Einst├╝rzende Neubauten Kalte Sterne (early recordings) Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Forget the grim industrial thumping and pointless noisefests of their imitators; these...

Peter Marsh 2004

It might make some of us feel rather old to realise that this lot have been together for nigh on a quarter of a century. Certainly a band whose aesthetic involved the indiscriminate use of potentially lethal power tools in confined spaces couldn't be expected to last too long, could it?

Or so it seemed back in the early 80s. Neubauten emerged as part of the new wave of Krautrock that included the likes of DAF, Palais Schaumburg and Syph, as well as brace of obscure, but no less worthwhile bands like Abwarts and Korpus Kristi. Though all of them shared a preference for a rough hewn, punkish aesthetic and a fondness for electronics and studio experimentation, Neubauten were maybe the most radical and confrontational of the lot.

Kalte Sterne compiles various singles and EP tracks from 1980-82 (mastered from vinyl, by the sound of it). Though I dimly remember owning a few of these at the time, I'd mostly forgotten how visceral, disturbing and thrilling Neubauten could be.

The opening tracks feature the duo of Blixa Bargeld and Alexander Chudy (aka N.U. Unruh), fashioning minimal tribal artpunk and then dubbing it out into a dystopian cosmic throb. Bargelds chants, screams and shouts (usually hinging round short repeated phrases) are both threatening and threatened and even a bit sexy at times. Bursts of vicious guitar abuse, chattering electronics and blurty synths weave over stuttering, semi-metronomic percussives.

By track 4 the electric drill has made an appearance and then we're off into the stop-start motorik collage of "Tagesschau Dub". A rigorous, driven approach to coaxing and shaping noise from anything they could get their hands on (including springs, furniture, glass, floorboards, metal duct and most notably, a survival blanket) makes this stuff still sound immediate and fresh.

The title track is even strangely catchy, though Bargeld sounds in need of a nice cup of tea and a sit down. The same goes for Lydia Lunch, who sounds mightily pissed off (in a detached, New York fashion of course) on the nine minute "Thirsty Animal". Here Neubauten are honing their craft. Again, it all sounds incredibly contemporary, and the opening duet between what sounds like a foghorn stuck through a faulty fuzz pedal and Alexander Hacke's forlorn blowing on a pipe is fantastically, dirtily atmospheric.

Things come to a close with "Durstiges Tier", which features body drumming, bowed amplified wire, and, er, meat. This is one I've never quite forgotten from all those years ago, and with good reason. It's this track that features the safety blanket, and you might like to have your own handy when listening to this one. Claustrophobically powerful (and seemingly endless), it might well give you nightmares, but is possessed (as is much of this music) of a stark, terrible beauty. Forget the grim industrial thumping and pointless noisefests of their imitators; these boys were the real deal. Good, clean fun.

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