Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Haus De Luege (Some Bizzare)
Melody Maker, 1989
By Simon Reynolds
After the conceptual perfection of their entry into the pop world, in which they announced the End (of music, of Western Civilisation), the logical step for Einsturzende might have been to disappear, or die. Instead, by carrying
on, they could easily be perceived as having settled into the ignominy of a career (and in the 'music business' no less). Certainly, in terms of the onward march of Rock Discourse they are nowhere now, just part of a rich (or threadbare,
depending on where you sit) tapestry of motley options: 'just music'. But in purely musical terms they're probably more interesting than ever, precisely because they've abandoned their early total gestures for more palatable formats.
And with the shift from out-and-out avant-gardism to the Blues and the Song, it's become possible to see that Einsturzende's "collapsing structures" have always been as much inside your own head as out there in the public realm of contestation. That the End of History they proclaimed was a private apocalypse: the demolition of the House of Lies (Haus Der Luege) that is the stable, self-policing self; the
deconstruction of the "BrainLego" out of which individual consciousness is formed.
Haus Der Luege starts with a "Prologue". It's an internal dialogue between two sides of the brain: the first devilishly advocates a poetry of impossible demands and self-immolatory desire, to which the Voice of Reason feebly counters "we could, but-". But before the case for vacillation and restraint can be recited, it's immediately drowned out by a sound like ten thousand vacuum cleaners
on the warpath. "Feurio" (Mediaeval German for fire) continues to expound the Bargeld manifesto of arsonist assault on the citadel of the self, for the massive
expenditure of unrecoupable energy. Sound-wise it's what Biba Kopf, in his excellent sleevenotes, calls a "musaic": a melange of hand-hit and synthetic sound, tier after tier of sonic rubble, mobilised into a rough-hewn dance shape at the mixing desk, in a manner that puts me in mind of PIL's "Flowers Of Romance".
"A Chair In Hell" is Bad Seedsy, with a "something wicked this way comes" beat tiptoeing up creaking stairs. "Haus Der Luege" is another excursion into disco concrete that dissolves into a waterfall of broken glass. Side Two starts with the nauseous hum of what are either flies or motorbikes, out of which drifts, like the Marie Celeste,"Fiat Lux". An immensely funereal item of ransacked, ghost
town blues, it's further proof of Bargeld's veneration for Sixties C&W visionary Lee Hazelwood. "Fiat Lux" fades into "Maifestspiele", where sounds of the annual May the First riots in Germany are draped in canopies of psalmic sorrow (is it a guitar? is it an orchestra? no, it's fourteen loops of Bargeld vocal played at different speeds). "BrainLego" is like Stone Age people trying to imitate Art Of Noise's
"Close To The Edit". "Schwindel" is urban Gamelan played on a bed frame, a choir of metallic chimes punctuated by the Bargeld Scream (a sound like a traction engine letting off steam). Finally, "Der Kuss", is an ode to the self- annihilating bliss of the kiss, constructed around deep register grand piano chords and a slide guitar solo like a coyote staring into the void.
To remind the listener of such a disparate array of styles and sound-sources (Lee Hazelwood's epic balladry, Gamelan metal-bashing, Penderecki's orchestral threnodies for Auschwitz and Hiroshima, Arvo Part's Mediaevalism, even Eskimo part-song) while at the same time impressing more firmly than ever the sense of an unshakeable musical
identity... well, it's a pretty cool manoeuvre for Neubauten to pull off. But all the while, Bargeld - ironically the consummate egotist - is lusting to breach his own identity, to "think myself to the end" ("BrainLego"), be consumed in a
self-ignited inferno of unreason.