1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
Although brought to the attention of mainstream audiences by American acts like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, the industrial genre has always contained at least a glimmer of German spirit. Acts like KMFDM (the second best-selling industrial group, lightyears behind NIN), Rammstein and Combichrist all represent Deutschland in their varied methods. But the German presence doesn't stop with native bands; English industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle featured footage of the Holocaust during its performances, and Industrial Records' logo was a gate from Auschwitz (an omen of the genre's prevailing cynicism and disregard for censorship). New York duo Hansel und Gretel speak only German in its vocals, despite being born in America. The German influence goes back to the oft forgotten band Einstürzende Neubauten ("Collapsing New Buildings").
Most of the reason why Neubauten never reached the popular heights of NIN is explained by vocalist Blixa Bargeld's description of the group's first album: "We wanted to make the most unlistenable album ever." If you want to know how to approach "Kollaps" as a listener, consider the the title of the track "Schmerzen horn" ("Listen with pain"). If you find NIN's music uncomfortable, you'll quickly realize just how far the genre has come melodically when you plug into Neubauten.
The band is a three-piece, consisting of Bargold, the vocalist and guitarist, plus N.U. Unruh and F.M. Einheit, both percussionists. By "guitarist," I mean Bargold picks and scratches at strings to create ungodly screeching through overly sensitive amps. The two percussionists hammer on anything that's not a drum, and then run that through a mic to create the same static-laden effects as Bargold's guitar.
"Ste Auf Berlin" ("Stand Up Berlin") is a lesson in the fundamentals of pure industrial music. Neubaten wasn't the first band to come up with this stuff (back to Throbbing Gristle), but it's the first band in my books to do so, so we'll run with it. The song opens with the sound of a drill (the term "industrial" refers to using machinery as an instrument, a trait rarely employed anymore), which gives way into a disarmingly clean rhythm, which explodes into a terrible wave of white noise. If you're forced to remove your headphones in pain, it's understandable. Just realize that this is one of the more melodic tracks on the album. "U-Haft-Muzak" ("Pretrial Detention Music") features shifts in output balance, bursts of percussion and bits of chant, thrown together in seemingly random order.
I admit, I can't see myself listening to this album again. As someone who frequents metal and other genres excelling in uncomfortable audio, I can say that this is truly off the deep end. It's worth noting the influence the group had however. Check out the static effects used both by current industrial acts and even alternative stars like The Raveonettes. The band's list of big name fans isn't short either (check out the "Interesting Fact). Take a listen, but don't feel bad if your eardrums can't take it.
INTERESTING FACT: The band's logo, titled "Toltec Man" after the pre-Aztec Mexican tribe that was responsible for its painting in a cave, is one of the most popular band logos to get as a tattoo. Among the famous recipients of a Toltec tat are Henry Rollins of Black Flag, Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen and Mayhem vocalist Sven "Maniac" Kristiansen.