Laibach & Slovenian Artistic Defiance

more than a year ago

Much like France Prešeren stands tall over the history of Slovene literature, one band stands tall over its musical history. Their name is Laibach, and they are one of the most controversial bands to emerge from Europe in the past forever.

Following the death of Maršal Tito in 1980, Slovenia led the way in Yugoslavia with regards to opening up to modern ideas and allowing little slithers of youthful protest and antagonism to filter through. At the forefront of this was the artistic group known as Neue Slowenische Kunst (New Slovenian Art), the music wing of which was a band called Laibach, formed in Trbovlje. We use the term band in the most liberal of ways, as they were more ideology than music to begin with. Even taking the name 'Laibach' was a clear act of protest. Laibach is the German name for Ljubljana, and was used during the Hapsburg and Nazi occupations. It was a not-so-subtle act of defiance, blatantly anti-Yugoslavia.

The entire aesthetic of Laibach was something of a parody of the ruling communists. They set out their stall with a ten commandments of sorts, titled the '10 Items of the Covenant'. The covenant covered such things as the members renouncing their individuality in favour of the collective and excluding any evolution of an original idea. The first gigs that the band played were titled 'ideological offensives'. After a couple of these however they were immediately banned from making any public appearances, and the name 'Laibach' was erased.

Their early music was in the Kraftwerk mould, all abstract soundscapes, beats and repetitive loops. After the banning, they disbanded for a bit due to mandatory military service. A reunion tour of sorts came in 1982, as they played gigs in Zagreb, Belgrade and Ljubljana, vocalist Tomaž Hostnik taking a bottle in the face at the Ljubljana gig. They frequently garnered mixed reactions from crowds, inspiring either faith in a better future or sheer unadulterated vitriol.


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