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LAIBACH - Sketches Of The Red Districts

Revisit your birthplace.

Reframe your conception.

Restart again.

LAIBACH - Sketches Of The Red Districts (red vinyl LP) (2023)

As a retro-garde entity Laibach per concept may exist out of time, but Laibach does not exist seperate from history. History itself however isn't linear. In consequence Laibach and history spiral around each other in moving circles - touching, crossing and floating away from each other, only to meet again in different points of space and time. As a passenger on this perpetuum mobile your journey doesn't have a tangible destination nor starting point, dates and events are constantly approached at different speeds from changing angles.

Laibach's first appearance in public took place on September 27th 1980 in Trbovlje. Laibach's first appearance in public did not take place on September 27th 1980 in Trbovlje, because the event was banned by the Yugoslav authorities.
No matter which book, article or other media about Laibach you consult, the story of this ban always is an essential part of their birth myth. And a part of it always felt a little off. Was the town really that scared of posters with black crosses appearing over night? Or was it rather the sheer bureaucratic matter of advertising without a permit? Maybe whoever canceled the event didn't even care for the content and meaning of what had been planned.

But then this town in particular might indeed have had a special sensitivity towards the obscure ominous symbolism and the use of the Slovenian capital Ljubljana's German name.

Laibach was founded on the first of June 1980 in Trbovlje. Laibach was not founded on the first of June 1980 in Trbovlje.
The date is mere symbolic, calling back to the first of June 1924, when the Orjuna, a Yugoslav nationalist organisation marched onto the labour movement stronghold with 800 storm troopers, leading to a bloody clash.

Godba uthine | The brass band falls silent
Obrazi vseh napeto zro v došleke | Everyone's faces are tense
Zdaj dva pola | Now the two poles
Dva svetova množic se stakneta: | The two worlds of the masses are colliding:
Dol Orjuna! | Down with Orjuna!
Živela Orjuna! | Long live Orjuna!
Živela Orjuna... Dol komunisti! | Long live Orjuna... Down with the Communists!
Naj hudič vzame Orjuno! | Let the devil take Orjuna!
Smrt fašizmu! | Death to fascism!

(Smrt in Pogin | Death and Perishment)

"Sketches Of The Red Districts" examines the events of both years 1924 and 1980, questioning "the band's aesthetic, sonic and ideological roots from the distance of time."

It's by far not the first time that Laibach return to their roots - the "Laibach Revisited" box set is an impressive testament of that -, but this time they don't turn existing material into renovated "new originals", but rather focus on the conceptual framework, while the music, albeit referencing their Industrial beginnings, is completely new.

In broader reception Laibach have often falsely been reduced to those couple of years in the later 1980's, when they turned Queen and The Rolling Stones into monstrous ideologists, and which famously served as a blueprint for a good portion of Rammstein's aesthetics.
In truth however, actually right from the start, if you compare the live recordings from their earliest years, Laibach have always utilized a huge range of sounds and genres. The ability to pull this off is indivisibly linked to their collective spirit, to working with countless collaborators, producers and composers.

The credits of "Sketches Of The Red Districts" now tell that all music on it was written and performed by Vitja Balžalorsky and Bojan Krhlanko, "inspired and supervised by Laibach".

Laibach live January 2023
Wait! If you're as bad with names as I am, your first thought might be: What, they just let other people do the work and put their name on it? But a moment later you hopefully realize that those two, while not having been credited as main songwriters so far, are both actually the current guitarist and drummer of the Laibach live band.
This might also explain parts of the fresh but also familiar nature of this album, which especially compared to the almost contradictional "Love Is Still Alive" mini album or the mostly melody-driven and song-orientated "The Sound Of Music" relies much more on atmospheric ambience, noise and  raw rhythmic ideas.

To finally keep something short here: Combined with the Slovenian narration of Milan Fras and debut guest vocalist Kaja Blazinšek the seven pieces on this album are an absolutely brilliant re-interpretation of the band's formative sound.

While I wouldn't necessarily agree with a lot of fans calling this the best Laibach album since [insert ancient timeless classic here], i can definitely understand why someone would feel that way. Especially the central triumvirate of "Moralna Zaslomba", "Smrt in Pogin" and the thirteen minutes epic "Nekaj Vazih in Nacelnih Misli" is pure Industrial bliss.

This definitely is an album which does everything right in creating a holistic unity of concept, music, atmosphere and visual accompaniment, meaning: the transparant red vinyl in the black and white and red gatefold with extensive credits and the 30x30 cm booklet with the lyrics certainly are a worthy perfect fit for this masterclass.

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