Thursday, 12 November 2009

Einstürzende Neubauten 'Zeichnungen des Patienten O. T.' (1983)

Here the Berlin group, led by the positively demonic Blixa Bargeld, expands its sound, underlying the metallic clatter and grating noises of the first album with something resembling a pulse (quite literally, on one track). The disturbing, minimalist sound still reigns but it's much more textured and varied this time around; O.T. is one of those albums where you will have it on in the background and mistakenly think you have been through half of it, only to check the tracklisting and find you've been listening to but a single epic composition. This progression is one reason I consider Neubauten's 80's period to be great.

We are not in the territory of conventional songwriting yet, no choruses or verses are here to give you a tether into popular music or safe familiarity, this is the world of Collapsing New Buildings - the constant disintegration and perpetuation of disposable modern structures (ideals as trends, cultures, powers-that-be, people?). You might say that musically and lyrically Neubauten are deconstructing it all themselves, but I think they had aspirations to destruction as well:
'I am waiting on the edge of the world for the new sun which burns more than it shines /The president howls at the grave of the HMV dog / And the newsreader bears his honest as bones face / The station ID, a blow on the bones.'

A few aspects of the broadening and deepening of the Neubauten sound, which has a resonance different to that of the masochistic appeal of the debut:
- synth burbles, circuit buzzes and static that provide a lower register to the found-sound ambience, which are fleshed out with a wider range of objects being struck/plucked/scraped etc
- at least twice the number of tape tracks (seemingly) in use, with several dedicated to analogue sampling and field recordings (a Hamburg fish market being one, apparently)
- occasional use of atmospheric, Central African-sounding woodwind and percussion, even dissonant strings ('Armenia')
- found sounds like water, animals and, erm, race cars...
The eclectic whole makes perfect sense as a coherent, continuous record, with an atmosphere so beautifully executed yet brooding and malevolent it probably belongs in a 'scariest albums' nerdlist. Has to be heard to be believed!

The album title means 'Drawings of Patient O.T.', O.T. refers to this man and gives you some idea as to the darker themes of the album, and perhaps Bargeld's growing sense of isolation from the world. Most of us may not be able to understand the lyrics, but this is not essential, especially when the music is perhaps a most effective narrator that often threatens to drown out Blixa's tortured exultations and improv. Not to detract from his talent as a vocalist (which is part of what defines the group) however, but it is a presence less dominant on this album.

I wanted to include a stream of a standout track, the neo-classical 'Armenia', but can only find live versions which have a totally different sound.
You can hear snippets here, but bear in mind that the tracklisting's messed up the so 'Armenia' isn't 'Armenia': Drawings of Patient O.T. – Einstürzende Neubauten – Listen free and discover music at

1 comment:

j said...

Absolutely fantastic album! One of my favorites, (i seem constitutionally incapable of picking a favorite Neubauten album). Nice writing as well, good descriptions, easy to read, attention grabbing, not too long. Armenia is the shit, favorite track off the record. Keep up the good work.