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Laibach (live at O2 Academy Islington)

London 23 November 2017

Laibach live November 2017Dunkel. Dunkel ist die Nacht“.i

It is most certainly dark tonight, the evenings now well and truly drawn. The winter solstice approaches. And, as is customary for such astronomical phenomena, we are gathering together tonight to celebrate by watching the rise of the strange, intense sun that is Laibach.

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Laibach – Also Sprach Zarathustra


Laibach – Also Sprach Zarathustra


So Laibach made an album called Also Sprach Zarathustra. Which displays the kind of self-confidence, arrogance and sheer fucking balls for which Laibach are famous.

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Laibach (live at The Forum) and The Ex / Bamboo (live at The Hope And Ruin)

London, 12 April 2016 Brighton, 13 April 2016

Laibach live at The Forum April 2016 (Picture: Agata Urbaniak)I went to two gigs in two days for Freq. They were unrelated, possibly, but worth pointing out that gigs are experiential things — it’s often more about the being there than what was played and such. That or I’m too lazy to write two separate reviews, so collapsing them into one with some spiel about commonalities is a rhetorical feint.

But before I do that, just a quick couple of lines on The Ex‘s support, Bamboo — not a band I’d come across before, but doing a fine line in big pop numbers with synth, heavily-effected banjo and drums. Their drummer for the evening, Andy Pyne,

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Laibach (live at the Electric Ballroom)

Laibach Electric Ballroom 2015London 2 April 2015

A spectre is haunting Camden, and that spectre is the spectre of Spectre, Laibach‘s most recent and sublimely poppy album.

On the face of it, you’d think Laibach’s “foregrounding the totalitarianism inherent in pop music” schtick would have worn thin really fast, like a one-joke Damien Hirst piece that blows your head off at first and then gives you no real reason to go back to it. But after 35 years – and let’s not forget that’s three and a half decades which have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall, the beginning of The War Against Terror and, closest to home for the band, the break-up of Yugoslavia – the novelty has yet to wear off.

This is, of course, for several

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Laibach – I VIII 1944 Warszawa

Narodowe Centrum Kultury

Laibach - I VIII 1944 WarszawaPoland fared worse than most in World War 2; the fields and woods are still littered with macabre reminders of the grim extent of Nazi ideology. By August 1944, sensing the Nazis were losing their grip on Europe, thousands of poorly-armed residents of Warsaw decided enough was enough and fought back. Things went quite well to start, much of the city falling under partisan rule — but without the promised Soviet assistance the uprising quickly crumbled into surrender some 63 days later. The numbers were staggering: over 200,000 people lost their lives, mostly civilians, with the survivors feeling the full wrath of the German army as they razed the city to the ground. In light of this, I should imagine it being a sensitive issue to

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Laibach (live at Le Trabendo)

Laibach - live at Le TrabendoParis 8 March 2014

Le Trabendo lurks next to a not-quite completed concrete behemoth which squats at the side of the Périphérique ring road around Paris, part of the ever-expanding Parc de la Villette with its promenades and exhibition centres, its music and (almost) out-of-town cultural activities for a city always in search of entertainment. It’s reached down a winding path through the woods and into a multi-level blockhouse of a venue where modernism rules and the sightline to the stage shows that this is a place more suited to club nights than live music – and there are also different drink prices depending on whether there’s a band booked or a disco underway.

A pre-recorded brass fanfare heralds the arrival onstage of

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Laibach – Spectre


Laibach - SpectreApproaching this new album by Laibach – their first proper in six or seven years – seems an awesomely intimidating task. I feel like the hominid leader Moonwatcher confronted by the sudden appearance of the Monolith in the opening ‘Dawn of Man’ sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – approaching it nervously, touching it briefly and then scurrying away quickly to a safe distance in order to work up the courage to do it again.

Where the Hell do you begin? There seems to be so much to get through, so much context to be chewed over and examined: the famed ‘radical ambiguity’ of their politics and Laibach Kunst aesthetic presentation, their wilful subversion of genres and of other artists’ songs, the abstruse

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Laibach – Iron Sky OST (director’s cut)


Laibach – Iron Sky OST (director’s cut)Originally released a couple of years back as a single CD, Laibach‘s astonishing soundtrack to the cult crowd-funded Nazis-on-the-moon fantasy Iron Sky returns as a double album (available on vinyl too, in a luxurious gatefold package), extended, remixed and altogether managing the difficult feat of being yet more epic than before.

The soundtrack is packed with the sort of low end orchestral rumble which cinema still does so well and headphone listening simply doesn’t; come to think of it, an(other) edition as a multi-channel super audio CD – or hell, an uncompressed blu-ray audio disc – would probably sound incredible. But ’til then, the vinyl and/or CD will do just fine, as Laibach bring the immensity of both militaristic

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Laibach – S EP


Laibach - S EPReleased as a taster for the forthcoming Spectre album, the S EP finds Laibach in slower, reflective mood on the opening “Eurovision,” the track unfolding with almost trip-hop intent in a fashion which harks back in tone to 1992’s Kapital. Of course they can’t help but get epic on the refrain “Europe is falling apart” – but even then the bombast is held back, and instead there’s a mournful tone to the whole track, summed up when Milan Fras intones gruffly “In the absence of war we are questioning peace/In the absence of God we will pray to police.” As with Kapital, it seems that Spectre will see that most politically controversial of bands making some of their opinions more (or less) obvious.

Similarly, “No History” is

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Laibach – An Introduction To…/Reproduction Prohibited


With London’s Olympic opening ceremony still reverberating freshly, it’s time to consider the next logical step in the bombast and nationalistic celebration: Laibach and their art host entity NSK conducting the premier global televisual propaganda occasion should Slovenia ever host the Games. Handily, it seems that if budgets are tight in straitened financial times to come, then An Introduction To Laibach/Reproduction Prohibited (not actually their greatest hits album as such, and one which contains some stunning new covers) could provide a pre-packaged soundtrack and perhaps a few ideas on how to proceed with the most bombastic show on earth.

Just imagine the possibilities for irony on as grand a scale as only Laibach could envision, the repurposing of anthems aplenty as the British and

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Laibach – Iron Sky OST


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

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Laibach (live at The Tate Modern)

The Tate Modern, London 14 April 2012

Picture: Pete WoodheadIn the days following the Laibach “We Come in Peace” show at The Tate Modern it is Mina Špiler’s singing of “Across the Universe” that stays on permanent replay in my head. Such a beautiful nearly acapella lullaby she made of the ominous lyrics, both promise and threat that nothing is ever going to change in this or any universe. Her clear little voice a fantastic bell ringing softly in contrast to the super power sound of the rest of this gig; she so delicately poised over her little keyboard and slightly trembling. Not one other Laibach song of the evening impressed itself upon me so, or equalled the nervous tension, the fragility of music, life as we

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Laibach – Volk

Label: Mute Format: CD/Ltd. ed. CD + hardback book

Volk - sleeveAs far as I know, no-one since Stockhausen has attempted a major re-interpretation of the national anthems of the world, and anyone but Laibach would be foolish to try it. There’s little sign here of the triumphalist bombast of “The Final Countdown”, “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Leben Heisst Leben”, which is surprising given that some of the most notorious imperial powers of the past and present are represented. But then Laibach were never about predictability. Instead they are operating largely in a much more subdued, atmospheric mood, flirting with Neoclassicism, and approaching Pop balladry from time to time despite Milan Fras‘ trademark sepulchral growl.

The songs are not simply covers but ‘music from and inspired by’ each country’s original, setting lyrical and musical elements from each one in

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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,

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Laibach – Anthems

Label: Mute Format: 2CD

Anthems - sleeve detailOnly a few weeks ago I was bemoaning my shortage of Laibach material – just a couple of albums’ worth out of a repertoire that spans well over two decades – so I was more than a little chuffed when this new retrospective landed on my lap. This is not really an album for Laibach fans of long standing, given its near-lack of new material, but for the newcomer or the casual listener it’s an almost perfect historical perspective. Probably the only major omission is the absence of any of their very early material from before the suicide of original vocalist Tomaz Hostnik in 1982. Perhaps Mute were unable to obtain the rights to re-release any of this; the obsessive archivist may consider this to mar the compilation’s status as a biographical record.

In terms of popular

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