24 November 2014

Laibach - Spectre

I’m beginning this blog with a disclaimer: ATTIWLTMOWOS has an annual summary of the year’s releases-which coincides with the day/month that the blog started. So, with that in mind I have duly asked to undertake blog type reviews of a couple of albums on the main list. I have not, to my knowledge, heard Laibach, or if I have-at various clubs over the years, I haven’t known who it was.      I don’t own any of their albums, nothing close actually, although I enjoy the Industrial genre, which was why I chose this from the main blog editor’s list of this year’s albums.

So-fans of Laibach and similar, please bear with me as I try to understand this music genre, you may not like what you read. In which case-you can listen to the album here - (Spotify) and purchase here -  (Amazon).

But, if you want to read from a complete outsider’s perspective, here goes…

So this Slovenian band’s genre is Martial Industrial and Neoclassical Darkwave apparently, which to me sounds fairly terrifying, and intriguing. However I am assured via various sources researched via the internet-that Laibach are ‘tongue in cheek,’ which is a damn good thing given my background…I was a little concerned I may be reviewing something with a fascist predilection. And fuck that quite frankly. Spectre is a studio album, released under Mute Records. I can’t find the names of all the members of the band, which I think is what they aim for-performing as a collective or similar, but I managed to dig two names out. There are 10 tracks, the extended edition has 14.

The videos that go with each track do support their description as martial, the videos are also vaguely reminiscent of fascist propaganda films I studies in History, and the various fine art boundary blurring soundscapes and installations I studies during my first Degree.  Given the fact I have seen similar, I am unable to describe them further, this band confuses me.

The album begins with ‘The Whistleblowers,’ which is an unusual mixture of a pretty standard type rock beat/synth/what sounds like synth/brass band and actual whistling, with the main guy Milan Fras ‘s deep vocals which are evocative of a hammer horror vampire.

‘No History’ is actually quite enjoyable at the start, it sounds like a lot of the tracks I happily danced to at Whitby’s alternative/goth clubs in the 90’s. And I think from the looks of things, this band have been around since the 80’s, and this does show, but unlike some of the critical reviews I have read, I don’t think they sound necessarily that dated. This track doesn’t anyway. I’ll have to read the lyrics separately to get what they’re on about here, I’m sure I’m missing something.

‘Eat Liver’ Not sure, female vocals this time-Anja Rupel?-well whoever it is she has a lovely voice-but I don’t know what it’s on about. Liver is used a lot, is it because it rhymes with ‘stand and deliver’? Is it because it is referencing some communist doctrine? The cartoon sounding bubble noises are an unusual addition to the brass/synth and industrial beats. Bit daft this one.

‘Americana’ is next and at this point I am assaulted by a Spotify advertisement of pop and dance music-it’s not a welcome distraction-which indicates that at least I find this album preferable so far to trite pop and dance shite. Its revolutionary type track this-lyrically not musically (if you’re gonna beat this power you’ve got to do it right, cos if you don’t you’re gonna loose this fight)-but it is at this point channelling Jungle, which is quite amusing-but it works here-especially the Enigma type interludes. Nice-I would dance to this, and that the main thing sometimes isn’t it? The catchiness of something, the way it makes you feel and how you want to move to it.

‘We are Millions and Millions Are One.’ More upbeat this one, and yet more laid back-lighter sounding. It’s channelling Trance-bizzar. The female vocalist is back and she can sing beautifully. Its interspersed with the males vocalists deep growling voice, giving an element of staccato to an otherwise quite fluid track. In the background there’s a whole ton of stuff going on, stomp type beats and sampling, good grief it’s almost The Verve here. The lyrics are nice - it’s like a love song, but a Laibach love song-so who knows what the hell’s going on?

‘Eurovision’ and we’re back in the now familiar I believe the word is Darkwave territory here. Menacing, brooding, political agenda. Not sure which political agenda but still, it appears quite meaningful, there’s angst and such.  Got to say I’m quite enjoying myself listening to this. They appear to have a ‘dream’ do they –Laibach’ have a dream? Do they have a doctrine? I’m not sure I want to read it, do I dare? Is it accessible? I have the feeling the bands visions go further than there musical contributions-the convictions that have brought them through 30 years, there must be some sort of agenda here-not in a threatening way-I think-just..they are dissatisfied with the way things are, and yes, they are right ‘oceans of people, oceans of sorrow.’ It’s just the conclusions they have reached that sound ….catastrophic..’Europe is falling apart.’

‘Walk with Me’ and yet again Spotify has provided me with an advert. Thing is I’m not sure where it ended this time and where the track began. Its clanky-it’s like tubular bells on speed. Enticement to action it appears to be. Not sure what the action a person is supposed to take, which is odd. Its abstract, non directional non specific. Its generalist and it’s kind of irritating. That said if they spouted some racist shit I’d be turning it off and reporting their website, so at least they’re saving me from that.

‘Bossanova’ Okay, so Walk with me has pissed me off and I’m not sure why, and I can’t really enjoy this. Although I probably would do, it’s a clear female vocal against some lovely standard industrial stuff. And there’s the gritty vocals lamenting capitalism’s evils. So, yeah I get that. Thing is, these political bands, are they actually involved in anything which incites change other than creating and selling music, which is arguably contributing to the capitalist ideals they are against. So they write on what they feel strongly about and fair enough, better than ‘baby baby’ love songs of which I have an irrational hatred of.

‘Resistance is Futile’ and Laibach covers the Borg. Wonderful. And I do like Star Trek, but this ones just daft-it starts like some 1980’s synthy ridiculousness and then delves into darker more menacing stuff with sampled child’s laughter expressing the assimilation of innocence.  ‘We are Laibach, resistance is futile.’ Yeah, thanks, but I’m pretty sure I can resist this mess of a track.

‘Koran’ so I read this last track-the last one I can access via Spotify’s free account-and thought-ah shit. I mean the connotations are pretty scary, bringing a religion into an album which has consistently communicated their dislike of societal norms and traditions, I am almost flinching from this expecting religious and cultural misunderstanding and inflammatory statements. Let’s see. The female vocalist sings softly and hopefully to a quiet uplifting piano track, which is in contrast to the rest of the album. Piano and static sampling gradually develops into slow industrial beats, and the gritty voice kicks in ‘words are nice’ appearing to suggest a cynicism in anything which communicates a hopeful future as the female singer come back in with ‘you believe in a better world, you believe in a better place.’ It’s a nice track to listen to, and doesn’t rant and rave, it questions and perhaps that’s what they’re trying to achieve.

I haven’t listened to the further bonus tracks, but can gather from my first real listen to an album from this band that they are about blurring boundaries, lyrically, politically maybe and musically. A smattering of brass meets a dark synth and industrial beats, genuinely decent instrumental pieces compliment gravelly male spoken word and melodic female vocals. I can’t begin to decide what it is I’m rating this album on, giving that I don’t really have anything to compare it too, neither similar bands nor their earlier work, so the rating I am trying to decide upon rests solely on my current subjective opinion of this album.  

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