Ministry of Wolves cover artwork


The  Ministry  Of   Wolves  ‘Music  From  Republik  Der Wölfe’    (Mute)   –   10th March 2014

The Ministry Of Wolves – Rumpelstiltskin from Mute on Vimeo.

Pre-dating the Viennese totem of the subconscious but already a Freudian labyrinth of analogy, metaphor and augury, the Gothic fairytale fables of the Brothers Grimm have just got a hell of a lot more unsettling and personal. Given a Pulitzer Prize winning overhaul by the esteemed award winning, self-confessional American poet Anne Sexton in her 1971 book ‘Transformations’, these same tales were brought back into the realm of the adults. Her candid, revisionist take, from the point of view of a ‘middle-aged witch’, on these standard stories is a beat poetic vivid survey on human nature: those all too familiar idiosyncrasies and failures set to a contemporary (for its time) miasma of inner turmoil.

Proving to be just as poignant forty odd years later, those reinterpretations are revitalized in a brand new multimedia stage production, debuting at the Theater Dortmund. To be performed tonight (15th February 2014) the Republik Der Wölfe, subtitled ‘A Fairytale Massacre With Live Music’, is a joint enterprise between both the Dortmund’s production director Claudia Bauer and musical director Paul Wallfisch, with the unholy musical alliance of Bad Seeds co-founder and adroit solo artist Mick Harvey, one time Einstürzende Neubauten and now Crime And The city Solution grizzled maverick Alexander Hacke and fellow Crime and the City band mate and Berlin Love Parade co-instigator Danielle De Picciotto, providing the suitable nursery grime soundtrack. Detached however from the visual spectacle, that very same soundtrack is due its own inaugural release next month; its loose narrative a series of congruous chapters, easily followed without any other stimulated aide to guide you.

Original characters that we’ve grown to love, hate, revile or recoil from, are transposed into the darker parts of our psyche. Those parable like lessons and auguries of danger get kicked around in a quasi-junkie Burroughs nightmare of cynicism and surreal terror. Tucked into a all too knowing grown ups world of jealousy and greed, Picciotto plays the part of storyteller – in this case switched, as I’ve already mentioned, from the usual young, naïve heroine into a middle-aged witch – on the opening account, ‘The Gold Key’. It’s followed by the Teutonic heavy drawling gusto of Hacke’s ‘Rumpelstiltskin’; played up to full effect, as the poisoned dwarf is revealed to be our doppelganger, ‘the enemy within’, and the spilt personality waiting to cut its way out of all of us.  Sounding quite like a missing Amon Duul II number from the Hi Jack era, the song’s maligned and mischievous protagonist elicits a kind of sympathy: ‘No child will ever call me Papa’. Condemned to play the part of cruel interloper, poor old Rumpelstiltskin exists to remind us of our demonic, primal nature: a nagging inner soul tempting us to commit hari-kari on restraint.

Ministry of Wolves Monolith Cocktail

The fabled ‘Frog Prince’ is a slithery customer, made to sound like an odious creep pursuing his very turned-off love interest. Mick Harvey moons and croaks with relish in recalling the bizarre tale of doomed romance; the moral, though dark and disturbing, can be summed up as: be careful what you wish for, the law of averages doesn’t exist and in this case turned out to be a dud, the frog was certainly no prince.

Happy endings become even more blurred with the triumvirate of leading ladies ‘Cinderella’, ‘Rapunzel’ and ‘Snow White’. ‘Cinders’ is a Casio pre-set piece of waltzing lullaby, dreamily led by our protagonist chanteuse, whilst Rapunzel and Snow White are given a fluid pained Leonard Cohen treatment. The latter a roll call of ‘seven’ inspired symbolism and metaphor, the former an idolised plaintive requiem to the exiled and ill-fated American dancer, Isadora Duncan – forced to leave the States for Europe because of her pro-Soviet sympathies, Duncan died rather ironically at the hands of the famous scarves she used to so great an effect in her dances, after one become entangled around the open-spoked wheels and rear axle of a car she was travelling in, breaking her neck.

Other notable tales of woe include the opium-induced, somnambulist ‘Sleeping Beauty’ – literally a languid sleepwalk through some Tibetan flavoured labyrinth – and lurid Harvey sung ‘Hansel & Gretel’ – the apparent naïve, saintly, twins getting the better of a cannibalistic old crone. But its ‘Little Red Ridding Hood’ who inhabits the most contemporary street hustling environment, transported from the danger lurking Black Forests into a world of creeps, junkies and ‘transmorphism’.

The levels of macabre are amped up and the underlying psychosis adroitly delivered with atmospheric relish; our cast of ‘make-believe’ characters all too fallible human traits and sufferings enriched with a Murder Ballads style makeover, part Gothic part horrid histories.

Monolith Cocktail: LP cover


2 Responses to “Our Daily Bread 032a: Ministry Of Wolves”

  1. […] The well-travailed and sagacious duo alias of the husband and wife creative match Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto, this outlet for soundtracking the mind state in the most tumultuous of times is just one such evocative project from the partnership over the years. Hacke has most memorably served his time with the cult experimental group Einstürzende Neubauten, whilst co-founder of the Love Parade, Picciotto, is a stalwart member of Crime And The City Solution. Both have crossed paths on numerous occasions, notably joining forces with Paul Wallfisch and Mick Harvey for the album and stage production Ministry Of Wolves. […]

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