Release Date: Nov 23, 2018
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
The roots of Slovenia's chief avant-garde agitators take on the most precious and well-loved of musicals are as absurd as the outcome. Well, as absurd as it might first appear. In 2015 Laibach became the first Western rock group to perform in North Korea as part of the country's celebrations to mark 70 years of independence from Japan following World War II.
An experimental reconstruction of The Sound of Music - what's not to love about the idea? From serious musicians such as these, this was never going to be some kitsch throw-away cash-grab. The band, now in their thirty-eighth year, have more than proved their worth over a series of acclaimed original albums and, pertinently, four previous covers-projects, starting with 1998's Let It Be, a set of Beatles re-workings unlike any other interpretation you will have heard, full of the band's trademark growling vocals, martial rhythms, choral swells and uncanny knack for injecting a strange feeling of unsettling pathos. Laibach are also quite open concerning their political elements.
In 2015, Laibach became the first Western rock group to play a concert in North Korea. They performed two shows in Pyongyang that August, organized to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule in Korea. The events subsequently became the subject of the 2016 documentary film Liberation Day. During the concerts, the Slovenian collective performed several selections from the beloved American musical The Sound of Music, as it is commonly used to teach English to schoolchildren in Korea.
In 2015, the secretive authoritarian state of North Korea invited a western rock band to perform in their country for the first time. The band who received that dubious honour? Slovenian industrial provocateurs Laibach. It's a true story that sounds like particularly dark satire. For starters, Laibach aren't exactly representative of what western rock music sounds like: with their heavy sound and guttural vocals they are very much a cult concern.
F ollowing their versions of 14 national anthems, seven takes on Sympathy for the Devil, and cod-fascistic covers of Queen and others, the industrial troupe alight on their kitschiest reinterpretations yet: songs from The Sound of Music, amusingly rendered in stentorian synthpop and the guttural vocals of Milan Fras. This already high concept was sent into the ionosphere by their decision to debut it in North Korea in 2015, making them the first western rock band to play the country. The notion that isolated North Korean culture vultures would presume western rock bands are typified by gruff, bearded Slovenians declaring their love for cream-coloured ponies and crisp apple strudels is hilarious, and Laibach get points for this masterful bit of culture jamming alone.