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In the absence of War we are questioning Peace…
In the absence of God we’ll pray to police…
(lyrics of ‘Europe is Falling Apart’)

The two-hour live set by Laibach begun with the enveloping beat from ‘Eurovision’ as if my simple wish to just listen to this song at any point during this gig, became IMG_3563mysteriously a priority. In less than one minute Milan Fras along with Mina Spiler, Luka Jamnik and Sašo Vollmaier in synth and Janez Gabrič in drums appeared on stage and almost hypnotically started singing…

…There are crowds in the streets they’re crying to be heard…(lyrics of ‘Europe is Falling Apart’)

Next on the setlist was my second favourite song from ‘Spectre’, ‘Walk With Me’. Video projections begun as a sequence of abstract shapes and continued likewise throughout the first part of this concert which was dedicated to ‘Spectre’.

How long can you go?
Residence of freedom and …
Come walk with me, it’s time to fight back!
Don’t turn away!
 (lyrics of ‘Walk With Me’)

Laibach turn the page again

Laibach is a band with a long history of 30 years, full with controversial moments during which they have occasionally received negative feedback and criticism at the level of censorship even from their own country, Slovenia. They have released albums which should be viewed as musical political statements (i.e. ‘Kapital’, ‘NATO’, ‘Volk’) while the rest of their albums include lyrics as well as artwork (i.e. sleeve design of ‘Opus Dei’) through which they reveal their point of view regarding major political issues that affect the world. In this album ‘Eurovision’ is such a song. Laibach has never so far released an album without quality or substance and always the result has musical and visual integrity while in terms of lyrics it is caustic and àpropos.

Laibach is not your average dark industrial/martial band who has stuck to a genre throughout their history. So far, they have provided us with such a diverse discography that permits us to take an educated decision about what makes us still love this band and appreciate their work. Whether through the revisions of songs from famous musicians and bands such as Europe, Queen, Status Quo, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Rolling Stones (i.e. ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Sympathy For The Devil’) or through their interpretation of classical music such as J.S Bach’s ‘The Art of Fugue’  with ‘LaibachKunstDerFuge’ and theatrical music work such as ‘Jesus Christ Superstars’ they have proven that they are creative and take a holistic approach to music.IMG_3548

In my opinion we may have waited for some time but there was a very good reason for the delay in the release of ‘Spectre’. This is the only album so far which has been so strongly influenced by minimal electro music, after WAT which had a more industrial feel. Spectre is blinking an eye to the German post punk scene (i,e, ‘Eat Liver!’), to minimal electro and melodic idm (‘Americana’, ‘Eurovision’) while at times it even brings to mind Welle: Erdball (i.e. ‘Bossanova’). If a band with martial/industrial music background wanted to embrace dark minimal electro music with an original way, then Laibach have certainly succeeded with ‘Spectre’. Who could have shown such an agility in music composition by offering an alternative to the well established traditional martial and industrial music (i.e. ‘WAT’, NATO’, ‘Opus Dei’, ‘Macbeth’) without losing their identity as musicians? ‘Walk With Me’ is the proof, that Laibach are up to the task and time has made them more confident and musically wiser. So when in ‘Hell: Symmetry’ they were singing:

…Welcome to the industry
Of seven deadly sins
Walk into the universe
                                        Of Laibach kunst machine…
(lyrics from ‘WAT’)

in Spectre they introduce themselves through a stylistically opposite track called ‘Resistance is Futile’.

…Come to us
Do not fight against us
Resistance is futile
                                                             We are Laibach…
 (lyrics from ‘Resistance is Futile’)

…and despite this risky attempt their musical character remains intact!

…they’re trying so hard but their eyes are kept shut
                                                                                 they’re trying so hard but their minds are kept shut…
(lyrics from ‘Eurovision’) IMG_3529

In this album you won’t listen to any acoustic instruments, there are no wind instruments and big drums are not included in any of the tracks. However, synths play the main role in the sound that we listen while drums are not so emphasized. As always vocal and instrumental samples are very well integrated.

If Laibach have turned a page in their history when they released ‘Volk’ with ‘Spectre’ they do it again in terms of music and performance style but without compromising the experimentalism and artistic sharpness.

It was the third time that I was seeing them live and it was the only time that I noticed the video projections so much. They were very impressive throughout the concert and they offered a much needed visual context to the lyrics that we were listening to. Especially in ‘Ti, Ki Izzivitas’ the sketch was very impressive.

Mina Spiler redefines Laibach’s stage image

IMG_3536The element that made a difference in this live was the aesthetic aspect of the stage appearance and the overall performance with Mina Spiler as the second voice, enhancing the appeal of the band next to Milan Fras. This change was also apparent during ‘Volk’ tour where Mina also performed but had a more traditional aesthetic appearance and was less expressive. Until that point, female vocals were mostly backing vocals and their overall place at the back of the stage supplementing Milan, could be viewed as both monolithic and static. During this live, Mina Spiler proved that she has an almost unique combination of elegance and seriousness and her presence is a cutting point for Laibach and her own career as it seems that through her, the band is redefining their stage appearance. This was the first time the female singer was at the front and center of the stage. On the other hand, her background in music is in complete contrast with Laibach, as Melodrom where she is the lead singer, focus more on new wave music. Her performance in Melodrom can easily transfer the listener to the playful scenes of Goddard’s ‘Pierot Le Fou’. During this live Mina Spiler gave character to the songs which proved to suit both her style and her voice. The passionate performance of ‘Bossanova’ and ‘Eat Liver!’ as well as her expressiveness was very impressive.

IMG_3512During the second part of this live, Milan Fras has also offered some different elements in terms of performance especially in ‘Love on the Beat’ it seemed that he was more expressive thus altering his traditional singing  style. Mina Spiler participated in older songs such as ‘Brat Moj’ and ‘Ti, Ki Izzivitas’ the original versions of which, didn’t include any female vocals. This element coupled with the addition of minimal electronic melodies throughout these songs, rejuvenated the band and engaged everybody.

The setlist

The setlist at the second part of the concert seemed to aim at re-establishing a link between ‘Spectre’ and the previous albums of the band.  This seems to be the only explanation for the absence of well known and loved tracks such as ‘Alle Gegen Alle’, ‘WAT’, ‘Opus Dei (Live is life)’, ‘Achtung’ etc. Another novel element during this concert was the fact that Laibach had prepared several samples through which they addressed the audience between tracks. The first of those used at the beginning of the second part said:

and now something completely different

IMG_3493

This part after a 10’ intermission, started with ‘Brat Moj’ and focused on revised versions of older songs in an effort to draw an invisible thread linking their past with the present album ‘Spectre’. ‘Ti, Ki Izzitas’ for example, was performed with added minimal electro melodies while Mina Spiler was shouting through a megaphone just before Milan started singing. This performance painted a new face on the original version of the song and gave me the impression that this was a dIMG_3520arker version of ‘Walk With Me’.

Put your hands Up

said the next of those cute samples that Laibach had prepared to address us and the song that followed was ‘Leben Tod’. Additional female vocals, electro melodies and samples  were the elements that broke the original monolithic version of this martial song. The version of ‘Warme Lederhaut’ created the interesting impression that this was a song that had a distant relation to the original.

You are fantastic audience. Let me hear you say ‘Ho Ho Ho

Said the next sample and prepared us for ‘Love On the Beat’ from ‘Spectre’ which was performed better than in the cd and this made me take a renewed interest on the song. The gig ended by satisfying even a little, all those who were waiting up to this point to listen to classic famous songs such as ‘Tanz Mit Laibach’ and ‘Das Spiel Ist Aus’ and even though I didn’t get to listen to my favourite songs, ‘Hell: Symmetry’ and ‘WAT’ I concluded that should they were included in the setlist, the concert wouldn’t have been as coherent as it was.

A few words  about the organisers

On what concerns the organisers of this concert, my personal impression is negative. First of all, usually in the other concerts of Laibach there was a dedicated Dj for the event who played relevant and preparatory music. This is an element that defines the success of the concert and keeps the audience interested. For example in their live concert at Fuzz club in Athens, a Dj was playing Italian and Greek rebel songs. In Village Underground we were listening to a combination of completely irrelevant, almost mood killing jazz/classical music. Soon people began to realise that there was not a dedicated Dj for the event (for example experienced Dj Francesca Mendola which has opened gigs by Arcana, Jarboe, Inade, MZ 412  and other bands could have played a great setlist before this gig), even though there was no support band and doors opened 90’ before stage time.

IMG_3552In addition, Village Underground proved to be a small venue for a band with a dedicated and large audience, such as Laibach who also haven’t performed in London for two years. This venue is a relatively expensive one which doesn’t offer a decent choice of drinks in reasonable prices (a small can of beer costs £4.00 while a glass of wine £4.50). Finally, highly unusual tolerance according to my experience from gigs in London, was shown by the security of the venue while three drunk people from the audience decided to carry out a rather violent dance outburst by hitting whoever got in their way causing people to be thrown 2 or 3 rows in front of their original position so those on the front row have almost got thrown on stage. Despite the fact that these people carried on even after two notices were given to them by security they were allowed to remain at the premises disregarding the problem they continued to cause.

Of course everybody was there in order to listen to Laibach and they offered us a lot to remember them about until next time…

P.S ‘Spectre’ is available to buy in CD/LP format from the official Laibach online Store here: http://wtc.laibach.org/

 

Blaue Rosen box

 

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  1. blaue-rosen says:

    Thank you