Finally, infinitely, left in peace, but moveable, free to make noise, without guilt.
September 19, 2010 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Einstürzende Neubauten is 30. The legendary German experimental band ("Collapsing New Buildings") is known for its use of homemade instruments assembled from found industrial materials.

1979: Blixa Bargeld (Hans Christian Emmerich) and N.U. Unruh (Andrew Chudy) begin improvising together, sharing space with an assortment of friends who convened around the clothing/design store Eisengrau (including Gudrun Gut, who went on to her own notable solo career). This early exploratory line-up recorded one cassette, N-Dih / Blixa / Susä, before solidifying into Einstürzende Neubauten on 1 April 1980 with a performance at the Berlin club Moon.

1980: Foreshadowing their frustratingly dense discography, the first line-up (Bargeld, Unruh, Gut, and Beate Bartel) record a handful of cassette releases and one 7" single (Für Den Untergang/Tan-Ze-Dub) before Gut and Bartel leave to focus on their own group, Mania D. Unruh and Bargeld continue on their own, recording the Stahlmusik cassette and video (1), (2) on two separate occasions inside the Stadtautobahn Bridge in Berlin.

1981: The group - now rounded out by Mark Chung and F.M. Einheit - issue the Kalte Sterne EP and its "official" debut album, Kollaps. (Live 1981 / 1982)

"[Kollaps] was made from a range of instruments carefully beaten together from mostly stolen construction site, scrap yard and do-it-yourself supplies, consisting of steel parts, barrels, drills, hammers, saws and an untuned electric guitar." - biography

1983: The group signs to Stevo's legendary Some Bizzare record label. With unruly teenage fan Alexander Hacke now officially allowed to join the band, this line-up of EN would remain intact until December 1994.

"We all said that the world was going to end in 1984. And until 1984 we were completely convinced of this." - Alexander Hacke, 2005

Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T.
is released in November 1983. Named for the schizophrenic artist Oswald Tschirtner, the album is considered more musical by degrees than its predecessor. O.T. is also their first album released in America. Key tracks: Vanadium-i-Ching, Abfackeln!, Armenia.

Blixa Bargeld also begins playing guitar with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds in 1983, a position he would hold until 2003.

1984: Two months after the release of O.T., the first volume of their Strategies Against Architecture series appears on the influential British record label Mute, collecting live tracks and singles from 1980-1983. They tour the United States in March, where their semi-controlled chaos is met with some concern.

1985: The album Halber Mensch is released. On a second U.S. tour, they play a flatbed truck in Denver, Colorado. While in Japan, they film the Halber Mensch full-length video with director Sogo Ishii. (YT: 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10) The album is released in October, the film in November. Key album tracks: Yü-Gung, Z.N.S., Seele Brennt (Note: some obvious video link overlaps with the Ishii film.)

1986: The band continues touring. They are kicked out of the Palladium in New York for lighting a pan of paint thinner onstage and play a (seemingly) legendary show in Seattle.

"That was a terrible show. Terrible. The equipment did not work. The sound did not work. And yet every person from Seattle I meet thinks this concert changed their life. It's highly hilarious." - Blixa Bargeld, 2000

1987: Desperate for cash, EN spends most of the year providing live accompaniment for the play Andi (dir. Peter Zadek) in Hamburg. "We sold ourselves for this," Bargeld says. (More on Andi.) The (comparatively) subdued and atmospheric album Fünf auf der nach oben offenen Richterskala is released mid-year. Key tracks: Ich Bin's and a cover of Lee Hazlewood's Morning Dew.

1988: The band records the soundtrack for Heiner Müller's radio play Bildbeschreibung ... and a jingle for Jordache Jeans.

1989: Haus der Lüge is released in September. Key tracks: Feurio!, Haus der Lüge, Der Kuss. The band's December 21 concert in East Berlin is documented by Uli M. Schueppel for his film Von Wegen.

1990: Einstürzende Neubauten celebrates its 10th anniversary. The soundtrack for another Müller play, Die Hamletmaschine, is recorded with Bargeld as Hamlet and former member Gudrun Gut as Ophelia. The band records a track (Three Thoughts) for dance troupe La La La Human Steps, who also worked with David Bowie, Skinny Puppy, and Frank Zappa. They leave Some Bizzare and file a suit for back-royalties.

1991: The group's second Strategies Against Architecture compilation is released on Mute. La La La Human Steps debut their show, "Infante, c'est Destroy", featuring more new music from Neubauten and others.

1992: EN signs with Daniel Miller's Mute Records and plays a single one-song show inside a mobile glass palace on a ring road in Vienna for the 300th anniversary of the Academy of Fine Arts.

1993: The triptych of Tabula Rasa/Interim/Malediction is released. Key tracks: Die Interimsliebenden, Blume, Headcleaner, Salamandrina. The band is invited to open for U2's Zoo TV tour and makes it through three songs on the first night. In October, the band collaborates with video artist Nam June Paik on Video Opera.

1994: Director Werner Schwab writes the play Faust: Mein Brustkorb, Mein Helm, scored by Neubauten. Blixa Bargeld plays Mephisto. Mark Chung leaves the band after thirteen years to work at Sony Music and to run the band's publishing arm, Freibank.

1995: Chung's replacement, Roland Wolf, dies in a car accident. FM Einheit walks out of the band after fourteen years.

1996: Ende Neu and its companion single Stella Maris are released. Key tracks: Was Ist Ist, Stella Maris, Nnnaaammm.

1997: Jochen Arbeit and Rudy Moser (Die Haut) join the band (Ash Wednesday is a touring fifth member). Blixa Bargeld publishes Headcleaner, a book of collected texts and lyrics.

1998/1999: The band tours (relatively) quietly.

2000: The band patents its logo. Silence is Sexy is released, considered by many their best album in years. Key tracks: Sabrina, Silence is Sexy, Redukt.

2001: Strategies Against Architecture III (1991-2001) and the soundtrack to Hubertus Siegert's Berlin Babylon (featuring prototypes and diversions of Silence material) are released.

2002: The band launches and its "Supporters Project", by which fans can contribute artistically and financially to future projects through a series of subscription-only interactive webcasts.

2003: Supporters Album #1 is released in September. Phase II of begins in August.

2004: The album Perpetuum Mobile is released in February via Mute. Contains several reworked tracks from Supporters Album #1. Key tracks: Perpetuum Mobile, Youme & Meyou, Dead Friends (Around the Corner). The band releases CD-Rs of almost every date on their world tour. In October and November, they record Grundstück with a choir of 100 fans/supporters. On November 4, they film a special concert at the Palast der Republik in Berlin, which is scheduled to be demolished after the show.

2005: 25th Anniversary. The band launches its eight-volume Musterhaus series, which "give[s] an outlet to the creative aspects of the band that are more experimental, challenging, and less likely to fit into song/album format of their regular releases." Phase II ends in August. The Liebeslieder documentary DVD is released by K7. (YT playlist)

2006: The 2004 Palast der Republik show is issued on DVD. The band begins releasing new mp3s, one per month, as "jewels." Some Bizzare releases "unauthorized" reissues of Neubauten's early work. The band counters by releasing its own editions on its Potomak label.

2007: The final supporter-driven album, Alles Wieder Offen, is issued in two versions: one for supporters and one for the common market. Key tracks: Nagorny Karabach, Weil Weil Weil, Alles Wieder Offen. Phase III ends in October.

2008: The fifteen "jewels" are compiled into a single release for widespread distribution, along with a 40-minute documentary.

2010: 30th anniversary. The group is celebrating with an international tour (including their first U.S. dates since 2004), with two dates per city: one devoted to a traditional concert, the other to an evening of experimental and "off-brand" material.

(Re)sources: From the Archives | Seele Brennt
posted by mykescipark (53 comments total) 103 users marked this as a favorite
Ein bisschen Rilke:

Herr: Der Sommer war sehr groß. Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren, und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Vielen, vielen Dank.
posted by vkxmai at 6:05 PM on September 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

2 Toronto shows but no Vancouver? why no love Einstürzende?
posted by mannequito at 6:05 PM on September 19, 2010

Oh man, I love Einstürzende Neubauten. I spent pretty much all of the late eighties and nineties frying my brain with industrial noise, and those metal-bashing buggers were a constant source of delight. I'll have fun going through this lot.
posted by Decani at 6:11 PM on September 19, 2010

Wow, what a post. Thanks for that!

I remember their 20th birthday concert in Berlin, I can't believe it's been 10 years already.
What I remember best though is Blixa freaking out at a poor sound tech who didn't get the echo right...
posted by ts;dr at 6:19 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Now this post here, friends, is dedication. Damn!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:25 PM on September 19, 2010

I saw Blixa doing the Rede/Speech performance at some event in SF called "How to Destroy the Universe"; it was fantastic.

Definitely going to one of them SF shows.
posted by kenko at 6:28 PM on September 19, 2010

Let's all quote our favorite EN lines!

BB understands that the whole is not the sum of its parts, even if the particular analogy is somewhat head-cleaningscratching: Wohl kaum bin ich die Summe des genetischen Materials—als wäre die Musik im Schaltplan des Radios.
posted by kenko at 6:38 PM on September 19, 2010

Pussy Galore's version of "Yü Gung"
For some reason, Neubauten covers seem rather rare.
posted by K.P. at 6:43 PM on September 19, 2010

My favourite:
Wir haben uns im Traum verpasst
Du träumst mich ich dich
Keine Angst ich weck' dich nicht
Bevor du nicht von selbs erwachst

This post is so good... I think my Monday is going to be a write-off now. Thank you, so much.
posted by glip at 6:46 PM on September 19, 2010

Man, this is the best music day on MeFi ever. I used to love EN, almost as much as I loved those basic punk bands like Black Flag and the Misfits. I had no idea that they were still together or (based on the video links I just clicked on) making even better music. I'm all excited to have a couple of decades of their music to catch up on!
posted by Forktine at 6:50 PM on September 19, 2010

Once, back in the late 1990s, I listened to NNNAAAMMM on repeat for the entirety of a four hour drive to Dallas.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:55 PM on September 19, 2010

Ich bin das letzte schöne Sternentier!
posted by kenko at 6:56 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Whoa, a capella EN.
posted by kenko at 6:57 PM on September 19, 2010

glip, I recognize those lyrics from Stella Maris, but I'll be damned if I have no idea what they are saying.
*runs it through google translator*
Wow, I had no idea that's what they were saying all this time...
posted by msali at 7:09 PM on September 19, 2010

...Oh, and might I add, damn fine post. Damn fine! This post is what dedication is about, people!
posted by msali at 7:14 PM on September 19, 2010

Wow. Kickass post, mykescipark.

For a while, I only knew of EN from the music press, but I first heard them providing percussion on Fad Gadget's Collapsing New People (video with bonus rapid German narration at the end). Then CKLN and City Limits stated playing them. I remember being transfixed by this, which was one of the few pieces of music (along with some John Zorn piece I fell asleep to around the same time) that ever gave me nightmares.
posted by maudlin at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2010

"Bevor du nicht von selbst erwachst" has never made sense to me. Shouldn't he be saying "bevor du von selbst erwachst"? I won't wake you up before you wake yourself up? (Not that that makes a whole lot of sense either.)
posted by kenko at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2010

I saw them at 688 in either 1985 or 1986. I don't recall an opening act (and honestly, who really could have opened for them?), just some odd videos involving cow skulls and dental equipment with a soundtrack by Monte Cazazza. I don't think there were more than 50 to 100 people there. The show opened with Blixa scraping sharpened trash can lids across a sheet of metal for what seemed like forever. My ears must have rang for days afterwards. It was an amazing show.

I only knew about them because two of the guys I worked with were huge Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV fans, and were fond of playing mix tapes of early Industrial and Electronic music at work. For some reason, this type of music fit in really well amongst the clang and clatter of a busy kitchen. It also pissed off our Deadhead waiters, so that was also a plus.

I haven't listed to their stuff in decades, but the links here reminded me why I liked them all those years ago. Drawings of Patient O. T. and Halber Mensch were part of the soundtrack that got me through a few stressful years of my life. Fantastic post, thanks.
posted by ralan at 7:36 PM on September 19, 2010

For some reason, Neubauten covers seem rather rare.

A lot of "Alles wieder offen" is downright poppy—"ich hatte ein Wort", say. That melody!

It seems as if a lot of things could be covered pretty effectively, if a band thought it worthwhile.
posted by kenko at 7:37 PM on September 19, 2010

Fantastic post. I'm looking forward to a hell a second week of December this year - two nights of Neubauten followed immediately by two nights of Killing Joke.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:47 PM on September 19, 2010

das ist fantas...teesh
i remember someone layed trakcs of beef being beaten and hacked....
posted by clavdivs at 7:55 PM on September 19, 2010

Correction: I wouldn't call Bonnie Dobson's 'Morning Dew' a Lee Hazelwood song. He may have done one of many cover versions.
posted by ovvl at 8:07 PM on September 19, 2010

Thanks for the catch, ovvl. :-)
posted by mykescipark at 8:11 PM on September 19, 2010

Right, the Lee Hazelwood cover is "Sand" from Halber Mensch.
posted by kenko at 8:15 PM on September 19, 2010

I saw EN live in Toronto at some point in the 80's. Terrible live sound.

On the other hand, Blume is possibly my favorite music video in recorded history.
"Crysthanamum, Supernova, Urgent Star..."
posted by ovvl at 8:19 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Until I actually saw Neubauten (Vancouver, 1986), I had thought "heavy metal" was just a rather pompous turn of phrase. They actually used chunks of heavy metal. Lots of it. And to devastating effect. And eventually the set the stage on fire.

it was good. very good.
posted by philip-random at 8:37 PM on September 19, 2010

My Einstürzende Neubauten story: as an undergrad at Cal, I lived in an apartment (which, btw, was a falling apart new building). Our apartment manager was going to architecture school. He was a jazz fan, and I was a music-of-all kinds nut. One day I saw an intriguing album among his collection. He said "go ahead and listen to it -- someone left a recording of this on the department message machine, and it was So Awful, I had to go out and buy it!" It turned out to be "Strategies Against Architecture"

I listened to it, and told him I liked it. He really did seem to think less of me after that. His Yellowjackets got old for me way faster than E.N. did (as in, they still haven't!).
posted by dylanjames at 8:45 PM on September 19, 2010

ObIWasThere: I saw EN (with Cabaret Voltaire and Front Line Assembly) at the Ritz in NYC in 1991. It was literally life-changing, in a way that I'm not sure my almost-20-years-along self can articulate anymore.

I remember that they had miked a shopping cart that Einheit was (very enthusiastically) using as a percussion instrument during several songs, and that after they seemed to tire of it they decided to send it off the stage where it landed directly on the chest of a kid in the front row. The lucky winner turned out to be a good friend of mine, who I didn't know was even at the show, and who couldn't have been prouder of his rectilinear grid of bruises. Good times.

I saw them a few times more, in the middle to late 90s, but nothing lived up to that first show.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 9:24 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I went with a friend to see them in Denver (1983 or 84). I was a metal head and just starting to broaden my horizons. To me, it was just some guys banging on shit in a junkyard. I saw the Rhythm Pigs that same week which was more up my alley. Kudos to EN for keeping it together all those years.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:55 PM on September 19, 2010

Just found out about the Chicago shows yesterday and am amazingly stoked to see them*. The only reason I don't have a big ole EN tattoo somewhere on my ominous body is that Rollins kinda killed it for me. I do have an EN patch on this one jacket that's worn down to near-illegibility; it's been through a lot with me. Huge influences on me as a musician and artist and person. Thanks for this post!
posted by jtron at 10:08 PM on September 19, 2010

* Neubaten Chicago meetup, anyone?
posted by jtron at 10:08 PM on September 19, 2010

Let's all quote our favorite EN lines!

My soul burns.
Seele Brennt.

My only problem with Neubauten was they were too good. As the first genuine "industrial" band I ever actually paid attention to, they set a standard that, to my mind, nobody has come close to, except maybe Test Department. Particularly back in the day. Skinny Puppy, SPK, Nitzer Ebb -- none of it ever came close to the genuine soul-grinding angst of Neubauten.

Think about it. West Berlin. 1980s. Opposing worldviews (east vs west) grinding into each other like seismic plates, and you're stuck in the middle, Ground Zero for the Nuclear Apocalypse that was going to happen soon.

Neubauten spoke to this, beautifully, not always nicely.
posted by philip-random at 10:08 PM on September 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Might be worth pointing out ANBB, Blixa Bargeld's current collaboration with Alva Noto (also known as the German artist Carsten Nicolai). They have a 12'' out on Raster-Noton with an unexpected, if weirdly beautiful, cover of Harry Nilsson's "One" (unofficial video, obviously).
posted by with hidden noise at 10:19 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

A great writeup, definitely one of my favorite bands.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:25 PM on September 19, 2010

I like Einsturzende Neubauten.
posted by brevator at 10:28 PM on September 19, 2010

with hidden noise, I didn't want to go too much into the solo projects because the post would have been ten times longer (and it would've taken me another week!), but I'm glad to see you and others enriching the original post :-) Thanks!
posted by mykescipark at 10:41 PM on September 19, 2010

This is a wonderful way to start my week, thanks mykescipark. I kind of lost track of Einsturzende Neubauten after Ende Neu and it looks like I've got lots of cool stuff to listen to.
As far as songs go, must admit a weakness for the 'softer' stuff; especially the French version of Blume, Sonnenbarke and The Garden. The Garden contains my favourite ENB lyric "You will find me by the banks of all four rivers, you will find me at the spring of consciousness."

This, however, remains my favourite Blixa performance.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 2:10 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Found years ago when looking for Classical music in local library

Are the volcanoes still active?
Please don't disappoint me
Sticking needles in the telephone book

posted by Mrs Mutant at 2:39 AM on September 20, 2010

This post has just blown my whole Monday away.

Fantasteeeesh, indeed.
posted by winna at 5:49 AM on September 20, 2010

What I really like about Armenia and about this one Salamandrina how Blixa's voice seems to resemble things like a boiling kettle. In case of Armenia it makes it even more sinister. Indeed thank you for this post and got our tickets for the Forum show.
posted by Mrs Mutant at 6:05 AM on September 20, 2010

Apparently, for me, today is Einstürzende Arbeitsleistung.
Here's a (partial?) set of videos from the 20th anniversary concert at Columbiahalle, Berlin in 2000.
  1. Ende Neu
  2. Haus der Luge
  3. Zebulon
  4. NNNAAAMMM part 1
  5. Part 2
  6. Die Interimsliebenden
  7. Sabrina
  8. Beauty + Die Befindlichkeit des Landes
  9. Sonnenbarke (linked above)
  10. Headcleaner part 1
  11. Part 2
  12. Stella Maris
  13. Pelikanol
  14. Redukt
  15. Armenia
  16. Yu Gung
  17. Silence Is Sexy
posted by SyntacticSugar at 6:25 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Indeed in a league of its own Was Ist Ist
posted by Mrs Mutant at 7:38 AM on September 20, 2010

Curious to find out if my husband will be interested in driving to Chicago--we saw Throbbing Gristle there a couple years ago (excellent). But my understanding is he isn't as into EN as most of the other similar bands (TG, SPK, even Skinny Puppy, etc.) and actively dislikes the latter half of their catalog. Hmmm...I think it's time to go send him a text message...
posted by ifjuly at 8:02 AM on September 20, 2010

Here's a (partial?) set of videos from the 20th anniversary concert at Columbiahalle, Berlin in 2000.

Cool ... but this version of Haus Der Luge from ten years earlier just feels more driven, desperate, urgent, on FIRE.

This is seriously fun too.
posted by philip-random at 8:15 AM on September 20, 2010

This is a truly prodigious post.
posted by blucevalo at 8:17 AM on September 20, 2010

Nowadays, I've become such a stick in the mud that even if a band I quite like is playing an hour away, it sounds like too much hassle to go. But as the two concerts I saw by them way back when were among the best I've ever seen, this is one of the very small number of bands I would consider driving to another state and staying overnight to see.

I also remember the shopping cart, attacked -- that is, played -- by a drill. And the giant metal tube that was climbed upon and played like a drum, with two hammers for drumsticks.

And Blixa climbing up into the rafters and slowly pouring sand down onto a miked piece of metal for four minutes. But mostly he just stood nearly motionless in the center of a chaotic storm of noise and somehow managed to be the most gripping thing on stage. Magical stuff.

Awesome post.
posted by the bricabrac man at 9:05 AM on September 20, 2010

Why no love for 2X4? definitely my favourite early album even if it was only originally released on cassette...
I first saw Neubauten in Montreal in 1990 ... mindblowing, of course, as I had been a huge fan for years with a sadly limited budget for travel. It was for an art music festival so the crowd was not exactly the typical sort you'd expect at a Neubauten show, there wa an amuisng mix of artistic types and freaky kids in leatehr (myself counting amongst the latter).
posted by metameat at 10:18 AM on September 20, 2010

Wow fuck yes, what a post.
posted by everichon at 11:33 AM on September 20, 2010

I had no idea that this is why "Collapsing New People" was called what it was. I thought it was just a turn of phrase.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:26 PM on September 20, 2010

To follow up with one of SyntacticSugar's links, I am mildly surprised that the European leg of this tour isn't sponsored by Hornbach. Every so often, Blixa's ads for them are required viewing whenever my day needs a surreal, fur-lined spanner thrown randomly into its midst.
posted by stannate at 5:26 PM on September 20, 2010

I had no idea that this is why "Collapsing New People" was called what it was.

You are aware of the Fad Gadget song?
posted by philip-random at 6:57 PM on September 20, 2010

Excellent post, mykescipark. Thanks!
posted by homunculus at 7:37 PM on September 20, 2010

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