If you don’t fancy working through all the albums, there are some compilations out there. If you want the quickest route in, the 2006 double-CD compilation Body Of Work is your best bet. Whilst it pre-dates their comeback album (which still has to be obtained on its own or not at all), the first disc is essentially all their single A-sides in order, from “Isn’t It Funny…” all the way through to “I Thought”, not a weak track among them.
The second disc contains various B-side mixes that I’ve previously described, including the significant 12” mixes of Join In The Chant, Control I’m Here and Hearts and Minds, as well as the two William Orbit mixes from the ‘Belief’ era (Orbit himself having become a much bigger name in the interim). If I was picky, I’d have liked K.I.A. or maybe one or two more album tracks, but the essentials are all here.
Accompanying this was Body Rework – a contemporary remix collection. I’ve tried to make it clear throughout that Nitzer Ebb did not exist in a scene-shaped bubble, but were widely respected across many dance music factions. Some of them pay tribute here – the ‘big three’ anthems from ‘That Total Age’ get hard techno upgrades from Phil Kieran, Terence Fixmer and Thomas P.Heckmann. Belleville legend Derrick May gets a go at reworking “Shame”, whilst minimal versions of “Control I’m Here” and “Getting Closer” from Dubfire and Black Strobe stand as final sweepings from the now-moribund electroclash.
EBM purists would do best to skip this collection as a form of sacrilege – whilst the songs are recognisable lyrically, many have had total overhauls musically. But if you’re coming in from a dance music background, especially if you had thing for the brief industrial/techno/EBM crossover revival of the mid-00s, you’ll want this. I must confess I’ve never played a track from this in a DJ set myself, my old-school audiences would never tolerate it. But if I ever, for all my sins, found myself playing a conventional dance club environment, I’d reach for this without a second thought.
Mute eventually released the two above discs into a 3CD collection, simply entitled Collection alongside a 5CD box set Catalogue, which was simply the five core albums in one pack. More interesting was the download-only compilation In Order. Fully 60 tracks in length, it is an almost-but-not-quite complete collection of all the mixes and B-sides that never made it to the albums proper. I admit it’s a bit of a drag towards the end – there’s no value in rejects from ‘Big Hit’, but if you have to cut one corner to hear (almost) everything in one go, this is by far the easiest way. It’s still missing the 12” version of “Let Your Body Learn” though.
In 2018. Pylon Records cut a slice of the vinyl revival with a 10 LP box set – 2 LPs for each of the five original albums. I’m not one for big black discs, but it looks like an impressive produkt from the photos, and the tracklist seems to suggest they’ve picked out the right B-side mixes to fill the remaining space – even the elusive Let Your Body Learn 12”! As previously described, 2CD version of the albums arrive in 2021 along with another press of the all-in LP boxset, so silver disc collectors can also get hold of the obscurities. I suspect existing fans may snap up the bulk of these reissues, but surely a few new converts could be had along the way.