previously held notion as to "what" constituted music, the band presented the world with music the likes of which had never even been dreamed. Truly the beginning of what is now called "industrial" and "noise rock," the music is somehow post-modern, while simultaneously starkly primitive. Basing their sounds around a myriad of percussive instruments and the chaotic vocals of Blixa Bargeld, each song on Kollaps is furious, paradigm shattering, explosive work of art. Whether it is the minimalist approach on "U-Haft Muza," the indescribable, "Hirnsäge" or the massive sound of "Steh Auf Berlin," the record is a genuinely fascinating musical experience. Though later albums would present far more mainstream musical concepts, Einstürzende Neubauten's 1981 debut album, Kollaps, presents the band at the most undiluted, and truly genius point in their career.

Standout tracks: "Steh Auf Berlin," "Negativ Nein," and "Kollaps."

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