Einstürzende Neubauten, more than any other band, exemplify industrial music in its purest form. With an avant-garde combination of white-noise guitar drones, abrasive vocals, and a clanging, rhythmic din created by a percussion section made out of construction equipment, power tools, shattered glass, and other metal items, the German band helped pioneer the genre. In the early 1980s, the group started assaulting their audience’s senses, pounding the stage with jackhammers and sometimes inflicting property damage, taking Luigi Russolo’s Futurist manifesto, The Art of Noises, to its logical conclusion. Neubauten’s controversial live shows and records sparked debate, but their anarchic energy and sheer ingenuity influenced a generation of artists (including Henry Rollins and Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, who both have tattoos of the band’s petroglyph-like insignia). Following the group’s more free-form early records, such as Kollaps in 1981, Neubauten’s music grew more organized on albums like Halber Mensch in 1986; the rhythms got more danceable, and Blixa Bargeld’s vocal approach evolved from loud screaming to melodious singing and poetic recitations. Beginning with 1993’s Tabula Rasa, the group’s music grew softer and more electronic, yet no less difficult or imaginative. Much of the group’s 21st-century endeavors, including concerts, reissues, and albums like 2007’s Alles Wieder Offen, have been funded by their devoted fan base rather by traditional record labels. Lament, a studio recreation of a commissioned performance work based around World War I, was an exception in 2014. Alles in Allem continued to reflect on the past, referencing Berlin’s history and the upbringing of the group members, but also exploring new possibilities and views.
Einstürzende Neubauten was founded in Berlin as a performance art collective by vocalist/guitarist Blixa Bargeld and percussionist/American expatriate N.U. Unruh; their early activities included an inexplicable half-naked appearance on the Berlin Autobahn, where the duo spent some time beating on the sides of a hole in an overpass. Beate Bartel and Gudrun Gut (who later departed to form the new wave band Mania D), as well as contributor and sound engineer Alexander Hacke, were all part of the early lineup (aka Alexander Van Borsig). The early recordings of Einstürzende Neubauten are mainly unstructured, free-form noise released on cassettes and singles, including their debut single, “Für den Untergang,” the 1981 EP Kalte Sterne, and the 1981 LP Kollaps. Some of these recordings are included in the Strategies Against Architecture ’80-’83 compilation, including live performances formerly exclusively available on tape. F.M. Einheit (who functioned as Neubauten’s main equipment operator) and bassist Mark Chung, both previously of Abwärts, joined the ensemble when Bartel and Gut departed in 1981. A tour of England as an opener for the Birthday Party led to a deal with Some Bizarre Records, which published the somewhat more structured Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T., as well as outrage from club owners and journalists over Neubauten’s stage demolitions and subsequent violence.
When Nick Cave left the Birthday Party to create the Bad Seeds, Bargeld took over as guitarist and toured and recorded with Cave for the better part of a decade. However, he stayed with Neubauten, who produced Halber Mensch in 1985, demonstrating their broader spectrum of expression. The album included the song “Yü-Gung,” which became an industrial club hit thanks to Adrian Sherwood’s remix. By the end of the decade, the ensemble had released two of its most renowned albums, Fünf Auf der Nach Oben Offenen Richterskala (1987) and Haus der Lüge (1989).
Strategies Against Architecture II was released in 1991, and it was the start of the group’s deal with Mute Records (and Elektra in the United States). In 1993, Tabula Rasa released a more restrained album, and Chung and Einheit progressively departed the band over the following two years. In 1996, Neubauten recorded the music for Werner Schwab’s radio drama Faustmusik, as well as the studio album Ende Neu, which was subsequently released in America by Trent Reznor’s Nothing label. In 1997, Jochen Arbeit and Rudi Moser, both of Die Haut, joined Neubauten, and Ash Wednesday took over as the group’s touring keyboardist. In the same year, Ende Neu Remixes was published.
Before releasing the full-length Silence Is Sexy on Mute Records in May of 2000, Einstürzende Neubauten went on a 20th anniversary tour. Another retrospective spanning the band’s second decade, Strategies Against Architecture III, was released in 2001. They declared in 2002 that they would no longer work with a conventional label and that their next album will be produced with the assistance of fans. These fans would pay a fee in exchange for special content and assistance in funding the next official album. Following Bargeld’s departure from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds in 2003, Einstürzende Neubauten released Perpetuum Mobile on Mute in 2004 in order to raise funds for a global tour.
Over the following several years, the band’s fans’ releases helped finance the official album Alles Wieder Offen, which was published in 2007 on the band’s own Potomak label. In addition to reissuing most of the band’s past catalog, the label also released individual projects and other recordings, including The Jewels in 2008. This album was put together from a series of single-track digital downloads the band offered one at a time via its website, using a game called DAVE, in which members drew cards with deliberate and enigmatic instructions on them and generated ideas from them without telling one another what was on their cards. They were then utilized to build and finish rails in only a few days.
Mute honored their 30th anniversary with a European tour in 2010, and published the collection Strategies Against Architecture, Vol. 4. Lament, Neubauten’s 2014 album, was inspired by music written for a World War I memorial display in Diksmuide, Belgium. The Greatest Hits collection, which spans his whole career, was released in 2016. Grundstück, a 2005 limited-edition supporter-only release, was reissued to a broader audience in 2018. As hackedepicciotto, longtime members Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto produced numerous albums of “cinematic drone.” Neubauten will release a real album, Alles in Allem, in 2020, to commemorate their 40th anniversary. The introspective album, like earlier audience-supported albums, included ideas and phrases sent by subscribers, such as the Dadaist opening “Ten Grand Goldie.”
Einstürzende Neubauten is a German industrial band founded in 1980 by Blixa Bargeld and N.U. Unruh. The band’s music is characterized by its dissonant, cacophonous, and harsh sound. Reference: einstürzende neubauten documentary.
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