Laibach – Love Is Still Alive (EP Review)

Laibach – Love Is Still Alive (EP Review)

Slovenia has a gem in the avant-garde Laibach. One of the first bands to perform in North Korea, and currently, in negotiations to perform in Iran, they are breaking down international borders with their eclectic music. And their movement toward peace through art continues with the Love Is Still Alive EP, which arrived on January 20, 2023, thanks to Mute Records.

With over four decades of groundbreaking music under their collective belt, Laibach has done what others only speak of accomplishing. Chasing muses from all corners of the globe, their aforementioned trip to Kim Jong-un’s dictatorship inspired their 2019 interpretation of The Sound of Music as well as the festive Party Songs EP. The latter allowed the group to flex their wings into North Korean Pop and Korean folk songs before they took a moment to celebrate their triumphant 40-year anniversary with 2020’s Laibach Revisited. Lest anyone attempt to pigeonhole their artistic ventures, the group’s next move was to (posthumously) honor German playwright Heiner Müller with the theatrical production Wir sind das Volk (2022).

This, of course, is only some of what Laibach has accomplished in the past four years! Now, in 2023, hardly resting on their laurels, they are set to deliver their umpteenth full-length, Sketches of the Red District, on January 27th. But a week earlier, they released the Love Is Still Alive EP. An extension of the music created for the 2019 Finnish film Iron Sky: The Coming Race, directed by Timo Vuorensola (Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning 2005, Iron Sky 2012), the EP takes listeners on a flight through diverse soundscapes and shifting emotions, offering an amorphous narrative that is fully open to interpretation.

It is an EP that tracks mankind through a future, apocalyptic spacescape. With Earth a dead rock “destroyed by wars, pandemics, and all the evil that men do,” the final scraps of humanity have sought refuge on the Moon. Though all good things must come to an end, and now a single spacecraft must carry a lucky few to Mars, to save them from annihilation. Despite all of this, a glimmer of hope remains…“as long as love is still alive. “

For Laibach—performing under the pseudonyms of Eber, Saliger, Dachauer, and Keller, who tour with a revolving cavalcade of other musicians—it is more a cumulative song (think “The Twelve Days of Christmas”) than an EP, with each successive entry bringing something new to the original idea. It’s an intriguing concept, one that allows listeners an immediate familiarity as they place themselves in the headspace of our survivors, anxious and adrift, hopeful and heartbroken.

Like the moon, Love Is Still Alive has eight phases. Each flows continuously into the next, creating a simple flight path that begins with “I (Moon, Euphoria).” Here, as the remnants of mankind begin their journey beyond the only home they’ve ever known, Eber’s gruff vocals provide a tribute to love as acoustic guitar and bass do-si-do around him. And it’s hard not to smile at an intentionally ludicrous blend of genres that sounds somewhat akin to Till Lindemann heading up a square dance in outer space, but that is the beauty of Laibach.

It is this bizarre adventure that encapsulates the spirit of Love Is Still Alive. Flowing into the initial phase of our interstellar passage, “II (Venus, Libidine)” pairs slide guitar, a galloping pace, and satellite interference to craft a nearly three-minute-long instrumental. Meanwhile, “III (Mercury, Dopamine)” allows a shift to slowly begin to unfold where electronics adopt a more prominent role.

Evolution continues with “IV (Neptune, Oxytocin),” where percussion steps forward to add some psychedelic stardust into the mix. Something that feels nostalgic for the ‘60s and ‘70s waltzes through the galaxy in bell bottoms, hoping to find Elvis residing with the extraterrestrials who kidnapped him from Earth so many moons ago. But the thoughts grow even murkier (or milkier, if you like) on “V (Uranus, Prolactin),” dense with Moog synths.

This full-bodied soundscape is upheld within the rapid heartbeat of “VI (Saturn, Insomnia),” its low-frequency percussion and bass a force that holds our eyes and ears open to possibility as we float toward our future. Though, ultimately, as we arise from the ominous depths of Saturn, something begins to dawn on the horizon in “VII (Jupiter, Tristitia)” before Eber’s vocals return to retell his narrative for one final time on “VIII (Mars, Dysphoria).” Unsure of how anything that is to come will play out, Laibach offers us the glimmer of hope found within each of our hearts.

So, is this an interstellar exploration worthy of George Lucas, the story of two hearts becoming three, or a musical experiment with a Sci-Fi twist? Surely it can possess the DNA of all three of these ideas: an ever-shifting veil of clouds meant to be discerned by each individual listener. But whether you appreciate this concept or find it droll, one thing is for sure: Laibach has a truly unique way of keeping love, understanding, and acceptance alive. Appreciative of their latest endeavor, Cryptic Rock gives Love Is Still Alive 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Laibach – Love Is Still Alive EP / Mute Records

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Jeannie Blue
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Jeannie likes to joke that she is little, yellow, blue, and different. She seemingly popped out of her mother's womb with a pen in her hand and has been writing ever since. Many moons ago - in what feels like a separate lifetime - Jean was co-editor of an online music magazine that afforded her great opportunities to interview and photograph some of her favorite bands/musicians: Tommy Lee, Good Charlotte, Warrant, Bring Me The Horizon, My Chemical Romance, Sevendust, New Found Glory, Deftones, Poison, VH-1 "Band On the Run" Flickerstick, an endless list of unsigned locals, and so many others. These days, she can usually be found hiking aimlessly through the woods in her favorite Technicolor sneakers with a Nikon in hand and her rescue dog, Molly, who is a bit hare-brained.

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