Review Summary: Their most accessible album and perhaps most consistent.Brief History
Einsturzende Neubauten is an avant garde Industrial Krauf rock band from Berlin Germany formed in 1980. Their most famous member is perhaps Blixa Bargeld who came to more mainstream attention due to this his role as guitarist with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Blixa Bargeld quit the Bad Seeds to devote his energies full time to Neubauten. The band are famous for their of non conventional instruments in their music such as air compressors, inside of a jet turbine, power tools such as drills and saws, sledge hammers. Their early albums often centred around power tools and Blixa’s screams, at the turn of the 90’s their sound became more melodic. The 2000 and the album “Silence is Sexy” marked a new phase with original members Mark Chung and FM Einheirt leaving to be replaced by Jochein Arbeit and Rudi Moser. Their sound had become more subtle as band embraced softer melodies and hypnotic rhythms that built sonically.
Background on Alles Wieder Offen
Alles Wieder Offen translates as All is open again. The title may suggest a new sound or new approach as their 1993 album Tabula Rasa (Clean Slate) did. However Alles Wieder Offen feels more like a retrospect of their most recent output from the 00’s married with elements from their earlier albums. In many ways when listening to Alles, I can’t help but think of In Rainbows by Radiohead. The reason for the comparison is twofold, this is the first of both bands 00’s out put that does not feel like a leap forward sonically.
However given their respective recent output this is not such a bad thing. Also a more obvious reason for comparisons would be the way in which both bands have used the internet as tool in their music. Radiohead’s pay what you want approach garnered much attention, less however was given to Neubauten’s equally groundbreaking approach, an approach they have used since 2004’s Perpetuum mobile.
Freeing themselves from record company backing Neubauten turned to their fans for support. For a once off charge of €35 the fans got their own supports edition of the album, as well exclusive access via webcam to the recording sessions, the fans could interact with band and give feedback on the songs as the band recorded them.
Alles Wieder Offen was the second album to where the band allowed fans access to recording sessions, fans could also download the 14 track version of the album as opposed to the official 10 track version released through the band’s own label Potomak.
The album itself
Band: Blixa Bargeld – vocals, guitar, various instruments
Alex Hacke – Bass, backing vocals, various instruments
Jochen Arbeit – Guitar, various instruments
NU Unhruh – percussion, various instruments
Rudi Moser – custom made drum kit, various instruments
The album opens with Die Wellen (The Waves) starting as a barely audible piano gets gradually louder over the space of two minutes. The track on first listen seems quiet skeletal as the track gets louder and other instruments appear low in the mix and just as the track builds to a climax it cuts abruptly and the next sound we hear is Nagorny Karabach, perhaps the fragile and beautiful song that Neubauten have ever recorded. It is a jarring effect, unexpected but works perfectly. Nagorny Karabach reminds me of the Theme from Twin Peaks meets a 70’s love ballad. Bargeld croons softly over gentle percussion and Arbeit's e-bow guitar.
Pace picks up with Weil Weil Weil (because because because) where the band chant the Weil Weil Weil, one of my friends dryly commented "nuremberg" on hearing this song. While this comment might have being in the worst taste and completely misguided, the track does have marching militant beat and call and response chorus. Ich hatte ein Wort follows, and is the closest band have ever gotten mainstream sound. In fact if the lyrics were in english you wouldn't be surprised to hear it on the radio. The track is built around Alex Hacke's bass rather percussion while Jochen adds textured understated guitars. In fact Hacke's bass has never sounded warmer and really drives many of the tracks on the album.
As it most of the songs on Alles Wieder Offen the sound is quiet stripped down compared to the layered sounds of previous albums. An early high light has to Von Wegen, which starts with what sounds like a bubbling water but is fact made by Blixa clicking his tongue against his cheek. The track starts off as sort of waltz lead by strings and Hacke's bass and Rudi's sparse percussion and Jochen's guitar playing seemingly random textures before the song takes it up a gear 3 minutes in and the percussion kicks in it falls into near silence a minute and a half later for a few seconds only to soar into a swell of strings and percussion and stops just as it reaches climax.
Rather than drop the pace into another popper number we get Let's Do it Dada a track about a serious as its title, its the closest the band gets to industrial techno to Futter mein ego from Halber Mensch but with the harshness gone. That said it gets manic in the last minute where the song really lets rip with Moser and N U Unhruh finally let loose and Bargeld even tops it off with a trademark scream. The first the extra tracks on the supporters version is next Wenn Dann and I can't understand why was left off the official release. Personally I would rather see Ich hatte ein Wort removed and this in its place. The percussion by Moser which sounds like it done on plastic pipes is breathtaking. Its beat is similar to Sie from Tabula Rasa but overall this is much more stronger track. From the random percussion textures created by Unhruh to Hacke's looping bass its another high light to the album and gives the supporters version more balance between softer and more faster tracks.
Alles Wieder Offen is next and as you would expect for a track named after the album it is a highlight. It feels more of an epic than its 4 minutes. Unvollständigkeit is a close twin to Perpetuum mobile's Ein Seltener Vogel. The track starts off as does much of this album with just sparse percussion and bass. It builds the tension slowly over its 9 minutes, gradually becoming more dense in sound as song progresses. Bargeld's voice draws you in, he sings every word as if he not only believes it but feels it. It matters little than all this album is sung in german you can feel the emotions of what he is singing about. As the tension in the track builds Bargeld sings with more gusto and just as the track seems to fall into chaos it quietens and rhythm slowly builds again propelled by Hacke's bass and then fades out. The supporters version features three tracks in a row that the official version doesn't.
Blue Ice Birth
The first three minutes of Venuskolonie will be of interest to fans of vintage Neubauten, a sample of Blixa's heartbeat places over strange sounds before the track shifts to softer sound similar to the first few tracks. At over 8 minutes it's a bit too long and possibly one of the weaker tracks on the album. Blue Ice a frantic 2 minute instrumental follows and really its Neubauten at play. Birth Death Lunch moves from quiet verses with little more than Hacke's bass and minimal percussion to more fleshed out choruses and as a added bonus Bargeld exercises the vocal chord with a scream. Its hardly an essential track but fun never the less.
Alles Wieder Offen ends on a strong note, my personal favourite track based around a guitar part Blixa recorded in the 80's in an underground brunker. The track he has said in interviews is a conversation between himself now as himself when he was younger. The track is built around the bass and a string section. It is only really in the last few albums that Neubauten, and unlike a lot of bands that feel the need to push the string section to the fore, Neubauten have always been about texture.
Regardless of the instruments used it is always as part of the song and is never the focal point of it. The other members of the band provide backing vocals in the chorus.
Ich Warte (I'm waiting) closes the album, the album opens with Alex Hacke strumming a vihuela, as with Die Wellen it builds slows. Bass slowly creeps in, as do random background noises, Moser hits his custom drums somewhere around the 2 1/2 minute mark for a brief second and the song continues to build only at a faster pace and the time we hear same drum only to have the track suddenly kick off 30 seconds later, there is barely time to catch your breathe as it speeds towards its conclusion, with guitars, hammond organ and the percussion now come to fore, as the vihuela loops in the background. The release after the build up is stunning.
As the song hurtles towards its end Blixa sings in german.
"I’m hoping she’ll instigate a hymn I’m waiting for there to be nothing left to wait for life is not an error, not error and music I’m waiting I’m waiting still"
As it reaches climax the other instruments suddenly stop and we are left with just the gentle strumming of the vihuela and then silence.
All is open again - It feels like the end of a chapter in their 30 year career, where other bands would fallen in self parody and releasing music of diminishing returns Neubauten are proving to be as exciting and vital as ever and we are left waiting to see what they will do next.
7.5 out of 10
Supporters Version 8.5 out of 10
Nagorny Karabach live