Remember when Carrie Underwood stole The Sound of Music? Well, Laibach are stealing it back. The Slovenian pop-industrial collective are gearing up to release their own version of the insanely popular Rodgers and Hammerstein musical via Mute Records on Nov. 23rd. Here’s a video for their version of “My Favorite Things,” which features a children’s choir and, in this live version recently debuted in Austria, a video backdrop of flying steaks, My Pretty Pony, nuns, Campbell’s soup cans and wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. Like much of what Laibach does, it’s unclear whether they’re serious or taking the piss. Probably a bit of both.
So what inspired the sepulchral-voiced Milan Fras and his bandmates to want to sing about whiskers on kittens? Randomly, it was their much-publicized 2015 trip to North Korea. In preparing to become the first Western rock band ever to perform there, they learned that The Sound of Music is among the few pieces of Western art not censored by Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian government; many of its songs are even used to teach English in schools. So they worked up live versions of “Edelweiss,” “Do-Re-Mi” and other tunes from the musical, hoping that such familiar songs would help them connect with their North Korean audience. In a nod to its origins, Laibach’s version of The Sound of Music will also include a traditional Korean folk song called “Airirang” and another track featuring a gayageum, a Korean zither-like instrument.
Here’s a video for “The Sound of Music” that was actually filmed while the band was in North Korea.
I haven’t heard the full album yet, but already I feel like The Sound of Music represents peak Laibach even better than their previous Laibach-iest moment, their 2006 collection of national anthems called Volk. Their best work has always played with themes of nationalism and totalitarianism in clever, subversive ways — often through the lens of pop music — and using a visit to the most totalitarian country on Earth as the jumping-off point for a reinterpretation of a popular American musical about the Nazi annexation of Austria gives them all sorts of fresh opportunities to explore those themes. I mean, just look at the cover art:
You can pre-order The Sound of Music here.