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Laibach – WAT

Label: Mute Format: CD,2LP

WAT - sleeve As purposely obscure and enigmatic as ever, Laibach‘s return to the world of record releases and live shows steps up the pressure they bring to bear upon the listener’s expectations of what this most uncompromising of groups might actually intend and ultimately mean. Presented in German, English and occasionally Serbo-Croat to thumping beats of an orchestral Techno bent, WAT kicks off with one of the most outrageously utopian Space Operas committed to disc in the shape of “B Maschina”. From the opening tinkling electronics and rising hum of power steeling itself for release, the archetypal deep voice of Laibach speaks the lay of dream machines raising into orbit to a whirring rhythm which soon grinds into escape velocity on impassioned digital whinnies and an explosion into choral grandeur of breathtaking aspect. Laibach have returned in style, and their destination seems to be beyond the scope of mere earthly concerns.

What is evident here is a more explicitly serious purpose compared to the myriad Pop cover versions of Let It Be and NATO, though the epic feast of Techno bombast contains much grimly sinister humour in similar vein to the group’s numerous interpretations of “Sympathy For The Devil”. Laibach have always held a sense of grandiose futurism close to their essential sound, and the development here is suitably monumental. “Tanz Mit Laibach” is dedicated to friendship between the German and American peoples, however ironically or in reference to Deutsche Amerikaner Freundschaft (of which there is certainly more than a trundling, supercharged Electro hint along with a passing reference to “Tanz Mit Mir”), and invites the listener onto the dancefloor with martial precision, a “Kamerad, komm tanz mit mir” and an “Ein, zwei, drei, vier” chorus. Yet more Wagnerian choral frissons offset such butter wouldn’t melt (translated) German lyrics as “We’re dancing (with) Ado Hinkel/Benito Napoloni/We’re dancing with Schicklegrüber” in homage and hinting reference to Chaplin’s anti-fascist epic The Great Dictator while mentioning their dance with fascism, anarchy and other mindsets in a whirl of heavyweight beats.

The underlying threat which is embodied by the signature gutteral vocal delivery is explored throughly on the racing pulse beats, layered breaths and klang of “Hell: Symmetry”. Their method of “taking your language, and making it mine…..” is spun out into a careless dismissal of “love me, love me.. not” and an entirely messianic welcome into the Laibach kunstmaschine. Likewise, on “Satanic Versus”, the mood created is of a declamatory, apocalyptic Gary Numan track taken to the extremes of Electro doom-mongering on the realpolitik of wars on terrorism and of personal as much as national liberation. The wheezing down-tempo rhythms and Middle Eastern calls of “The Great Divide” or the gloomy chug of “Ende” refuse to offer solutions either, instead setting out a bleak vision of a Third Millennium planet laden down with old conflicts played out with new brutalities over blood and soil to the soar and complementary dirge of female/male choral backing and collapsing rhythms.

There’s a current of steely schadenfreude throughout the gripping beat-heavy Techno aria of “Now You Will Pay”, a self-declared outsider’s view of a not-quite specific clash of civilizations. Mighty piano chords rumble and shudder across writhing demonic textures to the dynamic uber-disco groove, with that most scary of voices threatening doom at the hands and pocket knives of barbarians from the east who will “burn down your cities/and your Disneyland”. Along with the punishing stadium-sized martial pulse of “Achtung!”, the track forms the centrepiece of an album which crackles and pounds with a fearsome sense of music conceived on an Empire-crushing scale. Again, the term operatic applies fulsomely, magnified in technological form to a scale only partly acheived by the grandiose Metal passion of Jesus Christ Superstars or Kapital‘s curious delve into the end of history and back out into the ever-present utopian dream to a hybrid HipHop/Industrial beat.

“WAT” itself sets out the post-Nietzschean Laibach manifesto, stating “we are not here to please you, we have no answers to your questions… we don’t intend to save your souls”. They expound on their back catalogue and semi-detatched worldview, with a scope and depth of philosophical, economic and political disdain for almost everything, including apparent concern for interpretation and outsiders’ appreciation of their output. As statements of self-important (yet naggingly relevant) bombast go, it’s quite an achievement, as is the album itself – the mesh of choirs, brazen percussion, hard electronic rhythms and fuzzy bass stabs roll out a thoroughly convincing maze of music and theatrics which is at once elevating and threatening. Laibach promise to leave the listener “all alone, with an ecstatic scream locked on your face”, and this they could undoubtedly do with this disturbingly superb album.

-Richard Fontenoy-

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