My one encounter with Cobra Killer left an indelible lifelong impression on my psyche. It was a dark and stormy night (yes, really) during Meredith Music Festival 2004 in Victoria, Australia, when Gina V. D’Orio and Annika Line Trost stormed on stage for the midnight set. With merely a laptop for accompaniment, their brand of German techno and electro perked up an audience who were all about the ravin’.
Granted, the beats and melodies were decent (left-field but nothing extraordinary, given the already left-fieldness of the genre) but what gripped me was how genuinely insane Cobra Killer was. Wielding vodka bottles between them, they simultaneously ingested the contents while drenching the remainder over their bosomy figures, unabashedly prancing and sliding across the stage. They were anarchists in the purest sense, their wanton hedonism overriding any hint of calculated rocker rebellion. After all, there is nothing more authentic than grooving and flapping about in a drunken haze. Long live rock & roll, baby.
So, it probably wasn’t a surprise that I dang near flipped when Das Mandolinenorchester was released, the joint effort with the mandolin orchestra Kapajkos. Yes, you heard me right. I think psycho cyber bitches going subtle and all organic makes a pretty interesting social experiment. And for the most part, it succeeds.
Das Mandolinenorchester is a remix album of sorts, where Cobra Killer staples like “Heavy Rotation”, “Helicopter 666”, and “Mund Auf Augen Zu” are reworked in such a way where the original energy remains, but the now-unplugged status takes them into a whole new dimension. The gibberish that once passed off as lyrics is now given new found resonance. When they start shrieking, “H-man-a-psychocat” in a gradual orgasmic build-up of a crescendo (under the flurry of rapidly-plucked mandolins), it seems more a sly commentary on society (of a yet undetermined topic) instead of mindless club anthem. The irrelevant is automatically made important, even though it is mere façade.
What is even more impressive is that stripped of all the noise and histrionics, these crazy vixens are actually pretty melodically inclined. The hooks and riffs are comparable to anything on the “good shit” canon these days. In fact, the introduction of analogue-induced intimacy imbues the minor-chord Middle Eastern core, liquidizing it in order to seep into one’s consciousness, introducing an edge of pop insanity that it never originally had.
German weirdoes playing electronica doing fucked-up stuff onstage? That’s actually expected to the point of predictability. But, German weirdoes doing the same shtick via a flurry of mandolins? Bloody brilliance, I must say.
The inherent mechanical fascism detected in music of this ilk is given a sheen of entertainment. In other words, Das Mandolinenorchester takes kraut and makes it haute. My pick for the most pleasant, latent, sleeper surprise of last year.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
// Notes from the Road
"Saul Williams played a free, powerful Summerstage show ahead of his appearance at Afropunk this weekend.READ the article