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laibach wirsinddasvolk
Artist: Laibach
Title: Wir sind das Volk (ein Musical aus Deutschland)
Genre: Avant-Garde / Neo Classical / Soundtrack
Release Date: 25th March 2022 / 10th June 2022
Label: Mute Records / PIAS


Album Review

The notorious Slovenian art collective LAIBACH has seen many musical incarnations over its four decades of existence and covered a breath-taking spectrum of different styles. From the relentless Industrial of the early days (‘Nova Akropola’, 1986) to the Wagnerian Techno Pop of ‘NATO’ (1994) and ‘Spectre’ (2014) to doses of Industrial Metal on ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in 1996 to the twisted adaptation of the cheesy 1950s musical ‘Sound Of Music’, which they infamously even performed live in North Korea out of all countries, we cannot even mention half of the epitomisations LAIBACH morphed through. Over the years the line-up was also an ever-changing roster, with singer Milan Fras being the only constant and the face of the group. Usually, LAIBACH simply specified the line-up as the fictitious quartet of Dachauer, Keller, Saliger and Eber, even though there are five, six or even more musicians involved in the live performances.

After ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ in 2017, LAIBACH produced yet another soundtrack for a theatrical production titled ‘Wir sind das Volk’ which finally got a release this year. The original play saw its world premiere in February 2020 in Berlin but after only three stage performance the project had to be stopped because of the Covid pandemic. In 2021 there were three further performances in Klagenfurt and Ljubljana, followed by a few LAIBACH gigs this year where they presented their own multimedia performance of ‘Wir sind das Volk’. Overall, the chances to witness this production live on stage were rather scarce, and this autumn LAIBACH prefer to go back to the ‘Iron Sky 2: The Coming Race’ soundtrack project for their live dates instead of bringing ‘Wir sind das Volk’ to more places.

So in this regard it’s a good thing that ‘Wir sind das Volk’ is now available both on CD and vinyl. The vinyl issue came more than two months after the CD version, and vinyl lovers perhaps won’t be too happy that the vinyl version contains less tracks. Visually the gatefold sleeve, which comes with a 20-page booklet and which features artwork by the acclaimed Austrian-Irish artist Gottfried Helnwein, is a true pleasure for the eye. With regards to musical and lyrical content, ‘Wir sind das Volk’ is based on the work of Heiner Müller, one of the most important German playwrights in the 20th century. Müller was a fan of LAIBACH and used their early works several times for his productions, while LAIBACH itself composed music for a performance of a Heiner Müller drama at the Slovenian National Theatre in Ljubljana way back in 1984. In person Heiner Müller and LAIBACH only met once in the mid-80s and plans for a collaboration never became reality. Heiner Müller died in 1995.

So the connection between Müller and the Slovenian art collective finally came full circle with ‘Wir sind das Volk’. The core of this work is specifically Müller’s texts about childhood in Nazi Germany, something Müller, born in 1929 to a socialist father who was imprisoned in 1933, experienced first hand. The theatre play was rather a collage than a straightforward story, and the same is true for its soundtrack by LAIBACH. It ranges from the abstract (‘Der Vater’, ‘Ich bin der Engel der Verzweiflung’) to the eerie ‘Traumwald’ and dark ambient tracks like ‘Ich war die Wunde’. Then there’s also ‘Ich will ein Deutscher sein’, some sort of lead single for the project, and covers of the old German Schlager songs ‘Das Lied vom einsamen Mädchen’ and ‘Flieger, grüß mir die Sonne’, an uplifting aviator’s song written in 1932.

As you might have noticed, ‘Wir sind das Volk’ is not limited to Heiner Müller’s works but also references Brecht, Lessing, Hans Albers, and, in a track as ‘Im Herbst 197.. starb...’, the German left-wing terror group of the 1970s, RAF. Just like Heiner Müller, LAIBACH love to cut and rearrange their material, and they put it in a different context to unmask the original. If the cover artwork of German SS officers looking joyfully at a mother and her new-born is somehow too idyllic for your taste, you should listen to the spoken word track ‘Seife in Bayreuth’ in which the narrator reports that, when she was a child, adults told her that in the concentration camps soap would be made out of the bodies of Jews, and that she cannot bear the smell of soap any more since then. The cover seems all the more blood curling after that!

‘Wir sind das Volk’ is challenging, sophisticated, high-minded, complex, and certainly no light fare. What is true for the theatre performance is all the truer for the audio releases. No easy listening, at all! No-one can deny that this is top-level art but the main problem of both the CD and vinyl releases is that the visual side of actually seeing ‘Wir sind das Volk’ performed on stage is missing. This makes it even less accessible. Completists, Heiner Müller enthusiasts and LAIBACH die-hards will want this in their collection but for folks outside these limited circles this release hardly makes sense.

As a long-time LAIBACH fan I enjoyed ‘Wir sind das Volk’ but I can’t see myself listening to it too often in the future. To be completely hones I would have listened to it once or twice if it wasn’t for this review. In this regard I enjoyed ‘Sound Of Music’ and the Iron Sky soundtracks more and part of me desires that LAIBACH would finally come up with a successor to their more straightforward albums such as the beat-heavy ‘WAT’ or the fabulous symphonic Tech Pop of ‘Spectre’. I do think that LAIBACH still has something to offer and to say in such a format. The world is in crisis and literally burning, and what we need is music for the masses from LAIBACH, not just ponderings for a rinky-dink academic elite.

However, the next project the Slovenians announced is a collaboration with a number of Iranian composers for a project about the Persian struggle against Christian Crusaders in the medieval period, rewritten against the context of resistance to fascism in pre-Second World War Europe. I’m sure this will be as refined and exquisite as usual but it also seems to continue LAIBACH’s downstream into highbrow obscurity. Perhaps that’s their way to make LAIBACH obsolete.


Tracklist

CD version (released March 25th, 2022)
01. Philoktet
02. Der Vater
03. Medea Material
04. Ich Bin Der Engel Der Verzweiflung
05. Flieger, Grüß Mir Die Sonne
06. Ordnung Und Disziplin (Müller versus Brecht)
07. Lessing Oder Das Ende Der Aufklärung
08. Traumwald
09. Im Herbst 197.. Starb... (Instrumental)
10. Ich Will Ein Deutscher Sein
11. Ich War Die Wunde
12. Das Lied Vom Einsamen Mädchen (Live)
13. Im Herbst 197.. Starb... (Live)
14. Wir Sind Das Volk Nur Durch Die Liebe (Abschlussrede Von Peter Mlakar, Live)

Double vinyl (released June 10th, 2022)
A1. Philoktet
A2. Der Vater
A3. Medea Material
B1. Ich Bin Der Engel Der Verzweiflung
B2. Flieger, Grüß Mir Die Sonne
C1. Ordnung Und Disziplin (Müller versus Brecht)
C2. Lessing oder Das Ende Der Aufklärung
C3. Traumwald
D1. Im Herbst 197.. Starb... (Instrumental)
D2. Ich will ein Deutscher sein
D3. Ich war die Wunde


Line-up

Dachauer, Keller, Saliger and Eber


Website

http://www.laibach.org / http://www.facebook.com/Laibach


Cover Picture

laibach wirsinddasvolk


Rating

Music: 7
Sound: 9
Extras: 10 (for the vinyl version)
Total: 8.7 / 10



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