Wednesday, June 13, 2012

LAIBACH - Iron Sky: The Original Film Soundtrack (MUTE RECORDS 2012)


Laibach’s release pattern over the last decade has been increasingly erratic and with the long-term core of the group down to Ivan Novak and Milan Fras, along with whatever collaborators it is working with at any given time, it continues to confound expectation in strange ways. On the heels of LAIBACHKUNSTDERFUGE, the group launched into the VOLKSWAGNER live project and while most of us logically expected an album to follow, it simply never happened (for whatever reason). Instead, there are traces of Wagnerian pomp filtering into the IRON SKY soundtrack, a Finnish-German-Australian sci-fi Nazi comedy (which I’m not sure I ever want to watch). With movie scores, there’s so much to live up to if you’re hoping for something that serves the project AND works as a stand-alone addition to a creative oeuvre / discography. Zbigniew Preisner and Eleni Karaindrou are towering figures in this discipline and the pairing of Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet has delivered some exceptional results. Perhaps it’s a little unfair to throw Laibach in the deep end with those sorts of names, especially with regard to the type of movie this is, but with a stunning reputation at stake in a very different ballpark, there’s reason to be concerned.

The grandiose B-MASHINA is a remix of the daunting opener from 2003’s WAT and is effortlessly suited as the lead into this soundtrack, so much so that as the album unfolds, it’s somewhat of a pity there isn’t more of this facet of Laibach happening elsewhere. As a beautifully skewed contrast, TAKE ME TO HEAVEN is a piece of schlager and one of those extraordinary anomalies that Laibach is capable of getting right. It also hints at a more obvious inspiration the group takes for its first major soundtrack, more than vaguely resembling ONE MORE KISS, DEAR from the Vangelis’s BLADE RUNNER score. Strangely, this is a significant highlight of the album and the one element that has ingrained itself in my brain... I’m still figuring out if that’s for better or worse but it’s currently in favour! From here, the 38-track album expands into a collection of neoclassical sound bites, affections of Reichsmusikkammer, fragments of dialogue and strobing electronics. Some of these dominate proceedings and are as you would expect of a Laibach / Ben Watkins (Juno Reactor) collaboration, others are ordinary in a big movie score sort of way, not necessarily souring the album as a stand-alone piece, but perhaps rendering it less radical than it could have been.
Whether you’re Rodgers & Hammerstein or Ivan Novak, any score for a movie about cartoon Nazis needs the pompous glory of panzer division marching music and here this is delivered in the form of KAMERADEN, WIR KEHREN HEIM. While an assortment of brief and inspired moments roll by; classical swoops caught in the turbulence of pulsating industrial sequences; these are often punctuated by snippets of dialogue that just sound like Samuel Jackson in space (doing that one character Samuel Jackson can actually do - himself); indicators that Iron Sky is probably not the most intellectually stimulating of movies. However, this does hint at homage to Queen’s FLASH GORDON soundtrack where the most pungent cheese of the script is laid unapologetically across the score. Laibach certainly has some manner of history in this regard, utilising Queen as a populist stepping-stone once upon a time, so it’s not unlikely. The martial elements are best played out in tracks like METEORBLITZKRIEG BEGINS and READY TO FACE THE MUSIC (COUNTERATTACK) while SPACE BATTLE SUITE hangs on the main phrase from Wagner’s THE RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES. It kind of had to be in there somewhere although it never quite achieves that reich-tastic Wilhelm Furtwangler quality.
GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG MUS FLIEGEN with it’s stacked chorus is pretty much what I imagined this score to predominantly sound like prior to hearing it: endearingly arrogant, martial and very “Laibach” in character. FIGHT BETWEEN WASHINGTON AND DR. RICHTER contains brief interludes of the sort of chunky electronic riffs that the Juno Reactor connection no doubt brings to the project, another quality which I hoped there would be more of. Towards the end, AMERICA from the creepy and excellent VOLK album (2006) seems more deserving of a place on this soundtrack than much of what has proceeded. Kaiti Kink’s vocal on the engaging UNDER THE IRON SKY gives it all the jazzy swagger of an industrial Bond theme, no doubt intentional as an accessible promotional tool, as well as a nod to another old school soundtrack institution. END TITLE (WE LEAVE IN PEACE) seems unfairly crammed in last after such an excellent focal point. This is understated, uninterrupted by dialogue and has more substance to it that at least a dozen preceding passages.

Laibach definitely has potential with regard to scoring movies. The issue is how to iron out the creases and remain the oddball entity that is identifiably Laibach while doing so. As it stands, IRON SKY’s strengths are in the song based structures, not the short soundscapes, and while there might have been a brief that required a quantity of the later, there are more ambitious steps, without precedence, that Laibach is capable of taking. What was presented stylistically on LAIBACHKUNSTDERFUGE would have been unique and groundbreaking as a score although whether or not it would have fit with this movie is something else. Time has a way of being kind to all sorts of strange marriages of ideas, but with the high stakes, cost efficiency and sweaty investors of the movie world, those sort of artistic risks may unfortunately be a thing of the past. - BOZ


            

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