Massiv in Mensch

Electronic Industrial Massiv in Mensch Hit All the Right Beats on ‘Türkis und Schwarz’

After two decades, Massiv in Mensch keep things fresh and innovative on Türkis und Schwarz, perhaps the best album yet from the electronic/industrial group.

Türkis und Schwarz
Massiv in Mensch
20 August 2021

German industrial heavyweights Massiv in Mensch unveiled their ninth studio album recently. Türkis und Schwarz is the outcome of more than two decades’ worth of work by the duo of Daniel Logemann and Mirco Osterthun (always joined by numerous collaborators live and in the studio) in the dark electronic and industrial genres. It melds their 25-year experience with an ongoing curiosity that keeps the new album versatile and innovative. Massiv in Mensch’s first new album in four years, it’s perhaps the best offering yet from a band that’s already had numerous peaks. Their 2005 album Menschdefekt hit the top 20 on French alternative charts, while 2017’s Am Port der Guten Hoffnung reached #3 on German alternative charts. The newest album comprises ten brand new tracks, along with the band’s previous six singles.

The industrial genre is particularly prone to producing albums that fail to deviate from the template set in the first couple of tracks. I’ll rarely listen to a whole album from beginning to end. As much as I love the combination of heavy beats, electronic rhythms, and growling, distorted vocals, I don’t need to hear it repeated a dozen times in a row in the exact same fashion.

Türkis und Schwarz avoids this monotony trap. It’s a perfectly balanced album that varies sufficiently from track to track to retain the listener’s interest across all 16 songs. It does so by incorporating a variety of different electronic rhythms and elements across the album, but also through the appearance of numerous guest artists. They keep things fresh, each bringing a unique additive to the Massiv in Mensch dynamic. Collaboration is one of the essential routes through which bands can keep things innovative and avoid repeating their previous work. The strategy is employed to full effect on Türkis und Schwarz. The group have always had a versatile range. On this album, they stretch it between tracks that reflect an almost goth metal approach to others that recoil into a chirpy, upbeat cascade of computerized whimsy.

To my relief, the vocalists are primarily female singers. (I’ve grown tired of growling male vocals, although there’s a solid dose of that on this release for the die-hards). A couple of tracks also feature delightful contributions from German actor Reiner Schone. Singer Rana Arborea appears on five of the songs – “Gestrandet”, “84″, “Gonger”, “Zero Gravity”, and “Monkey Island”. Her lush vocals pull the band toward the goth metal edge while soaring orchestrals and driving electronic beats finish off these strident, fast-paced goth-industrial songs. “Gonger” also incorporates the harsh, distorted male vocals for which German industrial is so well known. Meanwhile, “Zero Gravity” puts the full spotlight on Arborea’s incredible vocal range, embedding it against an instrumental background with minimal electronics that verges toward the dark folk.

Dancefloors and dark raves will probably prefer tracks like “Paganinis Geige” and last year’s single “Tanzmusik 2.0″, both of which are darkly chipper synthpop tracks evocative of 1980s and 1990s industrial electronica. The latter track sees Massiv in Mensch collaborating with German electronic dance veterans Patenbrigade: Wolff, and the result is what you’d expect from such a partnership. It combines Patenbrigade: Wolff’s mature, professional beats with the strident energy and speed of Massiv in Mensch. Earnest German spoken word rounds out the track and meshes with the versatile musical backdrop perfectly.  “The No-Hoper” also exudes an electronic dance influence, framed against German spoken-word samples. “Nylon” is another mostly instrumental piece, tightly restrained beats interwoven with probing, inquisitive electronic rhythms.

“No Winter Anymore” is the stand-out track of the album for me. Another mostly instrumental piece, its medievalesque rhythms, carried by what sounds like a cleverly manipulated harp, is unique, eminently danceable, and entrancingly beautiful.

Massiv in Mensch often bring a touch of whimsy to their releases, a welcome reminder that they’re having fun and haven’t lost the ability to be playful in their work. That element comes through in “Badminton”, a catchy electronic tune with minimal lyrics built around a sampled and stylized recording of a badminton match: running shoes screeching on a polished gym floor and the pock-pock-pock of a badminton birdie being hit. An entire article could be written on European electronic tunes that sports and gaming have inspired. There’s “The Race” (a delightful 1988 release by Swiss band Yello that never gets old) or the 2010 classic “Pong” by German electronic trio Eisenfunk (inspired by F-1 racing and the eponymous Atari arcade game, respectively). “Badminton” could proudly assume a position on this roster.

“Timpetu” is another collaboration, framing driving beats against the mesmerizing German spoken word of vocalist Bojana. The penultimate song, “Zuruck in die Vergangenheit”, is also a collaboration, playful and upbeat electronics framed around the beautiful voice of guest vocalist Sam Winter. “Monkey Island” is the perfect track to clue up the album. Massiv in Mensch confidently display the full range of electronic styles explored in the album – from playful synth chirps to neoclassical rhythms and inspired, pounding beats – all set against the voice of Rana Arborea, whose vocals truly reach a peak on this track.

Türkis und Schwarz is a superb release. Recently, there has been a drift away from album-making and toward rapid-fire single releases, driven no doubt by the vagaries of online distribution and marketing models. An album is an increasingly rare gift in today’s world, and Türkis und Schwarz is a profound success as an album: one that grows with the listener retains their interest, and offers them something new with each new track. After two decades, Massiv in Mensch still keep things fresh and innovative. Here’s looking forward to what they’ll bring us next.

RATING 9 / 10