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2020-03-28

BLUE SOLITUDE (a photo series from March 1st 2020)

I started into 2020 with a couple of resolutions concerning photography, the first being shooting more film than during the second half of 2019. And I can proudly say that I have already done so.


For the following weeks it's of course hard to make any predictions. The weather's fine for some excursions, but since I am not only grounded at home by the viral apocalypse, but I also shouldn't be driving due to my health condition, who knows what I'll find myself doing? You can only entertain yourself photographing the immediate surroundings of your home to a point I guess.
I probably should to some still life series or something... For the time being I'll just edit the loads of recent and older scans which have cumulated on my hard drive.



Another intent was to use some of my more "exotic" films, which can't necessarily all be processed by the laboratory I usually send my material to. My second ever Minox miniature film (after a break of seven years) sadly was a complete failure. So it was the manual mode which still works? Or do I need to get a new battery? It's always so expensive to investigate that shit. Bit I still have three films left, so I guess I'll try it again.
Thankfully my first black and white pocket camera film was a much better experience.


This post however is about the film I shot on the first of March with my Holga 120WPC, a pinhole camera which allows you to take 6 x 12 cm panorama format pictures.

It's a Revue Color 2000, expired in August 1974.

Modern colour films are developed with a standardised process called C-41, which was invented in 1972. If you try that one on older films like this, you can a negative without pictures, yet an somehow burned, oily surface and a terrible stench. I'm speaking from experience here.

So since I didn't need that again (or spend a fortune finding someone who can do the older process) I just had it developed like a black and white film. That's also a gamble with no guarantee of useful results, but this time I got lucky. Even without the different processing, just for a colour film that old, I am very happy with the results.

I still have a second one of these in my stash, so I'm already excited to shoot another blue series.

Hope you like it, too:










2020-03-23

PULLED BY MAGNETS - Rose Golden Doorways

Neuer Scheiß von Sly & The Family Drone und den Dead Neanderthals? Für die sehr groben ersten zwanzig Sekunden könnte man dies durchaus glauben, doch dann geht "Rose Golden Doorways", das Debüt des Trios Pulled By Magnets doch andere Wege - die allerdings durchaus mit dem Sound der genannten Extremjazzer verwandt sind.




PULLED BY MAGNETS - Rose Golden Doorways (LP) (2020)


Wenn es einen Ort gibt, an dem es einem als Musikfan heutzutage nicht langweilig werden kann, muss es wohl die moderne Londoner Jazzszene (vor dem aktuellen Corona-Malus versteht sich) sein. Alleine was rund um die Sons Of Kemet alles brodelt, ist spannend ohne Ende.

Pulled By Magnets ist ein Projekt von Seb Rochford, einem der beiden Drummer der Söhne. Doch anders als sein Tuba blasender Kollege Theon Cross ist seine Handschrift hier ein gänzlich anderer Schnack als auf "Your Queen Is A Reptile". Ein paar an King Shabakas Ableger The Comet Is Coming erinnernde Passagen kann ich hier schon weit eher ausmachen.

Am meisten steht Pulled By Magnets schon mit der klassischen Dreierbesetzung aus Schlagzeug, Bass und Saxophon in der Tradition von advantgardistischen Krachmachern wie den von mir immer wieder gerne als Referenz herangezogenen PainKiller. Das betrifft nicht nur das brutale Geschepper, sondern auch die ruhigere Dark Ambient-Passagen, sowie den großräumigen Flugzeughallenklang. Kein Wunder, wurde "Rose Golden Doorways" doch tatsächlich im Inneren einer Kirche aufgenommen.

Worin sich die Gruppe aber trotz der ähnlichen Bandbreite zwischen Grindjazz und atmosphärischem Gewaber grundsätzlich unterscheidet, ist dass das Saxophon auf die brutal schrillen Ausbrüche eines Zorn oder Brötzmann verzichtet und stattdessen selbst inmitten des Sturms eher in beruhigender Tiefenentspanntheit schwelgt.
Durch die epische Raumakustik und zusätzlichen Effekteinsatz klingt das Blasinstrument hier mal beinahe nach Walgesang und wirkt dort eher wie ein Orchesterscore.

Pulled By Magnets schaffen es irgendwie, gleichzeitig aufbrausend und gelöst, bedrohlich und betörend, laut und leise, dreckig und wunderschön zu sein.
Es ist beeindruckend, zu welcher cineastischen Größe sich dieses Album in seinen langen Atemzügen mitunter aufbläst, so dass man glatt vergessen kann, dass hier wahrhaftig nur ein Trio spielt.

Beeindruckendes, packendes Zeug. So mag ich meinen Free Jazz of Doom.






2020-03-22

Blood Sugar Bojack-19 Apocalypse 2020

This is "a blog about records, concerts, photography and stuff."


Well, I cannot exactly tell, where this post will go, because I have way more things on my mind than I can possibly mention, especially with my temporarily (hopefully! I'm losing my patience here) affected vision, which forces me to enlarge my browser window to 175% and hover over it with a 200% loupe on top to write this. Just try this shit at home! Takes a lot of the convenience out of the internet.


One thing is for sure though: Most of it will fall into the stuff category, as in personal stuff, deep stuff, bigger picture stuff... But first of all I have to start with the most important thing which is on everybody's mind right now: you know it, it's Bojack Horseman!




No, that's not Bojack, it's me. Freshly hairwashed. In the hospital where I had to stay for almost a week. But that's not Bojack's fault. (btw: No spoilers please, I still have to resume binging through the whole series.)

I have brought up Bojack recently in my review for the new Insect Ark masterpiece "The Vanishing" though. In the first season Bojack has a dream of fading away into nothingness, which I connected to the theme of the album. Ok, after rewatching it now I must admit it's not exactly a dream, but only one small part of a big drug hallucination. It impressed me though and still ranks as one of my favorite sequences of the series so far. Besides that whole underwater episode of course.

What I didn't say in the Insect Ark review is that the feeling of watching yourself from the outside and witnessing that person disintegrate had become a not daily, but still disturbingly familiar experience to me at that point.
There were times when I was hanging in my chair, weak and tired, with an invisible weight on my chest, knowing that this could not go on much longer, yet paralyzed by the possibility of a possibly devastating, even fatal diagnosis. I felt like my body was taken away from under me and I was just a spectator. Had I poisoned my lungs? Was my heart slowly giving up? And what about the weight loss?

I'm still far from being thin and I cannot tell how many kg I have lost, because I hadn't been on a scale for a long time, but it must have been at least 7 to 8 kg. I particularily lost my ass, so I'm a big guy who feels his bones while sitting now.
Other people noticed it earlier than me. The first time it was brought up, it was a customer of mine who applauded me for it. I shrugged it off. "No. Nah, I'm not on a diet or something."
From there on I realized that I already had to significantly and increasingly tighten my belt.

Later I earned more praise for the diet I wasn't voluntarily on. It must have looked like a diet though. Ok, if you took a look at the ridiculous amount of juice and sugary soft and energy drinks in my supermarket shopping cart, you could notice that something was off. Hell, I even noticed it myself. But then on the other side I wasn't eating that much bread with meat over the day and I countered the evil drinks with fruits. Loooots of fruits.

When I was watching that Bojack episode on Netflix I was probably accompanied by a ginormous bowl of fruit salad.
Apple, pear, banana, clementine, mandarine, blood orange, mango, watermelon, honeydew melon, delicious galia melon, always two or three or four of  those with not one, not two, but three, four, four and a half table spoons of yoghurt and maybe, when I was being frivolous, a little bit of bitter sweet dark chocolate rasped on top of it. It became an elobarate process, almost a ritual. I even inside-jokingly considered starting a fucking Instagram account for my fruit salad excesses.

Of course that looked like a clear sign of a planned diet from the outside, but nope, it wasn't. I was just hooked and high on fructose and needed that juicy fruity sweetness.

Maybe I actually lost part of my weight because of my new eating habits. The chicken and the egg, you know. But all? Never.

Not too long ago one of my uncles miraculously lost a lot of weight too, a lot more than I did. He died of cancer.

Fuck.



I have diabetes type 1. Noone can say how long I have it. Or maybe someone can and hasn't told me yet. What do I know, I'm completely new to all of this.
The mean thing is that the symptoms are not only harder than those of type 2, they also show much later, when already eighty percent of the insulin producing cells in the body are inactive.
The hard symptoms started around the beginning of December with an incredible thirst and an abnormally coated tongue, which I blamed on a too spicy pizza at the time.
That's a thing with all those different symptoms your body is running through: you find a possible reason, you hope it passes and don't connect the dots to a whole.
Jo Quail

It was the weekend when Mono and Jo Quail played at the Mojo Club in Hamburg. I remember how happy I was about the volume of orange juice I got there - a big cup full to the brim. And after the show I was so thirsty I gulped down two energy drinks in a row so fast that my brother didn't even notice it.

For a week I drank so much, always in need to flush another taste over my sore tongue. Then I was fine. At least kind of fine for a time. I still drank a lot more water, juice, soft drinks, tea than before though.

And it probably was also around this time when being tired during the day gradually became more than the regular just being tired.


December 15th 2019: The eye crisis. I've already told and mentioned this story several times, but of course now I judge it a little bit different.

The Hirsch Effekt
I went to see The Hirsch Effekt and The Intersphere in Hamburg. As expected it was not only a joy for the ears, but also quite stressful for the eyes, because both bands were really generous with stroboscopic light effects. So my eyes were a little affected, but I was ok... ...until I got into a big traffic control, where the police redirected the whole Autobahn over a rest area.


"When was the last time you drank alcohol?"

"Don't know, must have been months ago."

"Any other drugs?"


"No."

Then he did that pupil test where they flash right into your eyes:

"I'm afraid you are showing a reaction."

After a second of being surprised I gave him the extreme light show explanation and luckily he believed it after I could immediately tell him the bands and venue.
From then on my eyes began to hurt and my sight got a little bit blurry.

During the next day it got better, but on the weekend it got worse...

With my knowledge from today my next step would have been to try to get an emergency appointment at the oculist, who would then - as it happens quite often - have discovered my diabetes.

Instead I just went to the optician to make a vision test and get a new pair of glasses, because I had been wearing my recent ones for an eternity anyway.
Rest of the story: My eyes recovered over Christmas, in early January I fetched my new spectacles, it was a catastrophe, I returned them, made a new test and it turned out that my eyes were fine and I didn't need a new Nasenfahrrad at all.

In hindsight I still blame the combination of the Hirsch Effekt light show with the stress of the following pupil test afterwards as the trigger, but I assume that I was much more receptive for that vision disorder due to my escalating diabetes.


For the following weeks I have no shows or other happenings which I could directly link to a particular stage of my sickness. I've only been to Twin Temple and Hexvessel on February 2nd, and apart from that being a total blast of a night - and me being happy with the orange juice again - I think I was ok on that day as far as I remember.

And while I spiraled into fruitmania during February there were more than one ok days, when I just felt tired and still did all the normal things you do while working and not working. Or to stay within my typical not so personal blog subjects: I was strolling around taking photographs as well as being creative with DruturuM. (When will the shows for "Druturum V: Wayfarer" and "Druturum VI: Tightrope Walkers on the Junction of Memory, Dream and Oblivion" happen? Well, I was determined to finally organize a date, when my hospital stay and that whole corona business crossed any possible plan...)

from my stroll one day before hospital

But then there were also those other days when I woke up with cramping feet and parts of my body feeling numb. When I felt random pains here and there. When I finally vegetated in my chair with an invisible elephant sitting on my chest and a strange smell in my nose, while I was calmly in an almost peaceful surrealistic distance contemplating about what I would do with the rest of my life if I would end up learning my expiration date.

Important notice: This may all sound dark and almost kind of suicidal, I know, but it was only my mindset in those specific situations. I'm pretty sure now that I must have been dangerously close to falling into a coma, so I don't feel any need to blame myself for whatever was going in my head.



But let's be completely honest: The state of the world does not make it very hard to wallow in dark places, right?

And I'm not even talking about the current corona zombie apocalypse yet.

I'm not trying to be overly pessimistic, just realistic, but the dry fact is that we have been deep in the middle of an apocalypse for a long time. It just went on so slowly or so far away from our comfortable homes, that we didn't - and still don't - recognize it. We are the daifly that doesn't believe the snail is moving.
From the Bible to Roland Emmerich we've been conditioned to visualize the apocalypse as a sudden dramatic worldwide event, and from the failed doomsday predictions of Jehova's Witnesses to the deflagration of the year-2000-panic on January 1st 2001 we have been underwhelmed by the reality of no action-packed extravaganza, in which some American movie star saves us all, happening. Thanos doesn't snap us away.

No, it's all creeping up on us, even though we all have know about it happening for a long time. People Ignorant dumbasses are claiming that climate change is a hoax or a hype, as if it was some fresh media conspiracy trend, when in truth the human influence on Earth's climate has been a scientific topic for over half a century and an accepted fact at the latest since the First World Climate Conference in 1979.
I remember that it was already a huge subject of news and reports during my childhood. The warnings from back then have changed of course: There is no "We have thirty twenty ten years left to stop the most catastrophic effects from happening" left anymore. Many events are happening stronger and faster than expected. And there's not a single serious scientist left on this whole planet who doubts the reality of the whole thing. It's a global consensus.

And yet we deny it, we shove it off. Instead of facing the problem, which is too huge for our tiny little dayfly perception anyway (and damn, it's only one of countless global problems, which  are all inseparably interconnected with each other), we pretend that our own little empire will last forever if we just go on and change nothing - or even worse if we elect the most incompetent, hateful, stupid clowns, losers and dictators to be our leaders. Because that has helped so often in the past. Learning one little lesson from history? No, fuck you!

So many things, which have been unthinkable not that long ago, are now widely accepted like some force of fate we can't do anything about; Nazis in the parlaments and regularly murdering (or trying to murder) folks in Germany? Yeah, well, it's what they do, right? Traditions.

Yet also that problem is only a Fliegenschiss in relation to the bigger picture, to the sum of all fuckery which plagues us.
It's hard to stomach that there's already a whole generation grown up out there, which must be under the impression that the level of dystopian absurdity we are living under is normal. It's not. But how many years and decades can you remind yourself and others daily "This is not normal"?

But maybe I am totally wrong in this. Maybe this is normal. Maybe all this is just an expression of human nature as it has always been.
I'm from Central Europe after all, and we Europeans are the Nobel Peace Prize decorated world champions in outsourcing reality,


For decades we lived in a bubble of perceived peace and prosperity, when in truth we just passed wars and misery to substitutes all around the globe. And when just a tiny fraction of the pain our way of life is co-responsible for knocks on our door, we close it and erect fences - on the outer borders, far from our everyday sight -, so cruel and deadly, the MAGA cult leader in the White House would have wet dream about them. "Build that wall like Europe does!" just isn't catchy enough as a phrase I guess.

We'd rather endure that far beyond our sight, under the surface of the sea, the Mediterranean becomes a mass grave than being confronted with the faces of the needy.
Because it is true: They are a threat! They are a threat to our hilarious collective illusion that our turbo-capitalist world of eternal growth will go on forever and the invisible hand of the market will magically keep us all from harm. It never has and it never will.
The fact that this understanding takes longer to reach the - what a colonial times bullshit term - "First World", than all those countries which have been plundered by it for decades or even centuries, won't change that ultimately the fate of us and them will lead to the very same conclusion.

Just like the virus doesn't differentiate between races, genders, the rich and the poor, the failure of our species is upon each and every one of us. Well, technically of course not those who will pass before we're there, but most of those who are young now will very likely be crushed by the comet we created. There is no plausible hope that we can limit the climbing of the global average temperature enough to prevent a point where civilisation, our life is just not sustainable any longer.


If we ever even had it. One day in the far future, when alien spacecraft will park in Earth's orbit and time-scan our tiny little dot in the universe with it's advanced technology, humanity will probably be listed among "various others" in the analysis of the most successful life forms.


a lonely survivor, 06/2009

Among the many more persistent creatures there will of course be the good old dinos, who only made room for us mammals after a cosmic cataclysm. T-Rex with his ridiculous tiny arms was the undisputed apex predator of this planet for around two million years.
Homo sapiens has been around for not much more than three hundred thousand years. Most of it has been a good run though, hanging around in Africa, gnawing the remains from the bones much more dangerous animals have left us. (Sorry, but that noble hunter and collector dogma is scientifically outdated - we are anxious weak scavengers.)

Remember: Those were not some primitive apes with crouched walk and flat foreheads! Those were people just like us today, exactly as intelligent as we are now, only with less technology, medicine, history. And less microplastic in their bodies.
If a time-traveller abducted a baby from that time period, it would probably grow up to be a perfectly normal person... or it would even more probably die from all the new germs and viruses the human immune system had to adjust to in the meantime. But still, you get my point.

Who knows when thimgs started to go wrong? Were it the tools we invented? The taming of fire? The development of language, which took a huge chunk of our whole existence and assumingly was still not fully completed when we finally started to roam to other continents like Europe forty thousand years ago?

In Eurasia the modern man met the Neanderthals and co-existed with them for a couple of thousand years. Quite a respectable while, given our racist nature and the fact that we actually faced another race, whereas today we only make up differences where there are none. There is only one human race left. Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis shared cultural practices like music, painting and funeral rites - and who knows what more. The cause of the Neanderthal extinction is unknown, yet there is no proof of a terminal conflict with our ancestors. Maybe they were just too few, maybe they fell to sicknesses we brought with us. Sorry! Or they even died in a similar way to the dinosaurs, only on a much smaller scale, not caused by a comet, but a huge volcano eruption.

However if there has indeed been a long period of peaceful co-existence I count it as the most amazing and sadly also the last true great achievement in our history as a species!

But since then... You only have to take a look at our lifetimes and look at the countless big decisions our societies and humanity as a whole was confronted with. It seems like whenever we reach a crossroads we're determined to choose the wrong direction.

We are simply not made for decisions, for existence in larger groups, we have always been unfit for the civilization we invented. Most of all that has occured in all history we know of has been war and pain. And that's not just a dramatic exxageration for the sake of a Voivod reference, Try to show me any believable source which proves the opposite!

But wait! we hear some optimistic voices saying now, maybe we'll come out of this singular corona crisis as a better society.
Ok, I am sure that things will be different, but better? Seriously, as if the infamous one percent would allow significant social and economic change to happen. I don't think so.

But you're always free to show me I'm too pessimistic. Give us that unconditional basic income for a couple of months now and I will indeed have hope! Not hope for stopping the end of human civilization, which will occur not in a million or a hundred years, but only decades from now, but hope for a small window of ignorantly blissful Middle European cosiness for a brief amount of time until we will be flushed down the toilet of history all the more thorough.
 




Yet first of all and the far most important for me: Let's survive this shit!
Or more egotistically: Please let this party flu, as some still to this day foolishly perceive it, never touch me!

At the beginning of the month I was just one strangely sick man. Now I am a potential risk patient in an evironment possibly just weeks or days away from a ghostly silent viral dystopia.

Fuck.


This sucks more then anything else right now.

Followed - with a much larger distance than we have to keep to other people now - by the fact that the one food which I am not allowed to eat at all from now on is honey of all things. You know what I do for a living? I sell fucking beekeeping equipment! This is cruel unfair shit, man.


Connecting the bigger picture I have been rambling about for various uncontrolled paragraphs now with my personal experience of this month (I can't believe there's still one third of March left!) I'm fully aware that there's a parallel theme of denial in both.

Even though not one professional has told me that I was remarkably late - many diabetics are undiagnosed for much longer -, I could and should have called the doctor much sooner.
But it's always easy to say that in hindsight, when you're no longer walking in the shoes of your yesterday self.


Ok, my state of the world address got far beyond the point of being useful as a metaphor, but it seems like some forms of denial and ignorance must have been important human survival techniques still engraved into our DNA, be it as an individual or as a collective mass.
Did it have to do with shit like not getting too scared and traumatized while hungrily hiding from lions and hyenas to leave their prey and let us have dinner? Something like that?
Whatever the reason for this behaviour pattern may be, it's a main cause for our downfall now.


Damn, it's time that I conclude this text! Noone will read until here anyway and I'm beginning to incoherently jump back and forth between everything.

By the way, did I mention that now, several days before I started the first paragraph I have already ditched the Windows screen loup for most occasion and have reduced the magnification of my browser from 175 to 150 percent? So there is slow, slow progress with my eyes happening. That's a major silver lining.


last self (one day) before hospital


However, back to not even three weeks, but a felt eternity ago:

A visit to the doctor was inevitable. Yet since self analysis is way easier than action on its behalf (also keep in mind that avolition is a symptom of the sickness), that didn't happen overnight.

A couple of things had to happen first:

• My vision began to be affected. Fuck, not this again!
• I had already told my brother that I was not feeling well and going to call the doctor soon.
• And  I also had to read a ghost entry on Facebook of someone being interested in a certain event. And that someone I knew had just recently died at a much too young age.

I made the call and was told to come to the practise immediately, since I couldn't rule out that something was wrong with my heart. Turned out that my heart was fine. It was almost a sidenote, when the doctor asked me if I had any problems with my diabetes recently. "What diabetes?" - "Well there we have the surprise of the day."

Next stop: emergency hospitalization.


My stay in the hospital would be the story for its own second post of this size, but since it would involve a lot of stuff about other patients I don't think that this is the best place for that story.

Let's just say that four out of six nights ranged from terrible to absolute nightmare. And apart from the shock of night one nothing of that shit had anything to do with my diabetes diagnosis.

The last night, in which I didn't even sleep for two hours, included enduring raspy screams of the phrase "Ich will nicht mehr leben!" ("I don't want to live no more") and worse for hundreds of times.

As grateful as I am for living in a country with a healthcare system that does not let sick people on the street just die; being put in a room with a person suffering from pneumonia and withdrawal symptoms when you need sleep and healing yourself can become a real form of psycho terror.
And thinking back to my time as Zivildienstleistender (= performing community service instead of military duty) I know now that watching cases like that as a part of work is a totally different beast than being the patient in the next bed.
The nurses and the doctor agreed that I couldn't get well under those conditions, so that could have played a role in getting me out of the hospital into ambulatory treatment.


Which meant that I am measuring my blood sugar and inject myself with four pens of insulin every day now. I got my first instructions almost in passing here and there, then I was accompanied by a consultant via daily phone calls, until I got my first of many future appointments with a diabetologist last Thursday, when despite the current situation the sleepy town of Itzehoe was still astonishingly alive. At least most people were keeping their safety distance to each other.


Corona Pommes, Itzehoe

And now? I am signed off sick and quite busy navigating through my new carbohydrate-counting life with my bloody rookie's knowledge. Of course there will be a proper training event, but who knows when? It's a group thing, so of course it's suspended.
At least I won't have any breaks in my rhythm of exclusively eating and injecting at three square meals a day for the foreseeable future. Keeping it simple for now.
Except for medical appointments and lonely walks I won't leave home for as long as it takes, no matter what. I'll be a model social distancer! (Or is it distancist? My command of English fails me here.)

Because - and that's a sentence I never thought I would to say out loud, until my hospital roommate's death wish forced me to do it - I want to live!


Ok, that's a good closing word.







This blog will now properly return to its normal format. As far as that is possible, of course.

I do have new music to review and expect more to arrive here, but I think I should feature more photographic posts (I've already done a good bunch of interesting film camera things this year) to fill the void left by all the events that are now canceled. Even though Roadburn isn't officially done yet, everybody knows it cannot under any circumstances happen in April. Also no Chelsea WolfeMisþyrming on the Eater weekend? I don't think so. Swans in early May? One can hope, but as things are progressing worldwide I have my doubts.

At this point I would be the thankfullest man if live music would return in June and I could see Louise Lemón on stage again. Or if not that then at least Björk with orchestra in Berlin! That's in July.

My last chance to see live music for a long time was Bohren & der Club of Gore on March 5th. And boy could I have used that smooth and soothing slow motion jazz then. But I was confined to hospital. At least I was able to give my ticket into good hands.

And even though this was a big pain during the first days there, in hindsight having missed an awesome show is probably still much better than to be hospitalized right now.



Take care, stay safe, stay home!

And watch Bojack Horseman, if you haven't yet! I will now finally continue where I left off.









2020-03-17

MONO & A.A. WILLIAMS - Exit In Darkness

Ja, ich lebe noch. JA, ICH LEBE NOCH!

Das darf jetzt ruhig mal GROSS und grün geschrieben werden. Doch mehr zu meiner Blog-Abstinenz demnächst in einem endlosen englischsprachigen Beitrag, den ich mir dieser Tage Stück für Stück von der Seele tippe!

Nun erst einmal schöne Musik!




MONO & A.A. WILLIAMS - Exit In Darkness (white with pink marble 10") (2020)

Mit etwas presswerkbedingter Verspätung - aber im Moment funktioniert Zeit ja sowieso überall anders als zuvor - ist das schicke Stück aus dem Hause Pelagic Records kürzlich bei mir eingetroffen, eine zehnzöllige EP, auf der sich die japanischen Postrock-Monumentalisten Mono mit der bisher noch weitgehend unbekannten Singer/Songwriterin A.A.Williams, die sie auf dem letzten Roadburn-Festival kennenlernten, zusammengetan haben, um zwei Songs von zusammen sechzehn Minuten Spielzeit zu komponieren.


Der instrumentale Anteil von A.A.Williams, die laut Video zum Titelstück mindestens Cello und Klavier beigesteuert hat (detaillierte Credits sind nicht angegeben), muss einem naturgemäß nicht zwingend auffallen, da diese Klänge ja zum immer wiederkehrenden Standardinventar von Mono gehören.

Nein, der zentrale Unterschied zu regulären Werken der Band ist natürlich der fast über die gesamte Länge der Stücke präsente Gesang von Williams. Mit beruhigendem warmen Timbre, kontrolliertem Vibrato und auch in größter Langsamkeit ungebrochener Präzision, fügt sich ihre zugleich anspruchsvolle, bewegende und dennoch beinahe zurückhaltend unterspielt agierende Stimme perfekt in das Klangbild der Japaner ein.

Die Instrumentalgruppe zeigt sich im Einklang mit der Sängerin von ihrer ruhigeren Seite. Das kürzere "Exit In Darkness" erinnert dabei an das Material von "The Last Dawn", während "Winter Light" in vielen Schichten (und sehr bildhaft zum Text passend) wabernd die Ambient-Seite der Band hervorkehrt.


"Ecit In darkness" ist eine wunderbare EP, die wieder einmal unter Beweis stellt, dass Mono nichts verkehrt machen können, und die hoffentlich auch verdiente Aufmerksamkeit auf A.A.Williams' dieses Jahr erscheinendes Debütalbum lenken wird.




2020-03-02

DAVI RODRIGUEZ DE LIMA - Fantasma

Bandinfo (bzw. in diesem Fall Soloprojekt-Info) vor dem Rezensieren lesen oder nicht? Das ist so eine Frage, auf die es wohl keine richtige Antwort gibt. Im Falle des Ende des Monats (VÖ: 27.03.) auf Sulatron Records erscheinenden Albums von Davi Rodriguez De Lima ist ein wenig Hintergrund einerseits durchaus hilfreich, hat bei mir anderseits aber auch zu einer leicht verkehrten Erwartungshaltung geführt.


DAVI RODRIGUEZ DE LIMA - Fantasma (2020)

Als ich las, dass die Schlagzeugsounds aus Samples von Baustellengeräuschen, Milchkannen, zerbrochenen Fenstern etc. bestehen, habe ich mir die Musik nämlich irgendwie viel mehr um dieses Element zentriert vorgestellt. Tatsächlich kann man diesen Aspekt in manchen Stücken aber sogar komplett überhören.

Anderseits kann man natürlich im Infoblatt ignorieren, dass neben den unkonventionellen Field-recording-Drums, genauso deutlich von einem statt Bass benutzen Moog und wilden Gitarrenklängen auf einem extra dafür selbst gebauten Verstärker die Rede ist. Ähem.

De Lima, der auf seinem Debüt bis auf ein paar Trompeten wirklich alle Credits inklusive Produktion und Artwork auf sich selbst vereint, war ein in der Szene erfolgreicher Indie- und Punk-Schlagzeuger in Brasilien, ehe es ihn vor acht Jahren aus familiären Gründen nach Deutschland verschlug. Das Schweben zwischen den Welten wie ein Geist (fantasma = Gespenst) als Teil der Lebenswelt eines Ein-/Auswanderers, ist auch die zentrale Inspiration dieses Albums.

Und er versteht es gut, dieses Gefühl nicht nur textlich, sondern auch in Klang und Produktion zu vermitteln. Selbst wenn er im Grunde lupenreinen Blues spielt, kommt keine Intimität auf. Da ist immer etwas Fremdes, Verfremdendes, was einen auf Distanz hält.
Die spezielle, nicht ganz normale Instrumenten- und Equipmentsituation? Die bewusst schrägen Töne? Das Verzerrte und das durch viel Delay Verwaschene? Alles spielt in diese Wirkung mit hinein.

Auf jeden Fall ist die komplette Fassade dieses Albums riskant, denn man kann das Konzept dahinter im ersten Moment durchaus als Schwäche missverstehen. Auch wenn ein gewisses Maß an Unhörbarkeit bei Musik mit Industrial/Noise/Garagenrock-Einschlag ja nicht überraschen sollte, war mir "Fantasma" nämlich zunächst durchaus eine Ecke zu anstrengend, zu garagig. Es dauerte mehrere Durchläufe, ehe es irgendwannklick gemacht hat und ich das Album endlich jenseits seiner Ästhetik begreifen konnte. Und seitdem gefällt es mir auch bei jedem Hören besser.

[Foto: Davi Rodriguez de Lima]
Denn tatsächlich sind die Songs hinter dem experimentellen Filter alle ganz ordentlich bis ziemlich geil. Mein persönliches Highlight sind dabei im Grunde alle Passagen, in denen die schiefe Freejazz-Trompete Stücke wie "Banalized", "Off Track" oder "Grey Times" auf eine höhere Ebene hievt. Oder auch wenn die "Snare" so richtig schön im Stil klassischer "The Land Of Rape And Honey"/"The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste"-Ministry auf der Eins scheppert.

Komisch, dass ich das Wort noch nicht gesagt habe, aber musikalisch kann man "Fantasma" trotz aller Ausflüge in andere musikalische Gefilde selbstverständlich zu hundert prozent unter Psychedelic Rock katalogisieren. Das Ding ist ja schließlich immer noch ein Sulatron-Release, nicht wahr?

Wie gesagt: Für mich war das Album zunächst schwierig, aber letztendlich lohnenswert. Andere Fans von Musik, die sich irgendwo im weiten Kreis zwischen White Hills, Gnod, Hey Colossus, Psych, hysterischem Punk, Industrial Metal, Blues und experimenteller Spielerei bewegt, kommen sicherlich auch auf Anhieb gut mit Davi Rodriguez de Lima klar.

Doch ganz egal, wie weit und wie schnell sich einem das Album erschließt: Eine spannende Geschichte ist es auf jeden Fall.

"Fantasma" erscheint in auf 300 Stück limitierter Auflage auf grünem Vinyl.







2020-02-29

ARCHIVE - 25 Live

Alter, mein letztes Archive-Konzert ist ja auch schon wieder Jahre her!


Archive, die letztes Jahr ihren fünfundzwanzigsten Geburtag feierten, sind bei bei mir ja so eine On/Off-Band, die ich mal obsessiv, mal lange Zeit gar nicht höre. In letzter Zeit war ich nicht so super aufmerksam und habe deswegen bis zu einer Erinnerung heute gar nicht mitbekommen, dass sie seit Ende Januar ein Livealbum mit satten zwanzig Tracks umsonst zum Download anbieten!


Dies gilt allerdings nur noch bis Ende dieses Wochenendes, also inklusive morgen, Sonntag, den 1. März.

Archive live 2016

ARCHIVE - 25 Live (download) (2020)


Ok, ich gebe es zu, dies ist kein richtiges Review. Ich höre das Ding nämlich gerade zum ersten Mal. Aber ernsthaft: So weit (bin gerade über eine halbe Stunde drin) klingt das alles super und die Setlist kann alles. Man lese nur die letzten fünf Titel: "Collapse Collide", "Controlling Crowds", "Dangervisit", "Lights" und "Again". Allein für diesen Cluster muss man sich das Ding doch schon herunterladen.


Und davor hat man schon "Pulse" und "Baptism" und "Bullets" und "Kid Corner" und "Finding It So Hard" und und und auf die Ohren bekommen... Man kann vielleicht bemängeln, dass die Trip-Hop-Wurzeln der Gruppe hier zu kurz kommen, aber anderseits reiht sich hier Highlight an Highlight. Außerdem ist das Album geschenkt!


Du kennst Archive gar nicht? Du hast vielleicht ein, zwei Stücke von ihnen gehört und keinen Plan, wo Du diese allen Kategorisierungen widerstrebende Band einsortieren sollst?

Worauf wartest Du noch? Der Download ist umsonst, Archive gehören zweifelsohne zu den größten Liveacts unserer Tage, also komm, mach hin, so lange es noch möglich ist:




[EDIT nach dem ersten kompletten Durchgang: Erwähnenswert ist sicher noch, dass neben den sowieso immer anwesenden Dave Pen und Pollard Berrier sowohl Maria Q als auch Holly Martin in reichlich Stücken den Leadgesang übernehmen.

Und von wegen Trip Hop: Das Stück "Remains Of Nothing" kannte ich als einziges noch nicht. Ist aber auch die einzige Nummer, die man getrost skippen kann. Der Rest des Albums ist jedoch gigantisch, vor allem die Versionen der erwähnten Longtracks und nicht zu vergessen "Finding It So Hard". Was für eine epochale Band!]





2020-02-26

INSECT ARK - The Vanishing

Every once in a while you fall in love with a record already only over listening to its first promo tracks. In 2018 "Marrow Hymns" from the instrumental duo Insect Ark was such a case for me.

With a musical formula that hit all the sweet spots by perfectly arraying its influences to something very unique and unmistakable, there was a band which felt very much complete in its vision. At least as complete as experimental, often minimalstic art can ever be.


Two years later the follow-up record "The Vanishing" confidently keeps exploring the possibilities within the already established sonic framework. A legitimate and good artistic choice, even though for me as a critic it means that any actual descriptions of the music in this review is probably doomed to shamelessly parrot what I've written about Insect Ark in the past.





INSECT ARK - The Vanishing (clear vinyl) (2020)


Before I come to the music though, the obvious elephant in the room has to be addressed.
Usually I'm not the one to get sleepless nights by line-up changes of bands. But in a duo each member is fifty percent of the whole, so when drummer Ashley Spungin, who had been such a great presence at Insect Ark's Roadburn Festival show, departed, it had me worried for a moment - until it was announced that none other than Andy Patterson from the sadly disbanded SubRosa would be the replacement. Being a fan of both of them I had already noticed a strong kinship in their style before, so him as the successor promised to be a perfect choice.

Spungin has still left her imprint on "The Vanishing" with some writing and recording credits though, so maybe it's fair to look at this as a transitional record. From the outside it's nearly impossibly to estimate how much input of each drummer is in here - and if it makes any significant difference or not.

Because one thing still is as clear as the beautiful transparent vinyl in the album version I purchased from Profound Lore Records: The main drive behind Insect Ark remains Dana Schechter, who operated the band as a solo project for several years before "Marrow Hymns", and whose snarling bass lines pretty strongly determine where the rhythm ultimately has to go.

Besides the bass, which is often looped in the live situation, Schechter's main instrument is the lap steel guitar, which in itself of course leads to comparisons to Swans, which should be extra not-surprising, if you know that she has not only worked with Michael Gira in The Angels Of Light, but is also a member of the current Swans line-up.
And while especially the groovier passages on "The Vanishing" show some resemblance to Swans (mixed with a more naturalistic Godflesh), the exuded feeling is closer to both the droning and the Western tone of the guitar of Dylan Carlson (Earth).




Like I've said further above, the general direction of Insect Ark hasn't changed: eerie experimental instrumental doom metal, with leanings to drone, psych and post rock, refined with small pinches of electronic and avantgarde. Maybe a little bit more focussed on being performable, but that's a presumption I'd have to fact-check at a show.

I can give you one new, weirdly specific, unexpected deep cut comparison: When the full beat and the piano set in half through "Danube", the track almost feels like a alternate version of the finale of Tori Amos' "Lady In Blue" (track 17 on "Abnormally Attracted To Sin") to me. Damn, I love that song.

The average track length on "The Vanishing" is longer than on its predecessor, so there are only five tracks before we arrive at the closing title track, a piece which captures its nightmarish inspiration - the disintegration into nothingness - in a poignant, exciting way.
Incidentally I'm just first-time binging through "Bojack Horseman" right now, and in the first season there's a brilliant depiction of that same classic dream motif. It instantly made me think of this album. That being said the cover artwork also provides an interesting visceral interpretation of the matter and perfectly harmonizes with the disturbing undertone of the musical content of the album.

So, yes: "The Vanishing" is a perfect package.

I'm not ready yet to decide whether this album is better than "Marrow Hymns" or not, since they are both so flawless that it doesn't actually matter.

Let's just say I fucking love everything about this record.






2020-02-22

KANAAN - Odense Sessions

Yes! The good news is that the spectacular Norwegian instrumental psych fusion power trio Kanaan has released the follow up to its debut "Windborne".

The bad news is... ha, did I have you there? Unsurprisingly there is no bad news. Well at least if you you're not expecting "Windborne 2" and you cannot live with anything else.

Because as the title "Odense Sessions" already hints at, this is not really the logical successor, but a different kind of record.







KANAAN - Odense Sessions (LP) (2020)


First of all this isn't a trio album, because Kanaan teamed up with Causa Sui guitarist Jonas Munk. And then it's also fully improvisational, apart from a couple of subtle keyboards which were added afterwards.

Adding another person to the mix and the spontanous session format lead to the inevitable side effect that Kanaan are dropping a bit of their individuality here. The opener "Seemingly Changeless Stars" is undoubtly a luscious jam, but even with Ask Vatn Strøm flexing his lead guitar tone here and there you could still sell this to me as a track from Causa Sui or who knows what other great psych rock group.

Then on the second track "Of Raging Billows Breaking On The Ground" drummer Ingvald Andre Vassbø immediately shifts to a different gear. With all his restraint from track one gone and the full jazz rock beast unleashed, this heavier, adventurous tunes is much more recognizable as the Kanaan I saw live in Hamburg last year.

"Vacant Spaces" sees the "Odense Sessions" quartet slowing down and chilling. And I am realizing that returning to one of my main go-to references for Kanaan, this record's relationship to "Windborne" might actually parallel the evolution of the Mahavishnu Orchestra from "Inner Mounting Flame" and "Birds Of Fire" to the live album "Between Nothingness & Eternity".
But this observation could also be bullshit, because I admittedly haven't treated my ears to all of those for a while.

What is undeniable though is that the "Odense Sessions" are less jazz and more psych than the debut. That should bother me on paper, because I have a slightly leading preference there, but in reality this stuff is way to good to even hold on to that nitpicky thought.

The last of the four jams on one LP grows to be the most explosive of the bunch, while also showcasing a heavy mordern Japanese kraut rock influence. If you told me that members of Kikagaku Moyo, Dhidalah or Minami Deutsch were involved in this one you could have easily fooled me.

So what's my take on the whole thing?

While it ultimately doesn't have any great significance how much instantly measurably Kanaan as you know them is in each track, what counts is that these jams all have a different, distinctive personality. And I love to spend my time with every single one of them.

Because in the end the all-encompassing truth is that not a minute goes by on this album, which isn't A+ premium food with extra vitamins for impro-psych connoisseurs.

Great band / sessions / sound / album / cover / ... / everything!







2020-02-21

TOBY DRIVER & NICK HUDSON - Black Feather Under Your Tongue


Imagine you are on a short trip from freshly brexited UK to New York to see one of only a handful of reunion shows of Mr. Bungle! What do you do on the day after? Stay in bed with a headache? Visit Liberty Island?

Nick Hudson (most prominently known for filming a fan throwing his dead friend's ashes on stage at said show) had other plans. He entered a studio together with Toby Driver (a Brooklyn local mentioned here and there in this blog from time to time) and they recorded an improvised dark ambient record, which has been released digitally on bandcamp a couple of days later.



TOBY DRIVER & NICK HUDSON - Black Feather Under Your Tongue (download) (2020)

All four tracks (average length about eleven minutes) feature Driver on guitar and Hudson on either piano or vocals.

"Black Ecstasy" is a dark meandering of the two instruments, mellow yet suspenseful, strings and keys both pending between minimalistic soundtrack vibes and baroque beauty. The piano also reminds me a lot of Tori Amos' most "classical" instrumentals.

Even if you don't know either Nick or Toby you probably have guessed by now that they are quite experimental musicians.

And if you didn't know that Nick is a Diamanda Galas super fan, after listening to "First Was The Word Was The Virus" you'll have no doubt. While Toby provides a backdrop of slow johnzornish / kayodotian doom jazz, Nick sings wordless in his low and middle register, whispers, staccato-breathes, does all kinds of weird spooky noises. And the two are communicating so good in this one - it's marvellous.

Of course (and here the Bungle circle closes) you can also attribute a good part of the vocal performance to the influence of mighty Mike Patton, and this is all the more true for the third track "When I Saw The Star", where the singing meditates on a couple of actual lyrical verses and Nick goes into a crooning style somewhere between Patton and Brandon Perry (Dead Can Dance). Meanwhile Toby Driver mixes his typical relaxed Dot advantgarde with passages akin to certain Asian post rock artists.

In the last track "Martial Hauntology" the piano finally returns for the most minimalistic jam, a laid back drone for anyone who feels that the new Bohren & der Club of Gore is way too wild.


But seriously: "Black Feather Under Your Tongue" is a great recording, which sets its own special mood and has just the right playing time not to overstay its welcome.

So far I've always enjoyed seeing the musical chemistry of these two guys together on stage and it's more than nice to hear this impression backed up with this album.







2020-02-09

LAIBACH - Laibach Revisited

- The cruel heart of Laibach in a box - 





LAIBACH - Laibach Revisited (5LP + book box) (2020)


Oh drummer boy, where do I even start with this one?

I guess the mere matter of fact that this release does exist now is still blowing my mind.


But let's be honest: Even though this ginormous box is all about the beginnings of the band this is not going to be a review starting with the "What is a Laibach?" basics.

There are plenty of great entry points to dig through Laibach's discography and it's pretty unlikely that a beginner would choose this rather pricey item over a couple of regular albums.
It doesn't even matter if we are talking about the recent price or the significantly lower one I paid using using all early-bird pre-order and discount options (plus the content of the box grew after my order) - it's pretty obvious that the typical buyer is already a huge Laibach fan.


"Laibach Revisited" is available as a CD or LP version, of which I obtained the latter, number 7 of 1200 to be exact. Apart from the different formats of the boxes and sound carriers the content is almost the same. I've seen that the CDs are designed in the look of the LPs, which is a pretty classy choice.

When I opened my parcel from Slovenia on January 24th, exactly one month after Christmas Eve, I found three items: a personalized "thank you" note, the box itself and an exclusive t-shirt for pre-ordering buyers, who also got another exclusive extra, which I already reviewed back in July 2018, a digital live album from the 2017/2018 tour for "Also Sprach Zarathustra".




And yes, even if you don't understand german, you are right: Back than I still believed the box would see the light of day within the same year. Haha, man how wrong I was!


Of course Laibach are briefly addressing this very issue on their note. On which they still conceal a couple of years.
The first sign of "Laibach Revisited" emerged in late 2009, when it was announced as a double CD including a remastered version of the self-titled debut album from 1985 and a second disc with "revisited" versions of songs from that era. The first official release date was May 2010 and you could already make a reservation, which meant that a special newsletter would alarm you, when it was coming.

Well that didn't happen. If I remember correctly (no guarantees!) the reason was of financial nature, because the label which was supposed to release it was collapsing (or something like that) and Laibach's regular label for most studio albums Mute obviously was not willing or asked to throw some big Depeche Mode cash towards the project.

Interestingly there was even more music announced for 2010, but the "Volkswagner" performance, where Laibach and the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra interpreted jazz arrangements of works from Richard Wagner never made it into the studio, while the live recordings where not good enough for a release? Who knows. The bottom line is only the memory of the attendees and a couple of YouTube clips remain from "Volkswagner". And of course the vague hope that maybe one day Laibach will also revisit this or a similar concept. 

From then on tons of reasons for further delays of "Laibach Revisited" plagued the project. And apart from financial and technical issuess (the latter until a couple of weeks ago on the finishing line, when the booklets had to be reprinted) Laibach were always adding new content or raising the quality of what was already there.

And also - readers of my blog should have noticed - Laibach were often just busy with lots of other activities, starting in the early 2010s with the soundtrack for the first "Iron Sky" movie and tours, which centered around that material plus a lot of revisited songs. You can never start to promote an album too early, right?

So while I had my first contact with the revisited works live in Copenhagen in September 2012, a special extended performance at the Tate Modern in London found its way onto "Monumental Retro-Avant-Garde", a stunning double CD, which has become quite an expensive item as well (recent Discogs price 135,00 Euro). I love this album, so I must admit that for a couple of years I was content with this being the definite official revisited release.

But luckily Laibach never buried the project and always kept playing at least some of the revisited tracks live.

And in July 2017 with the release of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" came the first mentioning of "Laibach Revisited" as a box set. The pre-payment in May 2018 then finally made it all feel more real than ever. At least for a while...



But now here it is. Let's see what's in the box!






Opening the box the first two things to notice are the certificate of authenticity in the inside of the cover and a 12" sized booklet for the three included albums. It features a mix of "normal", rare and iconic live photographs, track lists, lyrics (original and english translations) and credits.

The concept of the "quadruple principle" being a central theme of the whole box, the credits for each album begin with "Written, arranged, performed and produced by Eber, Saliger, Dachauer and Keller", followed up by "featuring" and then an unusually detailed overview of what each person was actually doing on those recordings.

Of course Laibach have loosened the aspect of anonymity a lot in this millenium, especially since the old 1982 set of rules ("10 Items of the Convent") has basically been replaced by the upgraded "General Thesis" of the Spectre Party in 2014. (If you are shaking your head in confusion now - I said it earlier that this wasn't going to be a  "Laibach for beginners" lesson.)

But to see a listing that tells you on which tracks Milan Fras played drums or did the vocals, or where Srečko Bajda or Jonathan Langran were the main vocalists on the early material, that definitely feels like a new level of demystification, which gives an interesting insight into how collective Laibach actually operated right from the beginning.

And no, this knowledge doesn't spoil the music in any way.




Speaking of the music: There's also a download card, so you can get a digital copy of everything. And of course the most important part of all this, the physical records:





LAIBACH


When Laibach released their official debut in 1985 most of its tracks had already been around in evolving versions for years, which is also documented on various rare live recordings or the "Rekapitulacija 1980-84" compilation.

So even without the revisiting there have always been plenty of versions of the debut material, with some of it already reappearing on some issues of the second album "Nova Akropola", which closed the original Slovenian phase of Laibach in 1986.

Soon after that the band gained noticably more international attention with their new originals of certain songs by OpusQueen, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles (see also the compilation "Reproduction Prohibited"). Tracks like "Geburt Einer Nation" or "Opus Dei"/"Leben heißt Leben" became the closest to what you would call greatest hits for Laibach, before some of their own originals like "Wirtschaft ist tot" or "Tanz mit Laibach" made it to a similar status.

Yet no matter what unforeseen turns the direction and presentation of Laibach would take; the primal industrial assaults of their early works always seemed to remain the spiritual core, the primordial soup leaking through all of their activities.

Even some actual sounds and lyrics kept reappearing here and there, most noticably probably in the track "Brat Moj" ("My Brother"; I personally prefer the older translation "Brother Of Mine"), which later returned in english as "To The New Light" or as the Kraftwerk soundalike version "Bruderschaft".


The lyricism of debut era Laibach was diffuse and direct at the same time. Unrelenting in its ideologically over-charged glorification of heroism and martyrdom, but also strangely dry and impersonal in its depictions of the functions of the state - or in its description of pure inhumane cruelty. The bright light of the future, authority and freedom, promises of beauty, baptism in blood.
In its demanding totalitarian tone all this is too much to take in and paint into a graspable picture. So many larger than life forces in so few lines, of which many are not even clearly audible under the noisy machinery. It's an assault, but it also clearly has hypnotizing, almost cult-like indoctrinating qualities.

The closely interwoven words and noises of "Laibach" to this day carry an eerie, tempting and demonic power, even if you don't actually speak the language - which is undoubtly the case for a very vast part of Laibach fans today. While this debut album clearly is a child of its time, its impact hasn't weakened.


"Laibach" has been re-released and remastered before, growing from originally eight to ten and even to thirteen tracks.
The new version in this box however doesn't even bring back all of the old bonus tracks and still counts a total of twenty tracks.

A couple of early pieces, which probably just didn't make the cut in 1985 were added at the beginning: "Zmagoslavje Volje", "Jaruzelski", "Smrt Za Smrt", "Dokumenti", a couple more at the end of the studio album: "Slovenska Žena", "Ti, Ki Izzivaš", "Vade Retro", "Perspektive".

From the old bonus material the two 300,000 V.K. tracks "Policijski Hit 1984" and "Prva TV Generacija" have survived as well as the Laibach / Strom und Klang cooperation "L'Homme Armé".

New bonus tracks are a live version of "Sredi Bojev" from 1983 - until you notice that this actually isn't new, but only a demotion from regular album to bonus track -, and - this time for real - a special performance of "Smrt Za Smrt" from the year 2000.


You can't make out the difference on every track, but generally it's pretty safe to say that this album never sounded this good. With the rich amount of worthwhile bonus content this is surely the ultimate version of "Laibach".

The new cover artwork and the vinyl quality are spotless, which also goes for the other two albums of the box.

  





REVISITED


The gestalts on the cover with Mina Špiler in the centre are drawn much more regocnizable, depicting one of the live line-ups most familiar to me by now. Both LPs of the "Laibach Revisited" double album bleed red.

The new versions on "Laibach Revisited" are not organically grown over the years, but total deconstructions and rebuildings of the old material. They are new originals in a similar way than most of Laibach's interpretations of other artists' works are. However several tracks play the trick of starting like it's 1984, but then turning into something totally different.

Before I get further into what that is, the obvious question has to be addressed: Why did Laibach even feel the need to make this in the first place?

My guess is the simple answer: because they could. With a whole new palette of musical talent and production possibilities at their hand they saw the chance to take their core and turn it into something much more grand, bombastic, accessible and emotional, while still maintaining an overwhelming monolithic approach which makes the listener feel like a tiny spectator at the foot of a colossal monument.

Anyone who has seen a Laibach show during the last ten years will recognize at least parts of this album. In some cases the studio versions are a bit more skeletal with some live texture missing, in other cases it's the other way around, the general sound however is the same: mostly heavily stomping industrial sprinkled with almost-pop influences and descents into total chaos, which could also be described as free jazz thanks to the brilliant falling-down-the-stairs piano.

Compared to the original versions, which were mostly recorded before the signature snarling deep voice of Milan Fras or even those excessive neoclassical choirs became an unmistakable trademark of Laibach, there is a significantly stronger emphasis on strong, clearly narrated vocals now.

Mina Špiler's voice is present and important as well, but it mainly works in the background, not as an equal front woman beside Fras like on other releases like "Spectre".


While each track is deserving of its own paragraph here, I will back away from that and just state that this album shows no weaknesses.
"Ti, Ki Izzivaš ЯƎ" or "Brat Moj ЯƎ", both already live classics by now, are just as effective as the bunch of tracks Laibach have only premiered on their recent "Sound Of Music" tour, like "Kravda Gruda - Plodna Zemlja ЯƎ" or the spectacular "Vier Personen ЯƎ", which begins very close to its original version, but evolves to an absolutely bonkers Kraftwerk jazz extravaganza.

As those last mentioned tracks indicate you cannot compare all old and new versions within the confines of this box, because the "Revisited" album also covers tunes not from the "Laibach" debut, but from "Nova Akropola".

Can I come to a final judgement concerning which is better, the old or the new? - No, but I can confidently state that I don't want to miss either!

The originals are classics of their time, which despite a thin historical patina haven't lost their disturbing impact. The revisited tracks however merge them with all kinds of influences Laibach would process in later works, yet still present them as a sonically consistent, holistic album. Thus "Laibach Revisited" is probably the most timeless, the most Laibach recording the Slovenes have ever made.


The two long bonus tracks are the main difference of the musical content of the CD and LP version of the "Laibach revisited" box. While some tracks are in a slightly different order, so they can fit on the records, these two live recordings are not available on vinyl at all. Luckily they are included in the digital download, because they are clearly among the highlights of the whole package.

"Smrt Za Smrt ЯƎ" was recorded in February 2016 in Brussels with the RTV Slovenia Symphonic Orchestra, so it's basically the same, absolutely mindblowing version I was glad to experience live in Ljubljana later in the same year. Or in short: peak Laibach.

"Ti, Ki Izzivaš ЯƎ" is also an orchestral rendition, recorded at the same place, but two years later with another orchestra. Of course it's also as gloriously bombastic as it gets.


Being the central selling point of the whole box, the album "Laibach Revisited" succeeds on all levels.





UNDERGROUND


The third album of the bunch is one record shorter than the other two and comes in a regular sleeve instead of a gatefold. It's pressed on bleak cheerless grey vinyl.

"Underground" documents a special performance two-hundred meters below a coal mining museum in October 2012. I actually followed this one live on a stream, which was totally overchallenged by the bass frequencies, so I am really glad that I can hear it in a decent production now.

Laibach performed inside a narrow mining tunnel with a special Vier Personen line-up including "classic" members Dejan Knez on bass and vocals and Ivan Novak on turntable, tape recorder and other oldschool devices and effects.

Even though apart from some piano moments the interpretations of the songs in this show are totally different than the revisited versions, they are not a simple throwback to the 1980s either, which is made clear almost immediately in "Siemens", which uses very distinct samples from "War" (of the 1994 album "NATO") and "B Mashina" ("WAT", 2003).

These five tracks (including - yes, for a whopping fifth time in this box - "Smrt Za Smrt") are gritty, raw incarnations of the material, but of course they also explode into magnificently menacing monumentalism which "leaves you with a static scream locked on your face" as Laibach themselves would say ("Wat").

Again for anyone familiar with "Monumental Retro-Avant-Garde" this performance isn't totally new, as the band began their Tate Modern show earlier in the same year with a similar set-up and tracklist. It's anything but an exact copy though, so the addition of "Underground" to the collection is still extremely worthwhile.

This live recording is nothing but totally on a par with the two double albums. I just cannot pick favorites between all this phenomenal stuff. The whole musical content of this box is just perfect.



And there are still some contents left to look at:






The 162-page book "Terror Of History" contains the classic rules of Laibach aka the "10 Items of the Convent", an excerpt from a speech former Slovenian president Milan Kučan held at the opening of a Laibach Kunst exhibition in their original home town Trbovlje in 2010, and most importantly an extensive essay about "How Laibach shook the State, the Party and Philosophy at the Beginning of the Eighties", written by Marcel Štefančič, jr. in 2012.

This essay gives some interesting insights into the dysfunctions of the Yugoslavian state, the widespread absurd Nazi accusations against the punk and student scene (including a couple of déjà vus regarding the framing of the left by today's wannabe-fascists and their friends) and Laibach emerging in reaction to that phenomenon with an effectively impregnable concept.
And of course a lot of observations concerning the (non-)relationships between Laibach, their critics and audience and the state. It's quite something to take in, so no, I won't even try a précis here.


The book also presents portraits of all(?) Laibach members through the years, with real name and Laibach synonym (Eber-Saliger-Dachauer-Keller). 






Exclusive only in the LP box all these portraits are also featured on a poster, which on the other side shows a new version of the classic symbolic Vier Personen motif.

The last item inside the box is a recreation of a metallic Laibach cross badge (the band famously used the symbol when they were forbidden to perform under their name), numbered according to the box set on the backside.


And here come my only complaints about this almost perfect box set:

  • Why not print two posters instead of one with two sides? Considering the price of the whole thing this seems like a strange detail to economize. The Cold Spring vinyl re-release of "Nova Akropola" from 2014 had two seperate posters, which are both framed on my wall right now.
     
  • There should have been some kind of protection sheet / cardboard between the LPs and the bottom of the box with the book and badge, because when I unpacked my box, the badge was not in its supposed place, but had obviously been wandering around. Luckily that didn't cause any damage on the sleeve of the "Underground" record - but there could have been.

    I know that this critique doesn't help Laibach now, but anyone who is in charge of a project like this: Think of transportation risks and shit like this! Btw: The package in which the box was shipped was exemplary!


I won't include the price in my critique, not so much because that could lean into the unresolvable philosophical question of the worth of mass-produced art, but more because I have fucking no idea, how much it costs to produce a high quality Kunst product like this in the way and capacity Laibach did here.
You must also consider that the number of 1200 copies (1500 for the CD box) is surprisingly high for this kind of limited release and doesn't aim at a light-speed blitz sale beyond the pre-orders. That means the price is certainly not calculated under the assumption of all copies selling out immediately - which of course is pure futile speculation on my side. 


Ok, somehow I missed the point to close this review in a worthy manner which reflects the holy-graily awesomeness of this mammoth release, so let's get all redundant and finish this with the fresh observation that the ribbon, which helps to get the records out of the box - and which I didn't even find neccessary to mention before - appearantly comes in different colours. Mine is silver/grey, others have red ones. I don't know yet if there are possibly also black ribbons. It would make sense, because that's the tri-colour scheme of the whole thing.

Of course some fans have opinions about their specific ribbon colour. Personally I really can't bring myself to care. The red one is not a ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, right?