Einsturzende Neubauten - Halber Mensch
Some Bizarre Records
Industrial, Experimental
8 songs (35:32)
Release year: 1985
Einsturzende Neubauten , Some Bizarre Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Einstürzende Neubauten are generally known more for their unwieldy name (referring to the sounds made by collapsing buildings) than any musical contribution they have made, but it’s a simple fact for those in the know that this group of Germans was one of the biggest influences on the Industrial genre, continuing the ‘work’ of Throbbing Gristle and becoming a strange offshoot of Krautrock in many ways. Frontman Bliza Bargeld (also until recently of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) described the band once as the aural equivalent of the Baader-Meinhof Group, and that ‘noise terrorist’ mentality can often be found in their music. Their first album was recorded to a tape recorder set in a pillar of the Stadtautobahn Bridge in West Berlin, their drummer doesn’t use a conventional kit but random pieces of scrap metal, they make many of their own instruments and went to the extent of shooting microphones over the Berlin Wall as part of their hunt for sounds.

Although in recent years the band may have mellowed out, back in 1985 they were only just beginning to make their sound more accessible, and ½ Mensch is still a tough listen for those used to conventional musical structures. Sudden screams and stream-of-consciousness vocals from Blixa, the metallic cacophony from the band, the twisted catchiness of the songs mixing freely with an even more twisted creepy atmosphere... this is as hard an album to describe as it can be to listen to! Yet what amazes me about this, and other, even more difficult Einstürzende Neubauten albums, is how it comes together and clearly forms music, as grotesque as it is.

The opening title track is a capella and features a cacophony of strange vocals, chanting, singing, calling, leading suddenly into the infectious beats of Yü-Gung (Fütter Mein Ego), one of the band’s best known songs, describing the effects of amphetamine addiction and insomnia. It may seem a strangely random piece at first, a backing beat with several smaller beats above and around it whilst Blixa howls and squeals over the top, but when you research and discover than one of those odd sounds that you hear is a razorblade tapping against a mirror, it begins to make an eerie sort of sense, and is certainly more effective than the over-the-top antics of Rammstein, one of the bands directly influenced by Einstürzende Neubauten. As there, so here; although understanding German will help you understand just what Blixa is yelling about, it isn’t a necessity before you begin to listen, such is the passion at work.

Each track present is distinct and unique, truly interesting music made literally from shouting and hitting things with sticks; the martial stomp of Trinklied, the sledgehammer disco of Z.N.S, the percussive tapper of Seele Brennt... Interestingly, to my knowledge the band have never made it clear exactly how they created each song, and this makes it a deeper, more atmospheric listen. Often, it’s hard to even guess at what could create the various sounds you hear here, and as a result your mind can easily wander and think it’s heard, for example, the pitter-patter of feet on Z.N.S to wonderfully creepy effect.

Clearly, this isn’t for everyone. Heck, I hardly ever listen to this band myself, but there’s no doubt about the fact that they’re quite unique, and deserve a listen if only so you can say you’ve experienced it. A better introduction may well be one of the band’s DVDs so you can see as well as hear their individual sturm und drang; I’ve been trying to get hold of the 2006 Palaste Der Republik show, where the audience came armed with drumsticks and became part of the concert themselves, for a while now without paying ridiculous prices. If you have an interest in the Industrial genre and a very open mind indeed, then Einstürzende Neubauten are a group that have been experimenting with the base elements of music for many years now, and deserve much more exposure than they currently get.

Killing Songs :
Halber Mensch, Yü-Gung (Fütter Mein Ego), Der Tod Ist Ein Dandy, Letzes Biest (am Himmel)
Goat quoted 86 / 100
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