Laibach

Laibach

Laibach

WAT

Mute Records

Laibach have spent years perfecting their thundering craft, favoring indoctrination and subversion over enjoyment. WAT shows them upping their game once again. Complex themes rendered through an almost instinctive musical aesthetic. Think about it, themes of capitalist downfall and Western rejection and a return to a sort of Totali-utopian art government delivered in the body music of a tribal offshoot of industrial music, all presided over by an authoritarian Eastern-European voice that seems totally disconnected with the music, more interested in manifestos than MIDI. It’s a fascinating aural counterpoint. Maybe the equivalent of a Soviet workers’ poster from the 1950s advertising a Madchester rave, that’s the closest visual equivalent to the sounds of WAT.

“B Maschina” begins with plans for a new society in the midst of worldwide collapse in between foreboding pseudo-classical swirls and industrial noise, it even delivers Sisters Of Mercy/Eldritch bombastics at the very end. “Tanz Mit Laibach” builds up the simplest of EBM four-on-the-floor beats, complete with a “1-2-3-4” countdown by a distorted voice speaking in German as the perfect podium for portentous synths and sequencers, choral voices and strident commands. Body music for prison camps, and the perfect fodder for a rathergood.com kitten performance (www.rathergood.com/laibach). Yes! “Du Binst Unser” uses the weapons of the facile popular media against itself, sampling that crappy electronica hit (in the car commercials, with the waving arms and all that) for a menacing tranced march.

“Ende” is just terrifying, with stuttering beats, sampled gasps and the voice of doom speaking calmly and threateningly, being totally clear in a language I don’t even understand, right in your fucking ear all mock sensually, the sexuality of control. “Now You Will Pay” brings a newer and more disquieting undercurrent to Laibach’s already bleakly prophetic worldview with lockstep drumming accompanying warnings of barbarians with “bombs in their hands” coming from the east and undermining “a nation of losers,” “burning down your Disneylands.” Good god, are they talking about an imminent NSK takeover (probably not) or the “terrorist threat”? In any case, it’s an amazing piece of agit-pop, foreseeing the end of Western society in a horrific bloodbath of blowback (yep), especially with the Wagner-style chorus of “barbarians are coming.”

But, as a friend of mine asked me, is Laibach coldly dissecting the terminal flaws of our society, or are they finally admitting a grudging admiration for the new American Big Brother shadow government? If you want sheer disturbance, disquiet and a real gnawing sense of existential dread, then you’d better skip over to “Satanic Verses.” Over icy musical martial law, Laibach turns their cold laser-like eyes on the rot within the American body politic. They peel off layer after layer of hypocrisy and fallacy in the “land of plenty/and of ammunition,” leaving only the core of American failure exposed for all to see — every bit as jarring as a torture snapshot from Abu Gharib. WAT clears us any remaining ambiguity about Laibach’s mission in the minds of the uninitiated, over slow-burning beats and synths, setting up Laibach’s place in the context of time and history and popular culture simultaneously. Clearly this entity is more than a mere band and more than even its personnel, it’s more of an aesthetic or mission that endures. “We are time,” they intone over and over again.

It’s the absence of an easily-defined or traced ideology, along with the apparent rootlessness both of their aesthetic and the NSK state that makes them a more formidable and menacing proposition than a Death in June could ever be. Technology is kept purposely rudimentary, as befits these militant sons of Kraftwerk, for too much sonic wallpaper would distract from the purity and directness of their purpose. Instrumentation is kept simple and pounding — travel light, choose your tools carefully when you live in a theoretical state surrounded by an uncertain world.

Mute: www.mute.com

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