1985 – Some Bizarre
Industrial/ Avant-Garde/ Experimental
German industrial band Einsturzende Neubauten’s third studio album Halber Mensch (or ‘half man’ if you prefer the English) is a blazing cacophony of perfectly executed percussive noise, screeched vocals, and pounding beats and rhythms. The record opens up with the deliciously creepy title track, performed almost completely acappella, building up and up into a soaring tower of noise before being crashed down into just main vocalist Blixa Bargeld’s spitting, rage-filled ranting; truly a work of art. From here we move into the more musically driven Yu-Gung (Futter Mein Ego) which works just as perfectly as its predecessor making wonderful use of minimalist metallic percussion and managing to create intricate musical patters in the spaces of silence between each note.
Really, for me, this album just works and fits together so beautifully with its mixture of outright ugliness and brutality of sound and also its inherent playfulness in the way in which it tackles the very idea of what constitutes music. I suppose that some may actually find this in-your-face strangeness rather disconcerting and uncomfortable, but personally I would disagree. I think the trick is to approach the record like a work of art before you approach it as an actual musical album. This, however, is not to say that it is merely a pile of pretentious noise – quite the contrary, in fact – the music on Halber Mensch is actually a great deal of fun after one gets over the initial shock of it. I mean, tracks like Z.N.S and Trinkleid are rather catchy in their own way, and even though my German is nowhere near good enough I, at times, found myself attempting to sing along (no mean feat when one considered Bargeld’s vocal abilities, in particular his unearthly screams).
I think it’s the pure experimentalism on top of a solid rock base that makes this album so wonderful. I mean, there are a great deal of very good industrial bands out there, but most of them seem to rely rather heavily on electronics or get so wrapped up in intricate sound-scapes that they lose sight of where rock music fits in. This is not the case with Halber Mensch. Seele Brent, for example, maintains its junkyard sound while making expert use of what one might consider ‘traditional instruments’, and Sehnsucht (Zitternd) manages to shift effortlessly between being a throbbing rock track and an ear-shattering drone of construction site noise.
Of course there are some tracks, like Der Tod Ist Ein Dandy, which are really more of a collection of sounds that any real composition of music, but these come later on the album towards the latter half of side two which means that the listener has been given an ample opportunity to accustom themselves to the kind of work that Einsturzende Neubauten are doing. Also, after to listening to all of the previous tracks, the listener is by this point hopefully able to hear to undercurrents of music that run deep beneath the swirling eddies of noise. Once this is achieved (and I must confess that I couldn’t quite do it on my first go) these tracks actually become rather beautiful.
In summation I will say that Einstuzrende Neubauten’s Halber Mensch really is a magnificent record. It just has the perfect mix of experimentalism and rock sensibilities all performed with incredible skill and written with care and precision. It’s just so well crafted and has so much meaty material on it to play with that I would find it very hard not to recommend. Bear in mind that you might not like it the first time around, and it might take a little while to warm up to, but still I would urge you to give it a good earnest listen.
Here is the clip, taken from the film by Sogo Ishii, for ‘Z.N.S’ from the album ‘Halber Mensch.
- rough music (mobiusfaith.wordpress.com)
- Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld – Still Smiling (thequietus.com)
- New Wave for the New Week #89 (bryanrutt.blogspot.com)