"I think you have to shout very long and very often in order for people to appreciate the silence afterwards," said Einstürzende Neubauten percussionist F.M. Einheit in a 1994 documentary about the German band. Since forming in 1980, EN have been shouting. Their ethos was "creation through destruction," and so they destroyed melody, harmony, music and silence. Silence was the antithesis of EN, the absence of creation, so they destroyed silence at every turn, with jackhammers, the Thirsty Beast, fire, amplified shopping carts, homemade instruments, the physical abuse of their own bodies, backward tape-masking and subliminal recordings of everything from factory exhaust pipes to bees' wings. Their cycle of destruction yielded fantastic albums of sound and beauty that obliterated the lines between formless noise and composed music. The terror of destruction became the joy of creation became the terror of joy became the destruction of terror became the creation of joy became music, and yet it was all just noise.
Total Eclipse of the Sun is an appreciation of silence. Destroying the machine-noise EN, they remake themselves as soft-music EN. Using plastic buckets, chairs, jet turbines, bass pedals and a small string ensemble, they give birth to three songs that explore sound rather than fury. The gotterdammerung metal percussion of N.U. Unruh and F.M. Einheit is replaced by off-kilter bell chimes and slow-tempo bucket drumming. Alexander Hacke's once-spastic guitar has been transformed into soothing bass tones. Even Blixa Bargeld's nerve-flaying howl has been muted; he sings with androgynous grace and passion, but it's not the passion of suffering that dominated EN's early, more extreme work. Now Bargeld sings with the passion of a true Deutsche Romantik, laying bare more of the beauty that lay hidden under the jackhammers and fires. "Come with me aboard my sunship," he commands/pleads with Teutonic longing in "Sonnenbarke," as strange gusts of sound wash around his voice. Adrift in the void between the notes, a dim echo of Bargeld is barely audible. This reflection of his voice is unintelligible, but the loneliness of the sound transcends language. His garbled words span the distance from note to note, heart to mind, planet to star.
Though the quiet of Total Eclipse of the Sun is beautiful, it may not be lasting. Is this EP just a momentary obscuring of their fiery noise, as its title implies, or is it the start of a new cycle for Einstürzende Neubauten? It doesn't matter. Destruction or creation, for EN the end result is always beautiful, always interesting.
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