Seminal Industrial ensemble, Germany’s Einsturzende Neubauten vaults 62 spots up the CMJ Top 200 national radio charts to #67; the strongest showing they’ve had in a decade. The new album, “Alles Wieder Offen” has been getting great press galore, another sampling of which I include below.
On a darkened soundstage South of Market, EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten lead singer Blixa Bargeld is ready for his close-up. Well, almost. First, the lighting crew needs to get the pink tint out of his face.
“People just want to see me pale, white, and Halloweenish,” jokes the towering, black-clad godfather of industrial music. “I am not a lobster.”
Bargeld is spending a recent Sunday at multimedia studio Recombinant Media Labs to shoot the video for the song “Nagorny Karabach” from the new Neubauten CD, Alles Wieder Offen (Everything Open Again). It’s a lovely, melancholy tune, with Bargeld’s baritone croon sounding like a Germanic Leonard Cohen. For this visual clip, Bargeld is lip-synching as film of the band performing at Germany’s Palast der Republik is projected on huge screens behind him. The juxtaposition of the recorded footage and the live singer makes for a disorienting effect.
The music video, which will be posted on YouTube and www.neubauten.org, represents the quintet’s progressive approach to marketing its music. Alles Wieder Offen is also the third record the group has offered in subscription format, where fans paid 35 euros (or the U.S. dollar equivalent) for the deluxe version of the CD, or 65 euros for a CD/DVD combo – they also get exclusive digital downloads. A conventional version of the album is available in stores. “People pay upfront for the making of the record,” Bargeld says. “But it’s the first one that’s completely released through the Neubauten record company. We don’t know the outcome of this, but we at least want to try it. I didn’t want to find myself in 2020 thinking I should have done this by myself.”
Musically, Alles Wieder Offen is another novel development in the German industrial band’s influential 27-year career. For one thing, the disc is EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten’s most cohesively orchestrated and darkly beautiful work to date. The unconventional, percussive instrumentation is still there, with such apparatus as a jet turbine and the “electric drill record player” making appearances, but there are also plenty of strings, piano, and Hammond organ on these songs. Bargeld says it’s the first time the band has chosen to refine its use of the tools on hand. “It forced me into a position where I had to concentrate a lot on singing and lyrics,” says the former guitarist of NickCave’s Bad Seeds. “This time the vocals are more important, and the voice is mixed more up front.” The impressionistic lyrics are all in German, of course, but the album comes with a booklet of English translations.
A well-traveled Berlin native, Bargeld has been living in Beijing for the last couple of years; he currently owns a house in the Castro and calls our little Euro-“exclave” home. “San Francisco is the smallest place I ever lived in,” he says. “Beijing has about 60 million people, and somebody asked me the other day if it wasn’t a big cultural shock moving to China. Before I found a house in San Francisco, I actually lived for six months in Menlo Park. That was a cultural shock!”
Neubauten may never tour the U.S. again, due in part to the collapsing dollar and the ridiculously high cost and Customs hassles of transporting unwieldy industrial noisemakers. But Bargeld will be doing a local residency of sorts. Last September, he collaborated with East German minimal techno electronic pioneer Alva Noto, who projected visual interpretations of Bargeld’s vocalizations onto the walls of Recombinant Media Labs. And there are more partnerships in the pipeline. “I’m very excited and motivated by the opportunity to work with Blixa locally,” says Recombinant curator Naut Humon, whose Rhythm and Noise project opened for Neubauten in the early ’80s. “He’s a tremendously creative and thoughtful individual who knows what he wants and knows how to manifest it.”
Indeed, during the video shoot’s many takes, Bargeld comes off as sharp and indefatigable. He also has a wonderfully droll sense of humor. “That’s people’s biggest misconception about industrial music,” he says, after joking that the video might work better if he were wearing a Kermit the Frog suit. “They don’t realize that it can be a lot of fun.” Mike Rowell/SF Weekly 11/21/07
Germany’s finest experimental industrial-noise band not named Rammstein is back. They sound angry, but for all we know they’re singing about schnitzel “Vulture”/NYMag.com 9/24
The deejay always started off the night with some totally un-danceable, mood-setting tunes by Throbbing Gristle and EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten interspersed with Joy Division and Bauhaus. The sounds created a morose and gothic ambience, which complimented the clocks that spun backwards and the gargoyles hanging from the cobwebbed walls. Wallflowers, like black roses, vanished into the shadows in their black clothing, black eyeliner and Manic Panic jet black hair; they were only noticeable because of their pale white skin and the burning clove cigarette dangling between their fingers. As a teenager I came to the obvious assumption that this must be what a vampire layer is like and I accepted the theory that all true vampires listened to Bauhaus and EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten. When the night progressed, more danceable fair (i.e. The Cure, New Order and Depeche Mode) pulsed from the deejay booth; but the bordering-on-intolerable noises early in the evening were the real curiosity to me.
Industrial music, which is not to be confused with post-industrial bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Ministry and Skinny Puppy, was unlike anything I had ever heard before (or since). The percussion sounds were not like drums at all. The rhythm was created by power tools, industrial machinery and other assorted metal objects. An unearthly, wailing wall of screeching guitars formed a painful wash of white noise. The vocals yielded horrifying effects laden screams. The audible result trapped the listener inside an industrial factory of torturous noise. It was not beautiful and you definitely could not dance to it, but it was curiously entrancing.
Much can be said about the sonic experiments that adventurous bands like Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire and EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten created in their early days. It is a depressing thought, but you could even say that they were the last bands to introduce anything completely new to music. Up until that moment in history (let’s say 1981), just think of all the new and adventurous sounds that were created in a relatively brief history of recorded music: blues, jazz, psychedelic, free jazz, ambient, punk, post-punk, rap, etc. Since then, what has music offered us? Sure, there have been many new and exciting recorded sounds in the last 26 years of music history; but it all just recycles and re-uses what has been done in the past. One could argue that different combinations of old styles and techniques are, well, new; but jazz, psychedelic, post-punk, et al did not just re-use previously recorded styles and techniques, they each introduced totally new sounds and/or theories to music, forever redefining its history.
EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten (a rough English translation is “buildings that are collapsing”) may no longer be redefining music history per se, but they are actively changing the artist’s and audience’s roles in the music-making process. In 2002, EN commenced an endeavor to make records without the backing of a record label. They adopted a new strategy, relying on funding by their fans (“supporters”). About 2,000 fans each paid $35.00 to support what became Phase I, in turn they were able to view and participate in the recording experience and receive a CD bonus edition of the end results. Since Phase I, EN has released more than ten subscription-based recordings.
In a world where the future of CD distribution and sales (not to mention record labels) is looking mighty grim, EN is giving musicians much needed hope. Fans should also rejoice in the prospect of being able to support and influence the making of the music they love and enjoy. Myspace has unknowingly been preparing the audience for this moment by closing the gap between musicians and listener (musicians post demos of new songs for listeners to comment on and grade); EN’s model closes that gap even further. Just think of how music will progress when the musicians and their audience control the industry, rather than money-hungry record labels.
Alles wieder offen (“all open again”) is a self-released off-shoot of their supporter strategy recordings and it is EN’s first public offering since 2004’s Perpetuum Mobile. Since 1993’s Tabula Rasa, EN has slowly evolved into a mellow and quiet creature – as if taking a philosophical cue from the title of their 2000 release, Silence is Sexy. Despite their sonic evolution, EN has not forgotten their past. Alles wieder offen consistently references their past catalog (for example: “Nagorny Karabach” references “Armenia”  and “Von Wegen” quotes “Sehnsucht” ).
Certain tracks even bring the dark poetic vocals of Leonard Cohen to mind, as they are laid over top a rich, atmospheric score. Alles wieder offen might just be the most accessible EN recording to date, but that is not to say they have sold out. If anything, they have accepted that people are more willing to listen if you are gentle and patient rather than harsh and raucous. It is probably not a coincidence that Alles wieder offen contains the most political and philosophical lyrics of their oeuvre.
Don Simpson/LA Journal 10/24
EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten’s latest aural adventure, Alles Wieder Offen, is a blend of experimental and traditional musical styles. The album hints at African and Celtic influences. The lyrics are sung almost exclusively in German, but even for non-speakers the songs have the feel of age-old elder storytelling. They also incorporate bizarre sounds from unidentifiable sources into the mix, which keeps things interesting.
The opening track, “Die Wellen,” builds suspense, with a simple piano line thumping behind spoken word. The pounding continues and the speaker becomes more and more insistent, drums and strings swelling in the background. At the breaking point of stimulation, the listener is cut off as the song ends without notice. What’s really interesting about “Die Wellen” is that, even though I knew about half a dozen German words (and “Die Wellen” was not one of them), I was able pick up on the message of the music. With its pounding and swelling, the track is reminiscent of the majestic power of the sea. The translation of the title is, in fact, “The Waves.” I know this because EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten provides lyrics in both English and German on their website. Cheers to that.
But as nice as it is to know what the band is saying in the language of words and phrases, I would recommend that the listener hold off on looking them up. It is much more fun to hear what they’re saying in the language of music. I listened to the album four or five times before sitting down to write this, and it was only just now that I located that handy-dandy lyrics sheet.
The music is somewhat melancholy, but has a sweetness that gives it an unconventional charm. Some of the melodies move along slowly, unfolding at a pace that allows time for reflection. “Nagorny Karabach” sounds like the tale of some mythical Old West figure, one whose face is constantly in shadow. It’s not, but you won’t find that out until later, right? Make up your own story about it, unless you’re lucky enough to speak German. In that case, just enjoy the poetry. Alles Wieder Offen is sprinkled with poetic philosophical depth that is not common in lyrics. Philosophical pondering is evident in the album’s art, as well: the band appears against an enormous backdrop, tiny in comparison. Symbolic? I think so.
Chanting and tribal rhythms are interwoven with electronic bleeps and bloops, as well as with classical instruments. The strings on “Von Wegen” are especially stirring, creeping up with pizzicato before propelling the melody forward with a rich, full sound. The epic “UnvollstÃ¤ndigkeit” transitions from tranquil melody to intense, cacophonous noise and back again.
This album is a treat to hear. It will live up to the expectations of established Neubauten fans, as well as appealing to new listeners who aren’t necessarily looking for the next pop punk or boy band. Amanda Bittle/Blogcritics.com 10/26
Well oiled, to a patina perhaps unlike any other avant band ever out of Germany, EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten decided to release this latest ten-track collection on their own accord. With lyrics by resident spoken croonster Blixa Bargeld, the band offers a heavy piano on opener “Die Wellen.” Building and building with their signature percussion, things slowly come to a crescendo and close abruptly. It’s dramatic, alive. The record continues with the clip-clop of “Nagorny Karabach” which sounds like an intimate, dusty travelogue. Since the early 80’s this quartet have offered a wide angled discography with fiery experimentation that never seems to cut itself short from beating its own drum(s). That outcome has provided amazing work like the powerful tin beats as heard on “Weil Weil Weil” alongside a spirited vocal by Bargeld and other electronics and a barrage of amped samples. It’s probably the best “song” for them in years. It’s got a contained structure. All sung in German, their sound, gutteral, poker-faced and at times poking fun at itself, becomes another instrument telling a story for any ears, bilingual or not. Elsewhere on Alles Wieder Offen you’ll find field recordings mixed down as on “Von Wegen” which is a cross between an acoustic folk rock number with the vestiges of a operatic prelude. But when the percussive beat blends in things become more uncalculated. And this is what these gents are known for. Taking it way out. The title track starts like something from 80s new wave, with a noir Nick Cave-like vocal. Rhyme may have a reason. Most lovely here I must point out “Susej” which something of an industrial love song. Posing in a bit of a whisper over the clink of a repetitive beat that comes and goes with dramatic flair. TJ Norris/igloomag.com October