Good news for fans Eastern European electro-industrial performance art rock: Laibach have announced the impending arrival of Spectre, their first proper studio album since 2006′s Volk. And this week, you can download three songs off the forthcoming album for free from their website. It’s their gift to you, Laibach fans! Either that, or they’ve secretly been communists this whole time.
A press release from the band’s label, Mute Records, claims that Spectre will be their most overtly political album to date. But based on these three advance tracks, it’s not so much political as observational. On “Eurovision,” for example, Milas Fras growls, “Europe is falling apart”—which is obviously true to anyone who’s been watching the news, but it’s hard to tell whether Milas considers this a tragedy or an awesome excuse to break stuff.
The new EP, called simply S, also features a live cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Love on the Beat.” To hear that track, you gotta buy the whole package. If you just want the free shit, hit the Laibach website before Oct. 21st.
Here’s a trailer for Spectre, which is due out February 2014. Clearly, if Milas has to dance, he doesn’t want to be part of your revolution.
This week we’re adding another band to the Weird List that many of you have been clamoring for: Steven Stapleton’s venerable experimental/industrial/sound collage project, Nurse With Wound. For over three decades, Stapleton and his many collaborators have been producing some of the creepiest (and, on occasion, funniest) music ever to come out of the U.K.—which, considering the Brits also gave us such influential noise mongers as Throbbing Gristle and Current 93, is saying something.
From their very first album, recorded live as a trio in 1978, NWW announced themselves as something completely different. Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella was a jarring mix of squiggly electronics, prog/psych guitar freakouts, primal howls and ominous, ambient noise. Though originally released in a run of just 500 copies, it made quite a splash in the emerging London industrial scene—and not only because of its BDSM cover art.
One of the more interesting aspects of Chance Meeting was the inclusion of the now-legendary Nurse With Wound List, an eclectic, expansive catalog of the band’s many influences, from Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire to Stockhausen and Tangerine Dream—though most of the name-checks were far more obscure than those. A handful of bands on our own Weird List appear, including American rock primitivists Cromagnon and French avant-garde accordionist Ghedalia Tazartes. But overall, I have to admit: When you do a blog like ours, reading through the NWW List is a humbling experience. Clearly we’ve got some catching up to do.
By 1981, founding NWW members John Fothergill and the excellently named Heeman Pathak had left the group, leaving Stapleton to forge ahead as a solo act. Enlisting the help of a live drummer and his friend J.G. Thirlwell of Foetus, Stapleton recorded an album called Insect and Individual Silenced that he himself has since dismissed as “terrible.” Then, after a collaboration with power electronics pioneers Whitehouse (a very bleak and atmospheric record called The 150 Murderous Passions, released with the liner note, “This record may be played at any speed”), Stapleton hit his stride with 1982′s Homotopy to Marie, the album he has since referred to as the first “real” NWW release. Full of tape manipulations and dread, Homotopy became the blueprint for what remains Nurse With Wound’s signature style: abstract, slow-moving, cinematic, occasionally abrasive and even more occasionally terrifying. Depending on your disposition, it’s either music that should only be listened to in the dark—or it’s music you should never listen to in the dark.
As weird as eerie noise epics like “The Schmürz (Unsullied by Suckling)” can get, what really makes Steven Stapleton a world-class weirdo are his twisted and often hilarious spins on mainstream music and pop culture. Take, for example, 1985′s The Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi Companion, an early experiment in sampling, NWW-style. Yes, that’s really the cover art on the YouTube clip. And yes, this track really is called “You Walrus Hurt the One You Love.”
Over the decades, Stapleton has released more than 40 albums and countless collaborations (with everyone from Current 93 to Sun 0))) to Stereolab), singles, EPs and compilation tracks, all exhaustively cataloged on the Nurse With Wound website and much of it now available via Bandcamp. More recently, he’s brought back a touring version of the band, with a rotating supporting cast that includes longtime collaborators Colin Potter and Diana Rogerson (Stapleton’s wife) along with newer cohorts like sound collage artists Matt Waldron and Andrew Liles.
It would be asinine to try to summarize a career like Stapleton’s with a single video—all the more so because he hasn’t released any “official” Nurse With Wound music videos. (A few short films have used NWW music, including this one, but they’re not music videos in any traditional sense.) But this fan-made clip for the 2008 track “The Bottom Feeder,” using the stop-motion art of Czech filmmaker Jiří Barta, actually does a pretty great job of encapsulating all that is spooky and brilliant about Nurse With Wound’s best work.
Last year, we told you about an amazing indie sci-fi film from Finland called Iron Sky that featured music by military-industrial rockers Laibach and a story about a secret Nazi base on the moon. Well, the film was such an international success that they’ve decided to make a sequel—and this time,
it’s personal they need your help to fund it.
Yes, for Iron Sky: The Coming Race, the filmmakers have taken to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to raise $150,000 worth of seed money for what they hope will eventually be a $15 million budget (which sounds like a lot but is still about 1/20th what they spent on Iron Man 3). Backers of the film can score such goodies as T-shirts, posters and even a first draft of the script, all the way up to all-access set visits and a speaking role in the trailer. So far they’re still about $110,000 short of their goal, with only 13 days of fundraising left—so pony up, people! (Although, unlike Kickstarter, projects that don’t hit their fundraising goals on Indiegogo get to keep the money—so don’t worry, those crazy Iron Sky kids will be fine even if they fall short.)
According the filmmakers, Laibach is already on board to do the soundtrack, as are the original writers, director and special effects folks. What the storyline will be is anyone’s guess—so far, they’ve just released some mysterious artwork depicting what appears to be some kind of high-tech outpost in the middle of a lush wilderness, with the tag line, “From the ashes of mankind, a new breed of superiority will rise.” Does that mean more Nazis? Or something else? We’ll just have to wait and see.
So head over to Indiegogo to pledge your support, and enjoy the Indiegogo teaser video starring director Timo Vuorensola and some North Korean soldieresses I would not want to mess with.
A big reason Rammstein is on our Weird 100 List at all—let alone at No. 1, a spot they’ve occupied for several months now—is because of their music videos, which range from the absurd to the action-packed to the downright disturbing. So it’s about freakin’ time they compiled all their greatest clips into a single collection. That collection, Videos 1995-2012, arrives Jan. 15th and features over seven hours of Rammstein visuals, including 25 music videos and 24 behind-the-scenes clips. If anyone makes it through the whole thing in one sitting, let us know. Me, I’ll be sticking to lighter fare like Walking Dead and Intervention marathons.
To celebrate the arrival of this monumental collection, Rammstein have released two new videos for the previously video-less 2001 track, “Mein Herz brennt.” The first, a piano-only remake of the song, just features frontman Till Lindemann emoting for the camera in what appears to be Joker makeup and a black strapless evening gown. The second…well, just watch the clip and see for yourself. You might not wanna watch it alone, though.
For more on Videos 1995-2012, visited Rammstein.de.
“Mein Herz brennt” (piano version):
“Mein Herz brennt” (full version):
If you still haven’t submitted yourself to the awesome power of the totalitarian pop/industrial band Laibach, this might finally be your chance. Laibach’s U.K. label, Mute Records, is releasing a compilation of some of Laibach’s most distinctive cover songs, in a collection called An Introduction To… Laibach/Reproduction Prohibited. It’s available now in Europe and the U.K. and arrives here Nov. 6th.
Laibach have become justly famous for their many covers, which are by turns haunting and hilarious, thanks to their Wagnerian arrangements and frontman Milan Fras’s sepulchral growl of a voice. An Introduction to… omits many of Laibach’s most notorious covers, like “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” in favor of more mind-blowing oddities like “Bruderschaft,” an original Laibach tune done in the style of Kraftwerk, and “Geburt Einer Nation,” their nationalist spin on Queen’s “One Vision.” Also included: Laibachanized versions of two Beatles songs, Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” and their definitive, epic version of Europe’s “Final Countdown,” which they transform into the mock-operatic techno jam it was always meant to be.
You can watch the trailer for An Introduction to… here, but we’ll leave you with this video to “Final Countdown,” which invites you to become a citizen of NSK, Laibach’s art collective/micronation and self-proclaimed “first global state of the universe.” You used to be able to get an NSK passport online, but they had to stop issuing them because some scam artists in Nigeria were selling them to unsuspecting African nationals looking for ways to emigrate to Europe. And no, even though NSK passports do look convincingly like official travel documents, you can’t actually use them to cross international borders. The awesome power of Laibach is not quite that awesome.
Have we mentioned lately how much we love our readers? Well, it’s true. You guys rock. Thanks to you, we have a backlog of weird bands that should last us until at least 2013. So stick around, people! Or just go to our Submit a Band page, which is basically just one long spoiler for which bands we’ll be populating the site with over the next several months.
One reader who rocks especially hard is Mr. Ian Frost, who recently flooded the Comments section with a raging torrent of serious weirdness. Of all the bands Ian mentioned, the one that really jumped out at us (we’ll get to Buckethead soon, Ian, promise) was a British band called Whitehouse, who back in the early ’80s invented their own spin on industrial music, which they dubbed “power electronics.” And as anyone who’s read our posts on witch house, pornogrind and pagan Celtic folk metal already knows, there’s nothing Jake and I love more than peeling back the layers on an obscure subgenre. So let’s dive into this whole power electronics thing, shall we?
Power electronics uses synthesizers less as musical instruments than as pure noise-making devices, taking advantage of their wide frequency range to pump out ear-splitting, high-pitched shrieks coupled with bowel-melting bursts of bass. Over the top of this, they scream lyrics that are often just profanity-laced tirades—not unlike the sort of invective your neighbors will probably hurl at you if you play this stuff on anything louder than a well-insulated pair of headphones.
The man behind the band Whitehouse and power electronics is a fellow named William Bennett—no, not the former Drug Czar for the George H. W. Bush White House, although that is indeed a pretty excellent coincidence. No, this William Bennett was a teenaged guitar player in a post-punk band called Essential Logic who, around 1978, discovered early industrial bands like Throbbing Gristle and became intrigued with the idea of creating music that could, in his words, “bludgeon an audience into submission.”
While on tour with Essential Logic, Bennett met synth-punk pioneer Robert Rental, who sold the young guitarist “an uncontrollably vicious beast of a synthesiser which subsequently became the heart of the Whitehouse sound.” We’re pretty sure the synth he’s referring to is a strange little gizmo called the EDP Wasp, which was famous for having a black and yellow “keyboard” that was completely flat and therefore virtually impossible to play by touch. But for Bennett’s purposes, it was probably ideal, since he was mainly just interested in mashing down several keys at once and then twisting the knobs to get the most atonal squall of electronic noise the little keyboard could muster.
After releasing a single in 1979 under the name Come, Bennett formed Whitehouse in 1980 and proceeded to go on a recording tear, releasing seven albums over the next three years. He coined the term power electronics in 1982 in the liner notes for Whitehouse’s seventh release, Psychopathia Sexualis, one of several Whitehouse albums dedicated entirely to the subject of serial killers. You see, it wasn’t enough for Bennett that his music be brutal; he wanted the lyrics to be brutal, as well, even though they were usually completely unintelligible over the roar of all those maxed-out synths. Early Whitehouse track titles include “Shitfun,” “Rapeday” and “Dedicated to Albert de Salvo – Sadist and Mass Slayer,” a heartwarming tribute to the Boston Strangler. He was kind of a dark guy, that Bennett.
By 1983, Whitehouse had added two new members who would go on to be highly influential in the power electronics scene (and yes, by this point, it was a scene): Kevin Tomkins and Philip Best.
Although Tomkins contributed to two of Whitehouse’s most extreme albums, Right to Kill and Great White Death, he pushed the power electronics envelope even further with his own band, Sutcliffe Jügend, named after one of England’s most notorious serial killers, Peter Sutcliffe, and the Hitler Youth (“Hitler Jügend,” in German). This is one of their gentler numbers. As one reviewer of their 1998 album, When Pornography Is No Longer Enough, quite aptly put it: “SJ’s music would make for an extremely effective CIA interrogation tool.”
Best joined Whitehouse when he was just 15 and (being, you know, 15 and all) dropped out again just one year later. But he was a steady member of Whitehouse from 1993 to 2008, after which he quit to focus on his artwork and his own musical project, Consumer Electronics. From 2003 to 2008, Whitehouse performed frequently as the duo of Bennett and Best and underwent what one writer called “an unlikely vogue,” getting invited to lots of experimental music and noise-rock festivals and frequently cited as a major influence by younger, trendier noise bands like Wolf Eyes and Black Dice. They also developed a fondness for taking their shirts off—which is normally the worst kind of rock-dude cliché, but coming from two scrawny guys screaming things like “You look like a fucking bat, you old slut” over dentist’s drill synths, is downright confrontational and more than a little creepy.
Speaking of creepy: The other semi-constant member of Whitehouse, from 1983 to 2003, was Peter Sotos, an American-born writer whose work mostly explores brutal crimes committed against children. It’s probably to Sotos that the group owes its frequent use of spoken-word passages sampled from interviews with serial killers, rape survivors, and the parents of murdered or abducted children. Where Bennett, Best and even the rather intense Tomkins seem to be drawn to gruesome subject matter mainly for its shock value, Sotos seems genuinely, pathologically obsessed with it. There’s no proof that the man ever did horrible things to children himself (he was convicted of possession of child pornography in 1986, but the evidence was sketchy and his sentence was suspended), but he’s sure researched the subject with enough zeal to make you wonder if it’s all he talks about at dinner parties. Bennett has said that he and Sotos parted ways over “a notable difference in lifestyle attitudes,” which is kind of ominous coming from a guy who titled his band’s fifth album after a Nazi concentration camp.
A few other fun random factoids about Whitehouse: Their name is a reference both to Mary Whitehouse, a British conservative activist who did quite a bit of railing against indecent TV programming (like, you know, Dr. Who) in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and to a pornographic magazine and website, Whitehouse (formerly on Whitehouse.com), that satirically named itself after the famed prude. All of their ’90s albums were produced by Steve Albini, best known for his work with the Pixies and Nirvana. Currently, the band consists of Bennett and a young woman named Mimsy DeBlois, who may or may not be the same woman who appeared with Whitehouse under the name Loulou at a concert in Portugal in 2009. Here’s a clip from that performance. In a 2010 interview with British mag The Wire, Bennett revealed that he and DeBlois are changing Whitehouse’s name to Bad Girls Get the Fuck Over It (the interview’s not available online, but Bennett confirmed the name change on his blog). Or he might just be yanking our chains a bit.
Bennett has scrupulously documented every single Whitehouse performance—he calls them “Live Actions”—and cataloged all 178 of them on the website for his record label, Susan Lawly. We’ll leave you with a vintage video clip from Live Action 39, which apparently took place right here in Los Angeles back in 1984 at a now-defunct record shop called Bebop Records. That’s Kevin Tomkins and Peter Sotos working the Wasps and a very young William Bennett doing the screaming. This is supposedly taken from a documentary called D.U.I.—if anyone knows anything else about it, we’d love to hear from you. When we searched “D.U.I.” online, all we got were a bunch of Bobby Brown articles.