Laibach’s “The Lonely Goatherd” video is creepy. And charming. But mostly creepy.

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Slovenian art-rockers Laibach have long possessed an uncanny ability to take even the most well-worn songs and make them sound unfamiliar and more than a little creepy, from “In the Army Now” to “Jesus Christ Superstar.” But they’ve really outdone themselves with their recent reinvention of The Sound of Music.

After releasing videos of their oddly affecting interpretations of the title track and “My Favorite Things,” they recently dropped the project’s third and most bizarre video yet, for their mournful take on “The Lonely Goatherd.” In the clip, which features guest vocalist Boris Benko alongside Laibach’s gravel-voiced frontman, Milan Fras, Fras plays shepherd to a flock of dancing young girls in kneesocks as Benko looks on through a pair of binoculars in his alpineer’s tweed jacket and hiking boots, shotgun ominously slung over one shoulder. It’s all very voyeuristic and vaguely pedophiliac until Fras and Benko suddenly break out their own awkwardly charming dance moves near the video’s end. Fras even yodels, if you can call anything he does with his graveyard rasp yodeling. So maybe it’s all good, innocent fun. Unless it isn’t.

For more on Laibach’s The Sound of Music, read our last post about it or visit the website of their label, Mute Records.

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The hills are alive with the sound of Laibach

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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:

cover lp + cd

You can pre-order The Sound of Music here.