Interrogation Machine by Alexei Monroe

Laibach and NSK

Alexei Monroe’s English version of his book has been highly anticipated for a while; having used the subject as a PhD thesis we expected a wide reaching analysis of Laibach's and the NSK’s work. We have certainly got an intense and detailed study; it’s also a worthy companion to the 1992 NSK book, which is principally a portfolio of their work. Although Alexei did not have complete access to the inner working of the group he did have an unprecedented level of help from NSK members in his research. It’s clear that he understands their ways of working and their thinking, now often commissioned to write their sleeves notes and other texts.

Given the high level of ambiguity that features in the works of the NSK and in particular Laibach, it can often be confusing for anyone wanting to look at it a little deeper or understand what it's about. Their work can contain many conflicting or contradictory elements and very often controversial. It can be very interesting and thought provoking when you do look deeper even if it's something that doesn't necessary relate to your own environment though in most of their work you can make connections. What comes across in the book how much was shaped by Slovene factors even when the band became more international. Amongst a number of various factors highlighted by the book, was the higher significance than might have been expected of the Austrian region of Carinthia where there is a large Slovene minority. Incidentally two member of the Austrian group Opus was of Slovene origin from this area. While their work does have a strong Slovene, Central and Eastern Europe relevance its appeal is much wider internationally helped by the paradoxes, complicated ambiguity, and their assimilation of European wide influence into their work, which is all carried off with a strong entrancing unique style. It was Laibach’s music that caught the imagination, it was groundbreaking, spectacular and powerful; the artwork, the image and the whole design in general all added to the aura. Without compromising the band mystique the book analyses the various diverse components and sources utilised by Laibach, the ideas and influences such as Kraftwerk amongst many others that moulded Laibach and looks into how and why it had such an effect on those exposed to Laibach’s work.

There was often the belief that Laibach may have been created by the State, while that is not the case the book reveals that there was many supporters in useful positions such as Radio Student and various Socialist Youth groups that may have shaped Laibach presence, in Slovenia at least. However the book also emphasise the skills Laibach had used in creating opportunities and surviving hostile attempts to silence the group. The book is at its most impressive on the rich historical and political background that shaped their work, it gives a greater understanding to why Laibach might have done certain things and it attempts to explain some of the rather dangerous or extremely controversial elements they used. Also impressive are the details of the immense impact, influence and power Laibach had in Slovenia and to some extent in the former Yugoslavia though occasionally you may feel that certain points are debatable or might possibly only exists in academic theories but Alexei delivers a good and comprehensive argument nevertheless.

It won't be as easy to read as the usual music related books as it's very much an academic study of a highly complex body of work; I'm almost certain most people will be reaching for the dictionary at some point in the book. However this also gives the book its sheer class, and quite possibly needed to define aspects of a highly contradictory, often utterly ambiguous, deliberately deceptive work. While there are certain parts that can't get around the use of complex intellectual language, the bulk of it flows easily, peppered with a few anecdotes such as Alexei discovering by pure chance the source of the text describing Decree on the Nova Akropola album on the back of 1957 Holst record. I think it would have been more useful for the reader if it had the reference notes at the bottom of the relevant pages, sometimes the quotes meant nothing until you knew a bit more about it, looking for it at the back tended to hinder the reading flow.

The book includes a foreword by Slavoj Zizek, also featuring is an interesting selection of colour prints from the NSK archives along with a large number of black and white illustrations. Undoubtedly the book will give an increase admiration for the work of Laibach and the NSK.Overall Interrogation Machine is highly recommended to those interested in Laibach, it is an impressive well-researched piece of work and will give a good insight into one of the world's most revolutionary band.

Interrogation Machine is published by MIT Press

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