The German experimentalists of EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten have a thing against buildings; their name approximately translates to “collapsing new buildings” (though it should be noted that this is generally attributed to a distaste for modernity, rather than any terrorist leanings). Over their now 30-year history, the group has gained a reputation as one of the forefathers of the industrial movement, their use of custom-made scrap metal percussion and power-tool-as-instrument aesthetic (along with bands like Throbbing Gristle) establishing the sounds of generations of bands to come. Throughout those three decades, they’ve put out four compilations aimed at collecting different eras of their development. This fourth edition covers 2002-2010, showcasing a band that’s grown quite a bit from their caustic, painful early years into a mature, just slightly less painful sound.
Frankly, it’s impossible to avoid comparisons to the past when presented with such a compilation. These collections set eras in amber, begging us to notice the differences and similarities between them. While the original Strategies Against Architecture grinds out every dramatic, arching, aggressive note (quite literally, sometimes), IV varies in tone to a greater degree. Opening track “Perpetuum Mobile” shivers and aches instrumentally, vocalist Blixa Bargeld half-muttering to himself about something. “Selbsportrait mit Kater” relies on clanking metallic percussion and a slight synth, Bargeld talk-singing in what could be called a melody, something the first Strategies would have found unnecessary. Heck, “Ein Leichtes Leisses SÃ¤useln” just about qualifies as fragile, fit with a piano dropping chords into the ocean.
When I can understand Bargeld’s vocals (which isn’t that often, as my German topped off in high school), the lyrics frequently incorporate technical, modern images. On the English-sung “Youme & Meyou”, he spins out lines about the intersection of technology and the physical: “they turn houses into homes where earthquakes live with car alarms” he intones mildly. “Dead Friends (Around the Corner)” is similar in its almost Nick Cave-y rock structure and instrumentation (though the drums are a little too metallic), but the repeated chorus of “there’s a place around the corner where your dead friends live” leans more to past-looking than future or present.
At their best, the group combines the abrasiveness of its early recordings with connections to its more recent, easier-listening tendencies. “Insomnia” is a wounded beast, blurs of ambient noise fuzzing out alongside a meandering synth, steel-y drums (not to be confused with the Jamaican kind) clattering in to prove that the thing still has teeth. “Party in Meck-Pomm” is a total weirdo-jam, with cluttered, metallic rhythms pounding out an almost danceable beat as a squealing sound (which could be a wild saxophone if I hadn’t already guessed it was a grinder going to town on a car door) pulsates and Bargeld describes his surroundings. Later, the plinking sounds of glasses and metal tubes are collected more melodically on “Jeder Satz Mit Ihr Hallt Nach” (which comes to something like “every sentence resonates with her”), the title becoming a slow, spoken word chorus over the gamelan-esque chiming.
While the two disc set is structured more or less into a not-as-odd first disc and a more odd second (more electronics, less pop-leaning), a paring down of the two into one would make for one great little collection. Some of the tracks bleed together, but more often than not they stand alone as their own weird selves, some a little angrier, some a little goofier. While it may not have that same raw aggression that the original era and Strategies had, it’s a solid representation of the band’s current progression, which (I’d imagine) is exactly what it set out to be.