Laibach

The Sound of Music

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In 2015, Laibach became the first Western rock group to play a concert in North Korea. They performed two shows in Pyongyang that August, organized to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule in Korea. The events subsequently became the subject of the 2016 documentary film Liberation Day. During the concerts, the Slovenian collective performed several selections from the beloved American musical The Sound of Music, as it is commonly used to teach English to schoolchildren in Korea. In 2018, the group released The Sound of Music, a studio album mainly consisting of typically Laibach-ized takes on several of the familiar Rodgers & Hammerstein-penned tunes from the musical. At once, the songs are faithfully performed and passionately sung by vocalists Boris Benko and Marina MÃ¥rtensson, and also loaded with irony, especially whenever the stern growl of Laibach mainstay Milan Fras reaches the microphone. "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" is shaped into a steady midtempo crawl, but it still manages to come across as fairly encouraging (although the intense drumming and Korean shouts at the end throw it off a bit). However, the rendition of "Do-Re-Mi" is perhaps the most morose ever recorded, and only Laibach could succeed in making "My Favorite Things" sound like a sort of threat, even while incorporating a children's choir. And of course, they have the audacity to change the chorus of "Maria" to "How do you solve a problem like Korea?," while keeping the music relatively sweet and jaunty. At the end of the album, the program diverts from the familiar show tunes. The group delivers a solemn rendition of "Arirang" (a folk tune considered the unofficial anthem of Korea), much in the vein of Volk, Laibach's 2006 album consisting entirely of national anthems. This is followed by "The Sound of Gayageum," a brief, exciting piece of Pyongyang disco showcasing the zither-like string instrument (as played by students from a music school located in the city). Then the album ends with a speech by a member of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Committee for Cultural Relations, who condemns Laibach for being a fascist organization. Essentially, the album is business as usual for Laibach, which means that if you're in on their grand scheme, it's another exquisitely orchestrated laugh riot.

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