You can't help but think that Russia's audacious invasion of the disputed Crimean region of the Ukraine is probably the best-timed bit of publicity for Laibach's new album, 'SPECTRE'. Tracks detailing the ongoing slow-motion collapse of Europe set against newsreel footage of revolution, oppression, coups and military force - it all amounts to manna from heaven for this enduring cult group.
The tracks from the relatively accessible 'SPECTRE' album were among the highlights of tonight's set at East London's Village Underground, which tonight was attended by a curious mix of professorial types, countless military uniforms and an enduring sea of leather and black, a far cry from the swarms of well-groomed Hoxtonites just outside. Nevertheless, Laibach's brand of industrial pomp and confrontation seemed perfectly suited to this old vestige of London's industrial past, assembled t-shirts bearing the slogan 'Wirtschaft Ist Tot' providing a two-fingered salute to the gleaming cathedrals to commerce just down the road.
After a warm-up suite of wonky big band jazz, rubbish Seventies theme tunes and marching music, Laibach assembled on stage to rip through the tracks from 'SPECTRE' during the start of their typically epic set, each piece given a refreshingly stirring quality that seemed to have been buried on the album under precise production values. By the end they'll be playing what might be justifiably described as their classics, but the entire first half is given over exclusively to 'SPECTRE'.
The most euphoric moment is the stirring call to arms of 'Europe is falling apart' (from 'Eurovision') that opens the set, delivered with a necessarily urgent sense of ominous, cacophonous menace. For a moment you almost feel like celebrating the old world's slow death until you realise it's only music pretending to be politics. 'Eat Liver!' slams its glam-punk motorik leanings into you like a truck full of dynamite, brief cinematic interludes of orchestral grace amidst its harsh 'Warm Leatherette' grooves.
Noise. Drama. Angst. Pomposity. You can dance to this, but even that feels like a political choice loaded with unintended consequence. As on 'SPECTRE' it's the beguiling Mina Špiler's siren call that provides a sense of much-needed levity to proceedings, cutting through the solid wall of noise, thunderous drums, juddering rhythms, pulsing synths and intensely droning blocks of sound, each component as richly dark and unsettling as the visuals depicting jack-booted, goose-stepping soldiers, ethnic cleansing, pentagrams and über-mensch bodybuilders flexing their sculpted frames.
Laibach may have offered up nothing particularly new since their first releases - the radicalism, the rhythms, the orchestral intermissions, the Kraftwerkian synths, the slogans, the manifestos, the forced tweeness; they've all more or less stayed the same throughout their career - but in a live setting no unit so beautifully soundtracks the end of modern times quite like Laibach. Resistance really is futile. And loud.
LONDON VILLAGE UNDERGROUND, 12/4/2014
Eurovision / Walk with Me / Americana / We Are Millions and Millions Are One / Eat Liver! / Bosanova / Koran /Whistleblowers / No History / Resistance Is Futile / Intermezzo / Brat Moj / Ti, Ki Izzivaš / B Mashina / Under the Iron Sky / Leben-Tod / Warme Lederhaut / Ballad of a Thin Man / See That My Grave Is Kept Clean / Love on the Beat / Tanz mit Laibach / Das Spiel ist aus
Review by Mat Smith. Photographs by Andy Sturmey.
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