Music Reviews
Einstürzende Neubauten

Einstürzende Neubauten

Rampen (apm: alien pop music)

POTOMAK

The seminal experimental/noise/industrial/post-industrial group Einstürzende Neubauten (requisite interpretation “Collapsing New Buildings”) releases their double album, Rampen (apm: alien pop music) on April 5, 2024, almost 43 years to the day of the release of their groundbreaking debut album Kollaps, first issued on April 1, 1981. The German group was significant to the development of the industrial genre of music and is at the head of the pantheon along with Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. Beginning with their self-made “instruments” (mainly to create percussion and a primal, visceral noise), mainstay guitarist, keyboardist, and lead vocalist Blixa Bergald and the rest of the band (currently N.U. Unruh and Rudolph Moser on custom-made instruments, percussion, and vocals, Alexander Hacke on bass and vocals, and Jochen Arbeit on guitar and vocals) started out pushing boundaries of what the word “music” could even define. Much like Swans’ The Beggar from 2023, the elder statesmen of Einstürzende Neubauten have crafted a (not quite so sprawling) double album that eases up on the aggression, but still adheres to the core of what the band is.

Lead single “Ist, Ist” is mostly sung in English, with the exception of the oft-repeated title (translation “Is, Is”), and the perfect reminder of how truly inventive Einstürzende Neubauten have been, and continue to be. Starting off with open toms (sounding almost like animal-skinned native drums) and a chugging nearly single-note bass line (with just a stutter start at the begging of each meter) laying the foundation for the entire track, overlayed vocal expressions (hiccups and cries) and cacophonic higher-in-timbre percussions, the track is brooding. Foreboding. “Besser Isses” (“Eat Better”) is my standout track. Everything in German, a slow burn build with a nice little guitar riff that pushes you through to the end. My German is a bit rusty, but it seems that Begald is telling you if you want to live/feel better, “Besser isses.” “Das ist alles” (that’s all).

Much like the definition of industrial music in regard to Einstürzende Neubauten, with Rampen (apm: alien pop music) the “alien” in the title should be taken as the root. Not of this world. Kraftwerk made “pop” music, Can made “pop” music, Neu! made “pop” music if you interpret “pop” as popular music (for aliens and outcasts?). Maybe it’s a German thing, because through all of these bands’ lenses, popular music becomes something rhythmic and mechanical, while oddly keeping a very human sensibility of the primal and primitive. It’s an interesting juxtaposition.

Lyrics and titles are sometimes in English and sometimes in German over the 15-track run, whichever language serves the overall intent and sound of each track. Gone are the distorted guitar riffs of Haus der Lüge from 1989 (the bright-red-pissing-horse-illustration album) but compositions are still stark. Again, tribal, Paleolithic. Capitalizing on the band’s iconic logo interpreted from an archaic ideogram or petroglyph of a human, Neubauten always tap into the distillation of what it means to be a homo-sapien. Stardust that is cognizant, fighting against the cosmos, as if their awareness is painful, and if they make enough of a racket, they might be able to escape.

Bergald says, “I’m someone who believes you can achieve knowledge through music. It’s always been that way. I follow the conviction.” Like Throbbing Gristle and last year’s Swans release, Rampen (apm: alien pop music) will not be for everyone. If you enjoy challenging music, something that makes you think well beyond the time that you have heard it, Einstürzende Neubauten’s newest release should be in your listen stack. It will provide answers you didn’t know you had questions for.


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