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The Garage, London
Wednesday December 15 2010


Slovenian arch-conceptualists, industrial avant-gardeists, art-philosophers and all-round contrary buggers Laibach are 30 years old. That's not an anniversary you'll find bigged up in the music press, for although Laibach enjoyed a period of (just) above the parapet success in the mid-90s with their NATO covers album - on which the band re-invented pop hits to sinister effect - they've mostly been an aquired taste and a left-field cult even within the industrial scene, where most of their fanbase comes from.

But then, most industrial bands - most bands - don't exhibit at art galleries, collaborate in theatrical productions, or establish their own virtual country, passports and all. There's a lot more to Laibach than just the stompy industrial beats.

Tonight, however, it's the stompy industrial beats that we're here for - 30 years' worth. That's a lot of stomping. So let's bring 'em on. There are no support bands tonight - just a very long wait and some jaunty cinema-intermission music, which has the crowd feeling suitably fractious by time the ominous rumble of Milan Fras' vocal heralds the advent of the band.

If you were to sum up Laibach's music in two words, 'ominous rumble' would do quite nicely. Milan Fras himself has a voice like an upset stomach, while the band as a whole keep it heavy in the low end and clearly have no truck with those namby-pamby high frequencies. It's a slightly stripped-down line-up tonight, with two keyboard players and a drummer making most of the noise, while Mina Spiller, as severe as any dominatrix, operates a mini-synth, interjects occasional female vocals and shouts at us through a megaphone. But the sound looms like a sonic Orthanc, and on 'The Challenger', when Mina Spiller comes forward and harrangues us sternly via her megaphone it's impossible not to feel slightly chastised.

The set is a thrumming, grumbling, audiovisual blur, the back projected images behind the band flickering as the music flows. Older songs rumble past in new arrangements, like privatised freight trains in new liveries. 'Brat Moj' has been reinvented as a nightmare industrio-dance number, a flurry of metallic clanging resolving itself into a pulsing bass-heavy workout. But it's when 'Tanz Mit Laibach' drops - the band's state-sponsored disco anthem - that the crowd starts moving and the gig picks up a bit of pace. Rumbling art-industrial is all very well, but the kids wanna stomp.

'Alle Gegen Alle' keeps the stomp-levels up, but, bravely, Laibach bring things down again with 'America' - the band's alternative national anthem for the USA, delivered in front of a giant, back-projected stars and stripes which looks downright threatening at that size. It lends a note of counter-intuitive pensiveness to the proceedings. 'America' is followed by 'Anglia' - you see, they did one for us, too.

Laibach's cerebral side might mean they'll never enjoy the success of, say, Rammstein - a band which arguably took the Laibach blueprint, removed the art and the philosophy and simply turned the stomp-dial to maximum. But, around here, the conceptual contrary buggers do it every time. Long may they ominously rumble.








For more photos from this gig, find Laibach by name here.





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