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Einheit, Unruh & The Anarchivists at HKW

When FM Einheit and N.U. Unruh stepped onstage at Haus der Kulturen der Welt on Feb 7th, 2016, as part of Transmediale/ Conversationpiece, it marked the first time in over a decade that the two Industrial pioneers were to perform together. Both men were part of West Berlin’s legendary noise terrorists Einstürzende Neubauten from the time before they recorded the debut LP Kollaps, but collaborations have been few since Einheit parted ways with the group in 1995.

Einheit was hosting the final performance of the Transmediale Art & Culture Festival, performing a piece entitled Erklär mir bitte, was beunruhigend sein soll am Einlassen von Badewasser! with assistance from Unruh, The Anarchivists and Siegfried Zelinski. Zelinski formally began proceedings by way of a spoken introduction, through which he offered some insight into the open collaborative ideas behind the performance and linked this back to texts written by William S. Burroughs. His brief intro completed, The Anarchivists took to the stage and began creating a shifting atmosphere of sound from the vast library of incidental recordings of 1980s Berlin that Einheit had prepared.

Stepping up to the stage, Einheit began slowly weaving a percussive web around the location recordings, his collection of hammers sounding melodic tones from the elongated springs that hung suspended from the lighting rig. Unruh followed shortly thereafter, and the sound began to rise in intensity as he worked his assortment of metal objects, cymbals and springs. The archival recordings provided a thick, heavily textured backdrop of train announcements, murky voices, screeching metal and even occasional shrieks from EN frontman Blixa Bargeld.

The performance began to edge towards classic Neubauten style mayhem as Einheit destroyed several terracotta boxes with his hammers, broken pieces falling down as a dust rose from the remnants. Einheit picked up handfuls and ground them across a sheet of steel, his white hair flung this way and that as he tore with abandon into the wreckage. After a period of sustained intensity, the piece eventually settled into a calm and petered to its conclusion.

A curious assortment of home-made machinery had been lying idle at the front of the stage for much of the show, looking more like an installation than a musical instrument. Unruh stepped forward from his percussion corner and activated the electricity, setting the strange devices into motion. Three hardcover books sat on the riser and were slowly hacked by the machines, microphones turning the crunching of worn pages into percussion that echoed from the front of the house. The group then proceeded to improvise with the machinery, a suitably bizarre, idiosyncratic performance from a group of truly enigmatic sound artists.
FM Einheit, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Feb 7th, 2016

Review and photography by Greg Reason

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