Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Around the World (Cup) In 30 Days: Slovenia

In a race against the clock - otherwise known as the final on July 11th - H-T-A is attempting to check out artists from around the 32 nations competing at the World Cup Finals in South Africa. Check out the rest of the posts to date here.

Of course, being an Englishman, my eyes today were transfixed on my home nation's match with the young, skilled but inexperienced team of Slovenia. Thankfully the Three Lions managed to scrape their act together enough to get the win. Unfortunately for the couple of million Slovenians, the US managed a late late show that sent their team packing back to Ljubljana. 

So before they grab a plane home, let's focus on one of the country's more renowned musical - and indeed art media - exports, Laibach.

To even scratch the surface of an avant-garde group that formed 30 years ago, spans everything from classical and traditional genres to industrial rock, and continues to influence artists of all types today, would be a mammoth task for even one year, let alone one post. Instead we'll simply say hello and introduce a few of Laibach's more accessible entry-points.

Life Is Life is almost certainly their best known work, with the video above having received solid attention from MTV in the late 80's. Taken from the album Opus Dei, a seminal moment in their career to date, it's a fierce parody of nationalism that comes across as half propaganda and half Monty Python sketch. The band have long courted controversy with their references to extreme political perspectives, especially whenever they touch on Nazi or fascist imagery. The reality is that Laibach co-opt these influences to create discussion and, often, to ridicule the very viewpoint they're presenting.

On the lighter side, adventurous covers of pop staples such as The Final Countdown or Maggie Mae, as well as remixing Rammstein, have given them links to the mainstream that their more eccentric output could never have achieved. To wit, the band's 2006 effort Volk consisted entirely of interpretations of various national anthems, such as their own Slovania (video below). Avant-garde, indeed.

The whole concept certainly focuses the attention on the bizarre traits of nationalism, something which emerges in a mostly positive light during the World Cup tournament but whose effects can be more worrying if taken  too seriously. Never ones to shy away from open-minded discussion, one gets the feeling this is exactly what they were shooting for. 

You can dig into the other products of their wide and varied career here. Who knows, Slovania may even be spinning on the iPods of a few players as they jet home. See you in four year, fellas.

Picture source: Ines Zgonc