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Laibach – Iron Sky OST

Mute

If someone had the bright idea of making a low-budget, crowdsourced skiffy film about Nazis found on the dark side of the moon, which artists should be asked to provide the soundtrack? Laibach, of course – who could be better suited to orchestrate the sound of fucked-up futurist fascism, the SS in space, of the ultimate Nazi holdout story – and so much the better if it’s the darkest of comedies.

“B-Mashina,” here recast as the film’s prequel having originally appeared on the [post=laibach-wat text=”WAT”] album, always had a cinematic aspect to it which demanded a visual interpretation, its impeccable SF credentials complete as the track builds into a clangorous operatic takeoff for a new life in the stars. Except of course in Iron Sky the utopian dream is a Nazi one, and whatever the message of the movie might be, it’s worth considering how Laibach’s soundtrack fits within their wider project of the presentation of unpalatable musical experiences in uncomfortably close detail. “Take Me To Heaven” is at the opposite extreme, a liltingly beatific sway into shuffling brushed rhythms as the lunar lander approaches the surface of the moon – this much is available in the teaser first few minutes video available online, and if nothing else, all the advance publicity (or hype as it might also be termed) sets the scene for the retro-futuristic comedy which ensues. To step out of the context of the film for a moment, this is probably also one of the most adventurously beautiful songs Laibach (and the wider NSK group) have ever produced, ranking alongside their stupendously lovely version of The Beatles‘ “Across The Universe” from the adventurously ambitious cover of (almost) the whole of Let It Be.

So given the opportunity to dole out fauxVölkische oompah lieder, Laibach of course seize the moment, and their particular brand of history-questioning industrial modernism comes to the fore often and with gusto, brazen horn sections meeting trundling beats and swirling Romantic interludes; in other words, the perfect accompaniment to the scenes which are presumably going on as the music sweeps and dives. It’s difficult to divorce the orchestrations from the film, of course, and the occasional snippets of dialogue help give a sense of the flow of the film, as to the titles of individual pieces, some of which contain so many spoilers it’s probably not beneficial to listen to this album before seeing the film itself. Suffice to say, Laibach can whip up a suitably Wagnerian soundtrack – numerous “Ride of the Valkyries” references included – to a space battle better than anyone else given the chance to place tongue firmly in cheek as the high-Gs kick in and the render farm gets its CGI work done.

Given the absurdist premise of Iron Sky, it’s refreshing to report that Laibach rise to the challenge with numerous (necessarily episodic) compositions which already set the scene well enough out of context and maintain a balance between knockabout comedy (the splurge of “ Peace Lovin’ Brother Rap” harks back to Kapital’s industrial hiphop but with added squelchy slapstick) with semi-serious harp-inflected epic chorale sincerity (“Renate’s Message of Peace”) which manages to convey that it would seem that some factions of the Götterdämmerung moon colony have outgrown their fascist origins to achieve some kind of utopian transcendence. Possibly. It also gives Laibach the opportunity to play with a wide variety of styles, including some deranged Henry Mancini-style big band swing and technoid frippery which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a console game in the Nineties. They get to bring out the requisite analogue synths among the tympani samples and harpsichord runs, to rattle their kettledrums and thunder at the ivories. Peppered with fanfares and much martial sturm und drang, it’s only to be hoped that the dunderhead latter-day admirers of Hitler who watch the film and wish it were all true are aided in their apprehension that it’s all a joke – frequently on them.

As with most of Laibach’s oeuvre (as demonstrated at their recent [post=laibach-live-tate text=”Tate Modern show in London”]), the film and soundtrack both have serious things to say about the ridiculous nature of the appeal and opportunities for control offered by both apparently utopian narratives (science fictional, operatic, pop or otherwise) and thrillingly visceral music. That and glorying in the opportunity to pastiche with a purpose, to hold Nazi kunst to the mirror of what if? and find it both seductive and ultimately far too familiar.

-Richard Fontenoy-

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