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Music Review: Einstürzende Neubauten – The Jewels

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“We have cooked mud, transformed meat to percussion, and recorded 20,000-volt transformer stations. We shot propelled microphones across the Berlin Wall (when it still stood), used helium balloons and guerrilla recording techniques.” — Blixa Bargeld

The Jewels is a significant departure from what you’ve been hearing from Einstürzende Neubauten these past ten or so years. If you’re a long-time fan, you’ll see some revisiting with this CD, as well as a completely new formulaic structure in the matter of composition. The above first paragraph encompasses some of the groundbreaking techniques and stunts that this coven of meister wizards crafted in their early days.

Imagine Blixa noodling around one day, trying to come up with inspiration for some new music. He begins going through his notes and lyrics from the beginning, making notes of items he thinks might be useful in his new quest: technique, music, thoughts, throwaways – used and unused, all are written onto the cards. When he’s finished, he has a bunch of them, the words sometimes straightforward, sometimes cryptic. He puts them into a container and each member of the band then picks a card in what Blixa calls a “subversive interpretation game.”

That card then becomes, eventually, one of the cuts on this CD. It was Neubauten’s intent to reenergize their music by using these cryptic notes to cobble together and create a new CD of both new and revisited music. Funding was also a different process, whereby Neubauten used their worldwide network of fans and supporters to sell increments of the new disc over an extended period, one cut at a time.

Neubauten’s early days were in the old Berlin, before the wall came down and before new life began being pumped into the tired old girl. After years of slowly suffocating under the USSR’s tutelage, a new breeze was blowing through the old German capital, its citizens slowly reawakening, the rejuvenation culminating in the Fall of the Wall in 1989.

The result is 16 new tracks totaling nearly 45 minutes of a lot of the old Neubauten, the Industrial Neubauten, with accompanying cacophonic industrial noise. Beginning with the opening cut, “Ich Komme Davon,” you’ll hear compressed air hissing, a locomotive syncopation, an oil derrick, the echo of empty pipes, water, coil springs, a jalopy, screams, metal clanging, and a hundred other industrial sounding noises, all mixed with music of varying tempos and description. Neubauten has gone back to its elemental beginnings and recreated themselves, and in so doing have also created a masterpiece of intense listening pleasure, impossible to describe.

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About Lou Novacheck

  • I won’t dispute your review – the music is just what you say. It’s fantastic stuff, very typical of what the band has been doing the past 6-8 years. I will, however, add a little “behind the scenes” info, as this release is a bit of a shock to some fans who have become known as “supporters.” See, over the years, we have paid, in advance, pretty decent sized sums of money when their albums were more than mere ideas. Part of the latest album’s “support project” was that we would get an exclusive release in the form of these “Jewels” – downloadable files of brand new music not available anywhere else. So imagine my surprise and dismay when I found this disc sitting on a store shelf some time last month. Nor was I real happy to see that it had a couple extra songs on it. I’m feeling more than a bit had, to be honest. Non-Supporters luck out in that they get to hear great music and they get a beautiful package while Supporters have . . . files. Fair? I’m not feeling it was.

  • Lou

    I’d not heard of this. According to the band’s website, the individual cuts were shown to have been sent out to “subscribers” according to the distribution scheme described.

    Anybody else have these problems? I admit I don’t follow the message boards, so perhaps there was something about this elsewhere? If so, please direct me.

    Perhaps I can get word to the band through their publicist. Please let me hear from you on this.

  • M. Finger

    In response to the comment of Tom Johnson, the commercial release of “The Jewels” did, in fact, not contain any extra songs. The second track, “Mei Ro” has been altered since its original downloadable release, and a video documentary has been attached, but no other additions were made. Very few of the band’s “supporters” share Tom’s dismay at the commercial release of “The Jewels.” Many advocated a commercial release long before the band began talking about it for their recent tour.