Sunday, December 17, 2006

From the Vaults: Industrial Music For Industrial People

Folks know me as more of a jazzer, but once upon a time, I was quite the industrial music fan. I still am, actually, although I'm probably much more likely to throw on a Frank Wright or Matthew Shipp CD than a Skinny Puppy CD nowadays. A few links that are noteworthy:

Cabaret Voltaire: An extensive website covering not only the pioneering industrial band itself, but it members' various solo and side projects.

Throbbing Gristle: An extensive website covering another 1970s industrial band. Fascinating music and equally fascinating personalities behind the music.

Industrial Records: A short-lived label that was the original home to Throbbing Gristle's recorded output.

Clock DVA: late 1970s & 1980s industrial group.

23 Skidoo: another late 1970s & 1980s industrial group that briefly re-formed at the turn of the 21st century.

I was a bit young for the first wave of industrial but was definitely of age when the second wave of industrial (usually referred to as industrial dance) was at its peak, and combos such as Skinny Puppy, Psychic TV, Frontline Assembly, and Cabaret Voltaire were recording and performing much of their groundbreaking work. I never really got into the industrial metal vibe (although there are a couple Ministry albums I really dug), and really prefer the first wave of industrial (cats like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire were at their most experimental in the 1970s, producing music that had the abrasiveness of punk filtered through electronics, minimalism, and all sorts of other dangers). The early stuff in particular focused on making music of found objects and sounds, and on the possibilities of non-musicians as musical performers. The soundscapes are bleak, dark, forbidding assaults on the senses. Even the later more dance-oriented industrial recordings maintain an atmosphere of inescapable and claustrophobic alienation, anomie, with the funk grooves stripped down to their most starkly mechanical as humanly possible. It was definitely music of the times that has managed to transcend the 1970s - the reactionary repressiveness of a Tory-dominated England has much in common with the reactionary repressiveness of our current US government.

Just to whet the appetite, here's a bit from Methodology: 74/78 Attic Tapes -
I remember the 70s as a time of austerity, a crackdown after the so-called liberal times of the 60s. Racism, repressive policing, hijackings, Baader Meinhof, The Angry Brigade, Operation Julie, cheap sulphate, boredom, industrial unrest, but a feeling that something was on the boil within an alienated and disaffected "youth culture."

[snip]

I suppose we took our cue (and also our name) from the Dada movement and maybe in retrospect from the situationist movement. The bottom line is, it was never just about music, but about confrontation, challenging peoples conceptions on everything from sound and image to reality itself. Trying to be a thorn in the side of authority. From run of the mill war obsessed jobsworths, constables, in fact anybody who wore a badge, to politicians. All considered fair game for baiting and satirization. In some ways though it was just an innocent reflection of the times, not different from the Beach Boys singing about surfing and the good times in California. But there was no surf to ride in Sheffield, just postwar desolation, unemployment and ugly urban landscapes.
My emphasis added.

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