Along with Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, Germany's Einstürzende Neubauten ("collapsing new buildings") helped pioneer industrial music with an avant-garde mix of white-noise guitar drones, vocals verging on the unlistenable at times, and a clanging, rhythmic din produced by a percussion section consisting of construction materials, power tools, and various metal objects.
Einstürzende Neubauten were founded by vocalist/guitarist Blixa Bargeld and percussionist/American expatriate N.U. Unruh in Berlin as a performance art collective. Einstürzende Neubauten's earliest recordings are mostly unstructured, free-form noise issued on various cassettes and singles, including their first single "Fuer den Untergang," the 1981 EP Schwarz, and the 1982 album Kollaps. Some of these recordings are compiled on the Strategies Against Architecture '80-'83 collection, with live shows on the cassette-only 2x4. Ex-Abwärts member F.M. Einheit (who served as Neubauten's chief machinery operator), guitarist and electronics expert Alexander Hacke and Abwärts bassist Mark Chung also joined. A tour of England opening for the Birthday Party resulted in a contract with Some Bizarre Records, which released the slightly more structured Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T., as well as consternation from club owners and journalists over Neubauten's stage demolitions and frequent ensuing violence. When Nick Cave left the Birthday Party and formed his backing band the Bad Seeds, Bargeld became the guitarist and toured and recorded with Cave over most of the decade. While Bargeld remained a Bad Seed, Hacke contributed to Crime & the City Solution.
The band's next album, Halber Mensch ("Half Man") in 1985, may be seen as a developmental breakthrough. Musical structure became more evident, and Bargeld's lyrics and, especially, his singing changed. He moved from shouted words and phrases toward organized, poetic melodies.
The one-hour film Halber Mensch (1986) by Sōgo Ishii documents Einstürzende Neubauten's visit to Japan in 1985.
In 1990, the band tried something completely new, recording the soundtrack for East German playwright Heiner Müller's play Die Hamletmaschine ("The Hamlet Machine") for East German radio Rundfunk der DDR.
1991 also saw the release of the double album, a best-of and rarities album, Strategies Against Architecture II. The next album Tabula Rasa (1993) was an important turning point in the band's history, their music becoming softer and containing more electronic sounds.
Mark Chung left the band in 1994 after the recording of Faustmusik for Werner Schwab's play, and made a career in the music industry. F.M. Einheit, who contributed much to the music and sound of the band, left the band a short time later in 1995, during the recording of the Ende Neu album, at least partially because of a conflict with Bargeld. The last Einstürzende Neubauten track Einheit worked on was "Was ist ist". Roland Wolf replaced them on bass guitar and keyboards only a short time before dying in a car accident in 1995.
In May 2000, Einstürzende Neubauten released the full-length Silence Is Sexy on Mute Records. Two years later, they announced they were no longer interested in working with a traditional label and that their next recording would be made with the help of supporters. These supporters would pay a fee, receive exclusive material, and help fund the next official album.
Despite their best intentions, Einstürzende Neubauten released their 2004 album, Perpetuum Mobile, on Mute. The releases for supporters that appeared over the next few years helped fund the official album Alles Wieder Offen, which was released on the band's own label in 2007.
Elektra reissued both Strategies Against Architecture compilations on CD, and another supporter album, Einstürzende Neubauten, arrived in mid-2007.
The Jewels arrived in 2008. It was compiled from a series of single-track digital downloads the band offered via its website one at a time using a game called DAVE, where deliberate and enigmatic instructions were inscribed on cards each member drew and generated ideas from -- without telling one another what their cards were inscribed with. They were then used to construct and complete tracks within a day or two. In 2010, Mute released the compilation Strategies Against Architecture, Vol. 4, and the album Kollaps was remastered and reissued by Potomak.