First things you should know, in case you don’t already: The band Einstürzende Neubauten originated in Berlin. The name means “collapsing buildings” in German. Alongside artists such as Faust, Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, Neubauten is part of the first wave of avant-garde industrial music. Its most lasting contribution is a dedicated exploration of sound, relying on the real sounds of metal, pistons, air pumps, etc., rather than the digital sampler. In short, Neubauten owes more to John Cage than to pop radio.
And now it releases Silence is Sexy (perhaps the best record title ever) and shows that sometimes the avant-garde can grow old gracefully. Unlike, say, Sonic Youth, which exhausted its aesthetic and has been struggling ever since, when Neubauten chooses to, it shows its soil is still rich and fertile. Silence is Sexy is an hour-and-a-half journey into the psyche of self, of politics, into real sonic territory. Most of the lyrics of key figure and sometime Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld are in German, but like on other Neubauten releases, English translations are provided. It’s the sort of uncompromising gesture that describes the group’s entire career. Give listeners something to think about and to work at. Nothing should ever come easy.
That said, unlike the band’s early work — usually the aural equivalent of a punch in the stomach — Silence is Sexy operates through subtlety and ambience. Songs are often extended dirges, as sounds come and go: vocals, complex and almost tribal rhythms played on metal drum kits, guitars, falling objects, drills and other machinery.
The record’s apex is “Pelikanol,” the sole track on the second CD. A 3/4 metallic beat underpins chantlike vocals, whispers, static and what I can only guess is a drill on metal sounding like a dying man’s last gasp for breath. It comes off like the interior soundtrack of a character from a David Lynch or Andrei Tarkovsky film. It’s dark, frightening and, like the rest of Silence is Sexy, somehow incredibly seductive — and sexy.
Aaron Warshaw is the MT listings editor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.