by Kurt B. Reighley

Einstürzende Neubauten

Wed May 5, Showbox, 8 pm, $17.50 adv/$20 DOS.

Some Americans can't stand the sound of German. It's just barking and spitting, they complain. Idioten. German ranks among the world's most expressive languages, especially if you're a singer or actor, with strings of crisp consonants and pursed vowels that make texts explode into life. Another one of German's delightful properties is the LEGO-like way smaller, disparate terms get stacked together to make bigger words. Words that sound like arcane incantations. Words like Einstürzende Neubauten.

Einstürzende Neubauten, the band, chose its name--which translates as "collapsing new buildings"--well, back in Berlin in the early '80s. For many years, the group was infamous for construction-equipment percussion and precarious performances; my high-school German teacher once recounted a Neubauten gig where a band member took a jackhammer to the club's central support beam. On records like the cacophonous Halber Mensch (1985), the group celebrated the principle that in order to create something new, something old must be destroyed, forging an alternate musical language where chainsaws and oil drums carried more weight than bass and guitar.

Language is always evolving, and so it is with Neubauten. The credits for their recent Perpetuum Mobile (Mute) still list instruments including "large amplified metal spring" and the eyebrow-raising "olive-canister stairway performance," but the overall sound is more subtle and nuanced than on albums past. On "Ein leichtes leises S...useln" (A Whisper Light and Low), the rustling of dried linden leaves supplies the primary accompaniment to Blixa Bargeld's hushed vocals.

The theme running throughout Perpetuum Mobile is one of states of motion and transition. "Selbstportrait mit Kater" (Self-Portrait with Hangover) details Bargeld's dissolution from inebriated genius the night before to dehydrated buffoon the morning after. The title track, which features an air compressor, chugs along like a soft-sculpture steam engine, as the singer ticks off--auf Deutsch--the increments of an airplane journey ("luggage cart... vegetarian in-flight menu... taxi... escalator..."). Neubauten are no longer Germany's masters of destruction, shooting cannons of flame into the air (that would be Rammstein). They have moved on, at a deliberate pace that continues to yield startling, inspiring--and yes, foreign--sounds.

editor@thestranger.com